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My Take (and a Rather Unsympthetic One at That) On Harold Camping and His Followers

Frankly, this whole Harold Camping mess ticks me off.  Since I write and teach in the field of eschatology, people expect me to say something.  Yet, I'm not sure many of you will appreciate my take on this.  I'm not a happy "camper."

I see this tragic episode as one gigantic mess, which God's people will be cleaning up for years.  I, for one, am not very sympathetic to Mr. Camping, or to those who follow him.  Here's why:

1).  He's done this before.  1994? anyone???  If Camping lives much longer (he's 89), he'll likely do this again.  As one of my favorite philosophers, Dirty Harry, once put it when his police superior questioned whether the serial killer (so wonderfully played by Andy Robinson) would continue to kill, Harry replied, "Of course he will.  He likes it."  You cannot tell me that however Camping came to this particular date for the Lord's return, and however sincere he might he be in his calculations, that the man does not love the media attention.  Why else spend all that money on an "in your face" ad campaign with buses and billboards across the country?  Camping likes the hubbub way too much.  Since someone's past behavior is the best predictor of their future behavior, if given the chance, Camping will do it again.

2).  Camping was disciplined by his church, and never once demonstrated the slightest hint of repentance.  When Camping was removed from his office for his unbiblical speculations, Camping's response was to declare that the church age was over, and that people should leave their churches!  (see Bob Godfrey's account of this--Godfrey on Harold Camping).  Harold Camping is not some grandfatherly old man who has weird views on things (every church has a few of these).  This is a man, who, when he did not get his way, sought to create widescale schism and division in the church.  How can we not conclude that many among his followers are schismatics who have followed their master in his sin?

3).  Camping is not a theological conservative defending the faith, he's a theological radical, and has a dangerous hermeneutic.  Camping gained a following among Reformed cultural conservatives by defending the view that only men should hold the office of minister, elder and deacon, that evolutionary thought had no place in Christian colleges, and that the rampant immorality of our age cannot go unchallenged nor be accepted by Christians.  Meanwhile, the "conservative" Camping was using some outlandish and distorted hermeneutical method to calculate the day of Christ's return and telling everyone who would listen that he was right and that anyone who challenged him had no authority to do so.  Since when did theological conservatives attack the perspicuity of Scripture?  Or champion "private interpretation" while mocking the teaching office and disciplinary authority of the church?

4).  Someone  has to say it -- the man is a false teacher and a kook.  My sense is that Camping falls within the exhortation given by Paul in Romans 16:17 (and elsewhere) -- such people are to be avoided.  Camping is a false teacher, plain and simple.  Anyone who repeatedly pulls the kinds of shenanigans he has should have no credibility.  Non-Christians see him for what he is.  Yet, Christians feel ashamed about calling him out on the same grounds--when Scripture requires that we do so!  Yes, we need to pray for his repentance, and yes, we need to be merciful to those whom he has deceived.  But given the way the man handles God's word, he is self-edvidently a kook.  He has no business being labeled a "teacher."  And it is tragic that he has used his vast radio empire to deceive so many.

5).  The only prophecy which will be fulfilled in association with Harold Camping is 2 Peter 3:3!  Scoffers will come, and sadly, Camping has given the scoffers a whole bunch of ammunition.  This is why is is so vital that Christians be clear to everyone who will listen, that despite this man's false prophecy, the blessed hope awaits all those who are Christ's, and the day of judgment will come upon those who are not.   This is a serious matter, and Christ will not be mocked.

This, then, is why it is so important to expose this man for who and what he is--a false prophet, a schismatic and a kook, lest anyone think that Jesus will not return when we least expect it, to judge the world, raise the dead, and make all things new.

And frankly, it is sad that so many Christians expect non-Christians to do our job for us.

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Reader Comments (51)

Well written and said! :)
May 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaty
May 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa
Well said, Pastor. Glad there are some true undershepherds around!
May 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBill Weber
> "The only prophecy which will be fulfilled in association
> with Harold Camping is 2 Peter 3:3!"

