Cleaning up after Harold

Friday, 20 May 2011

I’ve read stories this morning at Slate and in The New York Times about Harold Camping’s prediction that the rapture will occur tomorrow. Each one makes the same kind of reporting mistakes that drive our friends at GetReligion batty. But what’s really tragic about the mainstream reporting on this issue is the barely disguised, thinly veiled mockery that provides the undercurrent for each narrative. There’s been fantastic theological and exegetical reflection elsewhere (here and here, for starters), which I won’t repeat here. Instead, I want to think about how we should interact with our friends and neighbors who have been overtaken by Camping’s madness.

A few days ago, the local Los Angeles evening news program featured an interview with Michael Shermer, the former Christian turned skeptic that Mike Horton interviewed for the next episode of White Horse Inn coming up this Sunday. Shermer and the anchor sat across from one another and traded smirks, eye rolls, and knowing grins about all those deluded Christians who believed that Jesus was coming back on Saturday. At some level you probably expect this from people who have no concept of living between the ages; of praying with the apostle John at the end of Revelation, “even so, come Lord Jesus!”; of feeling the same missionary burden that propelled these otherwise normal Americans into the streets to warn of the judgment to come.

The real danger post-Saturday doesn’t come from the skeptics, however, it comes from people like you and me. Having lived through Camping’s failed prediction in 1994 and his 2002 rejection of the visible body of Christ on earth, many Reformational Christians feel the same desire to smirk, roll their eyes, and use the worst kind of language to describe fellow Christians who have been deluded by false teaching. We also probably feel a justified sense of outrage that Camping is making a mockery of Christ and his church, giving skeptics like Shermer a free shot at one of our cherished hopes.

We must be very careful about how we respond. Will we join our friends at the “Rapture Parties” that are planned for pubs and living rooms around the nation? Will we laugh at those who have spent the last several months of their lives dedicated to a true but untimely belief? What will we say on Saturday night or Sunday morning?

History teaches us that previous generations caught up in eschatological fervor often fell away from Christ when their deeply held beliefs about the end of the world didn’t pan out. While Camping must answer for his false teaching at the end of the age, Reformational Christians are facing a pastoral problem come Sunday morning: how can we apply the salve of the Gospel to the wounded sheep who will be wandering aimlessly, having discovered that what they thought was true (so true they were willing to upend their lives over it) was not? If this isn’t true, they might reason, then what other deeply held beliefs and convictions and doctrines and hopes might not be true?

It’s at this point that we need to be ready to provide a reasonable defense of our reasonable faith. Christianity is not founded upon some complex Bible code that needs years of analysis to reveal its secret. Christianity is about a man who claimed to be God, who died in full public view as a criminal, and was inexplicably raised from the dead three days later appearing to a multitude of witnesses. When his followers, who witnessed his resurrection, began speaking of it publicly, they connected the prophecies of the Old Testament to the life and death and resurrection of this man who claimed the power to forgive sins. This is the heart of the Christian faith, the message that deserves to be featured on billboards, sides of buses, and pamphlets all over the world.  It is also the message that needs to be reinvested into the hearts and lives of those who found hope and meaning in Harold Camping’s latest bad idea.

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Comments


  • 20 May 2011
    toddtst says:

    “Reformational Christians are facing a pastoral problem come Sunday morning: how can we apply the salve of the Gospel to the wounded sheep who will be wandering aimlessly, having discovered that what they thought was true (so true they were willing to upend their lives over it) was not? If this isn’t true, they might reason, then what other deeply held beliefs and convictions and doctrines and hopes might not be true?”
    eric, i dont think that is an issue here, as camping’s deluded followers won’t be in any Reformed Church anytime soon. it does, however, point the continuing need for ministries like the White Horse Inn, and Ligoner to keep doing what they are doing, namely, keep educating. We need less ivory-tower, what-conference-are-you-attending theologians, and more trained clergy with pastoral care willing to find the lost sheep outside of their respective church denomination. i could be wrong, but that is my opinion.

  • 20 May 2011
    Peter says:

    This really is not fun because we are seeing a great amount of people first, spending a lot of money advertising this, driving around and giving up everything for an obvious false promise and second, believing not in the Christ but being taken up with the idolatry of knowledge. “We know and we figured it out. I follow Harold Camping.” The gospel gives us the hope that all of our idolatry can be cleaned out, yet it comes, usually, with a great deal of pain through the process.

    There are myriad reasons why predicting and advertising a day of Christ’s return are wrong and the first is explicit: we are not called to know nor to find out. If we are trying to, we are worrying about when the end will be and Christ tells us not to worry. What does every single person need – the gospel and nothing more that God is just and the justifier of even the most vile and sin-filled and abused person on this earth.

    Let us hope Camping and his followers repent and begin to proclaim real hope that the end date doesn’t matter and in Christ’s sacrifice we can be ready today. Pray.

  • 20 May 2011
    Robynn says:

    The fact is… Jesus is coming back! It behooves us to live expectantly and deliberately…. Will he come back on the 21st of May, I seriously doubt it….

  • 20 May 2011
    DebbieLynne says:

    This whole thing underscores the importance of sound doctrine. So many are deceived because they haven’t had good biblical teaching.

  • 20 May 2011
    Bruce says:

    What is it about Americans that allows you to constantly be tricked into this kind of thing, it’s already May 21st in Australia, my friends called me all is well, or is this “rapture” only happening in America, Camping should be arrested and put in prison for fraud

  • 20 May 2011
    The Obvious says:

    Just had them a copy of Saint Augustine Cofessions and hope the take the time to read it. The problem with our society is that people prefer to get their knowledge from a radio station they tune into on their way to work rather than taking the time to look through the printed word. Stop listening and start reading.

