The End of the World + Harold Camping + Math = One Big Problem

Editor’s Note: The following commentary is from a blog by John Stumbo, who has served at the C&MA National Office, as senior pastor of Salem Alliance Church, and currently serves as interim pastor at Alliance Church of Fox Island in Fox Island, Washington.

I have a book in my library titled 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. I never read it. But, I like to have it on my shelf. It reminds me of what idiots Christians can be.

Not that I should need any reminders.

Before I proceed, I should identify myself. In case a new reader stumbles onto this blog today, may I clearly state that I am a lifelong follower of Jesus Christ and (sometimes with embarrassment, sometimes with great joy) include myself in the Christian community. I’m writing as an insider.

By now you’ve no doubt heard the news that we’re down to our last 24 hours . . . at least according to radio host Harold Camping. At age 88, Harold continues a worldwide broadcast and has studied the Bible longer than most of us have been alive.

If history reveals anything to us, it tells us that just because one has studied a subject at length does not automatically make one accurate.

I believe Camping is wrong.

I believe he’s worse than wrong.

I believe Camping is in the same “camp” as the pastor who burned the Quran, the crazed individuals who bomb abortion clinics or kill doctors, and the venom-mouthed haters of homosexuals.

Let me introduce myself a second time. I believe the Quran misleads millions, abortions are the taking of a human life, and the act of homosexuality is a degrading sin. Yet, I’m convinced that Christians are to love Muslims, abortionists, gays and a thousand other people groups that have different perspectives than ours. I’m convinced that this love should be genuine and tangible . . . you know, like the love Jesus expressed.

The reason I lump Camping in with these others is because from burning Qurans to predicting dates, Christians once again come off looking like idiots.

The news media loves these stories. The skeptical community has more reason to scoff. Stand up comedians have an easy night on the job.

And don’t think that people haven’t heard about Camping’s prediction. One of the best ways to know what has the world’s attention is to follow Google Trends. The brains at Google make available to us what are the hottest searches each day. For most of this week, searches like “end of the world may 21”, “judgment day may 21” and “harold camping may 21” have been high on the list.

I’m no expert in Harold Camping’s theology, nor do I care to be. But, from what I understand, he came upon his date-setting by using mathematical calculations. These calculations arose from the theory that words in the Bible have numeric value. By putting together three words- atonement, completeness and heaven-multiplying them and then doing so again (squaring them)-Waa Laa-the Judgment Day is tomorrow!

Make sense to you?

Not to me either.

But that’s what billboards across the world-from Minnesota to India-are proclaiming: Judgment Day May 21 The Bible Guarantees It.

At least Harold’s Bible does.

Mine says something simpler, “No one knows about that day or hour . . . therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Jesus in Matthew 24).

None of this would matter much to me if I didn’t fear one thing. I’m concerned that because of people like Harold Camping, many serious minded people will not bother exploring who the real Jesus is.

When they wake up on May 22, I don’t think they’ll head off to find a Christian church. I think they’ll have all the more reason to write off the Christian faith as a myth or conspiracy theory.

The real Jesus-the heaven-sent Messiah come into this world to atone for our sin, conquer death and lead us to the Father-will be missed.

And that makes me sad.

Thanks, Harold.

Next time, save your math skills for a Sudoku puzzle, not the Scriptures.

John Stumbo

May 20, 2011


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