Liberal Christianity (J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity & Liberalism is an excellent study on the differences between liberal and conservative Christianity) got it’s start in America in the late 1800/early 1900s. It started with the 17th Century Enlightenment that made reason the ultimate arbiter of truth, which lead to German Higher Criticism’s study of the Bible as a merely human document. Without the supernatural, all that was left of Christianity was ethics, which became the sine qua non of liberal Christianity. When the welfare of human beings becomes the focus of Christianity, and not the glory of a Savior God in Christ, it eventually loses it’s power to captivate the human heart. That’s what happened to “The Evangelical Scion Who Stopped Believing.”

The scion referred to is Bart Campolo, son of famous liberal Christian evangelist Tony Campolo. The Times’ piece says of the elder Campolo:

Bart’s father, Tony Campolo, never forced his son to become a believer. That reticence was fitting for the gentler sort of evangelical he was. Tony didn’t have a TV network like Pat Robertson or a university like Jerry Falwell; he achieved his renown as an itinerant preacher and a founder of the “red-letter Christians” movement, an effort to refocus evangelicals away from politics and back to the teachings (about poverty, love, charity) of Jesus, whose words are printed in red in many Bibles.

Notice the adjective the author uses, forced, to relate the father’s faith to the son. Like most journalists in the mainstream media, the author knows very little about the actual content of Christianity. Faith, or its synonym trust, in the Christian message can never be forced. A cursory reading of the Gospels will tell you that; in modern parlance, Jesus said, take it or leave it. As a Christian parent I can’t make my children believers. What I can do is persuade them based on the evidence that Christianity is worthy of their trust.

Also notice the noun, believer, he uses for someone who is a Christian. This is a fundamental article of faith, pun intended, for secularists: religious people have to believe things, secular/atheist/agnostic people don’t. But the issue isn’t whether one “believes,” but rather what one believes. Bart Campolo didn’t go from belief to non-belief. Rather, he went from one set of beliefs to another. It astonishes me how often Christians let the secularists get away with this. Framed in the secular narrative, we are to understand that the atheist/agnostic doesn’t need faith, and doesn’t need to believe anything. The truth is that this is a lie, an obvious, egregious, and harmful lie. The truth is that all human beings must live by faith, even if that faith is in a godless universe.

Someone like Bart Campolo, because his father never taught him that Christianity is true with a capital T, was never presented with evidence that could possibly affirm its truth claims. If you read the Times’ piece, it seems that his doubts were never addressed by evidence that could challenge the doubts. I may be wrong, but I’m pretty sure, for example, Bart never read a book like Mike Licona’s The Resurrection of Jesus, a tomb of over 600 pages, along with a 55 page bibliography(!). Don’t tell me a good case cannot be made for the historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection. It’s unfortunate that Tony Campolo was never compelled to make the case to his own son.

 

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