Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Harold Camping is not a false prophet

The tale of Harold Camping is that of a man who did not take sufficient heed to Romans 12:3 and James 3:1, propped up by people who haven't gotten the point of 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and Hebrews 10:19-25; 13:7 and 17.

Or, to turn our gaze downward to the secular wisdom of Harry Callahan, "A man's got to know his limitations."

Camping clearly doesn't.

You can read some of Camping's sad tale in the posts linked here, or see some of it in this piece:

See any Gospel in any of that? I don't.

One would think that Camping's put it all on the line in this, his latest shame. One would hope that he would be completely discredited after this coming Saturday.

But people are not machines, dispassionately processing data. After all, there are still Jehovah's Witnesses after their many false prophecies; there are still Roman Catholics after the Reformation. There will still be Campingites after Saturday. For "evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived" (2 Timothy 3:13), and "the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths" (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Ironically, those who refuse to yoke themselves to the fellowship and leadership of a local church will still subject themselves to a fool who makes fools of them (Proverbs 18:1; 2 Corinthians 11:20). Would that it weren't true, but it is.

So yeah, if Camping's followers had a fortieth of the wisdom God calls them to in books like Proverbs, they would demand that Camping prove his commitment by deeding all his assets to Phil Johnson or some sane person, effective May 22.

But then again, if they had a fortieth of that wisdom, they would have nothing to do with Harold Camping in the first place.

One more note: I know what people mean when they call Camping a "false prophet." He is not a false prophet, he is a false teacher. It may seem like an academic distinction, but it is an important one. Teaching falsities concerning prophecy does not make one a false prophet. Camping is not claiming to have direct personal revelation apart from Scripture, as far as I know. That is not what he does. Camping is not claiming to produce Scripture. What Camping does is to twist Scripture (2 Peter 3:16). There is a difference.

This, of course, is not a demotion. Being a false teacher is plenty bad enough. As Peter said, "false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction" (2 Peter 2:1). It is a matter of focus: were Camping a false prophet, we would need to train our guns on the notion of direct revelation and the sufficiency of Scripture.

As it is, we're faced with a matter of raging, irresponsible, unaccountable incompetence.


John said...

Thanks for the post.

Noticed last evening James White's Sunday message on Camping drew 1,580 downloads. Another church did a 4 month series on Camping...ummm...don't know what to think on that.

Re: the distinction between "false prophet" and "false teacher" (sigh...).

Thanks...Maybe some guys link the 2 terms together to help drive home the point and help the flock understand the seriousness of heresy...maybe.

DJP said...

I am sure that what most mean when they say "false prophet" is true. I am just particularly sensitized to issues of claims to revelation and semi-revelation, mysticism and the like, and I think that makes it important that we understand and use the term "prophet" Biblically.

So if you say it's a hobby-horse of mine, I'll probably plead "guilty." I just think it's a consequential hobby-horse.

John said...

You...have a hobby horse?


Just sayin'.

CR said...

What's really amazing, at one time wasn't he biblically sound? He would preach the gospel and he was calvinistic. Then he dived into the "there is no he'll heterodoxy" and it was downhill from there!

Scot said...

I was about to come in guns a-blazin' to say, "But wait, isn't he predicting the world will end this weekend?"

I'm glad I re-read the post. Camping says, "I've read the Scriptures, my interpretation is that they say Christ returns May 21st."

A good and necessary distinction Dan. Thanks for teaching us readers to think in proper categories.

Out of curiosity, do you think that a false teacher or a false prophet does more damage to the Christian witness? In my mind, a false prophet can disguise his "revelation" in such vague terms that seemingly no one can refute it. Whereas the incompetence of someone like Camping can be clearly, effectively, and powerfully rebuked by men such as yourself and Dr. White. Not saying I'm right, but this is what I pondered after reading your post.

A hobby-horse? One of my favorite posts is the proper use of the pancake bunny (or the "meat cake" if you prefer) and the phrase "great and violent flattening of Scripture."

DJP said...

I regularly listened to Family Radio in the late 70s and early 80s, and loved it. They played classic hymns and had terrific programs and preachers. I just skipped Camping. Only story I remember about him was from one of the speakers they played, who called Billy Graham a "theological pervert and a false prophet." Ironically, Camping took him to task, asking if he wanted to lose them their FCC license.

In recent years I met an employee of Family Radio who was not a Campingite. Poor fellow, solicited my prayers. Wonder what his plans are now.

John said...

Just to clarify...just in case.

The "no hobby horse" comment was 97.56% tongue-in-cheek.

