Not surprisingly some commentators are unimpressed with the reasons Tony Campolo has offered in his attempt to explain his softened position on same-sex relationships.

“Christianity Today” contributing editor Mark Woods reports that

Conservative commentator Denny Burk, who teaches biblical studies at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, wrote on his blog that Campolo “seems to have been moved not by scripture but by relationships he’s had with gay friends”. He continued: “The winnowing process that we are witnessing right now is going to reveal whose consciences are bound by the authority of scripture and whose aren’t.”

So the dividing line is clear. You are either one of those apostates who have forsaken Scripture to side with real people in their most deeply held life-experience, or you are one of the faithful ones who adhere to “the authority of scripture.”

What a curious and sad dichotomy. Does Mr. Burk honestly not understand that there is no reading in modern times of any ancient text that does not involve interpretation? Does he not see that interpreters can have genuine differences of opinion on their interpretation of deeply complex texts without one side necessarily having abandoned the “authority” of that ancient text? Have those who no longer hold to a literal seven-day creation really forsaken the “authority of Scripture”? If I grow my hair have I forsaken the authority of Scripture? (14″Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him?” I Cors. 11:14)

But Woods takes comfort in his conviction that Campolo’s statement will do little harm to the cause of true belief in America because,

While Campolo regards himself as a conservative, his support for what in the US are seen as left-wing ideas and his deep concern for social justice have long led him to be seen as a dangerous liberal in many quarters. His endorsement of same-sex relationships is perhaps unlikely to convince anyone who was not already convinced.

Mr. Woods is undoubtedly a better authority than I am on the zeitgeist of the US. But I find it extraordinary that the nation is apparently united in what it views as “left-wing ideas” and its suspicion of “social justice.” But, when you live behind a high wall, it is easy to convince yourself you know precisely what everyone on the other side is thinking.

And what is a “dangerous liberal”? What is the “danger” of fully welcoming people who are homosexual into the church? What harm will they do? Please someone explain to me what Mr. Woods is so afraid of.

Perhaps he is worried for Tony Campolo’s soul because, although uncertain about the future, Mr. Woods is pretty confident about the state of Tony Campolo’s spiritual standing. Woods writes,

What the outcome will be is difficult to forecast, but a likely scenario is an evangelical wing of the Church increasingly embattled and marginalised. For conservative evangelicals, though, this is a price worth paying: opposition to homosexuality is a matter of faithfulness to the Bible. Attempts to re-read the texts condemning such behaviour are simply selling out to the spirit of the age, and Campolo is a casualty in the struggle for truth.

On the basis of the fact that Mr. Campolo holds a different view than Mr. Woods on a single issue that the Bible touches on in the most marginal way, Mr. Woods feels qualified to label this faithful believing elder statesman of the Christian faith “a casualty in the struggle for truth.”

How did anyone ever get to the point where the entire wall of Christian belief comes tumbling down because of an adjustment to one small brick? Is Christian faith such a fragile creature that it can be undermined by disagreement over how to apply a few Scripture verses in a controversial debate over a contemporary social issue the specifics of which were completely unimaginable to the original authors of those verses? Whatever we may know about the few biblical texts that make passing reference to same-sex sexual relations, we do know the authors were not addressing the situation of people who intend to enter lifelong respectful loving intimate committed monogamous same-sex relationships.

It is sad that Mr. Woods no longer finds the designation “evangelical” adequate to identify people who sincerely seek to hold Christian faith. The correct designation now for real believers is apparently “conservative evangelicals.” So another dividing line is drawn in the sand of the already tragically fragmented Christian community.

Mr. Woods resists any slide into the gentler, no doubt liberal values, of openness, respectful conversation, deep listening, love, and a willingness to hold the tension of disagreement. He is apparently content that “the theological trench warfare” that has so damaged the church for the past decade, should continue into the foreseeable future, presumably until such time as those who have strayed finally wake up and agree that Mr. Woods was right all along.

How is the cause of Christ furthered by perpetuating a battle that has already been so clearly settled in a life-giving way for the majority of people in the western world?