How about 2 Peter 2? (and wrt your #1, see especially v22 "the dog returns to his own vomit...")
May 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRubeRad
"...has given scoffers plenty of ammunition.."
Ain't that the truth!
A couple of forums where I hang out ( and have many posts proving this true. And I'm sure that's just a small sample.
May 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpb
Gee- you hold back so much. Just kidding- Harold Camping may be a kook but he is a calculating kook. Watchmen Fellowship did a paper on him some time ago and talked about his allegorical interpretations and weird numerology. There's a funny analogy in the movie National Treasure. When the treasure hunters find the ship called Charlotte, Nick Cage finds the pipe stem, slits his thumb, rolls it on the stem and it produces a rhyme on paper. His VERY loose associations are mocked by Riley, his aid. Cages says,
"The key in Silence" could be...
Riley: Prison.


See, I can do it too.
Snorkel. (end of script)

So I can do it too: there are 1189 chapters in the bible and 31, 103 verses. The formula then is 1189 x 31, 103 x 1978 (number of years since Christ) = Harold Camping is a kook.
It is 7:56 PM CST, Wonder what he is doing at this moment? He really needs a relationship with the man called Jesus!
May 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKS
It seems like many are in the mood to throw stones today. Let's just make sure we're throwing stones at the fallicy of these types of predictions - and the "theology" of doing such - and not at the man himself.

It always makes me nervous when Christians seem to enjoy throwing stones at the person (Camping / Bell / others) rather than the error of their ways.
May 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike
Sorry Mike, we all need prayer and a healthy relationship with the Lord. This will cause us to seek the simpleness of truth and not the fallacies of fables. But for God's grace, I am saved.
May 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKS
AMEN & AMEN! Well put. Keep up the good work.
May 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDan Elmendorf
One thing I do not get is how people can get so entangled with the idea of apocalypse as if is a good thing. While, I am not very religious, not in conventional terms at least, I do have some faith when it comes to Christianity. If nothing else, I do believe that what is written in the Bible is at least a great moral code, a good guide to living an honorable live. However, regardless if people do go to heaven and be judged when a supposed apocalypse comes to me it just seems like sociopathism. How can anyone seriously hope that the world would end and millions would die ? Ok, lets accept that some go to heaven and thats why the want it, what about the rest that would be condemned in hell ? They had no chance to repent... It might be quite off-topic but I have been thinking a lot on that lately, and to me it just seems like all these people hoping for apocalypse are nothing more than psychopaths that want to see suffering of others and prove to be better than other by being right...Just my thoughts...
May 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge
Well articulated George:

I respect the struggle that you propose, and I hope that you are able to dialogue in a constructive way about this topic, as I'm sure you're not the only person to struggle with this.

Titus 2:12-15 does tell us that the Blessed Hope is the return of Jesus Christ, and for all believers it is a day we long for because it is a day when every tear is finally wiped away, every temptation is abolished, and we can experience the full consumation of life with God for all eternity. That is the prize at the end of the race that helps us persevere and finish the fight.

I could be wrong, but I think most honest, bible-believing Christians do not like it when attention is drawn to the end of the world in a way like it has been via Family Radio lately. It is an important topic, yet certainly it has been a bit of a cartoon show this week - and mostly today. So, please understand that most Christians probably are as troubled by all this attention just like you are.

Finally, I can see your point that when we pray for the return of Jesus in a sense it seems like we are praying for the eternal damnation of the unbeliever. That is probably the extreme end of the spectrum - I don't think too many Christians want to see their neighbors suffer for eternity, which is why they share Christ in word and deed whenever possible. I hope your experiencne is that Christians are sharing the gospel - and sharing God's heart for the lost. It is His desire (and the desire of His disciples) that the gospel go out to all people and share His love for them. When you know that eternal damnation awaits the unbeliever I hope that motivates you to share the gospel with them.

