Why, Harold?

Were it not for the fleeting and deceptive aura of respectability that so easily tempts our mortal frames, the onset of senility, not unheard of in men at his advanced age, could be the only possible culprit for Harold Camping's impetuous foreboding the impending end of the world.  Indeed, according to Mr. Camping, the beginning of the end will ensue in May 21, 2011. Very short notice, so I gather we don't have much time.

My best recollection of Harold Camping is that of a widely respected evangelist.  I vaguely remember listening to him in my early days as a novice in the Christian faith; his seasoned, fatherly voice enveloped by a deep, velvety timbre, bearing the marks of both serenity and strength.  Thus, I found it hard to believe that he would venture such an ultimatum.

It is not that I don't believe the world is going to end.  The very laws of nature lead us to surmise that decay is a very normal part of our earthly existence.  And the Bible does mention at various junctures, in fairly unequivocal terms, in what is sometimes referred to as the "last days," that this world will pass and that a new order will be established.  As a Christian, I am to believe these scriptural admonitions, though a few differing opinions prevail on the existential station of the faithful prior to or during that dreadful hour, depending on equally plausible eschatological views.  However, I do not intend to engage in that perennial debate here.

What I find most baffling, and not a little disconcerting, is that a man who by all indications is supposed to be well-acquainted with the scriptures would virtually ignore Jesus' unambiguous reminder to his disciples that only the Father knows when that day will arrive.  One does not even have to be a Bible scholar to glean this from the scriptures.  It is plainly stated in the gospels and requires no deep interpretative skills.  Even someone the least familiar with biblical teachings can easily find this warning using an alphabetical concordance.  Matthew 24:36: "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

Is it then of so little concern to Mr. Camping that his impetuous forecasts represent a grievous source of needless scandal for the Christian community? 

It is a given that as Christians in the world, we will be mocked as long as the opportunity presents itself.  But there is a notorious difference between being made the object of ridicule for standing up for the truth and exposing oneself to a well-deserved scolding as a result of living in direct contradiction to one's own principles.  The former is an unjust but obligatory hardship that providence sanctions and which helps to strengthen our faith in the midst of a complacent world.  The latter is the just result of one's flagrant dissonance between belief and actions, an embarrassment further aggravated when the adversary can point to the legitimacy of his contempt -- often disguised as honest skepticism -- by availing himself of his opponent's own arsenal.

The fact is that scripture refuses to be specific as to when this "veil of dreams" is finally lifted.  As far as the God of the Bible is concerned, we are not made privy to precisely when the earth will "wear out like a garment."  He has assured us only that it is on his "to do" list.  Yet the usual cadre of prematurely gleeful doomsayers continues undeterred to jot down appointments.

What else can one feel but pity for those gullible souls in alliance with these venturesome seers who pinpoint the exact date of the apocalypse, and upon whom must befall the most easily predictable financial and emotional misfortunes?  And if, by sheer happenstance, this doomsday oracle were to prove legitimate, what are we to make of the calumny against those other less fortunate souls who are not afforded sufficient time to prepare for this final visit, having justly dismissed another one of  the prophet's periodic prognostications that so seldom square with the witness of scripture?  In view of both of these undesirable predicaments, it is easy to see why God in his wisdom and mercy did not record this date on the human calendar.

My guess is that this uncertainty on the inessentials is intended to encourage us to honor the essentials that we do know without keeping one eye on the clock.  I suppose it is because the mettle of our devotion is tried best when it is unencumbered by the spirit of haste.  Such relatively minor ambiguity also affords us ample opportunity to either serve God without growing weary of doing well or experience fatigue from a perfidious faith that instead was called to make us "faithful to death, and zealous to eternity," and bridge the infinite divide between us and the only one who can deliver us form this fate.

