Thursday, May 26, 2011

Walvoord-Camping debate

Decades ago I heard that Harold Camping and John Walvoord, then president of Dallas Theological Seminary, had conducted an on-air debate. Only recently, I found where it could be downloaded and heard online. The debate lasts nearly six hours, and I just finished listening last night.

The debate is interesting and instructive. The moderator, a gracious man, seems stylistically to be on a radio show from the 40s (the crackling sound quality heightens this effect as he speaks); his is an oddly florid tone. But Camping and Walvoord are both straightforward and to the point.

I could do a fairly accurate job of summarizing the six hours like this: for the most part...
  • Walvoord keeps reading Scripture and saying "I think it means what it says"
  • Camping keeps working his decoder-ring hermeneutics to make Scripture not mean what it says
And that's pretty much it.

For instance, here's a big clue: Listen for Camping repeatedly cautioning that we must read a passage "very carefully," or admonishing that we must "let the Bible interpret itself" rather than being devoted to a particularly school "or consensus." Sounds good? How can you argue against either?

Yet every time, these words signals that Camping is about to explain how Scripture doesn't mean what it says. It means he is about to twist Scripture. He is about to bring together two things that have no bearing on each other, and make a bus bench in Ohio mean that a hamburger in California is really a cup of tea in England.

Figures; Camping also says that the whole Bible is in parables, and he says that it is is very difficult to understand. Perhaps his version of Hebrews 1:1 reads that God "spoke in incomprehensible code to the fathers by the prophets"?

Also interesting: a caller asks about not knowing the day or the hour, and Walvoord answers. Camping simply declines to answer, which is an exception. It looms large in light of his recent deadly error.

Now, this may sound as if I'm writing the next bit for effect, but it is literally true: around the third and start of the fourth hour, I was thinking very appreciatively about what gentlemen both Camping and Walvoord were, and I was anticipating praising both for their behavior — and then the fourth hour started. Camping became completely unhinged. He launched an absurd attack on premillennialism, listing off a dozen dire accusations, including that premillennialism distorts the Gospel, denies Christ's kingship, denies Christ's lordship, denies the Bible's authority to explain itself, and a veritable pile of verbal manure.

Camping did not just crack in recent years. He'd already jumped the shark at this point.

Walvoord remained a gentleman in his response, more so than I would have. He said something like this: "My, that is a very impressive list of accusations. The only problem is that every one of them is false." No kidding.

Ominous note.  There was a very poignant moment at about five hours and thirteen minutes. In the course of his answer, John Walvoord warned against the slippery slope that is spiritualization. He observed that many heresies and much liberalism involved the spiritualization of the Bible. And then he said this: "Once you start spiritualizing, there is no telling where you are going to stop."

He said this in front of Harold Camping who, decades later, after assuring people that the Bible guaranteed that Jesus would return to rapture His own on May 21, 2011, then said, "Oh yeah, about that — oops, sorry, it was actually a spiritual event."

A second poignant note is that in his attempt at a response, Camping actually — I kid you not — alluded to the Biblical admonition against many people becoming teachers (James 3:1f.)! You can't make this stuff up. If only Camping had heeded his own words.

Or listened to John Walvoord.


Fred Butler said...

Camping is Amillennial?!

No, no, no. He just HAS to be a Dispensationalist. Because no amillennialist would ever, ever date set. They are Reformed, which means that are rock solid and stable.
I mean, only those Dispensationalists, whose theology has been around for like 63 years or something, would date set.

Oh, but don't get me wrong. I'm not saying Dispensationalists are heretics or anything.

Craig said...

This sounds good. I will listen to it but I am not happy it is 6 hrs. long.

Anonymous said...

This looks like it will be good enough that I will have to sit through all 6 hrs of it.

DJP said...

Fred, I'd be very interested in your impressions of it after you listen to it. You too, Craig and Craig.

What I did was sit, stand, walk and drive through it. Thank God for iPhones.


The Squirrel said...

Dan, I downloaded it the other day, when you first mentioned it the other day, and I've listened to about the first hour. I've always liked Walvoord.

I hope I'll be able to listen to the rest sometime soon, but, to be honest, I'm about Camping'd out for a while, after listening to the last couple of week's Open Forum broadcasts.

Thanks for your review.


Pierre Saikaley said...

This or that school of Dispensationalism aside, Walvoord at least upholds a basically conistent standard of literal interpretation.

As I happened upon your post today, I was already reading 1 John in the MacArthur Study bible and wanted to repeat his note on 4:6

The OT and NT are the sole standards by which all teaching is to be tested. In contrast, demonically inspired teachers either reject the teaching of God's Word or add elements to it (2 Cor. 4:2;Rev. 22:18,19).

