Concerning the end of the world
May 20, 2011
As many readers of this blog may already have heard, tomorrow, according to Family Radio (an Evangelical Christian radio network based in Oakland, California), is the end of the world. Or, more precisely, tomorrow, May 21, 2011, is predicted to be the date of Jesus’ Second Coming and the Rapture; the end of the world is not supposed to occur until October. These predictions, by 89-year-old Harold Camping, founder and president of Family Radio, have been broadcast repeatedly over Family Radio’s many stations, in this country and elsewhere, for many months now, and apparently the message is having an effect upon some people; one hears of anticipatory gatherings taking place in New York subway stations…. For myself, I intend to spend the day doing nothing extraordinary; I will be driving out to Long Island later today and, God willing, will celebrate my 52nd birthday on Sunday. I have heard enough of Mr. Camping to know that, on many points of theology and exegesis, he is simply wrong (e.g., his frequent claim that the Greek verb βαπτίζω means “sprinkle”); moreover, in the early 1990’s, he predicted that the end of the world would occur in the year 1994, which clearly did not happen. One might have thought that, after that, Camping’s followers would have inferred that he is a false prophet, and that his end-of-the-world predictions are not to be trusted; but, apparently, ownership of the means of mass communication is a great help for getting one’s opinions across.
What chiefly troubles me about these matters is that, for many people in America, Harold Camping is Christianity’s public voice; in the New York metropolitan area, Family Radio is one of the few radio stations broadcasting Christian content, and the same thing holds true throughout much of the urban Northeast. This, in spite of the fact that Camping now has no formal church affiliation — or, perhaps, that lack of church affiliation facilitates the spreading of his message: his radio station is his church. The likely effect of the likely non-occurrence of tomorrow’s predicted Rapture is a further discrediting of Christianity in the public eye. But perhaps it will cause some Christians to look elsewhere than Family Radio for a true understanding of the Gospel; one can only hope so.