I am the Lord, I do not change – Malachi 3:6


Recently I came across an article, published in The Journal of Student Ministries – a publication that is publicized by Youth Specialties – that truly dissapointed me. In this article entitled The Limits of God’s Grace, written by Tony Compolo’s son, Bart, we are told that the author feels the need to define what kind of God is worthy of His worship. This stunning quote by an “evangelical” leader is horribly off base, in my opinion. Here’s a portion of what Campolo had to say:

Some might say I would be wise to swallow my misgivings about such stuff [like God’s sovereignty, wrath, hell, etc.], remain orthodox, and thereby secure my place with God in eternity. But that is precisely my point: If those things are true, then God might as well send me to Hell. For better or worse, I simply am not interested in any God but a completely good, entirely loving, and perfectly forgiving One who is powerful enough to utterly triumph over evil. Such a God may not exist, but I will die seeking such a God, and I will pledge my allegiance to no other possibility because, quite frankly, anything less is not worthy of my worship.

Please, don’t get me wrong. I am well aware that I don’t get to decide who God is. What I do get to decide, however, is to whom I pledge my allegience. I am a free agent, after all, and I have standards for my God (emphasis mine), the first of which is this: I will not worship any God who is not at least as compassionate as I am.

I was honestly flabergasted when reading this. To think that one would have the audacity to claim that their position as created one would ever allow them the freedom to determine who or what their God is prior to choosing to serve Him is simply beyond my comprehension. One of the key truths, in my mind, in this walk of faith is the idea that I must submit to God regardless of my comfort with His person.

In my opinion, I take comfort in the truth that God is far more complex than I can understand. I readily accept both His grace and His awesomeness. I am satisfied to know that He can easily destroy me (so as to underline His power) but that He chooses not to (so as to underline His grace) and that He does, at times, choose to utilize His power to cause the end of people (so as to underline His justice.) This is not a cause for me to deny God, or to turn away from Him, but rather it is an opportunity to accept Him in His awesomness and therefore revel in His grace. I am satisfied that Malachi 3:6 is correct, and because of that I can trust Him in all His mystery.
So, what are your thoughts? Is Campolo on safe ground by determining the worthiness of God prior to choosing to worship Him?

HT: Justin Taylor

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

14 thoughts on “I am the Lord, I do not change – Malachi 3:6

  1. Is he on safe ground? No. I appreciate Bart’s honesty- I think that many think this way and are afraid to say it- but he lacks faith. God is just. I believe this by faith- not by sight. In my corner of Middle Earth here in a muslim land my world is full of injustice and depravity. God allows this- He even uses it. I don’t understand that but by faith I believe that he is just, and good, and loving, and all those things that Bart wants him to be. I would love to get to eternity and find out that all that stuff about Hell was wrong. But I don’t think I will. The Word says otherwise. I only know truth by His Word. Unfortunately, we see through a glass darkly. But when we see face to face I believe that we will praise God and shout aloud that He is good and just and loving just like Bart thought that he was. But Hell will be there too. Judgment will come and then all will say that God is just and loving. We will rejoice in how right He is.
    For now, we don’t see how that is possible. But we see in the Word how Jesus was tested by his enemies. They had him again and again and he always triumphed. John 8 for starters! His Word is true and He is just, and He is loving and Bart is wrong on this one. I am sure His judge, who is not me, will straighten him out sooner or later.

  2. Bart is living dangerously with his man made god. God is limited by Himself not a mere son of a Baptist preacher. May the one true God contend and convince our Bro. in Adam of his self righteous standards.

  3. Micah,
    Let’s call it what it actually is, idolatry. The lesser Campolo has made a god in his imagination that he is comfortable with. This is just slightly more sophisticated than a golden calf.

    Joe

  4. Bart says, “I will not worship any God who is not at least as compassionate as I am.”

    I agree. I wouldn’t, either.

    God is perfectly compassionate, and I’m not. That solves the problem. I don’t think our perception of compassion exactly matches God’s definition of it. Neither does our concept of grace match God’s definition of it.

    Our intellect and free will sometimes combine to get us off base and skew our perspective related to our faith in God. Usually, life offers some lessons to put things back where they belong. If not, then thank God for his mercy and grace, and his patience.

  5. Lee-

    I think we’re more on the same page than this comment may sound but I choose to disagree with your statement agreeing with Bart’s comment about a God who is “at least as compassionate as I am.” I think it is a moot point, because God in His infinite glory is certainly more compassionate than we are, but God’s compassion is not what determines our worship of Him, in my opinion. I am convinced that we worship God because He is God. Period. Whether He’s compassionate, or angry, gracious, or veangeful, doesn’t matter. What matters is that He is God and His position as sovereign creator in comparison to our position as created one’s demands our allegiance regardless of our perception of Him.

  6. His comments are absurd.

    And on another note: Here is something I have been thinking about…it is one of those things were I don’t accept it, I just am thinking about it and wonder what someone else might think about it…

    God loves me. He has chosen me as a object of grace. (According to some thought) –> He does not love others. He has chosen them as an object of wrath.

    Why does God love me, and not the next guy? What is it about me that he loves, that the other guy does not have? I have nothing that the other guy does not have. Therefore does he love me arbitrarily? If that is true, is that really a love of me?

    Like I said…I know God loves me and that I am not skilled to understand the ways of God. I accept it by faith. But that previous thought has been in my mind recently and I have been pondering it. I don’t mind thinking about it because I know a man can ponder things without accepting them.

    Any thoughts?

  7. Brother Micah,

    Something comes to mind as I read Bart Campolo’s disecting of God’s Attributes. It appears that he is advocating worship of the creature over the Creator.

    Blessings,
    Tim

  8. Micah,

    It concerns me a great deal when any human being qualifies what he or she will or will not worship in their view of God. God is who He is as revealed by Holy Scripture. When one places qualifications on worship outside of the God as revealed by scriputre, then one worships a God of his own creation. If I understand idolatry correctly, that is the very essence of idolatry.

    Regards,

    Les

  9. Charlie-

    Those are good questions and one’s I can’t answer right now. I know you’ll hate that answer. Let me work on an answer & I’ll try to get back to you.

    Tim & Les-

    Idolatry, yes. I believe that it is.

  10. I’d guess one could be comfortable with a God that he could figure out and would “measure” up to nothing more than some stuff a finite human being could imagine.

    For the record, comfortable is the last thing I’m looking for, from God. He said I ought to be working out my salvation with fear and trembling. In fact, when I consider all the things my God has set for me to do and to be, I can only tremble and throw myself wholly on His mercy and His grace. Without that, I’m hopeless.

    Completely.

  11. Don’t get me wrong, I worship God because he is God. I’m just trying to understand the nature of the attitude that would cause Bart Campolo, who should know better, to make a statement like that.

  12. I agree that it would be profitable to try and understand the nature of Campolo’s attitude, I just wanted to clarify the need to worship regardless of personal dispositions.

    Thanks for clarifying!

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