So often we look at absurd figures like Harold Camping- who last year predicted the world would come to an end on May 21st and went as far as to claim that this was a certainty based on Scripture- and either laugh or shake our heads at the rigorous, dusty fundamentalism such a person represents. These bizarre figures are soon lost in the annuls of misguided prophecy, only to some day be taken off the shelf and compiled into a montage of prophetic failures as a way of contextualizing the next boldly ignorant prophet attempting to run a serious end times prophecy PR campaign with a certain date, and more audaciously, a straight face.

But what often gets lost in the humor, scandal, outrage, inevitable failure and subsequent humiliation is the life of the failed prophet from that first morning when he wakes up and realizes that he is still here onward. Does he crawl behind a rock in shame; shrinking from the scorn of the public eye? Does he frantically run through his math, trying to find an error that will give him the correct date and salvage his reputation? Or might he even learn from his mistakes, and maybe even recognize that it’s not in the math, but rather his very method? Can he recognize that his very hermeneutic is untenable?

Such were some of the questions I had as I perused Harold Camping’s Family Radio website nearly a year after his publicized failures. Initially Camping had recalculated and explained that he had misunderstood the prophecy: May 21st was a spiritual end to the world, the physical world would not come to an end until September. How sad it was to watch a man so unable to swallow this pill of humility; to watch him set up yet another failed prophecy in the wake of an already damaged reputation. But is this the end to the Harold Camping narrative? Are we left with an old man so convinced he can figure things out that he cannot change? Such was my expectation.

But then I read “An Important Letter from Mr. Camping- March 2012” featured on the Family Radio website and was pleasantly surprised. Through the thick underbrush of fundamentalism one catches glimpses of what is a truly humbled man who is in the midst of exorcising the demons of his prophetic past. Like the recovering alcoholic, Mr. Camping is making amends. To get lost in the naivete of Camping’s hope that this entire episode may have in fact changed the world for the better by providing a sort of Bible reading renaissance is to miss the deeper significance of the letter, which is this: at some level he gets it.

The two things that caught my attention were his admission that the approach was wrong:

“Though many dates are circulating, Family Radio has no interest in even considering another date. God has humbled us through the events of May 21, to continue to even more fervently search the Scriptures (the Bible), not to find dates, but to be more faithful in our understanding.”

And the recognition that the only way he was able to justify his approach was to ignore the counsel of others and suppress the parts of the Bible which did not support his method:

“We realize that many people are hoping they will know the date of Christ’s return. In fact for a time Family Radio fell into that kind of thinking. But 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.”

We are looking here not for perfection, but for signs that the divine rays of grace glisten in even the darkest crevices of those sects of Christianity which clearly come across as fundamentalist. In Harold Camping’s letter I think we can catch glimpses of this divine light.

An Important Letter from Mr. Camping – March 2012


THE BOARD OF FAMILY RADIO WISHES TO POST THE FOLLOWING LETTER FROM MR. CAMPING. IT WAS OUR WISH, OUT OF RESPECT FOR OUR LISTENERS, TO MAIL OUT THIS LETTER BEFORE POSTING IT TO THE WEB SITE. HOWEVER, BECAUSE IT WAS LEAKED TO THE INTERNET WITHOUT OUR AUTHORIZATION, WE HAVE MADE THE DECISION TO POST IT IMMEDIATELY TO AVOID CONFUSION. THIS LETTER WILL ALSO BE MAILED OUT TO OUR LISTENERS.


“God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” Romans 3:4

Dear Family Radio Family,

In this time of confusion and turmoil, God’s Word remains the only truth in which we can trust. God has shown us again the truth that He alone is true. In Romans 3:4 God declares: “Let God be true but every man a liar.” Events within the last year have proven that no man can be fully trusted. Even the most sincere and zealous of us can be mistaken.

The May 21 campaign was an astounding event if you think about its impact upon this world. There is no question that millions, if not billions of people heard for the first time the Bible’s warning that Jesus Christ will return. Huge portions of this world that had never read or seen a Bible heard the message the Christ Jesus is coming to rapture His people and destroy this natural world.

Yes, we humbly acknowledge we were wrong about the timing; yet though we were wrong God is still using the May 21 warning in a very mighty way. In the months following May 21 the Bible has, in some ways, come out from under the shadows and is now being discussed by all kinds of people who never before paid any attention to the Bible. We learn about this, for example, by the recent National Geographic articles concerning the King James Bible and the Apostles. Reading about and even discussing about the Bible can never be a bad thing, even if the Bible’s authenticity is questioned or ridiculed. The world’s attention has been called to the Bible.

We must also openly acknowledge that we have no new evidence pointing to another date for the end of the world. Though many dates are circulating, Family Radio has no interest in even considering another date. God has humbled us through the events of May 21, to continue to even more fervently search the Scriptures (the Bible), not to find dates, but to be more faithful in our understanding.

We have learned the very painful lesson that all of creation is in God’s hands and He will end time in His time, not ours! We humbly recognize that God may not tell His people the date when Christ will return, any more than He tells anyone the date they will die physically.

We realize that many people are hoping they will know the date of Christ’s return. In fact for a time Family Radio fell into that kind of thinking. But 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.

We were even so bold as to insist that the Bible guaranteed that Christ would return on May 21 and that the true believers would be raptured. Yet this incorrect and sinful statement allowed God to get the attention of a great many people who otherwise would not have paid attention. Even as God used sinful Balaam to accomplish His purposes, so He used our sin to accomplish His purpose of making the whole world acquainted with the Bible. However, even so, that does not excuse us. We tremble before God as we humbly ask Him for forgiveness for making that sinful statement. We are so thankful that God is so loving that He will forgive even this sin.

So we must be satisfied to humbly wait upon God, and trust He will guide His people to safety. At Family Radio, we continue to look to God for guidance. If it is His good pleasure for us to continue on with our original mission, the proclamation of the Gospel, God’s Word, then we must continue to look to Him.

We consider you to be a real part of this ministry and the tremendous opportunities which God, by His unfathomable mercy and grace, continues to give to us. And, your steadfast involvement and support is so appreciated!

May God bless you,
Harold Camping and the staff of Family Radio.

Advertisements