In yesterday’s “On the Square” column, Families and False Prophets , I wrote about the effects of . . . what’s the polite word . . . fanciful predictions of the future, such as that famously offered by the radio preacher Harold Camping. Which didn’t come true, forcing him to find some way to justify the predictions because he is not going to admit he was fundamentally wrong.
Some of you may have seen this already in some form: Judgment Day Predictor Harold Camping Speaks Out . His main explanation is that the judgment was “spiritual.” But he also, if I understand him right, finds an even cleverer explanation. According to the Huffington Post’s liveblogger:
The preacher says that Family Radio will investigate that prediction, but admits “we have been saying it was going to happen on May 21” and that “the great earthquake didn’t happen on May 21 because no one would be able to survive it for a few days or let alone five months to suffer God’s wrath.”
In other words, he finds within his own system an explanation of his mistake. Of course really bad things couldn’t happen to the earth last Saturday, because it and we had to last the next five months to the final and complete end. How could he have missed it? It all fits, after all!
How he’s going to explain himself on October 22nd is an interesting question.
But that said, his problem is the same as anyone’s who believes in a revelation that is delivered in somewhat indirect or obscure terms. You believe that you know something because you’ve been told, but sometimes facts contradict the way you thought that something works itself out in practice. The doctrine of creation and the “days” of creation and the age of the earth are famous examples for some Christians. A critic will say that Christianity avoided Camping’s particular problem by planting in its founding documents the claim by its Founder that no one knows the day or time, but even so the problem arises in other ways.
It is a real problem, or if you will challenge, not to be waved away. The Church has worked it through, of course, but the problem still arises for some. This is one reason Scripture condemns false prophets and false teachers so strongly.
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