A post-rapture thank you note to Harold Camping

Paul Vander Klay

Henry Post
May 22, 2011

   Having read many of your blogs, I thank you for this generous apologetic to Mr. Camping.  Your insights into the pursuit of valuelessness in our society and your assertions that the beauty and cultural richness of this world will remain are very helpful.  Thanks.
Rev. Henry R(Hank) Post
Grand Rapids, MI

Idle Chatter
May 22, 2011

Two of my relatives in earlier (although different) generations were Millennialists who declared the date of the apocalypse and watched it pass placidly by.

They spent the rest of their lives anticipating the end, and, thus, living fully.  They lived with candor, sincerity, and passion.

Though both men died before I was born, their carpe diem legacy survived in the family as a call to action in regard to our convictions and revelry in daily life.

As for me, I've come to feel the END of the WORLD (which is a sad concept, for we live in a miraculous place in the universe) is far less relevant than the INEVITABLE END of ME which could arrive "like a thief in the night," or afternoon, or mid-bagel.

To echo a popular country song: live like you're dying, because we all, quite literally, are.

The apocalypse is just a question of how much company you'll have at the time.

May 22, 2011

Great post.  Harold needs our prayers.  He is addicted to things that have consumed his life and many of the people around him.  We all have to admit that we all have these kinds of addictions.

All of us need to realize that we have wild mis-interpretations of Holy Scripture.  Most of us are lucky that it doesn't end up with us being made into such public spectacles or ridicule.

May 22, 2011

I was annoyed, nudged by my fundy-Baptist childhood, at feeling compelled to look (up) over my shoulder all day Saturday while tending my garden---yet gently reminded, by my Reformed wife-of-my-youth, that generally that's how we should live, in response to the good news that Christ came, He died, He is risen (indeed!), and He will come again.  Tend your gardens; live expectantly in hope.  Even so come (whenever) Lord Jesus . . . .

May 22, 2011

Ironic, a bit sarcastic but a generous and wise assesment of the whole experience. For a few weeks nearly everyone in the states and many other countries had to think about spiritual realities. Last night as I went to the grocery store, the clerk said, "Have a good end of the world". Camping was a false prophet and did damage to the faith of some and incurred the mockery of many others but anyone with a dim Sunday School memory of Matthew 24 re-examined the scriptures. My take is that this was literally an end time fulfillment of Peter's prophecy that in the last days scoffers will come and say where is the promise of his coming. We are all aroused to the topic and the choices we need to make because Jesus will come as a quiet, silent, unexpected thief in the night. The Bridal party are trimming their wicks.

May 22, 2011

As I live in the UK I'd never heard of this guy before. Though I understand by all your posts he is an otherwise sincere man, misgiuded people like him give Christianity a bad name, Its hard enough to express your faith constructively in an increasingly secular, humanist society without looking like you're just another member of 'the one-brick-short-of-a-wall-brigade'. Every Kingdom building thing we do from serving on a soup kitchen to lending a sympathetic ear, in one fell swoop gets belittled by this man and his ilk through their deluded ravings and I disagree that it perhaps someway makes people focus on their own mortality - to Christians it might, but to those outside of the faith it just confirms them in their attitudes that their perspective on life is correct and we are just stupid jerks.
  I'm reminded of The Secret Policemans Ball when all gather for 'The End of the World', the appointed moment comes and passes. There is a silence and then the sect leader interposes, " er, same time tomorrow then?"

May 22, 2011

Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 state that not even the Son will know when the end will come. So if Jesus doesn't even know when he'll be back, how is Harold Camping privy to this information?

May 23, 2011

That's an interesting take. I never thought of Camping's behavior in terms of addiction. His next move will be indicative. Thanks for the thought. pvk

May 23, 2011

I guess my initial reaction is to write a non-thank you note.  For the past week or so, it's one of those moments where it's awkward around you're friends who know you're a Christian.  Lots of the Facebook posts from my non-Christian friends and the way the media covers this story makes it sound like every Christian believes this prediction.  It doesn't help our cause in trying to show the Church isn't full of crazy people or that our faith has relevant answers in an increasingly bizarre world. 

All this prediction does is lump all Christians together in the eyes of people who don't believe.  We're all crazy.  We're all irrelevant.  None of us are practical.  Why would I ever trust what these people say?

Yes it's an opportunity to tell people I don't agree with Harold.  But why be in that position to start out with? 

I do admire people with strong faith.  I don't look up to people who manipulate a small piece of scripture to get lots of publicity.  My thank you letter will come when we quit giving attention to crazy stuff that represents a small minority of people.

May 23, 2011

I think it is a bit rash to say "I don't look up to people who manipulate a small piece of scripture to get lots of publicity."  Unless your one of Camping's personal friends, I don't think you can know his motive.

I'm inclined to think that he really believed what he said.

Now, knowing what you know about Camping and how this has influenced public opinion of Christianity, YOU have the responsibility to influence the opinion's of the people you know - in a more positive direction.

May 23, 2011

Thanks Jerod for your thoughts. If I can thank Harold I can thank you too. :) 

Weighing out the pros-cons of this one for me has been tough. I brought up this issue preaching yesterday in two different churches and it was interesting to hear the variety of reactions. Has Harold Camping done damage to the Christian brand? Its hard to imagine both the assault on the brand that Christian's themselves perpetrate as well as what seems the vigorous nature of the brand itself. The most definitive assault on the brand itself was the eucatastrophe of the crucified Christ. 

