Best-selling author and evangelical preacher Tony Campolo is defending the Red Letter Christians evangelical movement he helped found that gives the words of Jesus more authority than the rest of the Bible.
The movement takes its name from how some editions of the Bible put the words of Jesus in red lettering to distinguish them from the rest of the text.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Campolo explained that Red Letter Christians believe the "red letters are the most important part of the Scripture" because "Jesus raises the moral standard."
"There's no question that the morality prescribed by Jesus is superior to anything that was hitherto suggested by the law and the prophets," said Campolo.
Red Letter Christians have gotten their share of criticism, however, including from Mark Tooley, president of the theologically conservative Institute on Religion & Democracy.
In an interview with CP, Tooley said the movement's interpretative reasoning was "destructive and dangerous because it implies the whole of Scripture is less than reliable and that modern individuals in one culture can singularly reinterpret or reject historic Christian ethical teaching without counsel of universal Church."
"So a few words from Jesus supposedly mandate unlimited welfare state, opposition to military, gun abolition, etc.," said Tooley. "Meanwhile, too often historic Church teachings about abortion on homosexuality are dismissed because Jesus did not specifically address it."
Campolo told CP that Red Letter Christians do consider all Scripture to be divinely inspired and that "the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible, is crucial in that it points to Jesus."
"I want to always add that the early Church didn't have a New Testament, but what they were able to do under the influence of the Holy Spirit is to find the message and the story of Jesus written all through the law and the prophets of the Old Testament," said Campolo.
"In short, the Scriptures that were written before the New Testament point to Jesus and they are crucially important for us to understand Jesus."
Campolo quoted Matthew 5:17, where Jesus states "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them."
"When He used the word 'fulfill,' He meant to carry it to its ultimate meaning. And the ultimate meaning of the Old Testament is found in Jesus Christ. If you don't have Jesus Christ, you don't have what the Old Testament was pointing toward," said Campolo.
"So I don't want to get anybody to believe that Red Letter Christians are in any way negating what the other parts of Scripture are saying. What's more, we make a strong point out of saying, if you really want to understand the rest of the Bible, you need to enter into a personal relationship with Christ."
According to their website, Red Letter Christians identifies itself as an evangelical movement meant to counter the negative perceptions of evangelicalism and to live Christ-like lives.
"The goal of Red Letter Christians is simple: To take Jesus seriously by endeavoring to live out His radical, counter-cultural teachings as set forth in Scripture, and especially embracing the lifestyle prescribed in the Sermon on the Mount," notes the website.
"Challenging the popular image of evangelicals is one of the purposes of this movement. I want it to be known that there are millions of us who espouse an evangelical theology, but who reject being classified as part of the Religious Right."