May 21st, 2011 will be here soon. The date is just a few weeks away now.
Perhaps you pay attention to religious matters in the news. If you do, you‘ve no doubt heard that date marks the beginning of the end of the world. At least it does according to Harold Camping of Family Radio.
In 1958, Camping and a group of other conservative Christians bought a radio station in San Francisco for the purpose of broadcasting the Christian gospel to the community. In the ensuing years what became known as Family Radio expanded greatly, now owning and broadcasting over more than 150 radio stations in the United States. They also broadcast worldwide via short-wave radio.
Over the years, Family Radio in general and Harold Camping in particular have become highly influential among conservative Christians. Camping’s “Open Forum” program, a weeknight call in show aired since 1961, has given him an enormous platform from which to teach his views on Biblical doctrine and practice.
Like many others, there was a time when I thoroughly enjoyed much of Family Radio’s broadcasting. Their Lord’s Day (Sunday) broadcasts were especially enjoyable. In the morning, sermons preached by Dr. James Montgomery Boice of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia were featured. In the evening, the preaching of Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse and Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones was featured. It was great stuff indeed.
The last twenty years or so have brought about some big changes at Family Radio, and it went from a source of great joy to me to one of great sorrow.
Camping’s influence at Family Radio increased with time, and it’s my understanding that when board members would leave the organization they would not be replaced. Thus Camping could consolidate his power and became free to pull the organization doctrinally in whatever direction he desired without dissention. Outside ministries which had been regular program contributors were gradually dropped as the doctrinal views of Family Radio were changing. Camping’s views had always been a bit quirky, but his fascination with numerology applied to Scripture was taking him off the theological deep end.
Meanwhile, Family Radio had developed something of a cult following among some of its listeners. The Christian religion was centered around Family Radio for many of these folks, I’m afraid. After all, who needs a church when you’ve got Family Radio, and who needs a pastor when you’ve got Brother Camping?
It didn’t happen overnight, but Camping has now dropped all pretence of remaining within the bounds of orthodox Christianity. In addition to adopting annihilationism, he maintains that the church age is over, and says that anyone that remains in the institutional church will not be saved, a particularly pernicious doctrine that preys on the weak and the ignorant.
But what’s currently making headlines is that, in spite of the clear teaching of Christ himself in Matt. 24:36, and Mark 13:32, Harold Camping says he knows the date of what he now calls the Rapture. It’s May 21st, 2011.
At that time Christians (note these are only the Christians by Camping’s definition which means they must be un-churched) will be taken from this world. Everybody else will be left, and the end of the world will take place next October. And, yes, he knows that date too. It’s on the 21st of the month as well.
Of course, none of this will happen. I had originally thought it might be kind of fun to throw a “Rapture party” on the 21st, and listen to Family Radio to hear what cockamamie excuse the old kookburger comes up with for why his prediction didn’t come true. But then I considered how this whole episode will bring scorn on the name of Christ. I also thought about how those who follow Camping’s radio cult (and there are a lot of them) will have their faith made a shipwreck. I realized this wasn’t a time to laugh at the foolishness of men.
So I would ask my readers, particularly those of you who are skeptical about the Evangelical expression of Christianity, to ignore Harold Camping. He’s just another delusional fruitcake that, regrettably, has been able to deceive a lot of people. He’s no more a Christian than Richard Dawkins, and what he does is no more a reflection of true Christianity than a Chaplain in the KKK.
Christianity is about Jesus Christ crucified for sinners. He will indeed return one day. But I say with confidence that it will not be on May 21st of this year. I say so for no eschatological reason other than God will demonstrate to the world that the words “no man” apply to Harold Camping:
But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. – Mark 13: 32-33