Who was left behind?

I’m writing this on Saturday morning, but I’ve set it up so that the post appears on Monday.  So I MIGHT be raptured by the end of the day.  I don’t know yet.  Right now I’m either in Heaven or Texas.

So who is left?  We need to hear from you.  Are the Lutherans all gone?  Where are the Calvinists?  Did the Baptists get taken?  Are the non-denominational Christians gone, or did they need to belong to a denomination after all?

We need to hear from the individuals who are always getting in theological arguments so that we can see if you have been right or not.  Roll call:  Grace?  Porcell?  Todd?  DonS?

Does anyone know if Mr. Camping is still here?  If so, what is he saying?  Just because we might not have noticed large groups of people disappearing doesn’t mean the rapture didn’t happen.  Maybe the gate is so narrow that only a handful of true Christians exist.  Maybe some homeless people, some New Guinea tribesmen, and some persecuted Christian Arabs–individuals no one would notice–got raptured.

So now let’s get ready for the Tribulation!  And the End of the World on October 21!

What do we learn from all of this?

Harold Camping speaks

I was afraid Harold Camping would disappear, making it look like he, at least, was raptured on Saturday, even if he was the only one.  But he showed up and made a statement:

“It has been a really tough weekend,” said Harold Camping, the 89-year-old fundamentalist radio preacher who convinced hundreds of his followers that the rapture would occur on Saturday at 6 p.m.

Massive earthquakes would strike, he said. Believers would ascend to heaven and the rest would be left to wander a godforsaken planet until Oct. 21, when Camping promised a fiery end to the world.

But today, almost 18 hours after he thought he’d be in Heaven, there was Camping, “flabbergasted” in Alameda, wearing tan slacks, a tucked-in polo shirt and a light jacket.

Birds chirped. A gentle breeze blew. Across the street, neighbors focused on their yard work and the latest neighborhood gossip.

“I’m looking for answers,” Camping said, adding that meant frequent prayer and consultations with friends.

“But now I have nothing else to say,” he said, closing the door to his home. “I’ll be back to work Monday and will say more then.”

via Harold Camping “flabbergasted” world didn’t end.

As I expected, the failure of the Rapture to take place when Camping predicted has been the occasion for all kinds of snarky comments in the media and the blogosphere making fun of Christians.  Never mind that Camping in one of his other doctrines that he has made up repudiates ALL churches, saying that this is no longer the dispensation of the church and that all churches have become apostate.   By Biblical standards, which labels even one prophecy that does not come true as the mark of a false prophet, no one should believe anything this guy says (Deuteronomy 13).

When we first blogged about this prophecy over a year ago, some of his followers chimed in and defended him.   I’d love to hear from them now.  I’d like to ask, do you still believe in his teachings now?  On what grounds?

Will you vanish on Saturday at 6:00 p.m.?

Tomorrow, May 21, in the year of our Lord 2011, the rapture will occur.  According to the calculations of radio preacher Harold Camping, all true Christians will be taken up into Heaven at 6:00 p.m., when that hour comes in all time zones.  I suppose if we hear about strange disappearances in other parts of the world earlier in the day, we will know that this is happening and we can prepare ourselves when our time comes.  (The earlier version of this post said 3:00 p.m., but I have learned, as some of you have said, that it’s 6:00 p.m.  You’ll have three more hours.)

Tomorrow will not be the End of the World.  That will happen, according to Camping, six months later, on October 21.  You’ll want to put that down on your calendar too.  Tomorrow will be the rapture of the Church.  Then will come some pretty intense tribulations until Jesus shows up in October.

To see how Camping came up with these dates–including links to some of his own writings as well as those of his critics–see this post from Justin Taylor: Judgment Day: May 21, 2011? – Justin Taylor.

Now I don’t believe this will happen, but if it does, it will at least clear up some important questions.   We get into all kinds of theological discussions on this blog, and some of them get pretty intense and personal.  If Camping’s prediction comes to pass, at last we will have solid empirical evidence for who is right.

