If you are reading this, then it is quite evident that you are still part of the human race that exists on the temporal side of eternity. You were not snatched out of your sneakers at 6PM on May 21 after a worldwide earthquake and angelic trumpet blast. If you’re like me, then you had your share of laughs mocking the false teachings of Mr. Harold Camping and his media empire. Some are downright angry at the reproach they brought to the name of Christ by their RV Caravans and doomsday tracts. Undoubtedly there are some who believed the predictions and find themselves disillusioned today.
Many in the blogosphere have tried to discern personal lessons from Mr. Camping. I read some bloggers who have likened their own spiritual journeys to a watered down version of Camping’s deceptions. Unfortunately, I see the need for a greater word of caution.
The Apostle Peter warned us about the danger of false teachers. In 2 Peter 2:1-3, we read, “…there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their unrestrained ways, and the way of truth will be blasphemed because of them. They will exploit you in their greed with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep.”
This is a clear warning about the nature and motives of false teachers, of which I believe Mr. Camping to be. I can say this with confidence because Jesus declared in Matthew 24 that no one knows the hour or day of his return. In that same chapter, Jesus even said “This is why you also must be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Therefore, anyone who declares a date/time for the return of Jesus is a false teacher.
This is not the first time that Mr. Camping has been guilty of false teaching. In 1994, he predicted the second coming for the first time. He said that he missed that date because of a “mathematical error.” He stated this time around that there was absolutely no way that Jesus was not coming back on May 21, 2011. Right now he is 0-2 for end times prophesies.
Mr. Camping is also a proponent of the King James Bible. Camping is what I call a “KJV’er” – someone who thinks the KJV is the only true bible version. Now, to be clear, I enjoy the KJV. I will read it from time to time for word studies and comparisons. I know many people who prefer that version because they grew up reading it. But a personal preference does not mean that everyone else has to abide by that preference. I prefer birthday cake without ice cream, but I don’t expect everyone else to abstain from having ice cream with their cake because of my preference.
The same is true for bible versions. A bible version needs to be tested against the original languages, but to be dogmatic about a particular version over another is just another brand of false teaching. No one can make a biblical argument about a bible version. There are plenty of discussions to be had about translation philosophies. The Message may not be the best bible for word studies, while the NASB may not be the best for devotional reading. But the truth is that there are entire churches that use the KJV as a litmus test for orthodoxy.
One day, I got into an argument with a KJV’er who was a Gideon. I asked him why the Gideon’s relied so heavily on the KJV bible. The best answer deals with publishing rights. The KJV is public domain and can be printed freely, without royalties. If they printed the NIV, for example, then they would have to pay royalties to Zondervan. But this particular guy began to tell me about all of the corruptions in modern versions that are not in the KJV. Again, using a bible version as a litmus test for orthodoxy is not a biblically defensible position.
The warning for all of us is to be cautious of anyone claiming any sort of new revelation or requirement that is outside of the plumb line of Scripture. In both of these areas – Judgment Day predictions and Bible version litmus tests – Camping is out of plumb. It is important that Camping’s followers heed this warning lest they be led astray again. Paul warns about this very thing in his letter to the Ephesians. In chapter four he wrote, “And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.” Camping’s followers have been riding a wave of falsehoods and they need to find solid biblical instruction so they can begin to discern the truth.
Camping, on the other hand, needs to repent for this sin of false teaching. He should also apologize to his followers for deceiving them. And while he is at it, it wouldn’t hurt to apologize to the church at large for making the church a mockery in a culture that is already hostile to the things of God.