Judgment Day has come and gone and Harold Campings prophecies have once again been proven false. This time he was “100% certain” as were his other primary spokesmen, Chris McCann of eBible Fellowship and Robert Fitzgerald a retired MTA worker who spent his retirement savings to promote Campings message with his own twist.
Their proclamations and their certainty created a backlash in the rest of the conservative, fundamentalist Christian community which received more press as the Day of Judgment came closer. These other preachers and adherents complained they were being made to look foolish AND please note, that when the Day DID ACTUALLY APPROACH sometime in the near but indeterminate future, NO ONE WOULD LISTEN TO THEM. It’s a theological “Boy Who Cried Wolf” syndrome.
Certainly Harold Camping’s “date setting” created a good deal of the mockery and derision leveled at his view, that and the complex numerology by which he arrived at his date setting.
What is not evident to most people is the degree of infighting and mutual derision that was taking place behind the scenes with members of the one “non-date-setting” fundamentalist leveling accusations of false prophecy and false Biblical teaching at the other “date-setting” fundamentalists. It’s like watching gang members shoot each other. One might decry the violence and bloodshed (in this case the vociferous arguments and vitriolic name calling) yet find in it a certain poetic justice and “rightness”.
You see despite the chasm each group THINKS exists between them there is really only a hair’s breadth of difference. Apart of the date-setting, Harold Camping’s detractors in the conservative and fundamentalist camps believe ESSENTIALLY THE SAME THING Camping does about the end of the world and it’s Divine driven apocalypse. What Camping’s detractors are missing in their whining and tantrums about being painted with his stripe is that the criticism and mockery is ABOUT WHAT THEY BELIEVE will happen, not simply WHEN THEY BELIEVE IT WILL HAPPEN.
Harold Camping espouses what is called Dispensationalism. Like many interpretations of the Bible there are different flavors of Dispensationalism and a great deal of “texture” and complexity but it’s basic outlines are simple. This view is taken from a particular interpretation of passages in Daniel and the Revelation of John. Other passages in the NT which speak of the end of the world and the Second Coming are then read in the light of these interpretations. Although these passages from Daniel and Revelation are recognized by their interpreters to be “poetic” and “prophetic” in style they are still taken “literally” in that they are seen to predict truthfully, accurately and with precision what will occur at the “end of the age” and how the world, in fact the entire universe will end. Further these passages are taken as the very Word of God providing people with a warning and a description of how the God of the Bible and Jesus will bring the cosmos to an end and mete out justice rewarding the faithful and punishing their (his) enemies (that would be the rest of us who do not believe).
Non-Dispensationalist do not adhere to these particular interpretations. However, if they are conservative they DO believe the Bible reveals God’s plan to end the cosmos and redress the wrongs of the Garden of Eden. They DO believe the Bible presents prophecy that tells how that will happen and what events will occur AND that, understood correctly, they present a relatively specific and accurate order of events. They DO believe in the basic events Harold Camping was predicting. Jesus will come down in clouds of glory to gather his elect from the four corners of the earth. All the dead in Christ will be raised when their graves are opened and rise to meet him in the air after which Jesus will come and judge the whole of mankind. Those who are not believers will be sent to eternal torment out of the presence of God and God will create a New Heavens and Earth, a sort of Garden of Eden on steroids, in which the faithful will live. The whole of the cosmos will be “resurrected” as it were, purified and raise to new life.
However, these prophecies are interpreted they both share one very common and significant belief. God will bring this cosmos to an apocalyptic end in which the Second Coming of Jesus in judgment is the significant event. What’s more they believe “we are living in the “end-times”” so that this event whose date is indeterminate will be “soon”. They both believe the basic fundamentals. One important facet of this belief is that believers are to “watch”, to anticipate and live in accordance with this expectation of Jesus’ return and the final apocalyptic end of the world. For them this is the best thing that could possibly happen. While they might mourn the death of the wicked they revel in the return of Jesus and the meting out of justice.
It is clear to anyone who takes any of this seriously this belief is NOT compatible with human efforts to create a viable and sustainable future for humanity and this orb on which we live. As Jim Shimkus so directly stated, we don’t need to worry about Global Warming or perhaps even nuclear proliferation since man will not destroy the earth, God will!
The mockery and derision heaped on the followers of Harold Camping is not simply due to their specific dating of the end of the world but their beliefs about HOW it will end and WHY they believe in that apocalyptic conclusion. Those are beliefs in broad outline, that most, if not all, conservative, evangelical believers who hold the Bible to be the very word of God, share.It is those beliefs and the reasons they are held with such fervor that is dangerous and worthy of criticism and derision. As long as you believe God is going to come down and pull your fat out of the fire you are less likely to take care not to drop it in to begin with.