Gone Camping

Fundamentalist radio preacher Harold Camping has predicted the end of the world for Saturday, May 21, 2011. That’s right. Put it in your calendars. Buckle your seatbelts. End of the world this Saturday.

I won’t go into all the Bible quotes about ‘no man knows the day or the hour’ or the fact that Camping is a well known, ignorant anti-Catholic radio guy. I wish we could just ignore people like him, or write him off as a nutcase.

Unfortunately, a good number of American Protestants take him seriously, and an even greater number who may not take Camping and his prediction seriously have bought in to the whole rapture, end of the world scenario. A recent survey said something like 52% of Americans believe Jesus will come again on the clouds and ‘rapture’ all the born again Christians. This all comes from a Biblical interpretation system called ‘Dispensationalism’. Dispensationalism basically says the Bible (and therefore the whole of human history) can be broken down into different ‘dispensations’ of time. By understanding all this you can ‘de-code’ Gods plan for mankind by understanding the hidden clues in the Bible.

The whole thing was cooked up by a fellow called C.I.Schofield in the late 1800s. The ‘Schofield Reference Bible’ is a version of the King James Bible with copious study notes that helps people read the Bible through the dispensationalist lens, and it is considered the best Bible version by armies of fundamentalist Protestant Americans. This is side comment, but what tickles me about this, is that these are the same folks who blame Catholics for believing in late, man made doctrines like the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin…so go figure.

There are too many things wrong with Camping and his approach to even give time to. First of all is to observe that Camping is the end result of the ridiculous Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura. It’s Camping and his Bible. He’s on the air every day telling people not only that the Catholic Church is wrong, but all churches are wrong. “Don’t go to church where you’ll get false teaching. Just listen to Mr Camping.”  The proponent of sola Scriptura will argue that not everyone is quite as looped as he is. Maybe not, but their methodology and foundational assumptions are the same. Whether it is a sophisticated Episcopalian liberal theologian or a conservative and sensible Presbyterian pastor or a left wing New Testament scholar or a snake handler or Mr.Camping–they’ve all got no more authority than each other because for each of them its just them and their Bible.

The second totally weird thing about Camping and his gang is their spooky, superstitious understanding of not only the Biblical texts, but the Bible itself. They treat the Bible as some sort of supernatural boy hero code book. As if God was in the business of hiding secret dates and times within the numbers and letters of the Bible and within a secret code language of the Old Testament prophets. The sacred Scriptures are the inspired account of God’s workings in and with his people the Jews–finally culminating in the incarnation of the Word of God. The Scriptures are not a fortune teller’s codebook.

The third alarming thing about Camping an Co. is their lamentable ignorance not only of the whole sweep of Christian history, but their ignorance about their own American Protestant history. Don’t these guys realize that from the year dot American Protestants of all stripes and sects have been interpreting the Bible and coming up with cataclysmic prognostications which always pan out? They should put down their Schofield Reference Bible for once and read the history of the Mormons, the Seventh Day Adventists, the Millerites, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Disciples of Christ, the Jack vanImpe-ists and Tim LaHayes and learn a few lessons. Along with this ignorance of history is an astounding ignorance of human psychology. There is a simple kink in human beings which makes them suckers for the end of the world theories. It’s the fact that there will be an and to the world–especially their world. Usually the end of the world people are simply projecting the fact of their own death. They’re going to die, so they predict the whole world will die instead. It’s a sick kind of twist in the human heart and imagination.
I wish I could just laugh it off, but the worst thing about cranks like Camping and the folks at Westboro Baptist is that they are the ones who make headlines.

No wonder so many young Americans who start to think things through consider Christianity to be a laughable religion for inadequate loonies.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14816606591731828295 Sarah R.

    Timely post. I've been seeing the full page ad in the USA Today and laughing at the ridiculousness. Apparently he says that if you are "saved" then you can know the day and the hour. I'm wondering what his reaction will be on May 22nd.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15222328459836041333 Gillimer

    Excuse me, but exactly who are this "good number of Protestants"? Stephen Cox's extensive article in the December LIBERTY (http://www.libertyunbound.com/node/290) makes it clear to theologically literate Christians, if not necessarily to libertarian Cox or the popular "news" media, that Camping, who claims the church age ended in 1988 and now people can only be saved under his auspices, and "insist(s)that if you are sitting in a church… you have nopossibility of being saved", is a raving heretic by any standard. "Last year, he declared that you canbe saved in a mosque, but you cannot be saved in a church." Do you have any data to support the claim that "a good number of Protestants" accept this? As Cox notes "Family Radio’s disciples are many, but they don’t numberin the millions, and its ideas don’t leak out at irregular intervalsfrom the depths of a Protestant Vatican.Family Radio’s disciples are many, but they don’t numberin the millions, and its ideas don’t leak out at irregular intervalsfrom the depths of a Protestant Vatican." (Indeed, isn't the lack of a Vatican to do their thinking one of the things you hold against Protestants?)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12044861299107622964 Riley

    Just total up the sales numbers for Tim LaHaye's Left Behind books. Someone's interested.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15222328459836041333 Gillimer

    Non sequitur. You might as well cite Orson Scott Card's sales as an indication of Mormon following.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09627986880884206811 flyingvic

    Can anyone lend me a fiver? I'll pay you back next week…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr Longenecker

    Camping's foolishness is the extreme end of the whole dispensationalist nonsense.There are millions more American prots who may not buy into Camping's predictions, who nevertheless buy into the whole rapture, tribulation, end times bunk.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10503510474554718305 Just another mad Catholic

    After all the prots are raptured I may sneak into the local anglican cathedral and nick all the nice vestments:)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15222328459836041333 Gillimer

    Gee, this upside down argument has already gone from "a good number of Protestants" to "all the prots". (Probably while dismissing the ideologues who expand it to "all the Christians".) All you generalizers are alike.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09546147760294719266 demundis

    "I wish I could just laugh it off, but the worst thing about cranks like Camping and the folks at Westboro Baptist is that they are the ones who make headlines."That's not by accident. These crazy folks make it easy for Mr. Aggregate Talking Head Man (aka Todd Unctuous) to create his false "Christianity vs. Reason" dichotomy for the average media consumer, who lacks the ability to see what's going on. It's a mutually beneficial arrangement: fundamentalist attention-seeker gets air time and exposure, and Mr. Aggregate Talking Head Man gets to affirm his prejudice against Christianity.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07216181850761924462 Peter

    Possibly the worst part of all this is that Harold Camping previously predicted that the Rapture would occur in 1994. He even wrote a book about it called 1994? Given his track record, the old saying, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me" comes to mind.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02082723705687057148 justamouse

    "Whether it is a sophisticated Episcopalian liberal theologian or a conservative and sensible Presbyterian pastor or a left wing New Testament scholar or a snake handler or Mr.Camping–they've all got no more authority than each other because for each of them its just them and their Bible."A. Men. I believe I chortled for the first time reading that sentence.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09627986880884206811 flyingvic

    "Whether it is a sophisticated Episcopalian liberal theologian or a conservative and sensible Presbyterian pastor or a left wing New Testament scholar or a snake handler or Mr.Camping–they've all got no more authority than each other because for each of them its just them and their Bible."Which does not, of course, of itself, mean that they are wrong…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr Longenecker

    Neither does it mean they are right

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09627986880884206811 flyingvic

    Not exactly a Chestertonian response!


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