Thursday, May 5, 2011
Harold Camping: Who Is He?
Harold Camping was born in Colorado in 1921. His family moved to California when he was very young. He attended the University of Berkeley and earned a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering. He is notoriously known for his false prediction of the end of the world in 1994. He has achieved a great amount of attention recently as millions consider his latest prediction concerning the rapture of Christians. Camping now insists this event will take place on May 21, 2011.
Camping has established a radio broadcast system called Family Radio which serves as a very effective vehicle to spread his beliefs. Open Forum is his call-in program. You may have heard his deep, rotund voice, "And may we take our next call, please. Welcome to Open Forum."
Camping has been associated with the Christian Reformed Church for most of his life. In 1988, he withdrew from the conservative denomination and chose a course that refused to associate with any organized church. He believes that 1988 marked the ending of the 1900 year old age of the church. He questions the fact that each church denomination has a loyalty to its own set of doctrines. The multitude of conflicting doctrines brought nothing but confusion to the true body of believers, therefore, the church age has ended. He teaches that all organized churches are apostate and members should flee the organized church.
Many Christians have challenged Camping with the verse from Hebrews 10:25 that admonishes Christians to not to forsake "our own assembling together, as is the habit of some." Camping's response is that this verse is still applicable but only in the sense that Christians should meet together for edification, preferably in small groups for Bible study and to listen to Family Radio.
There are several other doctrines that Harold Camping contradicts in the conservative Christian movement. He has moved away from the Calvinist doctrine he was taught in his youth and he now places a greater emphasis on free will. He does not believe in the total depravity of humans. However, he does agree with evangelicals that one's salvation is not something that can be purchased with good works.
He also questions the doctrine that states that those who fail to commit to Christ will suffer eternal torment in hell. He leans toward the doctrine of annihilation which states that when we die we simply cease to exist.
Most fundamental Christians are irate with Mr. Camping because he teaches that it is possible to know the exact date of the end of time. These Christians often refer to the verse in Mark 13:32 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." A question most often asked on his Open Forum program is, "If the Son, Jesus Christ himself, doesn’t know the moment he will return, how would you know?" These opponents assign a great deal of arrogance to Mr. Camping but regardless of all the criticism, he remains extremely confident in his declaration.
The date Camping has predicted is based on the assumption that Jesus Christ was crucified on Friday, April 1, AD 33. Numerous biblical scholars question that date citing AD 29, 30, 31 and 32 as possible alternative dates for Christ's crucifixion.
If Harold Camping is correct in his prediction, approximately 3% of the world's population will be raptured later this month. That would have an immediate and cataclysmic impact on our society as 200 million of the world's people suddenly check out. It may sound far fetched to you but many of his followers are quitting their jobs, withdrawing all their money from their accounts and embarking on a mission to tell the world that the end is nigh.
The test of a true prophet is that they are right 100% of the time. Camping has already missed big in 1994. If Camping is right he will be regarded as a modern day Moses by those who have been left behind but if he is wrong then he may be much despised for spreading a deception that caused so much fear and anxiety.
The words of Charles Spurgeon may be appropriately for this situation: "In many cases shear fanaticism has been the result of exclusively dwelling on prophecy. Probably more men have gone mad on that subject than on any other religious question." Christians are instructed not to fret or to become obsessed with such predictions, rather, they are to continue doing what they always do and heed the instruction of Christ to "occupy until I come."
Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.