(Photo: Reuters / Romeo Ranoco)
As the hour approaches closer and closer towards impending judgment, the banter just keeps on coming, with the public continuing to mock Harold Camping, his followers and many professing Christians alike.
So the question is, can anything good possibly come out of May 21, 2011?
“Maybe at least people have thought about the second coming of Christ,” said Dr. Barry Levanthal, provost and distinguished professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary, to The Christian Post.
“God can bring good out of evil, and bring correct direction out of incorrect thinking.”
But that, by no means, indicates that Camping and his followers are in the right, as they purported to receive “additional” personal revelations through the Holy Spirit about the end times.
Though believers should in fact be looking for Christ’s coming at any given time, they ought to be under good, sound biblical teaching, Levanthal expressed.
“When you turn the Christian faith into a primary subjective experience without the objective biblical truth, then the Christian faith is nothing more than one person’s experience against another person’s experience,” he said.
Sharing that every believer’s response should be objective and rooted in the truth that God provides through the Word, the professor stated, “If God is going to lead us to some kind of inner leading, it will never be opposite to what the Word of God is.”
He added, “The Christian faith is based on the teaching of Jesus and the apostles and that’s objective and unchanging. You start there. From there, as we walk in faith and obedience, the Lord will lead us to a personal relationship with Him.”
In concordance with Levanthal, Eric Thoennes, professor of biblical studies and theology at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, affirmed to CP, “We need to go to [God’s] clear teaching to find answers instead of making a side show out of biblical teaching in such an overly detailed and alarmist way that is so unhelpful.”
Camping, who heads Family Radio, has proclaimed that May 21 is the day of rapture and the start of Judgment Day.
At around 6 p.m. in each time zone, according to Camping, there will be a “tremendous earthquake” that will alert the world that Judgment Day has begun. Camping estimates that only about three percent of the world’s population will be raptured while the rest witness “horrible” events of destruction until Oct. 21, when the world will come to an end.
Interestingly, Camping told New York Magazine that “anybody,” no matter the religion, can go to heaven. “It’s not a matter of what religion you belong to, but it has to do with a personal attitude,” he said, adding that one must also accept the whole Bible and trust Christ as the messiah.
For Thoennes, there is nothing to benefit from Camping’s false teachings. “I don’t see any good coming from distorting Scripture. It’s tragic to me. Sadly, Christians should be the ones with the most settled confidence in the face of potential problems but we can be the biggest alarmists and conspiracy theorists.”
Emphasizing the sufficiency of Scripture, the Grace Evangelical Free Church pastor opposes Camping’s “obscured calculations” which completely ignore passages in the Bible like Matthew 24 and Acts 1 and undermine the clarity of Scripture.
“[While] we should rest in God who has our good and glory, [we] very often [lead] the way into hysteria ... and for some reason are attracted to these [little minutia details in Bible codes] rather than being satisfied in what God has already revealed and what Christ has done for us.”
Though nothing good can come out of Camping’s teachings, Thoennes does hope that some good would come out of the graceful and truthful response from Christians.
“We do believe Jesus is coming back and we need to be ready for him. [But] I wouldn’t make such a huge deal about how wrong [Camping] is that we minimize the truth of the return of Christ.”
The bottom line is we’re supposed to live lives of eager waiting for Him, he told CP. For Christians, we should say Camping is sadly misguided in teaching things that aren’t true but we should have a rekindled sense of hope and longing and desire for Christ to come back.
“It should cause us to live sober, holy, careful lives and lives that are living for eternity and not for the weekend, ... leading quiet lives and reflecting the honor of Christ.”
And perhaps another positive aspect surrounding all of the controversy?
That people everywhere are looking for answers – answers beyond their 401(k)’s, job prospects, and relationships; answers just beyond what the world could offer.
“That’s a very understandable, God-given human instinct, but we need to go to [God’s] clear teaching to find those answers rather than highly speculative calculation from Harold Camping,” Thoennes concluded.
Correction: Sunday, May 22, 2011:
An article on Saturday, May 21, 2011, about whether any good could come out of Harold Camping's false teachings on Judgment Day incorrectly identified the professor of biblical studies and theology at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, as Eric Thomas. The professor's name is Eric Thoennes, not Eric Thomas.