Now Lutherans don’t believe in a rapture like this at all.  I don’t believe in it, though, is a pre-requisite for it happening to a person.  It may well be that all Lutherans will vanish on Saturday afternoon.  Or maybe Roman Catholics are right after all and they will be gone.   Or the Eastern Orthodox.   Or the Reformed.  Or Arminians.  Or Baptists.  Or Pentecostals.  Or non-denominationalists.   Or it may well be that there are true believers in all of these traditions.   Those who show up in Church this Sunday  may be the apostates, and those who don’t may have a good excuse.

Camping himself is a hyper-Calvinist, though not an orthodox Calvinist.   He says it won’t do any good to repent at the last minute and no one can really do anything about whether they are raptured or not.  God will take his elect and that’s that.   But Camping teaches his listeners that ALL churches today are apostate and that real Christians shouldn’t go to church at all anymore.  They should instead just listen to his radio program.   So if he is completely right, church services will go on as normal this Sunday, since church members of every denomination will get left behind.  Instead, the elect is to be found among those who do NOT go to church.   I wonder if the number of the elect may be so small that no one will notice whether they have been raptured or not.

At any rate, we will know some things for sure on Saturday afternoon, if only that Camping’s theology is disproven.  Be sure to tune into this blog on Monday if you are here and if I am here.  We will do a roll-call to see if anyone is missing.

So if the end is coming on Saturday evening, what should you do in the meantime?  Plant a tree?

Urban Legends pastors tell

As I’ve often complained, a major way that urban legends get spread around is as sermon illustrations.  Some of these are more in the related genre of scholarly legends.  But thanks to Trevin Wax for catching these:

1. The “eye of the needle” refers to a gate outside Jerusalem.

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God,” says Jesus in Mark 10:25. Maybe you’ve heard of the gate in Jerusalem called the “eye of the needle.” The camel could pass through it only after stooping down and having all its baggage taken off.

The illustration is used in many sermons as an example of coming to God on our knees and without our baggage. The only problem is… there is no evidence for such a gate. The story has been around since the 15th century, but there isn’t a shred of evidence to support it.

2. The high priest tied a rope around his ankle so that others could drag him out of the Holy of Holies in case God struck him dead.

Various versions of this claim have been repeated by pastors, but it is a legend. It started in the Middle Ages and keeps getting repeated. There is no evidence for the claim in the Bible, the Apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, the Pseudepigrapha, the Talmud, Mishna or any other source. Furthermore, the thickness of the veil (three feet) would have precluded the possibility of a priest being dragged out anyway.

3. Scribes took baths, discarded their pens, washed their hands, etc. every time they wrote the name of God.

As a way of getting across the reverence of the Jewish and Christian scribes toward God, preachers like to describe the honor given to God’s name. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence that scribes did these sorts of rituals every time they came across the name of God.

4. There was this saying among the sages: “May you be covered in your rabbi’s dust.”

This is one of the most pervasive and fast-spreading stories to flood the church in recent years. The idea is that as you walked behind your rabbi, he would kick up dust and you would become caked in it and so following your rabbi closely came to symbolize your commitment and zeal. Joel Willitts explains:

This is powerful stuff isn’t it? Well the only problem is that it just isn’t true… The context in which it is given in Mishnah Aboth 1:4 is expressly not what is assumed by those who promulgate this idea.

5. Voltaire’s house is now owned by a Bible-printing publisher.

Voltaire was famous for saying, “One hundred years from my day there will not be a Bible in the earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity seeker.” There is a myth out there that within 50 years of Voltaire’s death, his house was owned by a Bible society that used his own printing press to make Bibles. Sounds like a great story, but it’s not true. Regardless, Voltaire’s prediction of the demise of the Bible was vastly overstated.

