Previous article in this series: November 1, 2011, p. 52.
At the conclusion of our last article we stated that Harold Camping’s foolish date setting was not the worst of his evils, serious though that was and is.
There are others even worse.
Before enumerating some of these evils, we would set forth what we consider to be the central evil of which Harold Camping has become guilty, namely, the devilish mischief of working to sever believers from the church of the past, or, if you will, from the “Church of All Ages,” with her rich heritage. This is but another way of saying that Camping has become the tool of Satan to sever Christ’s church from the work of the Holy Spirit as He worked in the church of the past.
Which is another way of saying, Harold Camping has in grievous pride fallen prey to setting himself up as a cult-style leader, producing yet another ‘Christian’ sect.
We would refrain from saying that this was Camping’s intention at the beginning when he left the Christian Reformed Church in the late 1980s and set up his own radio ministry and quasi-church group. But this is what has developed. And it has done so exactly because Camping cut himself off from the church institute as that church goes back through the ages, and from the oversight of its Christ-ordained officebearers. Laying aside all writings and commentaries of by-gone theologians (and advising his listeners to do likewise) in order to study the Bible completely on his own, thus freeing himself (cutting himself adrift!) from all previous insights and explanations, Harold Camping fell snare to the Devil, and became, however unwittingly, another one of Satan’s tools to lead many astray.
Harold Camping is a case study for what no student of the Scriptures must ever do, no matter how grieved he may be with apostasy that he sees in so many of the churches of our day. Believers must not allow themselves to be tempted to live apart from Christ’s church institute and on their own in an autonomous, independent way. If they do, the fate that has snared Harold Camping will become their own. They will be susceptible exactly to what the apostle Paul warns about in Ephesians 4, namely, being “…carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (v. 14).
That said, we point out that almost all of Harold Camping’s errors feed into the evil(s) we have described above, beginning with the error of his astonishing denial of the perspicuity of the Scriptures.
This is no little evil.
We call it an “astonishing denial” because one would think that a Bible teacher who instructs his students to study the Bible directly, leaving aside the explanations of all other men (that is, other than Harold Camping!), would maintain that they can do this on the basis of the perspicuity of Scripture, namely its clarity in itself and its being understandable to the common, unordained reader. After all, all believers have the Holy Spirit, who comes to enable them to read and understand.
But not so. Camping is adamant. “Unfortunately, the concept of the perspicuity of Scripture, which is very commonly taught in our day, is completely contrary to the Bible” (Wheat and Tares, p. 59).
This is completely contrary, of course, to the position of the Reformers and the teaching of the confessions (cf. Belgic Confession, Art. 5).
But such plays directly into Camping’s hands and the dependence of others upon Camping’s own privately-arrived-at interpretations of various texts. In the end, not all believers are able to discern the mysteries concealed in the Bible; in fact, most cannot. That discernment is given only to a select few. And Harold Camping has concluded that he is numbered amongst those select few, led as he is by the Holy Spirit to decipher Scripture by means of allegory (one man determining that some biblical thing mysteriously symbolizes some other spiritual reality) and mathematical calculations (understanding the numerical value of certain words that then illuminate other prophetic words), to unlock biblical secrets to the New Testament church.
Which means what?
That the ‘select few’ to whom the deep truths of Scripture that Christ’ s church needs so badly in these last days ends up being just a ‘select one.’ Camping alone is able to unravel the mysteries hidden in Scripture that believers need to know if they are to live in accordance with the will of God. Into such a position Camping has placed himself by denying the perspicuity of Scripture. There is none who can challenge his fanciful discoveries. After all, many things in Scripture are obscure to all, that is, to all other than himself.
Will twenty-first century Christendom know “what the Spirit saith to the churches”? Then it behooves them all to listen to Harold Camping, who alone is able to unravel the mysteries hidden in the prophets and apostles until this present time.
Do not talk to me about how humble and meek this self-promoting Bible teacher is! The other great evil we must touch upon, which without question is the chief evil of all, is Camping’s teaching that the end of the twentieth century brought an end to the church age.
Camping set forth this supposedly biblically-based discovery in a book entitled The End of the Church Age…and After (Family Stations, Inc., 2002). In it he calls believers to withdraw from the church institute, gather in small house groups, study the Bible on their own, and, most importantly of all, divest themselves of all preachers and officebearers, none of whom could be trusted anymore, all of whom have become apostate and are the Devil’s tools to lead believers astray when it comes to biblical teachings.
Sad to say, many across the States and elsewhere did just that, and by the thousands. Our own former congregation in New Jersey was hurt by this ‘prophetic announcement.’ New attendees who were being instructed with a view to joining the congregation suddenly stopped attending.
They were faithful listeners to Harold Camping. They heard him declare that the church age had come to an end, Christ’s return in judgment was near at hand, and those who did not “flee [from Jeru-salem’s temple] into the mountains” (which Camping declared meant fleeing from the church institute—cf. Matt. 24:15) would be destroyed when Christ’s judgments fell upon the church institute, now apostate in all her forms and under Satan’s rule.
