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Tony Campolo: Why I believe God is not (yet) in control

In a recent interview with Premier Christianity, Tony Campolo explains why he believes the Bible teaches that God is not (yet) in control and reigning over all things 

When I thought I had all the answers and when it was an iron clad ideology, it felt safe. But the question I have to ask is this: "Is an unquestioned faith really valid? Is it a valid faith if it hasn't been tested?"

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? 

Here's good Orthodox theology: God created the world and he created it good. And everything got messed up. We call it original sin. (I'm not going into details because I don't understand it - but everything got messed up). God the creator sends his son into the world - not just to get us into heaven when we die - but to rescue his messed up world. 

In the first chapter of Ephesians it says that the task of the Church is to bring all principalities, all powers, all dominions, all thrones (that's all social institutions) into subjection to him. And the next line is "through the Church". The Church is the instrument through which God is at work in the world, changing all the social institutions and bringing them under the Lordship of Christ.

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. 

I have problems with a lot of the new worship music

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".

I'm a sociologist by trade. A basic sociological principle is you can't express love and power at the same time. Whenever you love, you lose power. Love makes you vulnerable. 

We have a God who loves us so much he was willing to become vulnerable. I didn't make that up! It's in the second chapter of Philippians: "He who thought it not robbery to be equal with God but made himself of no reputation..." - the word in the Greek is Kenosis - he got rid of his power - "...Took upon himself the form of a servant..." - the word in the Greek is Doulos, meaning slave - "...made himself of no reputation, humbled himself. Even unto death on a cross."

You know what the crucifixion is about? The crucifixion is about a God who loves us so much that he refuses to use his power and coerce us into his kingdom. Instead he says: "If I be lifted up - I will draw all men and all women unto myself". 

He wants to become Lord of history because of his love, not because of his power.

Read a response to this blog by Graham Nicholls

Tony Campolo is a sociologist, author and pastor. He was speaking to Sam Hailes on the Premier Christianity magazine podcast. Click here to download the full conversation 

Click here for a free sample copy of Premier Christianity magazine

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