FYI: Harold Camping is Not a Dispensationalist

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!

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13 comments

  1. Enjoy your Chinese food brother Paul! 🙂

    What is particularly troubling about folks like Camping is that they take what is already a sensationalized and ridiculed doctrine (the Rapture) and subject it to further scorn at the hands of both believers and unbelievers.

    It is also a sobering spiritual lesson when those who avoid sensationalism and attempt to teach the Bible carefully and in context tend to be in small fellowships which are often with meager financial means while folks like this who teach such blatant errors (e.g., Camping’s views concerning the church age being past) have millions rolling in!

    I’ll be more than glad when this entire Harold Camping distraction is left behind 🙂

  2. I have a old friend who just admitted that he was wrong about the camping rapture…he had campings theology(never admitted it ) but he admits to being wrong….my question to him is ” are you ready to come back home andbe taught….this is where true friendship and repentence comes in”!!

  3. Paul!

    FYI

    True Covenantalists; consistent Covenantalists, 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!

    Love,
    Christian

    1. Yes, Christian. You are right of course. The backdrop to this post was a request by a dispensationalist brother who was getting stick from some Reformed friends about Camping’s date-setting.

      Hope you and the fam are well.

      Your brother,

      P.

  4. Paul . . . just making sure that when you do critique those of the covenantal pursuasion . . . you do so acurately 😉

  5. That is fine Christian. I do not like to read misrepresentations of positions I disagree with. In fact I informed a friend of mine recently that a diagram he had linked to (on Extreme v. Moderate Calvinism) hardly represented any man living.

    I don’t think the article is inaccurate though. Also, I might cheekily point out that no dispensationalist could employ spiritualizing hermeneutics the way old Harold has done!

    Like your smiley my brother.

  6. Harold Camping in the mid to late 1980’s debated Dr. John F. Walvoord on the issue of Amillennialism defended by Camping and Premillennialism defended by Walvoord. It was a 6 hour long moderated debate. There are some Roman Catholics who tried mocking dispensationalism in their ignorance. I happend to see it in an AOL chat room. Well their tone changed when I pointed out Mr. Camping is an Amillennialist like they are. That he is the problem of Arminianism and not dispensationalism.

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