And: some so-called "hobby horses" are VERY good things and MUCH needed.

Robert said...

I think that as Christians we should have many consequential hobby horses and probably none of us have enough of them. And I think that is one of many reasons why we wind up with people like Camping...too many people aren't willing to devote themselves to important issues so as to prevent people from going astray.

As for Camping, anybody who is willing to listen to and follow somebody who goes against the teaching of Jesus, who said only the Father knows the time of the second coming, is getting what they ask for. My hope is that on May 22, some of these people will really pick up the Bible and read it for themselves. God is strong enough to save any of them (even Camping himself) from their false hopes and beliefs.

The Squirrel said...

"Christ Returns May 21, 2011 - Sorry, we are no longer accepting requests for free materials.

"Dear Friends,

"With our Lord's Return such a short time away, we are no longer offering free printed materials since there is not enough time remaining for us to effectively produce and distribute them.
(Source a Family Radio site)

I'm wondering if Family Radio has anybody scheduled for work on Monday morning...

If Camping does a live Open Forum on Monday, it will be his highest rated show ever.

For my part, I'll be at church on Sunday, preaching from Matthew 25. I might not even mention Camping at all.


DJP said...

Great question, Scooter, and I started to write about it, but stopped. They're both damaging. I think the Charismatic insistence on a leaky Canon, and the necessary corollary of the insufficiency of Scripture (despite formal denials in both case) is itself very damaging. Affirm a closed Canon and a sufficient Bible, and that door's closed.

But then there's Camping who, last I heard, rails against Charismatics.

What I hate, hate hate about Camping's doings is the same thing I hate, hate hate about heretic Arnold Murray and the same thing I hate, hate hate about the Jehovah's Witnesses. To wit:

They're all wrongly doing a right thing that few Christians do.

That is, JWs come right to your door and offer to do a Bible Study in your home, at least for starters. (The goal is to bring you to the local Kingdom Hall.) Arnold Murray just takes questions and opens his Bible to answer them, and so does Camping.

Trouble is what happens after that point.

GrammaMack said...

Thank you for addressing this, Dan. I was remembering when I got up this morning an ad I saw recently in the American Reader's Digest while visiting my son and his family that said the world will end on May 21 (the first I heard of the claim), and I checked the calendar to see when that that is and wondered what it was all about. Lo and behold, you've explained it, just when I was wondering about it!

RT said...

Apparently this nitwit predicted "with certainty" the end of the world before - I think back in 1994. When it didn't happen he came up with some lame excuse about not having read the book of Jeremiah and how that upset his calculations -- I heard that on NPR so it has to be true. Anyway it would all be a great joke except that some people have actually quit their jobs, sold everything, etc. in reliance on this maroon.

DJP said...

...a commitment which, I note, has not been matched by any similar sacrificial move on the part of the head maroon.

Robert said...


I'm not familiar with Family Radio, but the question that came to my mind is whether or not they are accepting orders for paid materials instead of free material. The other question that comes to mind is what message will they put up on May 22?

Herding Grasshoppers said...


What a nut job.

My boys have taken an interest, having seen some billboards recently. They first thought it was an attempt to stimulate the economy, but when I assured them the guy was serious... well, they're looking forward to seeing what he'll come up with on Sunday.

They predict (not prophesy) that he will claim that because of his earnest prayer he convinced the Lord to postpone His judgment, blah blah blah, and send me some more money and I'll pray for you.

The Squirrel said...


Honestly, I have no idea what they're going to say on May 22... if they say anything at all. Like I said, they might not have even scheduled anyone to work, since "Millions of people will be dying every day after May 21." (Seems everything is supposed to start at 6pm on Saturday - at 6pm in each timezone - with a massive earthquake.) Who knows?

I think there may be suicides. Many, realizing they were duped, will turn their backs on any religion at all. Others will keep right on believing whatever excuse Camping and his ilk put forth to explain why nothing happened (just like back in 1994). His followers will shrink, but not go away.

I knew some Baha'i folks back in the early 80's, when they predicted the end of the world... After the date passed, they just refused to talk about it. I don't know if they're still Baha'i or not. No explanation, no nothing. Just a refusal to talk about it.

Who can know what the end result of all this will be? Remember that both the Seventh Day Adventists and the Jehovah's Witnesses came out of the failed 1844 end of the world prediction made by William Miller.


Paula Bolyard said...

"...At the same time [The Christian Reformed Church] also recognized that the Lord had given his church pastors to open the Word of God and preserve the church in the truth (Ephesians 4:4-14). The faithful preaching of these pastors was a means of grace by which the saints were built up...."

