Monday, May 23, 2011

The Return of Harold Camping

In the last week or so I've gotten quite interested in Harold Camping and his apocalyptic predictions. So much so that I listened to the majority of the Open Forum broadcast on Family Radio Monday night where he held a press conference. I wanted to hear his explanation of his failed Judgement Day prophesy. As many predicted, he offered a spiritualized interpretation of the apparent non-event on May 21st. Over the weekend, he realized that the Judgement Day was not to be accompanied by physical signs. Instead, God has ended the time where those outside Christ can be saved. Judgement has come upon them. However, he continues to insist that Oct 21 of this year will be the end of the world, in a real, literal sense. Camping downplayed former comments where he denied that May 21 would be an entirely spiritual event, emphasizing that understanding the Bible is very difficult and is a "slow and tedious" process, where he must revise his understanding as God opens his "spiritual eyes". This comment was not lost on a journalist, who wondered how Camping could be so certain that Oct 21 would be a literal event. This comment was entirely lost on Camping.

He is resolute in his core message and feels no responsibility toward those who spent money on getting the Judgement Day message out. He stated emphatically that he never told people to spend their money, quit their jobs, or drop out of school. Those decisions were between "them and God." He also denied culpability for one woman's attempted murder of her children following his failed prediction. He expressed relief that she didn't succeed, but called such an action a "stupid thing" that is not of God's will.

Throughout the question and answer period, he answered questions with long, often irrelevant Bible stories or sermonettes on topics ranging from evolution to the spiritual leadership of men. He was in his element at these times, speaking with the authority of an elder to his children, managing to sound authoritative and reassuring while also referring frequently to his fallibility as a human, noting that he is "not a genius", but a "humble teacher" while God is the real CEO of Family Radio. I couldn't help but feel he was trying to shift some of blame onto God. However, he did credit God with allowing him to purchase a large lexicon set many years ago which helped him understand Greek. This is largely how God taught him the message of Judgement. He also described praying, hoping, and begging for his eyes to be opened as other ways he came to knowledge.

Camping is right about a couple of things. First, the Bible is difficult to understand. And second, we should be willing to revise our understanding with further study. Unfortunately, what Camping has done is merely reinterpreted events to fit his original prediction. I think most of us view his spiritualizing of the Judgement Day with suspicion. This should cause us to reflect on times when we have done the same. Sometimes we spiritualize healing or other forms of deliverance. When is this legitimate and when is this rationalization? And is there a way to tell the difference?

5 comments:

  1. Camping’s calculations were wrong and his assumptions naive, but Rapture and Judgment Day are still relevant! Humanity needs to know the truth. Listen to this very compelling recording from a new spiritual group that is making waves and getting the word out to be spiritually prepared with more than a simple prayer and some bible verses.

    http://www.merkaba.org/audio/camping.htm

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  2. Hi,

    I will admit to poking fun at all of this. I mean, really. If those who are "outside Christ" are not able to get "inside Christ" now, that's a whole lot of people who have suddenly been written off. Nice! What about the parts of the Bible that talk about God not wanting anyone to perish?
    If this is the case, it really does call into question whether God is a good God.
    I am sure Mr Camping is convinced he should be trying to calculate this stuff; perhaps his time would be better used elsewhere.

    Well, Oct 21 isn't far away. Then when that date passes, it will be 2012 when the Mayas said the world will end. Things to look forward to!

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  3. Wouldn't you have more respect for Camping had he just said: "I was totally and absolutely wrong and therefore I will shut up about it." I would.

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  4. IsToo,
    so many apocalypses, so little time! I think Camping estimated that 3% of the population would be saved. I find that disturbing, he apparently does not.

    Doug B,
    I would have been absolutely astounded had he done so.

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  5. This is commonly attributed to Einstein - "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

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