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Friday, September 09, 2005

God Is Impotent According to Tony Campolo

The hurricane in the gulf coast was terrible. And I grieve for the many lives that were lost. We all do. And it's common that at times like this, people want to know why such things happen.

Some will answer that God sent the hurricane to punish those crummy sinners. Others will conclude that it is evidence that God does not even exist.

It's the old quandry. How can there be such suffering if God is both all good and all powerful. If he wants to help, but is unable, then he is not all powerful. And if he is able to intervene, but is unwilling, then he is not all good. Or so the reasoning goes.

Author, professor and ordained minister, Tony Campolo, has published an article about the hurricane Katrina, in which he says that we can't make God responsible for what happened because God, poor thing, is trying his hardest. So lay off. Campolo then spouts off one rank heresy after another.

According to Campolo, the Hebrew bible never claims that God is almighty. He writes: "Perhaps we would do well to listen to the likes of Rabbi Harold Kushner, who contends that God is not really as powerful as we have claimed."

It seems to me that the God who created the universe might be able to overpower a lot of fast moving air. Let's see, isn't that whole creation of the universe business somewhere in the Hebrew bible? Oh, there it is - on the first page. Didn't God create man from the dust of the ground and breathe the breath of life into him? Doesn't the Hebrew Bible talk about a God who could part the Red Sea so the Israelites could pass through on dry land? And isn't this the Hebrew God who once flooded the whole planet killing every living thing that wasn't snugly safe in Noah's ark? Too bad this God of the Kushner Hebrews can't hold back all that really heavy water pushing on the levees. If bad things happen on God's watch, according to Campolo, it's because He is not strong enough to do anything about it.

And why does Campolo ignore the clear teachings of the other 27 books of the Bible? Jesus calmed the wind and waves by saying "Be still (cf. Mark 4:39)." What is Campolo suggesting? That maybe Jesus doesn't have enough mojo for a reeeeeeaaaalllllly big storm? What's harder to do? Raise your own self from the dead or stop a hurricane?

Campolo denies the doctrine of original sin. He says, "Certainly, God would not create suffering for innocent people, who were--for the most part--Katrina’s victims." All people are sinful and deserve God's wrath. I'm not saying that Katrina was God exercising His wrath, but I am saying we all deserve that and worse. Who are all these innocent people that deserve to have lives free of suffering??

Underlying his whole erroneous theology is a brand of the philosophy of dualism. Yin and Yang. Black and White. Light and Darkness. Good and Evil. Duking it out with the earth as the battlefield. He writes: "In scripture we get the picture of a cosmic struggle going on between the forces of darkness and the forces of light. The good news is that, in the end, God will be victorious."

I couldn't decide what to entitle this post. My other option was Tony Campolo is a Heretic. I decided to use what you see up above, but not because Campolo's not a heretic. He is. A Christian is a person who believes stuff. Particular stuff. Not just any ol' stuff.Can a person be saved while persistently denying the Nicene Creed? No, of course not. And Christianity teaches that God is omnipotent.

I don't have a pat answer, like Campolo's, as to why hurricanes kill people. It's a mystery I cannot fathom. But the Scriptures - Old and New - simply do not permit us to deny either God's goodness or His greatness.

Rabbi Kushner may want to leave the room because I am going to quote a scripture which he would not accept. When St. Gabriel announced to the virgin Mary that she would bear in her womb the eternal Logos, she wondered how this could be. And the angel said, "For NOTHING is impossible with God."

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David Brazeal said...

The worst part of this is that Kushner's book has gained broad acceptance, even among people who almost certainly have not read it. It has a great title -- "Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?" -- for the feel-good Old Man in all of us. That book was required reading for me as an undergraduate, during a study of the book of Job; even at the age of 20, when I understood very little about God, I saw through the sham that is Kushner's book. Your title sums up the book very well: "God is impotent" according to both Tony Campolo and Kushner.

John said...

If he says God is not all powerfull then how could he make the statement about a "cosmic struggle" between good and evil summing it up with "The good news is that, in the end, God will be victorious." If God is not all powerfull then the end would be in doubt.

cwv warrior said...

Excellent post! I have found few allies among Christian thinkers on this. A couple of Katrina posts at my space. The shrinking of God's power to fit our capacities is just the wrong way to go! The difference between God "sending the hurricane" and God "allowing the hurricane" makes little difference to those poor victims. But to say God couldn't stop it is heresy, indeed.

The Cubicle Reverend said...

I don't get what happened to Campolo. He used to be a dynamic preacher.

Anonymous said...

Wow! One of my favorite sayings is this when I encounter believers of differing viewpoints that I feel are inconsistent with scriptural truth. I say, "I you are right, life is good and I've got it made. But, if I am right you are in deep kimchi!"

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