John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, and recent host of the controversial Strange Fire Conference, predicted in an interview with Christianity.com that what he calls the “Reformed Revival” will reverse itself in the next few years. He thinks this is so, because he sees so many of the younger generation who seem to be merely adding the doctrines of sovereign grace to their otherwise non-Reformed modes of operation like contemporary worship music, drinking beer, and Arminian forms of evangelism. He says in time, their Calvinist soteriology will fall by the way side because of the contradictory positions they hold.
Watch the video first, then read my comments below:
I find it ironic that this pastor should offer this critique of other pastors when he himself has added the five points of Calvinism to a non-Reformed view of eschatology. Reformed theology, after all, is not the home of Dispensational Premillennialism. Those who embrace total depravity, unconditional election, particular redemption, effectual calling and perseverance of the saints but reject the Covenantal theology in which these doctrines were developed, should think twice before criticizing others for selectively embracing popular elements of Reformed theology without embracing the whole system.
I also find it amusing that he should critique Calvinists for drinking beer. The enjoyment of alcoholic beverages in moderation is historically more Reformed than otherwise.
But I am in agreement with MacArthur that the five points of Calvinism isn’t enough. I would encourage him and members of the movement which a few years ago was called the Young, Restless and Reformed to take another look at the rest of Reformed theology. If it’s so right about the sovereignty of God in election, redemption and regeneration, what makes you think it’s so wrong about eschatology, church government and the sacraments?
Strike Three and You’re Out
You may have heard that last week Harold Camping apologized for setting dates for the rapture. His bizarre application of civil engineer math geekiness to biblical hermeneutics misleads him to believe he could calculate the date of the rapture and the final judgment (See Robert Godfrey’s posts on Camping parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5). Strike one was back in 1994—No rapture. Camping discovers his miscalculation, and revises his date to May 21, 2011, which is also to kick off five months of judgment apparently in the form of rolling earthquakes that were to begin at a certain time of day all around the globe. Perhaps you noticed the billboards in some parts of the country, but most of you will recall the media attention given to it in the weeks leading up to Camping’s second date. May 21, 2011 comes and goes: strike two! Upon this failure, he claims that the rapture really did happen, but it was a spiritual rapture, and that a spiritual judgment has begun which will culminate in the complete end of the world all at once on October 21, 2011. Nothing. Strike three and you’re out, Harold Camping! In the stressful aftermath of this publicly humiliating fiasco, which brought much grief, consternation, and in some parts of the world, persecution, Camping suffers a stroke, and he is removed from regular broadcasting on Family Radio. I don’t know if the strike was brought on by the stress of the events, but a stroke he suffered, nonetheless.
Now that he’s had time to recover, this past week, Camping posts a letter on the Family Radio website apologizing for his “sin” of setting dates (read the letter here). In some ways it is an impressive statement. I was particularly moved to see his state in no uncertain terms that those of us who harped on Jesus’ words that “no man will know the day or hour” were right, and that he was wrong:
…we now realize that those people who were calling our attention to the Bible’s statement that “of that day and hour knoweth no man” (Matthew 24:36 & Mark 13:32), were right in their understanding of those verses and Family Radio was wrong. Whether God will ever give us any indication of the date of His return is hidden in God’s divine plan.
But this candid concession and apology was not good enough for Dan Elmendorf, former Family Radio broadcaster and now founder of Redeemer Broadcasting. In his weekly program, “A Plain Answer,” Elmendorf reminds us that the sin of date-setting was the least of Camping’s doctrinal problems. Absent from Camping’s open letter is any expression of repentance for having called on Christians to leave organized churches in which the gospel is preached and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are administered under the oversight by elders with the authority of exercising church discipline on members whose lives are persistently refusing to conform to a biblical standard of holiness and obedience to Scripture. Apparently, Camping still believes, and would have his listeners believe, that “the church age has ended.” So, it’s not that Camping has repented of the more heretical nature of his controversial “ministry.” I recommend that you listen to Elmendorf’s program, the first segment of which addresses Camping’s “weak apology.” The host shares some insight and experience which you can’t get from the Associated Press stories.
The Schuller’s Take Their Ball and Leave
In another recent instance of heresy in the headlines, it is reported that the entire family of positive-thinking televangelist, Robert Schuller, are leaving Crystal Cathedral Ministries. The 85 year-old Schuller, having retired from weekly “ministry” in 2009, was succeeded by his daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman. According to the LA Times, Coleman announced this past Sunday that she will leave the Crystal Cathedral to start a new church citing a “hostile working environment” stemming from a growing divide between the Schuller family and the Crystal Cathedral’s board of directors. Robert Schuller and his wife applaud Coleman’s decision, but announce they will not be joining her at her new church, and that their plans for weekly worship are not yet finally decided. They will not, however, have any further public association with the work of the Crystal Cathedral and it’s broadcast The Hour of Power, started by Robert Schuller back in 1970. It seems that all positive (as opposed to “good”) things must come to an end. In my humble opinion, this end has been long overdue.
