Stephen Hawking - Meet Harold Camping
by Dennis Michelson
O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith."
I Timothy 6:20-21
Introduction: Well it is now 5:22 PM Eastern Daylight Time on May 21, 2011. I had better type quickly in case Harold Camping is right. However, I believe the new theme song after 6:00 PM for Family Radio will be "It's Six O'Clock Somewhere."
Media attention has been drawn (for better or for worse) toward two men this past week. Stephen Hawking is arguably one of the most brilliant men alive. He is now 69 years old and his book entitled A Brief History of Time was a Times best seller. He is one of the most respected voices in the global scientific community.
His most recent book entitled The Grand Design examines the history of scientific knowledge about the universe. His conclusion is that "one can't prove that God doesn't exist, but science makes God unnecesary." This world-renowned scientist also asserts that religion is basically a fairy tale for those frail souls who are afraid of the dark. . .or to put it more bluntly . . .well-intentioned idiots.
Enter Harold Camping. If you have not heard (it is now 5:34 PM), Mr. Camping has boldly guaranteed that the world as we know it will cease in about 25 minutes. One wonders which man has caused the greater damage? Hawking with his scientific writings or Camping with his gnostic biblical interpretations.
Perhaps a brief review of the etymology for the term "idiot" might be in order. It comes from the Greek word "idiotes" which means a layman as compared with an expert with the general sense of one who is unskilled. It also means "an outsider or alien" as distinct from a recognized group.
Kittel's theological dictionary says "there can be no fixed rendering, though it always maintains the basic sense of one who represents his own interests as compared with the official or public interest. Finally, it can denote a man as distinct from the Deity.
Professor Hawking is a man who doesn't believe in the Deity and Mr. Camping is a man who unfortunately believes he has discovered more than the Deity. The latter man is clearly more dangerous. Please allow me to point out nine fallacies associated with this unfortunate debacle.
1. The Historical Fallacy
Camping has taught for some time that every church in the world is apostate. This is not the first time in history this charge has been leveled against Christianty. The only thing we seem to learn from history is that we never learn anything from history.
This is why Jesus entered the mainstream of human history and declared that He would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. God has promised to preserve His church and consequently it is still somewhere on the earth. At least we know where it is not! Note: it is now 5:55PM.
2. The Evidential Fallacy
It did not happen in 1994? It did not happen in 2011!
3. The Psychological Fallacy
Camping said "I would be absolutely in rebellion against God if I thought anything other than it is absolutely going to happen without question." Cognitive distortions and inflexible thinking can lead to serious psychological damage. Camping and his followers need to stay away from the Kool Aid for a few days.
Relax Harold (and your followers) it is 6:00 PM straight up and we are still here. A.T. Robertson said it well when he stated that our preaching and teaching of God's Word is always less true than God's Word. Let God be true and every man a liar (or at least misguided).
4. The Personal Fallacy
Perhaps Mr. Camping can relax a bit now as he approaches age 90 and find a good church in his area and get under the authority and care of a expository Bible-teaching pastor. A para-church ministry is not the same as a church ministry. In the first one you have accountants and in the second you have accountability. I am sure there is at least one church in California that is not apostate.
5. The Factual Fallacy
Since the sky did not fall then any subsequent announcements indicating the same will be taken with a grain of salt. So much for being the salt of the earth.
6. The Numerological Fallacy
Camping stated that May 21, 2011 is exactly 7,000 years since the days of Noah and the Flood. He arrived at this "precise" chronology by means of taking direct quotes out of the Bible and applying his own numerological formula. Hint: When a text makes plain sense then seek no other sense.
Origen tried the same thing years ago and all he got was a trophy for being the most obscure allegorical interpreter of his day. Don't worry Brother Harold, I think you are at the head of the nomination list for this year's award.
7. The Logical Fallacy
It is called Petitio Principii. We know it today as "begging the question" or assuming the initial point in order to prove a point - or simply circular reasoning. The work of Harold Camping is replete with these.
8. The Dispensational Fallacy
Harold Camping resorted to presuppostional hermeneutics and exegesis much like some today when they seek to reconcile I Corinthians 15:51-53 with Matthew 24:31. There is an obvious problem in reconciling I Corinthians 15:51-53 and Matthew 24:31 with the principles of classic Dispensationalism.
The plain meaning of "last trumpet" is last trumpet. However, a common explanation is that the word "last" may signify that which concludes a program, but is not necessarily that last that will ever exist. Let's be honest, there is only one hermeneutical argument for not understanding "last" in an unqualified way: it is "last" for the church but not for Israel.
Therefore, literal interpretation to some means including the Israel/Church distinction already in mind. Hence what dispensationalists do in I Corinthians 15:51-53 is not much different from what nondispensationalists do; both read texts under the influence of prior judgments and convictions. Harold Camping did the same thing but with the added variable to his own brand of cabalistic numerology.
9. The Scriptural Fallacy
Read II Thessalonians 2:1-12 like you are seeing it for the first time. I want you Covenantal and Dispensational folk to put your presuppositional spectacles aside and rest your eyes on the simple truth of Paul's text. Doesn't it seem appropriate that the Apostle says "that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the Day of Christ is at hand."
I will just leave this with you - the crux of Camping's error hinged on imminence. The crux of Paul's argument in this text does not. If you are on planet earth when the saints are caught away then you can be sure that Harold Camping will not be at the top of the nightly news. (It is now 6:48 PM)