Theological Influence: Will Campbell

It's difficult to articulate the shape of the impact of Will Campbell on my theological thinking. This is no doubt because Campbell himself was hard to classify. He was more a force of nature than anything else. You can't do much better than Campbell's succinct summary of the gospel: "We're all bastards but God loves us anyway."

Here's the best way I can explain it. Campbell's radical vision of reconciliation has given me a vision of the kingdom of God that explodes all the ways we try to divisively sort each other into groups, from progressive vs. evangelical, to saint vs. sinner, to Republican vs. Democrat.

In Campbell's view, in Christ we've already been reconciled with each other. So there is nothing left for us to do except live into that reality.  

Be reconciled. 2 Corinthians 5.20. καταλλάγητε. In a nutshell, that was Campbell's message. And if that seems both obvious yet radical, it is. Once, in a religion seminar, Campbell got into an argument with a university professor who was pushing Will to get specific about his doctrine and ministry. As recounted by Thomas Connelly:
[T]he theology professor repeated the same question, over and over: "What is your actual business, Reverend Campbell--I mean, what do you believe in?" Finally Campbell lost his patience and roared, "I have been trying to tell you! I believe in Jesus, goddammit, Jesus! Through the saving grace of His death on the cross, we have all been reconciled to each other. So if we accept this gift, we're free. There ain't no need to hate anyone! Getting the word around about that--that's my business, professor!"

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