Ever watched Adult Swim’s Moral Orel? It’s like a spoof of Davey and Goliath, and serves as a platform for heavy-handed satire of the moralistic idiosyncrasies of some Christians. Most Christians would find it distasteful to watch, although it probably reflects more truth than our kind are willing to admit—when it isn’t’ caricaturing moralistic Christianity.
Upon watching a few clips of this show and seeing just how much they make it look like an edgy version of Davey and Goliath, I was reminded that this show isn’t only a satire of politically Right-wing Christians, but can step on the toes of liberal Christians as well. The fact is that Davey and Goliath was a production of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a theologically liberal denomination of Lutherans despite the presence of the word “Evangelical” in their name. But it is also true that a generation or more of conservative fundamentalists and evangelicals were raised loving Davey and Goliath and being conditioned to liberal forms of moralism. This must be a small reason why moral and social do-good-ism is an example of common ground shared by today’s conservative culture warriors and liberal progressives. The development of the contemporary political spectrum among Western Christians has a long and storied past, involving the influence of eschatology, pietism and revivalism among other things. These influences raise a question, the answer to which we may find instructive.
“On which is it better for the Christian church to focus her efforts:
civic moral activism, or her own doctrine and practice?”
I submit the following:
- Organized religious efforts toward civic moral activism are derived from a fundamentally utopian vision of eschatology and therefore society, and generally tends to minimize doctrine and practice.
- Organized religious efforts to maintain the purity of each denomination’s own doctrine and practice are drawn from a fundamentally realistic vision of eschatology and therefore society, and generally tends to minimize organized religious civic moral activism.
What’s eschatology got to do with it?
- An Augustinian interpretation of the millennium shared in its broadly among Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed branches of Christendom
- The Roman Catholic version promoted medieval Constantinianism (church over state).
- Lutheran and Reformed reformed amillennialism, tended to focus on doctrine and practice (confessionalism), but had little opportunity to engage in organized religious civic moral activism as we know it today.
- Post-Reformation Protestant Europe replaced Constantinism with ecclesiastical establishmentarianism (state over church); Confessional Protestants complied, affirmed the state’s role in defending the church from heresy, and theoretically denied the state’s right to affect church’s doctrine.
- Twentieth/Twenty-first century Reformed Amillennialism of three varieties (at least): Kuyperian, Two-Kingdom and Theonomic (aka, “Dominionist”)
- An “over-realized” (or utopian) form of amillennial eschatology
- Tended to engage in organized religious civic moral activism
- Held by theologically liberal progressives as well as fundamentalists in the early 20th century.
- Twentieth/twenty-first century Reformed Postmillenialists of two varieties (at least): Kuyperian and Theonomic.
- Anabaptist eschatology (Anabaptism a non-Roman Catholic version of medieval monastic mysticism)
- Tended to retreat from society and thus avoided both organized religious and individual civic moral activism.
- Adopted by fundamentalist Protestants during the bulk of the 20th century in reaction against theologically liberal Postmillennialists.
Two religious trends add complexity to the preceding eschatological and social tendencies: Pietism and Revivalism:
- Lutheran deviation
- Focused on personal piety, neglected doctrine and practice
- An essentially Wesleyan trend adapted by Calvinists (Reformed); partly inspired by Pietism.
- Focused on individual conversion and piety and promoted organized religious civic moral activism.
- It is better for the church to focus on maintaining the purity of her own doctrine, piety and practice, and to leave civic activism (moral or otherwise) to the individual.
- Thus, I find that an Amillennial, Confessional Protestantism that is relatively uninfluenced by pietism and revivalism is the ideal approach for the Christian church.
The preceeding is my attempt to organize the many things I’ve been learning over the years regarding the development of modern American Protestant confessionalism, liberalism, fundamentalism and evangelicalism. This being merely a blog post, and not an academic essay, those of you who are more informed on these issues are invited to critique my bullet points for the sake of accuracy. Those readers for whom the above raises questions or critical comments, these are especially welcome. You sharpen my iron, I’ll sharpen yours!
When I was a child, and a member of a Dispensational Premillennial IFB church, I would often hear my pastor commenting on any given Sunday, “It’s cloudy today—this might just be the day the Lord returns.” At other times, he would conclude the opposite: “I didn’t notice any clouds in the sky, so I guess the Lord may not return today. But this is Texas, and the weather could change at any moment.” The literal presence of clouds in the sky was seen as a necessary condition of Christ’s Second Coming. Why is this? It’s because of the Lord’s words in Matthew 24:30.
Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
(Matthew 24:30 ESV)
Was Jesus predicting that on the day of his return, it will literally be cloudy? No, Jesus was alluding to a prophecy by Daniel of the coming of “one like a son of man” who comes “with the clouds of heaven.” What would be the point of predicting whether it would be cloudy on the day of the coming of the Son of Man? Let’s look at Daniel’s prophecy to which Christ alludes (the key phrases will be highlighted):
“I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
(Daniel 7:13-14 ESV)
The first thing to notice is the fact that this prophecy contains poetic language. That’s why the ESV editors (and those of most modern English versions) format the prophecy in a poetic style. Ancient Hebrew poetry does not have the same standards for literalism as historical narrative does. It is true that the Gospel of Matthew is a historical narrative, and so it is literally true that Jesus quoted Daniel’s prophecy, but the prophecy Jesus quoted in this historical narrative Gospel account is still a poetic reference.
If the reference to clouds in association with the coming of the Son of Man bears poetic, symbolic meaning, then what might that meaning be? Let’s look at a few other poetic Old Testament passages that similarly associate clouds with the activity of Yahweh.
He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters;
he makes the clouds his chariot;
he rides on the wings of the wind;
If we are to take Christ’s reference to coming with clouds literally, then are we also to take Psalm 104’s statement that the LORD makes the clouds his chariot literally? Does an infinite, omnipresent Spirit need to stand on a cloud, hold a set of reins and be transported by means of atmospheric water vapor? Well, has he also literally laid giant wooden beams across a body of water and built chambers in which he might dwell? Does wind literally have wings? Of course it doesn’t. This is nothing but poetic imagery. So, what idea does this imagery of clouds convey? Basically, it conveys the idea of God’s terrifying power and authority. Notice how the Egyptians and their idols react to the image of the LORD riding on a cloud in Isaiah 19:
An oracle concerning Egypt.
Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud
and comes to Egypt;
and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence,
and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.
With these things in mind, let’s go back and take another look at Matthew 24:30: “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Matthew 24:30).
I hope we can more clearly see now, that the significance of the coming of the Son of Man “on the clouds of heaven” lies in the fact of his terrifying power and great glory whose appearing will make all the tribes of the earth mourn, and at which time will occur the Last Judgment and the ultimate consummation of his Kingdom. This is just one of many examples of the need to genuinely take into account the literary structure of a passage in order to determine its proper interpretation.
Jesus comes into Jerusalem as king, but in a week’s time he will have been crucified and raised from the dead for sinners like you and me.
Westminster Shorter Catechism 26
Q. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us (Psalm 110:3; Matthew 28:18-20; John 17:2; Colossians 1:13), and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies (Psalm 2:6-9; Psalm 110:1-2; Matthew 12:28; 1 Corinthians 15:24-26; Colossians 2:15).
“The Lord Has Need of Them” (Matthew 21:1-5) Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
- Jesus demonstrates that he is Israel’s Messiah by fulfilling Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9
- Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.”(Isaiah 62:11 ESV)
- Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9 ESV)
- What was this need? To show us that “[our] salvation comes” (Is. 62:11)
- “By sending for the donkey and colt, Jesus is giving us what we need to believe in him as our Savior.”
- Our need was for a Passover Lamb—we need Someone to die in our place; to wash us clean; to be protected and redeemed from our captivity to sin.
- To those who need God to show that he is real, he has done so by these prophecies of Israel’s Messiah, and their fulfillment hundreds of years later in Jesus of Nazareth.
“Hosanna” (Matthew 21:6-9) The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
- Foreshadowed in Jehu’s servants’ response to Jehu’s anointing as King of Israel, and prophecy to defeat the evil king Ahab
- Then in haste every man of them took his garment and put it under him on the bare steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, “Jehu is king.” (2 Kings 9:13 ESV).
- In crying “Hosanna (Heb. “O Save!” ) to the Son of David!”, the people declare who Jesus is, the rightful King of Israel.
- In crying “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” the people sing a portion of the Hallel (Psalms 113-118)—a portion of which is sung after the drinking of “the Cup of Redemption” during the Passover seder (see Psalm 118:26a). Jesus comes to redeem his people from sin, as God redeemed Israel from Egypt.
- Parallels between Israel’s captivity in Egypt and their present occupation by Rome spark strong Jewish nationalism during the Passover season. Rome watches for seditious behavior. The notion of a pretender to the throne of Israel is the very kind of threat for which they watch, and this makes Christ’s entry into Jerusalem especially dangerous. But notice the humility of this King who enters triumphantly, not on a warhorse, but rather on a lowly donkey.