  • 20 May 2011
    The Pastoral Challenge and Opportunity When the Rapture Doesnt Happen  Justin Taylor says:

    […] wise words from Eric Landry: We must be very careful about how we respond. Will we join our friends at the […]

  • 20 May 2011
    The Pastoral Challenge and Opportunity When the Rapture Doesn’t Happen | Sinting Link says:

    […] wise words from Eric Landry: We must be very careful about how we respond. Will we join our friends at the […]

  • 21 May 2011
    Judgement Day Today?  The Pastoral Challenge and Opportunity When the Rapture Doesn’t Happen « Already Not Yet says:

    […] Some wise words from Eric Landry: We must be very careful about how we respond. Will we join our friends at the “Rapture Parties” that are planned for pubs and living rooms around the nation? Will we laugh at those who have spent the last several months of their lives dedicated to a true but untimely belief? What will we say on Saturday night or Sunday morning? […]

  • 21 May 2011
    will the world end 5-21-11? « borrowed light says:

    […] cleaning up after Rapture fail […]

  • 21 May 2011
    What If Were Still Here Tomorrow? « huiothesian: adopted as sons says:

    […] Eric Landry offers some wise words: We must be very careful about how we respond. Will we join our friends at the “Rapture Parties” that are planned for pubs and living rooms around the nation? Will we laugh at those who have spent the last several months of their lives dedicated to a true but untimely belief? What will we say on Saturday night or Sunday morning? […]

  • 21 May 2011
    The Pastoral Challenge and Opportunity When the Rapture Doesn’t Happen – Justin Taylor « Swimming Upstream says:

    […] wise words from Eric Landry: We must be very careful about how we respond. Will we join our friends at the […]

  • 21 May 2011
    RichardShaward says:

    As an Orthodox Christian, my sentiments agree with the thrust of the article exactly. “How can we apply the salve of the Gospel to the wounded sheep who will be wandering aimlessly, having discovered that what they thought was true (so true they were willing to upend their lives over it) was not?”

    But does the author have to spout “Reformational Christians”? What is up with that? – Let us remember that Harold Camping is a “child” product of “Reformational Christianity” and teaches sola scriptura, absolute predestination, and the gospel by faith alone just as well and faithful as any other “Reformed” people do. [I know this truth hurts but it is a fact]. Maybe the Reformed Pope Michael Horton of White Horse Inn would rather have us hold to Sproul’s “Reformational” preterism instead? Then we would not have to be concerned with eschatology like Campings?

    Let all “Christians” grieve over this episode of Harold Camping and be there for those who were convinced by him in sincerity, and now left to pick up the pieces. But let us not make this another “reformational christian” opportunity, Okay? Thanks,

  • 21 May 2011
    Steve Cornell says:

    Along similar but extended lines, I suggest seven lessons to take to heart:
    http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2011/05/21/now-that-the-world-didn’t-end…-seven-lessons-to-take-to-heart/

  • 22 May 2011
    pe scara Cerului » Blog Archive » s-acum cine spala vasele? says:

    […] Eric Landry are un punct de vedere interesant despre ce va trebui sa infruntam de acum inainte: The real danger post-Saturday doesn’t come from the skeptics, however, it comes from people like you and me. Having lived through Camping’s failed prediction in 1994 and his 2002 rejection of the visible body of Christ on earth, many Reformational Christians feel the same desire to smirk, roll their eyes, and use the worst kind of language to describe fellow Christians who have been deluded by false teaching. We also probably feel a justified sense of outrage that Camping is making a mockery of Christ and his church, giving skeptics like Shermer a free shot at one of our cherished hopes.   intreg materialul aici […]

  • 22 May 2011
    The Pastoral Challenge and Opportunity When the Rapture Doesn’t Happen | Church Ministry Center says:

    […] wise words from Eric Landry: We must be very careful about how we respond. Will we join our friends at the […]

  • 22 May 2011
    Cleaning The Camping Ground « Wading Across says:

    […] food for thought: Carla Ledbetter White Horse Inn High Mountain Church Christian […]

  • 23 May 2011
    Four Groups Who Laughed at the Rapture | MattRob.com says:

    […] to offer the pastoral approach to help teach those who were misguided and other words of wisdom to aid in the cleanup. These words are needed.But now that everyone has caught their collective breath, its time for some […]

  • 23 May 2011
    Peter says:

    RichardShaward:

    You said, “Let us remember that Harold Camping is a ‘child’ product of ‘Reformational Christianity’ and teaches sola scriptura, absolute predestination, and the gospel by faith alone just as well and faithful as any other ‘Reformed’ people do.”

    Do you really believe he taught well the truth of God’s Word, particularly the gospel? Maybe at one time, but not lately. If he had, he wouldn’t have made such unbiblical predictions. Such things undermine the gospel of Jesus.

    The author, I believe, was simply appealing to what he assumes to be the majority of his audience. I would think it would have been easier and more charitable for you to simply say, “Orthodox Christians have the same challenges regarding the deceived followers of Camping.”

  • 23 May 2011
    Mindy Soulasinh says:

    That Judgment day event is so pathetic. Trying to anticipate the date of the rapture is insane. My sibling actually sold a bunch of her belongings because she thought it was true and she wasn’t going to need them. This entire fiasco just makes Christians look unfit since people are going to associate this lunatic with Christianity.

  • 01 Jun 2011
    Janet Young says:

    I am wondering what is being done about Mr. Camping. He’s not a pastor but has a board of directors at Family Radio. Why are they not truly doing something about him? Why aren’t Christian pastors and elders from churches in the Oakland area demanding he step down? We need strong Christian leaders to step up and demand that Mr. Camping step down. Actually, I used to listen to Family Radio, but only attempted to listen to him about 2 times. I could tell he was bunk back in 1991.

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