"...[Camping] adopted a proud individualism. He did not really learn from Bible scholars. He studied the Bible in isolation from the church and the consensus of the faithful. As a result his understanding of the Bible became more and more idiosyncratic. No one could help, direct, or restrain him. He was really an autodidact, that is, someone who teaches himself. He never really submitted his ideas to be challenged and improved by others. He was truly his only teacher...."

"...Camping concluded that the organized church had become faithless and that individual Christians must leave the church and fellowship informally with other true believers...."

And thus, we see the evolution of a false teacher. Very sad and a warning to the church.

But I'm not gonna lie. I will probably take an extra peek or two at the sky on Saturday. : )

Stefan Ewing said...

At my new job, one of my colleagues (a non-believer, natch) is the house sarcast, who hasn't missed an opportunity to snark about the rapture that's supposedly going to happen on Saturday.

I'm still waiting for an opportunity to approach the subject biblically with him, but someone joked that I tease him by not showing up for work on Monday.

Anyhow, I also heard that one day a long time ago, Chuck Swindoll's staff pulled a practical joke on him. He was going to come in late to work one day, and when he got there, the lawn mower was running unattended, the church sign was half done, and no one was in the office. He'd been left behind! (Until they all came out from their hiding places, that is.)

Gilbert said...

Yep, Mr. Camping will have a LOT of explaining to do on Sunday...

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Oh, too funny about the 6pm in every time zone. My boys latched onto that bit of weirdness, and we decided it's like one of those chocolate oranges you get at Christmas. (You know, "Whack and unwrap"). Devoured, one section at a time.

Word verification: rantles(s); what we wish Harold Camping was.

JackW said...

This guy has never really been on my radar and I’m a little surprised he is on so many others. I appreciate the point made here by Dan about it not being a matter of false prophecy, but false teaching.

However, I think that he could end up being right because there are so many people thinking that he is obviously wrong, that now 21 May has almost become the time least expected.

Wouldn’t that be a hoot?

Al said...

My wife has end of year grading to do this weekend... I told her to wait until Saturday. You know, just in case.

al sends

Solameanie said...

I actually worked at Camping's Long Beach station, KFRN, from 1982 to 83 when I was in my early 20s. Like Dan, I thought they had a lot of great programming and they aired John MacArthur back then. I used to run the control board during "Open Forum" and thought Harold had a bit of a screw loose, especially when it came to eschatology and the extreme position he took on our charismatic and Pentecostal brothers. He believed they were preaching "another Gospel" and were on their way to Hell for "adding to the Word of God." He also thought unregenerate babies went to Hell, as I remember, but I'd best not stake my life on that because it was nearly 30 years ago.

I can remember when he'd get hold of a biblically trained caller who actually knew how to rightly divide Scripture, and after seeing he was outclassed, usually hung up and said, "Thank you for calling, good night! Can we take our next call, please?"

This is indeed a sad story And thanks, Dan, for the clarifying distinction on false prophets and teachers. I can see your point.

As an aside, my word verification for this post was "martr." Only the "y" was missing.

Solameanie said...

Dan, don't mean to clutter the blog with comments, but I just thought of another "prophet" distinction and wonder if it applies or makes sense.

While Harold is predicting with certainty the end on Saturday (albeit through misinterpreting the Bible and not divine revelation), I have always understood there is another role of "prophet," i.e. forthtelling God's truth from Scripture, which is the role of your everyday pastor or teacher. When he preaches expository messages from God's Word, isn't that the "prophetic voice" of the pastor/church? If I am right, you could say Camping is a false "prophet" in that sense.

HSAT, I think you are right in that it is best for the sake of clarity to call him a false teacher, as the average Joe Six Pack doesn't understand the other "prophetic" role or voice.

DJP said...

Yep; I was in Long Beach, listening to KFRN in the late 70s or so. Good times, actually.

Pastor = prophet: nope. That's a theory on a theory. There's no warrant nor need to make that jump. A pastor's a pastor, a prophet's a prophet. What makes a prophet a prophet is that God speaks directly to and through him, not mediated by the written Word. Not so, the faithful pastor.

Dave Linn said...

Who pays for this long term expression of the autonomy of self?

Tom Chantry said...


I believe that part of where that application comes from is that prophets did apply the existing written revelation to the circumstances of their day. In other words, their prophetic forthtellings often referenced the law. For that reason, there was a Puritan tradition of referring to one aspect of preaching as "prophesying."