6. Gehenna was a burning trash dump outside Jerusalem.

I’ve used this illustration many times. But there isn’tevidence to support this idea. Still, because it seems like a reasonable explanation for the origin of the Hinnom Valley as “hell,” commentators and preachers have accepted it. It’s possible that the verdict may still be out on this one, but not if Todd Bolen is right:

“The explanation for the ‘fire of Gehenna’ lies not in a burning trash dump, but in the burning of sacrificed children. Already in Old Testament times, the Valley of Hinnom was associated with the destiny of the wicked. That the valley was just outside the city of Jerusalem made it an appropriate symbol for those excluded from divine blessing.”

7. NASA scientists have discovered a “missing day” which corresponds to the Joshua account of the sun standing still.

Please don’t repeat this myth. There has been no “missing day” discovered, and the legend has been circulating longer than NASA has been in existence, with different scientists playing the part.

via Urban Legends: The Preacher’s Edition : Kingdom People.

I would add:  Medieval theologians once debated how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.  Although I think this is an excellent question, this was rather a later joke at the scholastics’ expense, rather than something the scholastics actually considered.  See this.

“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven”

The readings in church last Sunday included this passage from John 20:

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”20When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”22And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

We get into a lot of good theological discussions on this blog.  Some of them get heated–and I apologize when they cross the line of Christian charity–but I know I learn from them.   I’d like to ask the non-Lutheran readers of this blog, what do you do with this passage?   We Lutherans, as is our wont, take it literally:  We see the office of disciple in the office of pastors today, so we believe that pastors, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, can forgive sins.  “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.”   This happens individually, in private confession and absolution, and also every Sunday in corporate confession and absolution.   The whole congregation prays a prayer in which we confess our sins, and then the pastor says, “upon this your confession, as a called and ordained servant of the Lord, I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”  This often freaks out non-Lutheran visitors.   But I’ve wondered, how do they get around this passage?  One could have a different theology of the ministry and apply that ability to ALL Christians (actually, Lutherans do say that laity too can forgive sins), but surely this passage clearly gives human beings who have the Holy Spirit the power to forgive sins.  This is as clear statement as I can imagine, and I can’t see how it could be interpreted any other way.

So I’m asking, what do you Reformed, Arminian, Baptist, Pentecostal, and adherents to other Protestant Bible-believing theologies do with this passage?

You’ve got to read this book

For Lent I took up once again John Kleinig’s Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today. That has to be one of the most helpful books I have ever read. I have been a Christian for a long time, and I am not unconversant when it comes to spiritual subjects. But I found myself learning fresh insights into the Christian faith on every page of this book.

Dr. Kleinig, an Australian theologian and Bible scholar, is simply the most illuminating contemporary Christian writer that I have come across. His subject here is “Christian spirituality,” what mystics and those seeking a deeper spiritual life all crave. But what he does is to open up that deep spirituality that can be found in the everyday life of the Christian: in the Gospel, in going to church, in reading the Bible, and in prayer. Grace Upon Grace has chapters on Christ and what He has done and continues to do for us; on how to meditate on God’s Word; on prayer; and on spiritual warfare.

Go to the Amazon site, which has a “look inside” feature for a sample. Go on and buy it there and the Cranach blog will get a commission. Some time ago I posted excerpts from the book on this blog. Do a search for “John Kleinig” and you can find them.

Reading it this time had an even greater impact on me than before. I was struck especially with what I was learning about intercessory prayer–praying for other people–and what it means to pray in Jesus’ name (praying as His agent for what He wants to happen). Also what he says about vocation, with his application of the New Testament’s military metaphors, with the garrison soldier not being responsible for the whole battle, just the plot of land where he was stationed.

Dr. Kleinig is Lutheran, but if you aren’t Lutheran, don’t let that keep you from reading it. All Christians can benefit from reading this book–pastors, young people in confirmation classes, lay people, new church members, everybody. If they do, they will be introduced to the riches of the Christian life. Seriously. Trust me on this. Read this book.


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