It’s been a good eight years since I last listened to Harold Camping on the radio. I used to enjoy hearing him “answering” questions from callers in that self-assured deep voice of his. Most often he would be harping on two things. The first was the apostasy of the Church, and how he believed it was all through; mature saints had better form house churches and leave the apostates alone. The other string on the harp was Calvinism. Camping is a very decided 5 Point Calvinist who, according to memory, feels at home with the Westminster Confession of Faith.
In one program I heard he was was asked about his previous date-setting fiasco. In reply he said he no longer followed the teachings which he believed led him to set a date for the Second Coming. Presumably he was referring to a populist mix of historicism and futurism (although I may be wrong). He did respond to one caller by saying he did not believe in an earthly Millennium. This would not surprise anyone who has tried to understand his frequent use of allegorical interpretation in his studies. As far back as 1980 Camping was arguing publicly for amillennialism.
Anyway, now he has worked out that the world ends tomorrow. Well, not tomorrow exactly, the final conflagration of the planet will be around the date of my sister’s birthday in October. But tomorrow the rapture happens! The true saints will be whisked away to glory and those not raptured will experience a cataclysmic earthquake and five months of hell-on-earth.
Whether it actually happens or not (I am still banking on eating Chinese after church sometime tomorrow), I just want to make one thing clear: Harold Camping is not a dispensationalist! He is, in fact, very much Reformed. A bit quirky yes, but Reformed nonetheless.
And he is not the first Reformed date-setter either. He joins Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, Johannes Cocceius, and many others who have acted as God’s fortune tellers. Of course, the Fount of much Reformed theology, Aurelius Augustine was a date-setter too. Historicists, whether they be premillennial, postmillennial, or amillennial, tend to set dates. Those dispensationalists who have dabbled in such risky prognostications (e.g. Hal Lindsey), have always melded an unhealthy dose of historicism and newspaper exegesis to their dispensational premillennialism. True dispensationalists; consistent dispensationalists, never set dates. Why? Because they believe that when the Bible says no one knows the day of the hour it means what it says! I therefore hope we don’t hear jibes from Christians who falsely relate Camping’s theology to “Left Behind.” Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly dislike those books and the pragmatic non-theological thinking behind them. Their existence is one big reason why I am a “reluctant dispensationalist.” But Camping’s eschatology is not dispensational.
See you next week!