I also wanted to remind people of another author who uses gematria, numerics to find the deeper meaning of Scripture, also an amiilenialist, who claims that the underlying message of the bible is ANTI-Premillennialism: It's called THEOMATICS. Del Washburn is the promoter, but not nearly as outrageous as Camping.

My point: People can't seem to refute biblical premillennialism from a literal hermeneutic.

The Squirrel said...

Pierre Saikaley said...

"My point: People can't seem to refute biblical premillennialism from a literal hermeneutic."

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner! Excellent summation, Pierre!

When your entire eschatology is based on your reasoning out why the Bible doesn't mean what it actually says, you have a real issue. Or, as Jim McClarty likes to say, "If you and the Bible disagree, one of you is wrong. And it's you."


Anonymous said...

Listening to and reading John Walvoord played a big role in convincing me of dispensationalism's validity. I've heard in a few of his talks him making reference to his Camping debate. Now I'll finally get to hear it.

Thanks for the link, Dan. A great birthday present, for sure.

Lynda O said...

Thanks for the review, Dan -- interesting things about Camping years ago. I've heard a few people recently mention that debate, but can't justify to myself that amount of time to listen to it.

And agree completely with the overall hermeneutical issue, including the quote from McClarty.... or as another saying goes, "if you can't understand the text, the problem is with you (not the text)."

Brad Williams said...

Maybe I missed it, but what was the original debate supposed to be about? Were they debating covenant/dispensational hermeneutics or something else?

DJP said...

You listened to all six hours, and you don't know what it was about?

Brad Williams said...

No, I was trying to decide if I wanted to spend 6 hours on it, so I wanted to know the topic.

DJP said...

The focus is the millennium, though of course it does penumbrate.

Aaron said...

penumbrate? Is there such a word?

The question that ought to be asked of Camping, is that if our Lord Jesus Christ had wanted to tell us that nobody could know the hour or the date of His return, how could He have said it any clearer? Instead Camping wants us to believe that Jesus said I don't know the date and was winking the whole time.

Those poor NT churches that didn't have all of Scripture yet. They didn't have the means to compute the date yet...and if they received it via prophecy, they never bothered to share it.

P.S. @Fred. Preterists date set don't you know. AD 70.

Aaron said...

Just so you know, I didn't read today's Pyro post until after I made my comment (although I'm pretty sure I got the idea from reading DJP in the past).

GrammaMack said...

An article linked to at Pyromaniacs the other day says, "Camping commented that being a Christian plays no role in salvation. 'It has nothing to do with religion,' he said, noting Hindus and those of other faiths can be raptured. 'If God has saved them then they're going to be caught up.'"

Most of the secular articles I read referred to him as an evangelical Christian. Not even close!

Stefan Ewing said...

So...the next time someone gratuitously slams premill because of this or that kooky preacher, we can pull the Camping card out of our sleeve? Good one!

I really don't care to listen to a debate on Camping's "hermeneutics," but is it worth listening to for an introduction to classical Dallas-style eschatology?

DJP said...

Stefan, you will see that I made that one of my 25 stupid reasons for dissing dispensationalism almost five years ago.

Al said...

Now be honest... for the dispensationalists out there, when you first heard of this Camping guy did you groan and wonder if Jack Van Impe wrote a forward to his book? :-)

The heart of this matter is not his view of the millennium, nor any of those date setters gone before him. There are faithful teachers in all these camps. I would say that it is the role of the Church in the life of a teacher that gets to the core.

Anyone who has taught for awhile has had to go back and correct something he has said. Those members and leaders steeped in the Bible and hearing the error will not allow it to go unquestioned for long. To the benefit of the body and for the good of the teacher.

Mr. Camping, like many before him, when confronted with his teaching error by his pastors/elders, despised the authority placed over him and took his show on the road. Outside the Church his error is compounded and the Spirit, for whatever reason, removes any hedge keeping this guy from striking the sheep and sending them running from God.

We had a good Post-Mill men's meeting last night to talk end times stuff. One of the pastoral interns at a friend's church had email correspondence with a family radio executive.

In the exchange the intern wanted the names of folks in his area who listen to family radio so that on Sunday the 22nd he might offer them pastoral care. The responses he received were quite enlightening and very disturbing in their self assured righteousness. His last email from family radio, dated, Monday 23 May, told the pastoral intern that he was a member of Satan's congregation clearly deluded so as not able to see the truth. AFTER the teaching had been proved false.

If all your pastors are become Satan, then there is no reason to hear them. Every refutation becomes confirmation and every "undeniable proof" proved wrong simply gives you reason to buy a new, more powerful, calculator so that you can figure out which geometric function to apply to the 10 horns found on a nasty within the Revelation. The number 10 being significant and all.

al sends

DJP said...

To your question: no.

Does Jack van Impe teach a dangerous heresy of some kind? I know he's a favorite whipping-boy of spiritualizers, but not a lot more.

