The Tale of Harold Camping, Judgement Day Prophet
Another interesting read for you today courtesy of a President of Westminster Seminary California. This one looks at the story of Harold Camping, the man who has single-handedly pinpointed the date of Judgement Day to be May 21, 2011. A few good points of note:
- Camping is trained as an engineer, not in an arts. This carries over to his biblical interpretation as he looks for precise mathematical ideas, leading to things like being able to calculate the exact end of the world.
- He almost exclusively studied the Bible on his own. There was no church holding him accountable or helping him understand things. This is a prime example of the importance of the community hermaneutic: the Bible is meant to be read in community, not in isolation.
- He has predicted the end of the world numerous other times, yet his approach of a precise calculation based on numbers in the Bible has not changed.
- His interpretation is a very interesting mix of literal and allegorical, usually taking some numbers at random to be literal and others to be allegorical, and taking passages such as saying that we can’t know the time of Christ’s return to be allegorical. To me this type of inconsistent interpretation often occurs when one reads the Bible on their own and teaches themselves instead of working with others.
- He built up much of his theology in the early days of his radio station primarily by refuting Arminianism, Pentecostalism, and dispensationalism.
- He caused a schism in the Reformed Church where he had been an adult educator. He took his students with him and started another church.
- He taught that the age of the church had ended. Christians should leave their churches.
- He taught that many of the people who repent will be forgiven, but not all.
- He essentially removed Jesus from the equation, making him just one name under which God shows himself to humanity. The cross or atonement has no place in his theology at all.
- The Holy Spirit is similarly just another name for God, just like Jesus or Allah. This is called modalism and has been repeatedly rejected as heresy by the church throughout history (of course I don’t think that just because the church says so that it must be heresy, but in general I’d trust the two thousands year of educated leadership ahead of one engineer).