And should the world end not a day before or after May 21, 2011, as Mr. Camping has predicted, it will be only an extraordinary coincidence -- but no less one for which we should all have been prepared.
Were it not for the fleeting and deceptive aura of respectability that so easily tempts our mortal frames, the onset of senility, not unheard of in men at his advanced age, could be the only possible culprit for Harold Camping's impetuous foreboding the impending end of the world.  Indeed, according to Mr. Camping, the beginning of the end will ensue in May 21, 2011. Very short notice, so I gather we don't have much time.

My best recollection of Harold Camping is that of a widely respected evangelist.  I vaguely remember listening to him in my early days as a novice in the Christian faith; his seasoned, fatherly voice enveloped by a deep, velvety timbre, bearing the marks of both serenity and strength.  Thus, I found it hard to believe that he would venture such an ultimatum.

It is not that I don't believe the world is going to end.  The very laws of nature lead us to surmise that decay is a very normal part of our earthly existence.  And the Bible does mention at various junctures, in fairly unequivocal terms, in what is sometimes referred to as the "last days," that this world will pass and that a new order will be established.  As a Christian, I am to believe these scriptural admonitions, though a few differing opinions prevail on the existential station of the faithful prior to or during that dreadful hour, depending on equally plausible eschatological views.  However, I do not intend to engage in that perennial debate here.

What I find most baffling, and not a little disconcerting, is that a man who by all indications is supposed to be well-acquainted with the scriptures would virtually ignore Jesus' unambiguous reminder to his disciples that only the Father knows when that day will arrive.  One does not even have to be a Bible scholar to glean this from the scriptures.  It is plainly stated in the gospels and requires no deep interpretative skills.  Even someone the least familiar with biblical teachings can easily find this warning using an alphabetical concordance.  Matthew 24:36: "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

Is it then of so little concern to Mr. Camping that his impetuous forecasts represent a grievous source of needless scandal for the Christian community? 

It is a given that as Christians in the world, we will be mocked as long as the opportunity presents itself.  But there is a notorious difference between being made the object of ridicule for standing up for the truth and exposing oneself to a well-deserved scolding as a result of living in direct contradiction to one's own principles.  The former is an unjust but obligatory hardship that providence sanctions and which helps to strengthen our faith in the midst of a complacent world.  The latter is the just result of one's flagrant dissonance between belief and actions, an embarrassment further aggravated when the adversary can point to the legitimacy of his contempt -- often disguised as honest skepticism -- by availing himself of his opponent's own arsenal.

The fact is that scripture refuses to be specific as to when this "veil of dreams" is finally lifted.  As far as the God of the Bible is concerned, we are not made privy to precisely when the earth will "wear out like a garment."  He has assured us only that it is on his "to do" list.  Yet the usual cadre of prematurely gleeful doomsayers continues undeterred to jot down appointments.

What else can one feel but pity for those gullible souls in alliance with these venturesome seers who pinpoint the exact date of the apocalypse, and upon whom must befall the most easily predictable financial and emotional misfortunes?  And if, by sheer happenstance, this doomsday oracle were to prove legitimate, what are we to make of the calumny against those other less fortunate souls who are not afforded sufficient time to prepare for this final visit, having justly dismissed another one of  the prophet's periodic prognostications that so seldom square with the witness of scripture?  In view of both of these undesirable predicaments, it is easy to see why God in his wisdom and mercy did not record this date on the human calendar.

My guess is that this uncertainty on the inessentials is intended to encourage us to honor the essentials that we do know without keeping one eye on the clock.  I suppose it is because the mettle of our devotion is tried best when it is unencumbered by the spirit of haste.  Such relatively minor ambiguity also affords us ample opportunity to either serve God without growing weary of doing well or experience fatigue from a perfidious faith that instead was called to make us "faithful to death, and zealous to eternity," and bridge the infinite divide between us and the only one who can deliver us form this fate.

And should the world end not a day before or after May 21, 2011, as Mr. Camping has predicted, it will be only an extraordinary coincidence -- but no less one for which we should all have been prepared.

RECENT VIDEOS