Al said...

I used Van Impe as a kindred spirit with camping... he has worked out complicated timelines that show how Christ's return would be within a certain year. Heck he even produced a video with a title very similar to Camping's first book. It was titled A.D 2000 - The End?

If anyone wants they can put Hal Lindsey's name in there since it was simply a little jab at humor using a generalization. We spiritualizers are good a generalizations.

al sends

Ron (aka RealityCheck) said...

Since diagnosing myself with “information-overload” I have kept a pretty low profile around here (and elsewhere) but I have to speak up here Dan and say just how much I appreciate your comments on this Camping thing.

It doesn’t take a lot of discernment to see what a whack-o the guy is but apparently it takes more discernment then some have to realize the seriousness of what is at the root of the problem. A root problem that you nail with: “decoder-ring hermeneutics to make Scripture not mean what it says”. If this was just something Camping was doing it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, although I think it’s a bigger deal than some apparently do, but let’s face it, anyone who hangs out here or at Pyro knows that there are plenty of names that could easily be exchanged with Camping’s.

Six hours is a lot of time to devote to the Walvoord-Camping debate, but I think there’s a lot to be learned from listening to it. Thanks Dan.

verification word: pridless (if only Camping was)

Anonymous said...

Somehow I got two comments in here under WordPress and BlogSpot.....oops.

Stefan Ewing said...

You know...

I can think of a few more things that the Holy Spirit has promised us through His inspired Word: things which do not appear to have transpired yet, but which are said by some to have already become "spiritual" realities, invisible to us and waiting for their full tangible fruition in the future...

How far is it safe to extend the corrective lessons from the negative example of Mr. Camping?

(Keeping Philippians 2:12 in mind here...)

Highland Host said...

Of course Camping's a-mil. Statistically it had to happen eventually. In some respects he follows William Miller. Now, I can't pretend to be an expert on Miller, but Miller's 'Great Chart' ends with "God's Everlasting Kingdom" in 1843. I'm assuming he meant 'lasts for ever' by 'Everlasting', but that would make him some sort of amillennialist too.

None of which makes amillennialism wrong, any more than R.C. Stam makes dispensationalism wrong. It makes Miller and Camping nutcases, and maybe R.C. Stam as well (and FYI, I first encountered Stam on a handout at a dispensational KJV-Only Church of Oriental origin, and not in a post by a smug a-mil person).

Highland Host said...

May I suggest, however, that if premillennialists slap themselves on the back because Camping proves how wacky those amils are with their Roman Catholic Eschatology, they have fallen into one of the silly reasons for dissing someone else's theology, namely "Because some nutcase holds that position." Nutcases hold all sorts of theological positions. This proves nothing at all. Plus, smug amils and smug pre-mils are all as bad as smug post-mils.

Unknown said...

I disagree completely with the review at top. I listened to the debate and at the final stage of the debate Camping launched into a powerful rebuttal to the pre-mill view and when Walvoord would say "I think it means what it says" he seemed lost.

It has been many years since I have studied this debate. But someone recently mentioned that there has not been two resurrections yet, but that is clearly false, there was the resurrection in 33 AD and the Biblical fact is some other of the bodies of the saints were resurrected also.

Fact is Camping is correct to point out that God made two types of promises to Abraham, inheritance to his seed, and inheritance to him and his seed; the Pre-mill position does not understand the implications of this and thus complicate their eschatology.

Outside of the debate Camping is correct that the end is at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles; we simply do not know the year. But when the Bible suggests not even the son of man knows the day and the hour, the hour is a metaphor of Judgment, Jesus had not experienced the day yet at that time (notice as knowing in the phrase "and Adam knew his wife Eve . . .") This is not twisting scriptures, because we know that God knows all; in addition there is no way he could not know the time when he stands at the gates ready to come back, and this is fulfilled when the fig tree comes into leaf, as is prophesied. Premills would probably have to argue that that prophesy had not been fulfilled yet, it was in May 14, 1948, in fact.

Camping has been correct in many areas, such as the 8400 days of spiritual plenty, 8400 days famine, and in the Genesis chronologies and in the chronologies of the Kings. Camping was mistaken on the timing of the birth of Jesus and this has thrown off some of his calculations by a factor of error. Nobody is perfect. But Camping is a man of God who has lead many to Christ.

DJP said...

Contrary to general policy regarding older posts, I published this last comment as a warning and example.

Objectively, Harold Camping is completely discredited. Yet some hang on. Even in the light of the appalling result of his flight from sane hermeneutics, he still has apologists, still putting Scripture on the rack to say what their system calls for.

If (and I say "if") anyone came to Christ despite yet under Camping's ministry, it vindicates his false doctrine just as surely as the flow of water vindicates Moses' striking the rock the second time (Num 20).

Which is to say, not.