AND I FEEL FINE
I saw the vehicle in town twice about a month ago. I think it was a shrink-wrapped bus. It was white, had no visible windows aft of the driver's compartment, and was printed on every visible side with Bible verses, admonitions to listen to Family Radio, and most prominently the warning, "May 21, 2011 - Judgment Day."
My curiosity was piqued, so I did what any twenty-first century digital citizen would do: I googled. The results of my search pointed to a radio preacher named Harold Camping, who believes that Jesus will return to rapture all true Christians out of the world on May 21 of next year. Those who are left behind will suffer a five month period of torture and tribulation. Finally, according to Camping, on October 21, 2011, the world will come to an end and the wicked will be annihilated.
Could Camping possibly be right? I am thinking that the bookmakers would give him long odds. Every other doomsday prophet who has set a date for the end has been wrong so far. It might be worth noting that this is the second time Harold Camping has predicted the end of the world. His first predicted date for Judgment Day was September 6, 1994. I am sure that I don't have to tell you it did not pan out.
Please understand. I do not mean to mock Harold Camping or any of his followers. I have no reason to doubt Mr. Camping's sincerity. I simply believe that he is wrong. It is possible to be both sincere and wrong. On May 22, 2011 we will all know one way or the other
Harold Camping puts me in mind of William Miller. If you do not know the story, Miller was a Yankee farmer who, in the early decades of the nineteenth century, studied his King James Bible, along with Bishop Ussher's Annals of the Old Testament, and came to the startling conclusion that Jesus would return to earth sometime between March 1843 and March 1844. At first Miller was hesitant to publish his findings, but eventually he found himself the leader of an interdenominational Adventist movement.
Miller was always reluctant to set a specific date for the Second Coming. Others in the Millerite movement (as it was called) were less reticent. When March of 1844 passed without incident, hasty recalculations were made and the date of Jesus' return was announced as October 22, 1844, a day that later came to be known as "the Great Disappointment." The problem was not with William Miller's calculations. The problem was with his premises. The most rigorous logic will still yield false results if it proceeds from false premises.
William Miller's story ought to serve as a caution, not only to Harold Camping, but to anyone who would put undue confidence in their particular interpretation of the Bible. It is possible to be both sincere and wrong.
The title and subtitle for this blog are borrowed from a catchy little song by REM. The photograph was taken from Rev. Chuck Currie's blog. His entry, and particularly the discussion it engendered, make an interesting read.