There has been so much hype lately around Harold Camping and his prediction that the rapture would occur on May 21. Well, May 21 has come and gone and we are all still here. Either the rapture was far smaller than even Camping predicted and the tribulation rings far more of normal every day life than of all out craziness OR it didn’t happen. Now, for anyone who knows me I’m not one who spends a lot of time dwelling on the end of the world or eschatology, in fact I find that it is by far the theological practice that can do the most danger when in reality we are called to make Disciples today so they can follow Jesus today. The present is what I’m concerned about, I’ll let God deal with the end. BUT there were a few things that I learned from Harold Camping and his followers that I wanted to share.
1. Eisegesis leads to neglecting the obvious parts of Scripture.
Most Christians that I know disregarded Camping and his predictions because of what Scripture blatantly says, no one knows when Jesus will return except for the Father. This seems fairly obvious but it wasn’t for Camping. Now, I don’t know his response to that passage however, what I can see in his interpretation was that he became so consumed with what he wanted Scripture to say that he disregarded what Scripture did say. Placing your own interpretation into Scripture is eisegesis and this is what Camping was doing, so much so that it blinded him to what Scripture did say. Exegesis is the practice of taking the meaning from the text rather than placing meaning into it. Exegesis leads to in depth study of original languages, historical and cultural contexts as well as basic literary criticisms. Exegesis is a healthy and necessary practice for studying the Bible, but one must be careful not to confuse the two. Harold Camping taught me to be extra aware of what I’m doing when I’m studying the Bible because otherwise I can look like an idiot. It wasn’t his intent but I’m gonna give him credit anyway.
2. People Don’t Equip Themselves to Study Scripture Enough on Their Own
In #1 I mentioned the practice of exegesis. If the followers of Camping had taken the time to learn to properly study the Bible then they would have been able to not only save themselves humiliation but also vast amounts of resources. (I read one article that mentioned a man who spent 140K on promotions.) Now, I’m not saying that everyone needs to learn to study original languages but people need to be willing to look at outside resources from theologians who have studied the historical aspects of Scripture. When doing this they also shouldn’t study only people from their theological tradition but various traditions to get a better scope on their understanding. When we learn to study Scripture we can better way out what is an accurate teaching and when someone has been misguided.
3. It Shouldn’t Take the End of the World to Motivate Us To Be Reconciled To God
The campaign to spread the word of May 21 as the end of the world was to motivate people to repent and turn to God. This type of idea just has bad news written all over it, particularly if it doesn’t happen then people will look at it as a joke and disregard any true teaching that may have been hidden below the wrong teaching. Along with this, people’s motivation to turn to God is simply out of a fear of the end and not out of a sincere embracing of the transforming love of God. Their reaction is out of survival not out of passion or conviction. If it takes us trying to predict the end of the world to motivate and scare people into turning their lives over to God then we are just crappy ambassadors for Christ and need to learn to live as Jesus called us to and to love as Jesus did so that we can actually create devoted followers of Jesus.
Overall, I had a good laugh when thinking about this prediction. It’s not a bad thing to hope for Jesus’ return but I also think that we need to remain in the present to reach people in the here and now. While my hope was that after this weekend Camping may stop trying to predict Christ’s return, I realize that isn’t the case and now the date is for October 21. Well, between now and then I hope that God uses us to reach more people for Him so that they can be a part of God’s advancing Kingdom after October 21 and after December of 2012.