Camping Misses End of World
September 1994 came and went. "Apparently it was incorrect," end-times forecaster Harold Camping told CHRISTIANITY TODAY by September 28, referring to his prediction that the world would end on the previous day. "Obviously this has not happened, so that was inaccurate." Camping said he somehow misunderstood the importance of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. He claimed, however, that Christ should still come before the end of 1994, and that the longer period of time could turn out to be a "blessing," because it could help reveal who truly converted to Christ due to his predictions.
"He flatly refuses to be corrected," says B. J. Oropeza, research assistant at the Christian Research Institute (CRI). Oropeza this year wrote "99 Reasons Why No One Knows When Christ Is Going to Return" (InterVarsity Press), in which he criticizes Camping.
Oropeza challenged Camping on radio's Dick Staub Show September 21 to repent of his errors in teaching. Camping said he would admit it if he made mistakes in his calculations, but added, "I don't know what you mean by the word repent."
Two years ago Camping predicted that Christ would return in judgment between September 15 and 27, 1994. The 72-year-old Reformed Bible teacher issued his claims on his nightly Open Forum talk-radio show, which airs on the Family Radio network he founded 35 years ago. The private network owns 39 stations and 14 short-wave international transmitters.
Camping also published his claims in a book, "1994?," and its sequel, "Are You Ready?" (CT, June 20, 1994, p. 46). More than 80,000 copies of the two books are in print.
Thousands of devoted radio listeners heeded his warnings to some extent. Camping's end-times views have been considered inconsistent by some because his teachings appear to affirm premillennialism, while Camping considers himself a reformed amillennialist. The views concern the centuries-old debate on the return of Christ and his 1,000-year reign on earth. Camping's teachings spawned organized debates and spin-off books, with some churches losing many people who were sure of Camping's predictions.
On September 28, about 20 people continued to gather at Kevin Brown's home in Philadelphia for Bible study, just as they had been doing for months.
"We still feel the Lord is going to come very soon, although it doesn't look very likely it will be in September," Brown, 35, told CT. "This might be for [God's] glory. He might allow the world and church to revile us for a time. That might be a part of his plan."
In fact, on his radio show Camping has begun highlighting Jeremiah's words in Jeremiah 20: "O Lord, you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me" (NIV).
"Jeremiah had heard what God said, but he misunderstood exactly how it would work out," Camping says. Perhaps, he surmises, God "allowed" him to write his books "for his own purposes. One of the reasons is he is trying the righteous."
Such talk concerns those who have challenged Camping in recent months.
People are still mimicking the same thing Camping is saying, notes CRI's Oropeza. "They are saying, 'God is testing us right now.' That is scary, because this is just blind allegiance to Camping."
Still, it is too early to say whether the group is becoming cultic, says Robert Sungenis, who, with Assemblies of God pastor Scott Temple and David Lewis, authored Shockwave 2000! The Harold Camping 1994 Debacle.
"I wouldn't label it as a cult in the sense that there are a lot of orthodox beliefs," Sungenis said. But the movement does show "cultic tendencies" in the sense that "they gravitate to an authoritarian figure." Sungenis says an Open Forum caller recently told Camping, "Even if you are wrong about the end of the world, we're still going to follow you."