“The King Enters His City” (Matthew 21:10-11) And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
- Christ enters Jerusalem but is not recognized by her citizens as their long-awaited King.
- The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. (John 1:9-11 ESV)
- The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. (John 1:9-11 ESV)
- Christ does triumphantly enter to conquer, but not to conquer the Romans.
- The Triumphal Entry clearly showed that Jesus was Messiah according to Zechariah 9:9.
- The Triumphal Entry set in motion the events that would lead to his crucifixion.
- The Triumphal Entry threatens Rome, but Christ’s act in the following passage will be a threat to the Jewish priests and other religious leaders.
- Christ did not come to overthrow the Romans and reign in Jerusalem, but to die on a cross for the very people who sent him there: sinners like you and me. He went willingly, but it was yours and my sins which drove him to the cross. He went lovingly to suffer and to die for those who will come to believe. In his crucifixion, the King of Israel will conquer by accomplishing the salvation of his people.
- The King came once riding on the foal of a donkey; he went unrecognized by some, met with indifference by others and still others met him with hostility. He was openly rejected and nailed to a cross.
- But the King will come again riding on the clouds with power and glory (Matthew 24:30). The time of his return remains hidden but he will come to judge as the Ruler of the earth.
- At this time, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (see Philippians 2:9-11).
- Those who already believe, trust and love Jesus will rejoice at his coming and will kneel again.
- Those who refuse to humbly submit to the Lord in response to his first coming will be humbled and bowed against their wills when he returns to judge.
Everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ will bow his knee willingly, lovingly, obediently and instantly. Repent, believe in him—today—now!—while it’s still called today (see Hebrews 3:13), so that when he comes in glory he will know you as his own and you will rejoice at his coming and not be fearful.
Over the next several weeks, I’m going to attempt to interact with Dr. C. Peter Wagner’s defense of what he has called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). The statement is simply titled, “The New Apostolic Reformation: An Update by C. Peter Wagner, Ph. D.” Wagner taught Church Growth for thirty years at Fuller Theological Seminary (which is no bastion of theological orthodoxy). According to his statement, NAR is simply a label given to trends in rapidly growing sectors of global Christianity. Wagner writes:
The NAR is not an organization. No one can join or carry a card. It has no leader. I have been called the “founder,” but this is not the case. One reason I might be seen as an “intellectual godfather” is that I might have been the first to observe the movement, give a name to it, and describe its characteristics as I saw them. When this began to come together through my research in 1993, I was Professor of Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary, where I taught for 30 years. The roots of the NAR go back to the beginning of the African Independent Church Movement in 1900, the Chinese House Church Movement beginning in 1976, the U.S. Independent Charismatic Movement beginning in the 1970s and the Latin American Grassroots Church Movement beginning around the same time. I was neither the founder nor a member of any of these movements. I was simply a professor who observed that they were the fastest growing churches in their respective regions and that they had a number of common characteristics.
The distinctives to which Wagner refers are listed in his statement as “Apostolic Governance,” “The Office of Prophet,” “Dominionism,” “Extra-biblical revelation,” and “Supernatural Signs and Wonders.” These are the elements which are most commonly criticized by theological critics such as myself. The political activism of the movement in America is what is being focused on in media reports, and political water-cooler discussions.
The political Left in the United States is expressing tremendous alarm about the fact that some who have associations with this movement of radical charismatic churches are lending political support to leading conservative Republican candidates. In 2008, they criticized the fact that Sarah Palin had been formally “prayed over” by such figures. When Wisconsin Congresswoman, Michelle Bachmann, began running for the Republican Presidential nomination this year, political opponents began connecting dots between her and the NAR, but it was not until Texas Governor, Rick Perry, entered the same contest that the media hype about certain NAR-aligned figures who joined Perry in organizing a non-denominational, and arguably non-political, prayer rally days prior reached a fever pitch.
In light of this fact, Dr. Wagner stated a position on the concept of theocracy, as it relates to the political activity of NAR personalities:
The usual meaning of theocracy is that a nation is run by authorized representatives of the church or its foundational religious equivalent. Everyone I known in NAR would absolutely reject this idea, thinking back toConstantine’s failed experiment or some of the oppressive Islamic governments today. The way to achieve dominion is not to become “America’s Taliban,” but rather to have kingdom-minded people in every one of the Seven Mountains: Religion, Family, Education, Government, Media, Arts & Entertainment, and Business so that they can use their influence to create an environment in which the blessings and prosperity of the Kingdom of God can permeate all areas of society.
