Liberal Christian Leader Tony Campolo: 'God Is Not in Control'

A couple of weeks ago, I introduced you to the Red Letter Christians, a group of liberal believers whom the New York Times breathlessly profiled recently as the face of Christians who don’t worship Donald Trump. One of the group’s leaders, Tony Campolo, recently gave an interview with Premier, a Christian website in the UK, in which he stated that he doesn’t believe that God is in control — yet.

Campolo barely touches scripture to support his assertion when he says:

So often we read the scriptures but don’t pay attention to what is really going on. In the temptation story, for instance, Satan says to Jesus: “Here are all the kingdoms of the world, they are mine to give you”. Does Jesus say: “Oh no they’re not”? No, he doesn’t!

Did you know that St Paul, in five different places, announces that God is not in control?

Of course, he doesn’t cite any of those specific places. He does mention a passage in Ephesians that doesn’t really support his point before he goes off on a tangent about worship music.

I have problems with a lot of the new worship music. I think it’s wonderful that it’s captured the music that young people can relate to and they get into it with great love and emotion. But compare ‘My God reigns’ with the old hymns which say: “Jesus shall reign” – it’s future tense, not present tense.

The Hallelujah Chorus never says: “God is in control”. It says: “The kingdoms of this world will (when the second coming occurs) become the kingdoms of our God and he shall reign forever and ever hallelujah”.

(Of course, we use the future tense when we talk about the future. It doesn’t take a grammar nerd — or a theologian — to see that lyrics or statements that address the future won’t necessarily be in the present tense, even if those statements are true in the present.)

Campolo goes on to try to tie Jesus’ humanity to God not being in control by referring to Jesus as being “vulnerable” and asserting that God didn’t use the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus to force people to believe in Him.

The whole statement from Campolo is as squishy and nonsensical as much of what stems from liberal Christianity these days. In fact, this very rejection of God’s sovereignty is what led Campolo’s son Bart to reject Christianity.

Campolo’s statement of, um, faith, inspired a response at Premier from British pastor Graham Nicholls, who specifically addressed the issue of God’s sovereignty in music:

…of course, there are challenges to our faith in terms of how God exercises his sovereign will in allowing the presence of sin and Satan in the world until Jesus returns.

But we do not worship a God who is contingent, limited in both strength and knowledge. We sing of one who is transcendent and supremely powerful, and it humbles and encourages our hearts. We sing and shout that nothing stands in his way; no-one and nothing can question the authority and goodness of his actions. Our God does reign!

The Bible speaks of the all-powerful nature of a God who is definitely in control.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand (Proverbs 19:21).

A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way? (Proverbs 20:24)

Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? (Lamentations 3:37)

In the Genesis account of Joseph, whose brothers sold him into slavery, Joseph told his brothers that their evil act was actually God’s plan to save His people from famine when he said, “…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

In fact, Jesus’ humanity — his vulnerability, if you will — was a direct fulfillment of God’s perfect plan to redeem those who call on His name. And Jesus’ brother James reminded us that we shouldn’t make plans without subjecting ourselves to God’s sovereign will.

John Piper speaks of the sovereignty of God in plain terms:

God works all things according to his will. Here’s Ephesians 1:11: “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” Let me say it again. He works all things according to the counsel of his will. I think that means he always controls everything. There’s my answer.

Jerry Bridges reminds us that our trust in God’s sovereignty is a must if we are to believe in Him, especially during difficult times:

The Scriptures teach us that we must believe that God is completely sovereign if we are to trust Him in adversity.

Someone has expressed it this way: “God in His love always wills what is best for us. In His wisdom He always knows what is best, and in His sovereignty He has the power to bring it about.”

The sovereignty of God is asserted, either expressly or implicitly, on almost every page of the Bible.

What’s the point of entrusting your life to God if you can’t believe He is totally in control? Bart Campolo says that a lack of trust in God’s sovereignty led him down the slippery slope in which he ceased to believe in the God of the Bible. If that doesn’t shake Tony Campolo out of this odd belief that God isn’t in control, nothing will. And that’s a sad way to live, even as a believer.