Have you heard? Have you heard?!? JESUS IS RETURNING!
And he’s returning soon! In just over six months! Seriously — on May 21, 2011, Jesus is coming back! (Hmmm, that’s a Saturday … well, I won’t bother mowing the lawn that day, huh?)
How do I know this? Well, because against the teaching of Jesus Himself that “no man knows the day or the hour” (Acts 1:7), against the words of the Apostle Paul that Jesus “will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2), against twenty centuries of church tradition that God will not reveal the time of His Son’s return before it happens, I have …
… one pamphlet from Family Radio that I found outside the county courthouse a few months ago.
Um … maybe I don’t really know that at all, do I?
Okay, I think you realize I’m being sarcastic about this. But there are people out there who believe this heretical crap about having pinpointed the exact day of Jesus’ parousia. And Family Radio, despite promoting this heresy, is still on the air.
A little background: Family Radio was started in 1958 in Oakland, California (about 70 miles / 110 km west of my home in Stockton) by Harold Camping, a construction engineer and Christian Reformed Church elder. They have over 150 outlets in the United States, plus satellite and shortwave radio. My father-in-law listens to Family Radio. I listened to Family Radio once in a while when I was younger. I have a friend who used to work for them. They are pretty established in the field of religious broadcasting.
And they’ve become increasingly strange over the years. In 1970 Camping came out with what he called “The Biblical Calendar of History,” claiming that among other things, God created the universe in 11,013 BC. This was all based on rather skewed interpretations of certain passages of Scripture and Hebrew phrases — interpretations that are not, as far as I know, supported by any reputable theologian.
Later, Camping published a book saying that Jesus’ return and the Rapture of the Church would occur on September 6, 1994 — again, based on his “calendar of history.” Needless to say, that didn’t happen — but it didn’t stop people from continuing to listen to Family Radio and send it money (Family Radio is a non-profit, relying on donations to stay afloat). By ’94, I’d already grown enough as a Christian (over six years by then) that I’d tuned out Family Radio as anything but a sick joke.
So I was surprised a few years ago to find that, not only was it still in business, Camping was riding a new hobbyhorse. Now he was saying that God was abandoning the organized churches.
Now hey … I don’t attend an institutional congregation, and haven’t for over a year. Even before that, I was pointing out what I believed were serious flaws in how the American church operates: the rigidity and ineffectuality of most Sunday services, the paucity of discipleship and thus spiritual maturity, the focus on “big events” as opposed to deep relationship with God and other people … I could go on. Eventually I came to believe that God was telling me to no longer seek a “church home,” which made sense because the congregations I had visited or seen a) didn’t make even a cursory attempt to help me grow in my walk with Christ, and b) allowed me no opportunity to help others grow. Recently, my wife came to the same conclusion regarding her spiritual life, and since then we have been meeting as a family on Sunday mornings to study the Bible and seek God (as I detailed in my last post). I still do my best to obey Hebrews 10:25, but I do so outside the context of a traditionally-organized congregation.
But even I recognize that God is still working in those places (as much as He’s allowed, anyway) and people are still being brought to Christ and His salvation through them. Anyone with eyes can see that … well, anyone not predisposed to deny what they see. Maybe I’m not supposed to be there, but not everyone is me, and I know that God works with different people in different ways, at different times — and with different systems. I believe that much about the American church needs to change, but only a fool would try to argue that God has permanently left the building, and I argued as much in some detail on another website (I wasn’t blogging yet).
And now, in his latest books (and the pamphlet I ran across) he’s saying that Jesus will rapture his church next May, with the end of the world exactly five months later. All of this is based on his fraudulent “calendar,” on Scripture wrenched out of context and taken to mean things they never meant to anyone else, on the power of bold print instead of reason and faith, on the ravings of a senile old man with almost no theological training against the whole counsel of the Bible, the Church and billions of believers throughout history.
Forgive me for not immediately jumping on that bandwagon.
You know, in olden times they had ways for dealing with someone like Harold Camping. Ancient Hebrews were told by God to take false prophets and throw stones at them until they were dead. In the history of the Church, numerous councils of church leaders were called to deal with such folks and not only condemn their untrue teachings but also throw them out of the body of believers if they didn’t repent. Unfortunately, no such mechanism exists in the American church today. Which is really a pity, I suspect. I recall that the late Michael Spencer (aka the Internet Monk) once wished for an ecumenical council to shut down the “prosperity gospel” heresy (couldn’t find the article, I’m afraid). If one did meet, it would be nice if after dispensing with the greed-is-godly crew, they called Harold in from Oakland and gave him what for as well.
Absent such authority to appeal to, I can only ask that the word be spread that Harold Camping is an unrepentant heretic who does great damage to the body of Christ by his teachings. I urge that people stop listening to his radio broadcasts and withdraw financial support from his stations. I’m only one person, with a readership in the teens (on a good day). But if we all keep spreading the word that Family Radio is not to be trusted — because it isn’t to be trusted — eventually it will no longer be able to operate. And there will be at least one less voice in the world for the Devil to use to deceive God’s people.
One can only hope.