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.