Camping’s basic line of reasoning is that New Testament church history almost exactly parallels Old Testament church history. As God judged and destroyed both Israel and Judah for their apostasy, and especially for the sin of setting up high places of idolatry and then not casting them down (cf. I Kings 13:32, I Kings 22:43), so Christ has determined to destroy the apostate church of the New Testament in both its Roman Catholic and Protestant forms for this sin.
Rome has its idols and “high places,” namely, images of saints that it has worshiped together with a host of man-made traditions. For this she came under divine judgment in the sixteenth century. At the time of the Reformation, believers were commanded to leave Rome, fleeing for their spiritual lives.
So, according to Camping, it has come to pass with contemporary Protestantism.
It too has become guilty of idolatry as well as having its “high places.”
Orthodox Protestantism itself in time became guilty of paying too much homage to certain highly regarded theologians. Ever hear of Calvin and Calvinism? Christians calling themselves after the name of a mere man!
What is that but idolatry!
And some would even go so far as to prefer the words (biblical explanations) of Calvin over against those of Harold Camping! Can you imagine!
Harold Camping cannot.
Of course, if you were to prefer the words of Camping on various texts to those of all others, Calvin included, the charge of idolatry would suddenly evaporate. Now one has suddenly become biblical and is thinking for himself. What it comes down to is this, as far as Camping and his followers are concerned, God’s Word and Camping’s interpretation of it are basically one and the same thing!
But even more serious is the charge that Camping brings against Protestantism concerning “high places,” namely, identifying those “high places” with the great Christian confessions and creeds.
It is here that the evil into which Harold Camping has fallen comes to full expression.
Over time, Camping, who once was a Reformed man claiming to be committed to the confessions, convinced himself that it is exactly subscription to the great Christian confessions that has brought Protestantism into spiritual bondage, rendering her thoroughly apostate, ready for judgment.
Due to her high esteem for the confessions, Protestantism’s sin against God is parallel to that of Old Testament Judah with her high places.
To prove his case, Camping turns to II Corinthians 10:5. In this passage the apostle Paul describes the task of the gospel to be that of “…casting down imaginations, and every high thing [!] that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God.”
In one of the most absurd and fanciful bits of exegesis ever concocted, Camping declares that the historic Christian creeds are to be numbered amongst these “high things” condemned by II Corinthians 10, which “high things” are parallel to the Old Testament “high places” (it all hinges on the similarity of the word “high”), and so fall under the interdict of the apostle and the disapproval of God.
After Camping left the Christian Reformed Church in 1988 and began to develop his own peculiar views, he came under criticism for teaching things contrary to the Reformed creeds. And thus Camping’s counter charge that Protestantism has long been guilty of elevating the words of mere men (the confessions) to the level of God’s Word. It suddenly occurred to Camping, as his teachings began to deviate from those of the confessions, that Orthodox Protestantism for centuries had gone in the direction of setting up “high places” that “exalted [themselves] against the knowledge of God [that is, as found only in the Bible]”!
Mind you, the historic Christian creeds, the work of God-fearing, Bible-believing men, led by the Spirit of truth Himself, written to refute devilish heresies that perverted God’s Word, are identified by Camping as altars constructed to idols, implying that in them are doctrines that are the work of the Devil himself.
In our judgment this comes perilously close to the sin against the Holy Spirit. It is no small matter to call that which is the product of the Holy Spirit Himself, as He led Christ’s church into a defense of biblical truth over against the devil’s lies, itself to be the work of the devil and a form of idolatry.
It will not do for Camping’s loyal followers to protest that Camping is not calling the creeds themselves idols and the work of the devil, but only the improper elevating of them to the status of God’s Word to be idolatry.
The simple fact is that when the apostle in II Corinthians 10speaks of “imaginations” and “high things,” he is not speaking of things that are themselves good, and that, like Moses’ serpent of brass, were later abused and improperly exalted, but the apostle is referring to ideas and teachings that are themselves evil, man-centered, devil conceived, and contrary to the Word of God (as the altars in the high places themselves were!).
For Camping to put the great historic confessions of the church into such a category, and to do so because they can be used to expose any number of his teachings as a departure from the historic Christian faith, is to do despite to the work of the Spirit Himself, say what his defenders will.
Again I say, do not talk to me about how humble this self-promoting Bible teacher is. Harold Camping has much to be accountable for.
To bring such allegations against the great creeds of the Christian faith and to sever oneself from Christ’s church past and present is serious enough.
But Harold Camping’s evil is compounded. He has not only severed himself from Christ’s church, he has also called and persuaded thousands of others to do likewise.
He has much for which to answer.
Because this matter of membership in the church institute is one of the great issues facing Christ’s church in these last days, we intend to devote one more article to Camping and this issue.