Several things are problematic with these sorts of ideas. First is the idea that we can choose what to believe. Here, Campolo nearly gets it right until he seems to say he went ahead and decided there was no God. It’s true that one can resist the changing of one’s mind, and the Fundamentalist mentality of cordoning off things they’d otherwise be open to thinking about is testament to the fact. There is a leap though from the idea that close-mindedness has choice as its counterpart rather than open-mindedness. Campolo cannot simply choose to change his mind about the existence of God but must be persuaded that this is actually the case. This is called Doxastic Involuntarism.
For believer and non, no one chooses what to believe. One is in essence, the owner of a perception of reality in which there is or isn’t also perceived some volitional agency. This perception isn’t the product of deduction. This is called Epistemic Entitlement. Such entitlements (like my existence, other minds, reality being “real”, and so on), have warrant only through perceptual experience; these are truisms and for some of them, their alternatives are absurd. This entails that warrant consists not only of justification in the form of other “reasons to assert” some case, but that indeed sometimes, we “must accept what we are powerless to reject”, as Dretske put it.
We consider C.S. Peirce in “Some Consequences Of Four Incapacities” when he cautions us about “pretend doubt”. He implies exactly that the genuineness of belief is aside from intellectual assent. One must have reason to believe, to doubt, to withhold judgment. One must be sincerely disposed and such dispositions are ultimately grounded in perceptions of experience of the world. Again, in this, Campolo is absolutely correct. But his mistake is secondarily that Progressives follow a path with an inevitable conclusion that there is no God. This is likely from too closely associating Theology with why one ought to, or does, believe in deity. His first mistake, if it’s not yet clear, is the idea that one can merely bypass any “in betweens” there may be between Fundamentalism and Atheism.
No, the salient fact is one simply gives up properly on the idea that what one thinks about God is actually about God. The path here is ultimately only the Apophatic tradition; a far more aged and global one than the equivocal and univocal fiats of Geisler or Sproul’s perverse vision of incoherence; “effing” that which one began by defining as ineffable. As long as one has the preception of some “Big Other” in the world, one will never be an Atheist and having that perception is nothing a person can choose, including Campolo.
Should Bart have an impression of some Big Other yet mistakes his Atheism linked to Theology, then the mistake is a pretense. If on the other hand, Campolo never had such an impression while confessing Christianity, then he indeed has left a pretense and should be applauded; his reward at least living a life where his ideas and experiences are much more closely married.
Finally, to open thoughts here and close possible criticisms that may arise in what’s been said, one should imagine there are two identical universes. Their only difference being that one has a God and one does not. And just before one is tempted to say “No universe can exist without God”, one remembers hearing non believers saying “No universe requires God”, and in thinking of both, there’s only the fact that there is a universe and either claim has no real basis but fiat. In these two universes, there are morality, logic, maths, goodness and evil and cute and fluffy bunnies. The point of this mental exercise now clear: were we placed in one of these two universes, we couldn’t appeal to any feature of reality or any personal experience or perceptions in order to sort out whether or not our particular universe entailed a God.
Lamenting the poor reasonings of Geisler and Sproul, both universes give up nothing about the existence of God and make it clear that the existence of God is not a matter of evidence; nor is Atheism. Further, despite the uneducated reification of maths and logic by the Tureks, the Strobles, the Zacharias of Christian Apologetics, actual logicians note that logic has nothing to do with reality, doesn’t entail truth, and is at best a formal description of how folks think. Be it Frege or Quine or Ayer or Russell, or Chatin or Penrose, the professional story of maths and logic entails that thinking clearly about the world doesn’t tell us anything about what’s true.
This brings us full circle: There can be no evidence for transcendent beings and imminent ones are indistinguishable from nature (one of the points of the “Two Universes”), and given logic cannot prove what any actual case is, one can only be pursuaded by it. However, ultimately, whatever reasoning employed, unless it actually represents what we already think the real case is, it will never be accepted. This is the only accounting for why sound arguments for and against deity exist and why one would accept one but not the other. What we and other Campolos of the world believe is entirely aside from our control. Theologically then, we have ideas we put into practice and through experience we come to understand what we mean by those ideas. That being that, as Schillebeeckx or Karen Armstrong suggest, the entire enterprise is about human well-being or nothing at all and that in the middle of that “way of being well”, we understand what we mean by “God”, what we mean by “Human”, mean by “Jesus”; their reality is only certainly there, and elsewhere, entirety dubious.
Campolo can only objectively conclude that Post Enlightenment, Positive Theology is a failure and its evidence is the exodus from Christianity; his and scores of others.
Bart Campolo is wrong in the end.