I agree at least to this extent with Wagner. The broad coalition of politically active American evangelicals known popularly as the Religious Right, far from setting their sights on theocracy, grant to the U. S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as they stand written today, for better or worse, a kind of inspiration that arguably rivals that of the Holy Scriptures themselves. In light of the imminently important Establishment and Free Expression Clauses of the First Amendment, it is grossly inaccurate to accuse even NAR figures as theocrats, much less Governor Perry.
One of the concerns of NAR’s political critics is that should America collapse, the danger is that radical fringe elements could take over the Federal Government. In my view, it is more likely that radical Muslim groups would try that to a greater extent than any radical elements associated with Christianity.
John Hendryx at Monergism.com has addressed the issues of theocracy and the proper goals of Christian influence on the government in an article entitled, “Do Christians Want a Theocratic or Secularist State? Or Neither?” This is a well-written article which emphasizes Christians’ recognition of the need for checks and balances and the separation of powers.
Too much power in the hands of anyone, including certain denominations of Christians, is dangerous because man is corruptible. That is why limited government and a balance of power is a reasonable idea, because it understands the sinful limitations of human beings, whether they be secularist, Christian, Muslim or Buddhist.
Even though Christians know the only truth, they also know themselves too well as sinners to be without the restraint of law or a balance of power.
Finally, Hendryx included a note on the issue of theocracy which he points out highlights the importance and impact of biblical eschatology. For it is specifically the Postmillennial factions on both sides of the political aisle (Liberation theology on the Left, Theonomy on the Right) which would promote something that would more accurately be characterized as theocracy. To the extent that NAR draws from the wells of R. J. Rushdoony’s theonomy, criticism is fair. But as Wagner notes, “NAR has no official statements of theology or ecclesiology.” This means not all Christian political activists aligned with the New Apostolic Reformation necessarily have the same eschatological view.
In support of Hendryx’s claim about the “theocratic” Postmillenial views of Liberation theology, consider the controversy in the last presidential election cycle during which then candidate Barack Obama was criticized for his twenty-year membership in Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, pastored by Black Liberation Theologian, Dr. Jeremiah Wright. According to Stanley Kurtz, writing in Radical-In-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism (© 2010, Threshold Editions):
Wright openly denies the distinction between religion and politics, disdaining preachers who refuse to connect Jesus to liberationist militancy. Obama has indeed taken political instruction from Wright, and Wright’s history strongly suggests that this was a common occurrence. Obama’s greatest hope, in fact, was to build a political movement around Wright and preachers like him (p. 327).
I don’t personally believe that the New Apostolic Reformation will be nearly as successful at influencing (read: “taking dominion over”) the so-called “SevenMountains” for Christ as they would desire, nor as much as the political Left fears. I predict they will simply counteract the Light provided by the more traditional, and less cultic, strains of orthodox Christianity before the watching world.
So it has been ten days since Harold Camping’s prediction failed to come to pass as “guaranteed” by himself, rather than the Bible (as he falsely claimed). In the wake of this failure, many people around the world are left in various states of loss. For some, it is a loss of pets who were euthanized in preparation of last Saturday; for others, the loss of money; and for many more, the loss of pride in their teacher’s genius and their own “inside scoop” about the end of the world.
There are various ways people respond to anti-climactic events such as this one: some may (please grant it, Lord!) repent of their blasphemous repudiation that the institutional church is under Satan’s control (Matthew 12:31) and resubmit themselves to the ministry of the Word of the gospel preached and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper along with the oversight of biblically faithful elders who are watching out for the souls of those entrusted to their care (Hebrews 13:17). This is the ideal result, but may sadly be the minority report barring the grace and mercy of God, and the loving care of the Christians around them who come along side them to help in this matter. If you are a believer who reads Scripture and confesses the essential truths of the faith along with the rest of the universal church as expressed in the ancient catholic creeds and the historic Protestant confessions, please stand by ready to pray for and with these imperiled souls, graciously ready to assist those around you who were victimized by Camping’s false teachings.
It has been reported, regrettably, that for others, deliverance didn’t come, but their own deaths, whether at their own hands, or the hands of others (don’t neglect to read these two previous links!). Responsibility for tragic unintended consequences such as these have been denied by Harold Camping, who minimizes his role (listen to his callous responses from last week’s press conference).
Whatever the circumstances in the lives of Camping’s followers, it would behoove all of the surviving ones to take a half an hour and give a thoughtful listen to Redeemer Broadcasting’s recent episode of A Plain Answer, entitled, “One Week After Harold Camping’s May 21 Date.” Those of you who ought to be watching for opportunities to minister to Camping’s bewildered followers will also be equipped by it. If nothing else, encourage them to stop listening to Family Radio altogether and seek the greener pastures of Redeemer Broadcasting. This page will explain why.
