“Harold Camping lets out a hearty chuckle when he considers the people who believe the world will end in 2012. ‘That date has not one stitch of biblical authority,’ Camping says from the Oakland office where he runs Family Radio, an evangelical station that reaches listeners around the world. ‘It’s like a fairy tale.’ The real date for the end of times, he says, is in 2011.” (SFGate.com)
Recent reports say that Nashville has 40 billboards up around town letting people know that the end of the world will happen on May 21, 2011, sponsored by Rev Camping’s Family Radio network and wecanknow.com and Allison Warden, one of the founders of Raleigh, N.C.-based We Can Know, said Wednesday that an analysis of Scripture, particularly the genealogies, shows Jesus will come in May. “God actually provides a calendar that points to May 21, 2011, as the day for Christ to return,” she said.
Omaha has 4, reportedly. Of course this poses problems for my wedding plans, since we were counting on the 28th. We are considering changing our ‘save the date’ reminders to read: “May 28th Andy and Celeste are getting married! (provided Camping is wrong)”
Of course it is important for Christians to remember the second coming (parousia) spoken of in scripture. Heidegger in his 192o-21 lectures on phenomenology of religious life talks about how that Christian thought uniquely places the believer on knifes edge as we wait for the return of Jesus, knowing that every moment may be our last– this heightened existential situation puts an ultimate value on each moment, as we live our lives on the red alert. But that is exhausting. Its so much nicer to just know so we can plan around the event. So we look for Pastor Campings to tell us…
This is not the first time Camping predicted the future. In 1994 he predicted “The results of this study indicate that the month of September of the year 1994 is to be the time for the end of history” –Harold Camping (1994?, New York: Vantage Press, p. 531). He and his followers waited in vain that time:
“On Sept. 6, 1994, dozens of Camping’s believers gathered inside Alameda’s Veterans Memorial Building to await the return of Christ, an event Camping had promised for two years. Followers dressed children in their Sunday best and held Bibles open-faced toward heaven.” (cogpost)
But he now claims his calculations were off, but this new set of numerical calculations is accurate… He has also made claims that the age of the church has ended– God is no longer using the church and you should leave churches:
“Camping contends that “the work of the church is finished,” and that those who remain in the church, during the time of the on-coming “tribulation,” will be destroyed. He thus bids the faithful to flee the church. He goes so far as to suggest that if one were to find a church “where it appears that each and every doctrine they hold is faithful to the Word of God,” it should be avoided — if one hopes to escape the impending destruction.” (christian courier)
People like to think the Bible reveals hidden truths which correspond to historical happenings. We like to know what is coming in the future. We don’t like surprises. And this has provided book sellers with a great market for fantastic projections about when and how the end of the world will come (according to the Bible, of course).
Hal Lindsay in The Late Great Planet Earth in the 1970’s provided a dispensationalist view of the establishment being a key component of the return of Christ (Lindsay said 1988 was an important date to keep watch on).
John Walverford has targeted this niche industry, pumping out bestsellers on end times such as Armageddon, Oil and Terror; The Revelation of Jesus Christ; 688 page Every Prophecy of the Bible: A Clear Explanation; Armageddon, Oil, and the Middle East Crisis; and so on. Tim Lahaye is better known with his Left Behind series and his many multiple books regarding end-times theology.
Another example of future-telling based loosely on the bible was The Bible Code, the best-selling book by Michael Drosin, published in 1997. The sequel (The Bible Code II) was a best-seller in 2002. Drosin claimed messages were encoded in the Bible, originally in the Hebrew Torah, and it all sounds possible to an open minded person until he gets into his theory about extra-terrestrials implanting the code… in BCII
A lot of ink and effort seems to be spent trying to figure out what the Bible says about the end times. The one thing Scripture is clear about is that we will not know when Jesus returns. In Matthew 24:36 Jesus says about these things that “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” If Pastor Camping claims to know the day, he is claiming to know a. something Jesus said pastor Camping couldn’t know and b. something which Jesus claimed neither he nor angels could know. So pastor Campings claim is bold indeed.
Again, people want to be in control, to not be surprised, to have a lock on what God is up to and what his plans are. This drives an awful lot of our theological pursuits and quest for knowledge. But we know that that very desire for certainty through knowledge was the original sin of Adam and Eve when they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil desiring to be like God. We want to be God when we want to know as God knows, and we want to know as God knows so that we don’t have to trust God.
Of course this is not an argument to not seek knowledge– but to not seek knowledge of things that are beyond us, and beyond the clear commands of scripture. This is what often gets us into a lot of trouble. People come up with clarity on issues when one doesn’t find clarity on those issues in the Bible itself– and when we do that we step beyond Scripture and start to impose our own personal views onto others and the Bible itself. We need moderation and humility. That doesn’t mean we know nothing, but it does mean that perhaps we don’t know as much as we like, and we have to walk by faith, not by sight.
May God have mercy on us all– mercy to not waste time trying to not have faith when we should be using our lives to serve God. And although I look forward to my wedding, if Jesus chooses to come before then, thats OK with me 🙂