Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Camping Out

Maybe it's just me, but I figure it's a good rule of thumb that if you drive around in a van covered in Bible verses and apocalyptic pronouncements, you're pretty much a crackpot.

I remember first hearing Harold Camping back in 1993 when he was routinely interviewed on a local, LA talk radio show. The two guys who did the interviews thought him more of a circus freak rather than a guy with a prophetic message.

At that time, Camping was promoting his 1994? book in which he predicted that Jesus would come back in September of that year. Obviously he was wrong; so he recalculated, began to teach that Jesus was finished with the Church, made himself the "official" radio pastor for his gang of spiritual miscreants who followed him, and then predicted Jesus will return on May 21st, 2011. That's in a couple of months.

Part of me hopes he's right, but I doubt it.

All of that to say I was directed to an article providing a little bit of historical background from where Camping came from as a lowly Sunday School teacher to a world renown radio heretic,

Harold Camping and the Untold Story

The author seems to suggest that Camping's picking of May for Christ's Judgment upon the Church and the World had to do with a falling out he had with his home Church that gave him the left boot of disfellowship in May of 1988. It's an interesting read, to say the least.

One footnote,

I had a bit of a back and forth in the comments with the author, who pastors a Reformed Church in Washington state. I pointed out to him that Camping utilizes the same hermeneutics he does as a Reformed pastor when interpreting biblical prophecy.

The pastor is convinced Camping is promoting nothing more than his brand of Scofieldian Dispensationalism. I mean, certainly no Reformed Covenant Theology loving amillennialist would even think to predict Jesus's Return. Reformed folks would never make sensationalistic prediction about Jesus returning. That's a Hal Lindsey sort of thing.

The pastor's assertion is problematic, because anyone who knows anything about Camping knows he came out of a Reformed background, and is a staunch amillennialist. I can recall him renouncing Dispensationalism when he was interviewed on that LA radio show.

I pointed out to the pastor that if one were to consider Camping's hermeneutic, it is drawn from the same typological, Reformed Augustinianism that fuels the typical amillennial and postmillennial eschatology. It was certainly evident when Camping debated James White a year or more ago on the Iron Sharpens Iron program.

He claims Camping talks about the rapture, the end of the Church age, and the Great Tribulation, themes he says are only found among Dispensationalists. But just checking my Reformed systematic theologies I have, like Reymond and Berkhof for example, all of them believe in the rapture, the end of the Church age, and the Great Tribulation. They understand these concepts differently in their schemes than what is articulated by Dispensationalists.

Now. Just so I am clear. I am not saying all my Reformed brethren are on the brink everyday of becoming a nut like Camping because of their hermeneutic. I am just saying a heavy emphasis on spiritualizing texts lends itself easily to his way of thinking. And that can be found among Reformed folks just as it is among Dispensationalism.

And, let us remind our Reformed friends of a post I did a number of months ago:

What Dispensationalists Believe



Blogger P.D. Nelson said...

"I mean, certainly no Reformed Covenant Theology loving amillennialist would even think to predict Jesus's Return. Reformed folks would never make sensationalistic prediction about Jesus returning. That's a Hal Lindsey sort of thing."

Now see class this is an example of high sarcasm. One rarely finds this in the blogosphere any more. Please pay attention because there will be a test. Now on to our next class on Reformed Covenant Theology loving postmillenialism. What's that young man, theonomic, no, no just Boettner none of these other Johnny-come-lately's.

5:20 PM, March 22, 2011  
Blogger Sir Aaron said...

I'm not sure you could really argue successfully that Camping's hermeneutics come from any eschatological camp. I mean this guy has predicted the day of the Lord's return something every true believer of all eschatological views rejects.

8:54 PM, March 22, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Hey Peter,
Do you know that pastor? He's up in your neck of the woods.

Aaron writes,
I'm not sure you could really argue successfully that Camping's hermeneutics come from any eschatological camp.

You're probably right. Camping is out all by himself with his ideas, and I don't fully contribute his heresy to his Reformed eschatology.

First, I wanted to point people to an interesting article, which that article is, but then I felt a need to respond to how this pastor automatically assumes Camping has imbibe dispensational theology hence the reason he sets dates. This is not true.

And second to merely point out that the Reformed, Augustinian hermeneutic Camping uses lends itself easily to his outrageous conclusions.

5:37 AM, March 23, 2011  
Blogger P.D. Nelson said...

Sorry Fred my neck of the woods is about 365 miles east of him. Which raises the question of why are all the good reformed denominations on that side of the state? But I digress.

So I'm sorry but this is the first I've heard of the man.

7:02 AM, March 23, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

D'oh! That's what I get for not parking the van in the garage.

9:33 AM, March 24, 2011  
Blogger Highland Host said...

Camping uses Dispensational language, certainly. But so does the Roman Catholic crackpot calling himself the Third Eagle of the Apocalypse. This language is part of American religious vocabulary in a way it isn't really in the UK, where Dispensationalism has historically been associated with one denomination.

None of which is to make a value judgement, but to point out the probable reason Camping uses this vocabulary.

We are all agreed (I hope!) that the Revelation uses highly symbolic language (unless any of us are expecting to see a huge woman standing on the moon wearing the sun), so the real debate is what the symbols MEAN, not whether or not the language of the Revelation is symbolic. Thus to accuse Amillennialists of spiritualizing is to miss the point. The point is that premillennialists and amillennialists disagree as to what the symbols MEAN, not that they are symbols.

11:26 AM, March 24, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

HH and Peter may appreciate Steve Hays's beat down he gave me over at his place yesterday evening,

11:51 AM, March 24, 2011  
Blogger thomas4881 said...

Hal Lindsey has a great book against Dominionism. It is called The Road To Holocaust. I laughed when Hal called the way amillenialist handle prophecy as "priest craft". I also appreciate John Macarthurs Study Bible and how he handles prophecy in the most literal interpretation.

10:19 PM, March 24, 2011  
Blogger Highland Host said...

Again, let me say that I think the whole claim that amillennialists 'spiritualize' the Revelation is a misconception. The book is full of symbols (hence my use the the illustration of the woman standing on the moon clothed with the sun). The REAL difference is how one interprets those symbols, whether you do it arbitraily to fit some preconcieved idea you may have, or from the Bible.

Terms like 'Priestcraft' help no-one - they are a form of ad hominem sadly common among Protestants on this point - accusing the other one of following a Roman Catholic position (both sides do it, both sides shouldn't). This is after all an in-house discussion, and should be conductd respectfully. That it often is not is a cause for concern.

6:49 AM, March 26, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I would certainly agree with you HH, accusing others of engaging in "priestcraft" is not only unhelpful, it is entirely inaccurate as to what is being debated.

I would even agree with you to a point: saying amillennialists are "spiritualizing" is also unhelpful. There are, as you note, symbols within biblical prophecy.

But I would merely point out that as one who adheres to a grammatical-historical hermeneutic, that I can understand why the accusation of "spiritualizing" is given to those who employ more of a historical redemptive hermeneutic, because they do tend to see the so-called "greater" or "spiritual" fulfillment of a symbol rather than understanding the symbol as representing something real and historical.

For example, there is no reason to say "Babylon" is a spiritual code word for "Jerusalem" as Gentry and his preterist ilk tend to do. Or to say that 1,000 is just a symbol for the "church age" and so forth.

8:12 AM, March 26, 2011  

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