Don’t miss Dr. Michael Horton’s great blog post responding to many Evangelicals’ negative reaction to President Obama’s recent comments about the borders of Israel. Many Evangelicals react negatively because, due to a largely Dispensationalist method of interpreting Scripture, they see the modern state of Israel in identical terms as the Bible views ancient Israel back when they were actually in covenant with God. Dr. Horton presents a more biblical approach to what happened with ancient Israel and the Mosaic covenant, and applies it to how we ought to view modern Jews in modern Israel in light of the cross of Christ. Read, “Biblical Foreign Policy?“
By the way, I dug Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before both houses of Congress yesterday!
“The online apologetics and discernment work Apprising Ministries” has posted a good survey of Monday’s press conference on Harold Camping’s hopefully final episode of Open Forum. Short of apologizing and repenting of his errors, it seems Camping may at least spare us of five more months of hand wringing about the supposed judgment to come on October 21, 2011.
I haven’t listened to the entire program personally, but what little I have heard leads me to conclude that Camping’s bottom line is that he wasn’t wrong about something happening on May 21, 2011, but that he forgot to interpret it spiritually. You can download the Open Forum press conference here, however, and listen for yourself.
A “spiritual” rapture and five “spiritual” months of “spiritual” rolling earthquakes?
Camping also continues to insist that God is still to destroy the world by fire in five months. So, perhaps he’s made a note to himself to more quickly announce that if the world isn’t destroyed by fire in October, then he has a handy out that God…”spiritually” destroyed the earth by fire? Uh huh.
Apprising Ministries’ Ken Silva fills in a few more blanks:
It seems, rather than humbly admitting his error, Camping now speculates he “misinterpreted the Bible” and rather than May 21st beginning “the end of the world” supposedly we’re to believe that it was actually “the spiritual beginning of the physical end” not too unlike the eschatology of the non-Christian cult of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Camping is quoted as dreaming:
“Were not changing a date at all; we’re just learning that we have to be a little more spiritual about this,” he said in a rambling 90-minute radio broadcast that was part sermon, part press conference. “But on Oct. 21, the world will be destroyed. It won’t be five months of destruction. It will come at once.” (Online source)
Sort of reminds one of the Pathological Liar, an old SNL character of Jon Lovitz, “this isn’t changing a date…um, I’ve had a new revelation from God—yeah, that’s the ticket—er, an invisible thing happened, see. So, you can’t say I’m wrong; trust me, yeah, it happened. Really, it did.” Cabanatuan continues:
The good news, for those dreading five more months of talk about the rapture, is that Family Radio will be taking down its billboards, ceasing distribution of Bible tracts and literature about Judgment Day and focusing its programming on religious music and God’s word, not on a countdown to the end.
“We don’t need to talk about it anymore,” Camping said. “The world has been warned – my it has been warned. We have done our share and the media picked it up. The world has been warned that it is under judgment.” (Online source)
Yes, it has; in Scripture, and now we’re in the position of having to warn the world about false prophets like Harold Camping, whom the Lord did not send, that are in reality prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds (Jeremiah 14:14) and are not repentant for the damage they cause . . . . (read more)
(05-22) 19:18 PDT ALAMEDA — The man who said the world was going to end appeared at his front door in Alameda a day later, very much alive but not so well.”It has been a really tough weekend,” said Harold Camping, the 89-year-old fundamentalist radio preacher who convinced hundreds of his followers that the rapture would occur on Saturday at6 p.m.
Massive earthquakes would strike, he said. Believers would ascend to heaven and the rest would be left to wander a godforsaken planet until Oct. 21, when Camping promised a fiery end to the world.But today, almost 18 hours after he thought he’d be in Heaven, there was Camping, “flabbergasted” inAlameda, wearing tan slacks, a tucked-in polo shirt and a light jacket.
Birds chirped. A gentle breeze blew. Across the street, neighbors focused on their yard work and the latest neighborhood gossip.
“I’m looking for answers,” Camping said, adding that meant frequent prayer and consultations with friends. “But now I have nothing else to say,” he said, closing the door to his home. “I’ll be back to work Monday and will say more then.”
Camping’s followers will surely be listening. Read more
This is the day proclaimed by false teacher Harold Camping as the beginning of Judgment Day. According to him, May 21, 2011 begins a five month period in which earthquakes will destroy those of us who do not believe his false gospel of God’s wrath. But God will rapture those, and only those, believers in him who have believe that Satan is in control of all the churches (and has been since 1988), have left them and have embraced the message, not of Christ’s sinless life, propitiatory death and glorious resurrection for sinners, but of the coming of Judgment Day on this day, May 21, 2011. Camping and his followers see themselves, not as the apostles bearing witness to the death and resurrection of Christ and proclaiming the forgiveness of sins through repentance and faith in his name, but as the Old Testament prophets, principally like Jonah, who are sent with a message of impending judgment, calling on all to “cry mightily unto God for mercy.”
