If I were to sum up this dialogue between Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne it would be; dangerous. Tony and Shane have written a dialogue which at many times strays from Biblical truths, which in the end, does nothing but harm the church and confuse faithful followers of Christ. This books starts right off with a statement which I believe can be a slippery slope and certainly contrary to what Scripture says of itself. Tony says, and Shane agrees, “Not only do we say that the red letters are superior to the black letters of the Bible, but Jesus said they were! Jesus over and over again in the Sermon on the Mount, declared that some of the things that Moses taught about such things as divorce, adultery, killing, getting even with those who hurt you and the use of money had to be transcended by a higher morality”. What they fail to mention is the New Testament teachings from the Apostles which aid our study of Christ are every bit important as the red letters in the Bible. They almost go so far as to ignore the rest of the Bible in order to solely focus on the words of Jesus. Please don’t misunderstand me, I wholly rely on the words of Christ for life and godliness but I also need the doctrine and orthodoxy contained in the epistles, the wisdom of Solomon, the triumph of Christ in Revelation and the grand narrative of the Old Testament in order to understand those red letters. Jesus himself drew upon the message of the Old Testament when teaching the people of his day. Not only does Jesus teach from the Old Testament, He exhorts his followers to do the same. In his letter to Timothy, Paul tells us that all Scripture is breathed out by God and is useful for teaching, rebuking and exhorting.
Apart from the blatant disregard for the black letters in the Bible, Tony and Shane are in constant contrast and even in opposition to its teachings. This is no where more clear when I read this statement; ” It’s important to note that Red Letter Christians are not, as someone once told me, ‘Christocentric’. Are you kidding me, not Christocentric? If not Jesus then who? It seems to me that Shane, and the Simple Way Movement, emphasizes saints and men more than they do the risen messiah. They constantly refer to the way men of old used to live and preach, not that I am against that, but they seem to raise saints above others who are preaching the gospel in the trenches and who do not understand the gospel the way they do. They emphasize over and again that they learn from Buddhists, Catholics, Mystics, Muslims and similar religions. I guess my question for them is, how can we learn from those whose doctrine is not centered on Christ and his righteousness for us? I am all for loving on other religions and even those who do not view Christ as ultimate but I don’t feel that I should learn about how to live life and have solid doctrine from them.
Another area which I found very troubling was a portion of the conversation that centered on Homosexuality. “Homosexual couples and heterosexual couples should be able to go down to the city hall and register as couples who want to be legally recognized as belonging to each other, and receive the same civil rights available for all citizens who want to be in committed relationships. Then, if a couple wants to call the relationship a marriage, that couple should go down to a church, and let the church perform the ceremony”. Please don’t get caught up on the civil rights equality for all people and miss out that Tony just said we should let the ordained church of God go against biblical beliefs and conduct marriage services for Homosexual and Heterosexual couples alike. This is a dangerous straying from the Bible in order to make all people feel like they are not under the condemnation of God. How far will we depart from Scripture until we see that the offense of the Cross is no longer valid for this culture we live in? How much farther are we going to let books like this, which defy God, make its way into the hands of the Bride of Christ?
Not everything I have to say about this book is terrible, there is only one good thing I found in this conversation that was somewhat helpful. Shane has a large heart for the poor and broken. Even if his theology is missing in action, which is a travesty, his heart is large and open for those who are less in this world. We do need more people who are geared for social justice, but it must not come at the expense of solid doctrine. We must not let our ignorance of the black letters of the Bible interpret the way we see the red letters of the Bible. If you do pick up this book I pray that you would do so with a solid understanding of all of Scripture and not just the red letters. Learn from the whole canon of scripture and apply it with wisdom and insight. Let that application of Scripture move you beyond knowledge and into action for the glory of God.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”