Understand, though, that in their age, while the Quakers did believe in inner light, there was not any movement afoot presenting new, false revelation under the name of "prophecy."

Given the age in which we live, it is right to avoid such language. I expect Puritans themselves would have avoided calling preaching "prophesying" if they had encountered TBN.

Indeed, the central difference between preachers and prophets is, as Dan says, that preachers do not have direct special revelation.

Aaron said...

@solameanie: I think what you say is true. But I think that is part of the whole attempt to shoehorn the gifts such as tongues, prophesy, etc. into some modern interpretation so that we can say they still exist today.

Thus, when I tell somebody that if they keep playing in the street they'll get by a car and they do, I must have the gift of prophesy!

Charlene said...

When I first saw the title of this post I thought you were crazy. Now i understand. Good distinction.

DJP said...

Thanks, Charlene. I was hoping for at least one or two double-takes.


Unknown said...

To me, the end of the world will be, THAT DAY WHEN I DIE.

Now, the "Final Judgement Day"
simply get your bible out and read these.

Mt. 24,35-36
Mark 13, 31-33 ("No one knows..."}
Matheo 7, 15-23
Mt. 25, 31-46
The promising of Yahveh to Noah.

Gen.9, 8-11


Mark said...

Dan, several of us were chatting about this with James White. White said that in his 2009 debate with Camping that he claimed to understand the contents of Daniel 12, which no one else had ever understood. He said there was a clear element of "new revelation" in Camping's teaching.

DJP said...

I'm hearing roots of it decades ago in his debate with John Walvoord. He keeps saying that this and that passage must be "read very carefully," which is code for "...lest you think it simply means what it says."

Terry Rayburn said...

Good distinction, Dan.

I've amended my own post accordingly at


DJP said...

Thanks Terry.

Terry, honestly, giving the disheartening and puzzling daintiness and near-silence in some quarters, I'm mainly just happy to see someone calling Camping a "false" something, in plain language.

MovieMakerOnTheHill said...

I understand your point from a Biblical perspective, but, I must disagree. You see, Harold thinks he is a prophet, so from his point of view God has chosen him to bring his message to mankind. Bob Donahue, a close friend of his, has used phrases like, "God said to us, " and "God has told us." Do they mean this literally. It does not matter. They leave it to the imaginations of the listeners and can deny they meant it literally at any time they are shoved into a corner to explain themselves. This is what deceit is about, lying to self and others. Bob says Harold's a prophet. Many consider Harold to be a prophet. Harold has his own interpretation of what a prophet is. It is all about interpretation and what people think he is. Regardless of what the scriptures prove. We know the word has very specific interpretations. Yes, to Christians he is a "false teacher". But to those he scammed he was a "prophet", whether they understood what a true prophet was or not. A true prophet is correct 100% of the time, because his predictions come from an infallible God, not from fallible man. God promised swift destruction would come upon those who spread evil lies about him, so be it. Amen.

DJP said...

I'm not certain we disagree. I simply haven't seen Camping claim direct revelation to which no one else is privy. But I've heard that he says God "showed" him this interpretive key — which gets us close, but may still be a perverse form of that fuzzy evangelical notion of "illumination," which false short of direct revelation. Do you see?

To me, the key is whether Camping claims to get his perverse garbage from the text, or whether he claims knowledge given directly to him and independent of the text. Former = false teacher; latter = false prophet. (Either is bad enough, of course.)

And any of his poor dupes who call him a prophet reflect that they are victims of (wait for it) Camping's false teaching.

In sum: show me a quotation from Camping claiming direct revelation, and I'll call him a false prophet.

charles said...

The issue is moot Harold is mute.

MovieMakerOnTheHill said...

Harold is not "mute", not as long as his followers still have stolen money and are likely to lie again to raise more money.

DJP said...

Of course Charles' point is that Camping has been sidelined by an interestingly-timed stroke; but your thought was also my first thought. What is needed is repentance, retraction, restitution. That hasn't happened.

MovieMakerOnTheHill said...

It is now after October 21st and Harold has changed his tune. Now he was wrong about a lot of things except keeping the money he stole from duped followers. He hasn't said anything about that. And a widow out there is still waiting for her husband's life's savings since "1994?" There are individuals out there who have said, "See? He has apologized." No, he has not. Bring forth the fruits worthy of repentance said Jesus. Returning all the money is worthy of the fruits of repentance. Otherwise Harold Camping has not repented at all. He is still a liar and a thief. Watch out for him. The wolf is still on the prowl. The lion is out there seeking someone to devour.