This is nothing but a simple case of losing focus on the centrality of the cross of Christ in Christian proclamation. The apostle Paul writes that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Elsewhere, he writes, “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame” (Romans 10:8-11). What is the principal work of Christ in focus in this call to faith? His resurrection on the third day after his death for sinners. Verse seventeen of this very passage points out that it this word of Christ, his death and resurrection for sinners, through which faith comes, and no other. If we lose focus on the cross of Christ, even in favor of his other works, like his promised return in glory, we will not be preaching the message through which the Holy Spirit will impart faith, and those to whom we preach will not be saved. This is just one of Harold Camping’s numerous errors, not to mention heresies, in his so-called “radio ministry.”
For this reason, I want to survey the Acts of the Apostles and see how that they who were called to lay the foundation of the church (see Eph. 2:20) bore witness to Christ throughout the world in order to be reminded of the centrality of the cross in our testimony before the lost world.
In the first book [The Gospel According to Luke], O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart fromJerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:1-11; emphasis mine)
With this introduction of Christ’s call to bear witness to him throughout the world to an ever-widening extent, our focus in this survey will be upon a selected few of the ten major speeches recorded in the Acts. Three are preached by Peter, one by Stephen, and six by Paul, of whose consist of one from each of his missionary journeys (the first addressing Jews, the second Gentiles, the third Christians, followed by three defense speeches before authorities).
Peter’s Witness (Acts 2:14-36)
In Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost after Christ’s Ascension, he first explains how that the disciples’ speaking in tongues is a fulfillment of Joel’s apocalyptic prophecy (Joel 2:28-32) emphasizing not the coming of Judgment Day, but salvation through faith (Acts 2:14-21). In verse 22, he transitions from the miraculous to the subject of his sermon by the fact that Jesus’ miracles attested to his divine sanction, and immediately proclaims the death of Christ as being the predetermined plan of God (v. 23), and proclaims his resurrection, explicitly stating that it is this to which they bear witness: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses” (Acts 2:32).
Stephen’s Witness (Acts 7:1-53)
After preaching Christ as the promised prophet who is like Moses in that he would mediate a better covenant than that which Moses mediated (Acts 7:37; cf. 2 Cor. 3), although explicit reference is not made to Christ’s death and resurrection, it is at least assumed (his audience were Jews who were well aware of the death of Jesus), and his resurrection and ascension are implied by his declaring his vision of the exalted Christ, sitting on the right hand of God the Father (Acts 7:56). Then Luke, the human author of Acts, portrays Stephen’s death as an allusion to the propitiatory nature of Christ’s crucifixion (that it renders God favorable toward sinners) as the martyr prays that his executioners’ sins would be forgiven, just as Christ also prayed (see Luke 23:34), and his very death is thus a testimony to the cross of Christ itself (cf. Col. 1:24). The word “martyr” in fact means “witness,” and such witness Stephen indeed bears to his death. Saul of Tarsus held the coats of those who stoned Stephen, but he would not come to faith until he himself would come face to face with the risen Christ.
Paul’s Witness (Acts 17:22-31)
Contrary to Harold Camping’s emphasis that the cross and resurrection need not be preached, but exclusively the coming judgment, Paul preaches God’s judgment as signified and assured to come due to Christ’s resurrection from death (v. 31). The response of the Athenians to Paul’s preaching of the resurrection shows its central character in his sermon (v.32) and we see that as a result of such preaching, faith was granted to Dionysius the Areopagite and Damaris (v.34).
If I’ve learned one thing in my past teaching ministry, it is that the easiest thing in the world to do is to forget to tie that which you teach or apply to the cross and resurrection of Christ. We must redouble our efforts to make sure the gospel is kept central in all of our preaching and teaching because it, and only it is the message by which God promises to save those who believe (1 Peter 1:25; James 1:21). If we learn anything from the tragedy playing out before our eyes this weekend, let it be the importance of the cross of Christ. Pray for your friends and loved ones who may have been deceived by Camping’s false gospel of Judgment Day that they might lose faith in Camping, but that their faith in Christ crucified and risen for them may not fail.
From the Rapture Fail website:
RaptureFail has been set up to allow people around the world to catalogue the failure of Harold Camping’s Rapture prophecy for the 21st of May 2011.
