Well, another doomsday prophesy has come and gone, and with it I hope that the vast majority of Harold Camping’s followers will finally have their eyes opened. I had written a fair amount about Harold Camping last Spring as the world prepared for the colossal non-event that took place on May 21st. At that time, I was really concerned for Camping’s followers given what some of them did in response to his confident proclamation that the “rapture” would take place on that day followed by the end of the world exactly five months later.
And to be sure, there were many heart-wrenching stories. You have probably read many of them. Just recently I read about a group of Hmong Christians in Vietnam that were slaughtered by the hundreds by security forces after some 7000 of them gathered together to await the rapture. They’d been listening to Harold Camping on Family Radio’s shortwave broadcasts.
But today I’m concerned about something else.
Last Spring when Camping’s prophesy was routinely in the national news, there were many in Evangelical Christianity that condemned Camping’s prophesy. Around the same time, Rob Bell published a book called Love Wins (Full disclosure: I haven’t read the book), in which he apparently “questioned the traditional Christian view of hell. Bell argued that hell was not eternal. He wrote that people could choose to leave hell if they wanted, too.” (Quote from Bob Smietana in The Tennesean)
So between Camping’s doomsday prophesy and Bell’s book becoming a national best seller, Christian orthodoxy was a hot topic for a time. What I found surprising—shocking, actually—was the unwillingness by many Evangelicals to condemn either Camping or Bell. Oh, they were quite willing to disagree with Camping and Bell with regard to what they were teaching, but reluctant in the extreme to condemn them as heterodox.
I saw a young preacher roundly denounced on Facebook because he had posted that he had “called out” both Bell and Camping in his Sunday sermon. His post was inundated with comments asserting that he ought not condemn an “erring brother”. I tried to come to his defense by suggesting that the young man had done precisely what a good pastor is supposed to do: Warn the sheep about wolves in sheep’s clothing. But I got nowhere.
I got a real eye opener when I wrote a piece on Camping last April. What got me in trouble with at least one reader, (she’s apparently an author of 25 books and the wife of a Reformed/Presbyterian theologian) was that I wrote this:
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.
I don’t dispute that this was a very harsh categorization of Mr. Camping. Indeed, that’s why I wrote it. I’ve read that he’s a very nice guy…I don’t care! He’s still a great enemy to Jesus Christ and Christ’s church. In spite of what Camping maintains, he is NOT a Christian.
The reader that I mentioned earlier was really incensed that I would make such a denial. Her disagreement was largely based on the idea that we can’t judge the heart, as only God can. Commenting on my post, she spent some time explaining the implications of predestination to me as follows:
No man knows whether a professor of Christ is a believer but Christ alone who knows who His elect are being preordained in Christ before the foundation of the world and thus by God’s appointment and not by the will or decision of a sinful man. God’s elect will stand regardless of their ignorance, folly, falsehood or sin because they are “in Christ” and thus cleansed and made whole by His blood and intercession for them in eternity past for eternity future. We are not the judges of the heart, that is God’s business…
In a series of comments back to her I attempted to show her that I wasn’t denying that Mr. Camping could be one of the elect, nor was I of a necessity judging his heart. What I was asserting was that Camping has no credibility to his profession of faith. I quoted Matthew 7:15-20 and later summarized Camping’s theology in this way:
(Camping) has denied the gospel (by adopting annihilationism), denied the clear teaching of scripture with his date-setting (see Mark 13:32, Matt. 24:36), become a false prophet for the same reason (relative to 1994 and 5-21-11), and finally has made a frontal assault on the church, the bride of Christ, by asserting that the church age is over and anyone who remains in it cannot be saved. (Note: He now says that no one has been saved since May 21st, in or out of the church)
At one point she suggested that Camping’s error was merely a matter of eschatology because, after all, Camping had never denied his faith in Christ. I was stunned that anyone with an iota of familiarity with Camping’s theology could conclude this! Mere eschatology??!!!
I asked her this question:
I wonder what it would take for you to concede that Mr. Camping is behaving like a child of the Adversary rather than a child of God. You are quite right, I don’t know the mysteries of God’s decrees in relation to election or reprobation. But then, I’m not supposed to. I am, however, supposed to judge words and actions, point out the wolves so that the sheep aren’t harmed, and I am certainly not supposed to grant the benefit of the doubt to those who are the enemies of Christ or His church. Camping’s profession is irrelevant; it no longer has credibility.
Eventually I was told that I needed to do my theological homework, that I was engaging in folly, and finally that I needed to learn not to be rude to women.
As a result of all of this I was really alarmed. I knew that Evangelicalism had lost much of its zeal for doctrine period, let alone doctrine with precision. But this illustrated that things must be far worse than I had assumed. If this is what passes for Reformed theology these days, we’re doomed.
And just so I’m as clear on this point as I can possibly be: I don’t deny the possibility that either Rob Bell or Harold Camping is one of God’s elect, and their names may indeed be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. They can still repent. But no one is a Christian simply because he says that he is.
You see, this isn’t about predestination and election, nor is it about knowing the secrets of someone’s heart. It is about what they say and do. And it is about judging what they say and do with righteous judgement.