In my experience with people what they actually do with Christ has little to do with the the facile "thumbs-up, thumb's-down" portrayal of the Christian world in the media. We have deep and mysterious reasons for belief as well as for doubt. People who should believe by virtue of upbringing and ease reject the faith while others who we would imagine should throw it away cling vigorously to a God whose treatment of them we might question. 

Harold stirred the pot. What happens in the stew is beyond our capacity to fully appreciate. :) pvk

May 23, 2011

Paul, so are you promoting an Amillennial eschatological alternative? Just wondering?

Todd Hertz
May 23, 2011

I am torn about one aspect you bring up, Paul.

Should the belief of Camping and his followers be commended? It does show us the sort of give-it-all-up, put-our-money-where-our-mouth-is faith that is rare. But it was faith in something NOT true. That faith was in vain. As a believer in the Truth, I am not sure if I should respect that or not. Is it more commendable to devoutly believe in falsehood or not have committed belief at all?

May 23, 2011

I should thank you, too.  The post was actually well written and brings up some good points.  Hopefully I didn't come off to critical.

I agree it's hard for us to know exactly what the long term impacts of the failed rapture prediction will be.  There are good things that come out of this.  People may have taken a chance to examine their own faith in a way they wouldn't have without the thought of a pending rapture.

But it's still hard for me to handle any outcome, good or bad, when the message is delivered in a way that seems to do more damage than good for the image of Christianity.

May 23, 2011

This issues is why I cited Screwtape's Toast, a piece CS Lewis wrote years after he wrote The Screwtape Letter. Lewis has a number of very interesting things to say about our age where we instinctively withhold judgment, keep our options open, value skepticism and doubt. Lewis sees this in a sense as slippage in a vital sign of civilization and humanity. 

Popular religion in our current cultural context has a hedge-your-bets, keep-your-options-open value. Don't commit too strongly, or too strangely to any particular position, besides this one of course, because it is a position. 

I am not to say that extremism is to be commended for its own sake, but rather that a lack of consecration not be endorsed. 

In the discussion with respect to Rob Bell it was interesting to me to note that most for whom Bell got traction tended to be suburban people with evangelical experiences. One pastor friend in particular who works in San Francisco noted on his blog that this sort of "failure to commit to a fixed position" attitude tends to be received with less respect in non-suburban environments. 

Camping decided to be consequential. Lewis on Screwtape's toast notes that the bold move history and they are usually its greatest saints or monsters, and that with respect this category saints and monsters have something in common that fence sitters will never know. 

Some might want a Bible story to go along with this point so I'll offer Ananias and Sapphira. At some point you have to learn that "both ways" usually wins neither. pvk

May 23, 2011

I think the Apocalyptic literature has lead many of us to imagine the consummation (of the work of God in undoing our rebellion) as a wholly other thing. I can't say that it isn't, but I also can't say that it will be especially given the incarnational approach of the first coming. It is enormously difficulty to imagine the mechanics of the resurrection of the saints, never mind the undoing of the age of decay. 

Because of the large population of Christians in America that have been deeply impacted by dispensational theology and the subsequent books and movies how this Camping episode has played out in the popular media tended to follow these lines. Before Family Radio took down their countdown website (they took it down today and have one up that imagines that his prophesy was dispensationally raptured, not even leaving the clothing behind) I read some of Camping's stuff for details. Camping asserted a general resurrection for May 21 with an air-rapture of resurrected saints but not a lot of commentary on the resurrected damned and their existence along side the rest of the "left behind" until Oct 21. Some are now asserting that "the Rapture" happened. They aren't holding to the Family Radio script though because we're lacking the empty tombs. 

So what we're seeing is a jumble, a mish-mash. 

As to my beliefs? I'd best be labeled an a-mil I suppose, but as my New Testament professor Andy Bandstra told us "If Jesus returns and sets up a 1000 year kingdom, don't challenge him, just go along with it." :) pvk

May 23, 2011

I'm unfamiliar with Screwtape's Toast, so bear with me if I miss the point.

Popular religion says, effectively, to stand for nothing and hedge your bets. But the response is not to commend someone who stood for something that he "knew" based on a process on par with reading tea leaves or studying Nostradamus. The fact is that standing for something that is demonstrably wrong (hello, Matthew 24:36) is not commendable in any sense. It makes us all look like idiots.

Camping was not bold—only foolish, prideful, and loud. In that, he is no less so than I am from time to time (except maybe for the "loud" bit because I don't have a radio show through which I can lead scads of people astray). But as I have people around me to tell me when I'm being foolish and prideful, lest I drag the name of Christ through the mud, someone—maybe the entire Christian community—has got to do the same for this guy. I just have to wonder where his group of elders that provide oversight and accountability are today... or where they've been for the past month or two.

May 24, 2011

I was actually raptured up last Sat. night (around 8:30pm).

But the Lord took one look at me and sent me back here (around 8:31).

I'm hoping for better luck next time.

May 24, 2011

Harold Camping just won't give up: http://bit.ly/kzUwgJ

Key quote:

"We were convinced that on May 21 God would return here in a very physical way -- by bringing a great earthquake and by ushering in the final five months of the day of judgment," Camping said two days after the failed prediction. "And the fact is when we look at it spiritually, then we find He did come."

Randy Blacketer
May 25, 2011

The resurrected damned = zombies!

Bryan Berghoef
May 26, 2011

My post on the rapture via The Big Lebowski: "No, Donny, these men are nihilists."  http://wp.me/pSCEk-bF

May 26, 2011

Harold Camping designed our Tacoma WA CRC church building. At that
time he also served as an active member of our Denomination Home
Missions Board. Pastor Vander Klay is right in respecting Harold as a
truly caring fellow Christian.
Gratefully, Rits Tadema.

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