As Christians who take the Bible seriously we believe that “prophecies” like these demean the church’s witness in the world. The purpose of this site is to demonstrate very clearly (and to mock gently) that this is a false prophecy and that Harold Camping is a false prophet.
As 6pm on the 21st of May passes around the world, RaptureFail will show that the Rapture is not occurring by utilising the power of the internet and global user input. Everybody who participates in this project will be part of the undermining of this embarrassment to the Body of Christ.
Several weeks ago, Dr. W. Robert Godfrey posted a 5-part series of blogs on Harold Camping from the perspective of one who knew this apocalyptic radio personality. When Godfrey was a child, he was a member of the same Christian Reformed congregation as Harold Camping—we’re talking, back in the ‘50’s! With this personal connection, Dr. Godfrey was able to introduce us to Camping and his teachings, not from a malicious and mocking point of view, but as one who grieves and prays for Harold Camping and his followers. I highly recommend his series, the links to which are given at the end of this post.
In part one, we learn how Camping reads the Bible.
Camping was a bright and studious man who had been educated as an engineer. In the 1950s he owned a very successful construction company which built churches as well as other significant buildings. This educational background is critical to understanding Camping. His education was not in the liberal arts or theology. He had not been prepared to read literature or ancient texts. He knew no Greek or Hebrew. He was not formally introduced to the study of theology. His reading of the Bible, as it evolved over the decades, reflected his training in engineering. He reads the Bible like a mathematical or scientific textbook.
Yesterday, I downloaded the archived episodes of Harold Camping’s radio show “Open Forum” beginning with last Saturday’s episode, and I’ll continue downloading and listening through the time after his predicted date of the beginning of Judgment Day.On the May 15 episode of Open Forum, one caller points to Camping’s mathematical calculations as evidence that he’s not basing his prediction on what the Bible says but that he is instead “leaning on his own understanding.” The caller is correct, in that, just as Dr. Godfrey informs us, Camping’s presupposition about the Bible is that it is a precise mathematical text (Camping’s “own understanding”), when in fact, it is not. Sound interpretation of the literary genres of Scripture often involves the use of round numbers. But this is a fact which Camping denies. At minute 14:38 in the May 15 episode, we hear the following:
Caller: But you’ve had to apply these calculations…and-and-and with the calendars and adding. Nowhere does it say to do that, and that’s leaning to your own understanding. You would have to be perfect in your interpretation and unfallible (sic).
Camping: Well, first of all-first of all, when we developed the time in the Bible, we’re not looking at the calendars that have been developed by the various nations because sometimes they have dropped out some days or whatever. We work through the information that is all from God, namely, going from one year to the next, we go from 365.2422 days. We’re not looking at calendars, but when we come to talking about when in the Old Testament or whatever, we have to relate it to some kind of calendar, and so always—and archaeologists do the same thing—they coordinate it with our modern calendar, otherwise you’re neither coming or going, you don’t know where you are. You don’t pay any attention to all the different calendars that have been developed throughout time, only pay attention to the actuality. The astronomers have measured this again and again. It’s the way God has created the world, that there are 365.2422 days in a year. So if we multiply the number of years from one point to another, times that number, we can know exactly the number of days, and so on. So it’s all done with exquisite accuracy. And the Bible is a very, very analytical book. It is not—and when you’re working with the timeline in the bible and any evidence in the Bible, it has to be looked at very analytically, just like an engineering book, and that’s why we can come to such solid truths as what we’re talking about. But if we look at the Bible like the philosophers do [certainly by this he means seminary trained Bible scholars], they are not very careful in what they are using for their measurements. They can give an idea based on, “It could well be this…” and then they go ahead and they introduce some other information on that kind of a statement. “It could well be this.” No way! You can’t do that. It has to be, “It will be this because of what we read in the Bible,” and we go to our facts all the time. The Bible is dripping with facts, not with guesses. But thank you for calling and sharing and shall we take our next call, please? Welcome to Open Forum . . . (emphasis mine)
So, we see that according to Harold Camping, theological and hermeneutical expertise is “leaning on one’s own understanding,” but appealing to the laws of mathematics, astronomy and the practice of archaeologists, or looking at the Bible like an engineering book, will not make you misinterpret the Bible. This is the typical attitude of the rationalistic Biblicist.
Those who’d like to read an introduction to the proper approach to Scripture can learn a lot by reading The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy which may be accessed from my “Creeds, Etc.” page.
…in writing hokey, mediocre music as an amateur, presuming it’ll edify others as much as it does me (see here for an example). Why am I not alone? Someone has done so by rewriting O Come, O Come Emmanuel in the light of Harold Camping’s soon-to-be-proven miscalculation of Judgment Day. You can listen to it here. (HT: James Swan)