Personally, I long for Jesus' coming because I can't wait to finally experience the full consumation of His presence. I also want my neighbors / relatives to experience it too...take advantage of the time we have to share God's love, but keep your eyes on the prize so that you aren't tempted to compromise.

Blessings to you
May 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike
As Pastor and Robert Godfrey has stated, Camping has been corrected repeatedly, to no avail. He seems to have been insistent on magnifying his errors and broadcasting them far and wide, including spending huge sums of money for Billboards around the world. What other course of action is left for the theologically prudent in the addressing of this situation? Non-stop ridicule, and continued prayer.
Mike, People like Bell and Camping are false teachers, and the Bible's attitude is pretty harsh toward false teachers. I'm not sure you see how serious it is to lead people away from Christ. Matthew 18:6-7, for example, where Jesus says: "If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!"

George, there is no sociopathic element in longing for Christ's return. When he returns he will mete out both justice and mercy. To those who belong to Adam and his sinful race, he will mete out justice, which is hell. To those who belong to Jesus Christ, the second Adam, he will mete out mercy, which is heaven.

All of us are born belonging to Adam, and we deserve condemnation because of our failure to honor God as God, and give him thanks. No one has loved God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. Therefore, the wrath of God, which is entirely just, rests upon all people born in Adam.

Therefore, we must be transferred from Adam to Christ, and this happens only through placing our faith in the Son whom the Father sent into the world to save a world under judgment. The good news is that Christ bore this judgment on our behalf. When we trust in Christ, we are accepted by the Father because all of his suffering and righteousness are imputed to us.

Therefore, the Bible is not about morality, but about the news that Jesus can restore lost, condemned sinners to God. No longer do we have to face our Creator as our Judge who rightly condemns us, but through faith in Christ the Creator is now our gracious Father.

There is nothing sociopathic about this, but only a true recognition of God's justice, our sinfulness that deserves condemnation, and God's grace and mercy offered through the eternal Son he sent in our flesh, as the second Adam, who succeeded where Adam (and us in him) failed.
May 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBill Weber
Well said Pastor Kim:

You do a great job in fighting these false teachers that bring shame to Christians, but even more so to Christ.

I sent your interview with Pastor Todd on Issues, Etc. to some of the members in our broadcast media. You bring so much respectability in your defense against the false teachers.

Keep up the great job!
May 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLloyd I. Cadle
By the way Pastor Kim:

If you choose, you can go ahead and leave my blog post on page two of the letters that Camping may write.

You may take off my request to have it removed. Might as well leave it on. Camping deserves the ridicule.
May 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLloyd I. Cadle
I was thinking that Camping would make an interesting further example of self-delusion that C.S. Lewis captured so well in his "Great Divorce". I would see Camping in the 'grey town' (hell) holding meetings to convince the residents that Jesus was coming on a certain date ad infinitum.
May 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterScooter
We all seem to be forgetting... God is biggest murdering psychopath.
"kill ... I wound ... I will make my arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh." -- Deuteronomy 32:39-42
Estimated number of deaths God is accounted for in the bible: 25million.
Satan: 10
Although of course i can't complain... because if i did God would kill me!
See chapter 22, Num 16:49, as 15,000 people are MURDERED for having an opinion.
People can have biased opinions, and be wrong, but figures don't lie, and these (and more) come straight from the bible.
Enjoy your peaceful religion!
May 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTheVoiceOfReason
Voice, If you could see his glory, then you would understand his justice and his mercy. But sadly, sin blinds people to his glory, and only his grace and mercy can remove this blindness.
May 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBill Weber
Mike says,
"Let's just make sure we're throwing stones at the fallicy of these types of predictions - and the "theology" of doing such - and not at the man himself."

Not at the man himself? Since when does God separate the sin from the sinner?
May 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVanessa

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