Engage

Time Will Tell: An Open Letter to Harold Camping Regarding the Church and May 21, 2011

Mr. Camping, you have convinced many that the Bible indubitably reveals that Judgment Day begins in 3 days, on May 21, 2011.  You say that “true” believers, those who have departed from the (apostate, Spirit-bereft-and-Satan-filled-since-1988) churches, have discovered this in the last 35 years. Everyone who does not believe the veracity of this date lives in spiritual darkness, and Judgment will come upon them like a thief in the night.

You know what’s ironic? You are the thief.

You stole my loved ones from me. I cannot have a conversation, not a single discussion with them without your voice droning in the background or your website branded on their email signatures and Facebook pages. I know that there are many families across the globe who share this bereavement. There are churches with members of their local bodies lopped off because of your teaching.

I believe you suffer from a broken heart. Your teachings seem disillusioned with the sins of the world and of people in church. I understand that disillusionment. However, instead of finding solace among the faithful, you decided to manufacture a counterfeit community. When you walked away from the Church, you presumed that God had, too. I know what it’s like to be brokenhearted; to bitterly part ways with someone, to feel abandoned and alone, and hope that God is on my side only. In reality, God loves both me and the other person in the midst of our brokenness. You want to believe the church is apostate and devil-filled because you’re disenchanted. But people were hurt and disenchanted with the same proofs you see as signs of The End, whether in the first-century church, or during the Crusades, or during slavery, or during both World Wars. These “signs” you point to are evidence of a fallen world.

If God wanted to abandon His church because of her misdeeds instead of according to His faithfulness, He would have been long gone. The gates of hell won’t prevail against God’s Church, and neither will you. Christ is protective of His Bride, and He will never forsake her.

I’m not going to argue about buildings-versus-people-as-the-Church, because we both know that the Church is not built with human hands. I also know this; you cannot celebrate the Lord’s Supper or baptism – clear sacraments of God’s community to be proclaimed until Jesus returns – via radio broadcast or the internet. You cannot exercise church discipline over those you don’t see or hear or know. The gifts of the Spirit are made manifest within the believing community; you can’t exercise gifts of teaching, helps, hospitality, or exhortation, alone. How do you account for filching people of the joy and honor of exercising their gifts to God’s glory within His community in order to sit idly by a radio?

Your theology victimizes people who may have been burned in their local believing communities. You provide no healing or reconciliation, but instead capitalize from isolating hurting people by attempting to make individualism holy. It’s not. If God valued individualism, he would have kept Adam alone in the garden. He wouldn’t reveal Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. What you’re putting forth is not Christian.

According to your gnostic interpretation of the Bible, God purposely sets snares in His Word expressly to trap people. As Jesus spoke in parables so that people couldn’t understand them, so you assert that we today are regularly fooled because we fail God’s “tests.” There is secret knowledge for those who pass, and annihilation for those who fail. (You are confident that you have passed these tests. I wonder who’s grading?)

God has explained Himself through the Person of Jesus Christ. The Father sent the Son so that we would be reconciled, not confounded. Jesus clarified the meaning of His parables to the disciples (and to us by extension) because they didn’t get the parables initially. Does that mean that they were not His “true” disciples? Of course not! Our understanding of the Bible is a gift of the Holy Spirit. You cheapen the Spirit’s ministry with your assertions of purposeful divine trickery.

You taught for decades that there is a hell. Now you say it doesn’t exist and condemn as false teachers those who proclaim otherwise. Yet the Bible has not changed.

You taught for years the simple and true gospel of John 3:16. Now, you say that people can only cry out to God for mercy that they might possibly be saved, because trust in Jesus holds no assurance for salvation. You (re)define “belief” and “love” and “trust” as “works of the law,” condemning the people who say they believe in Jesus as lost and arrogant. Your own followers cannot explain the gospel; they can only advertise your website and your teaching, even as they urge listeners to search the Scriptures for themselves. How could belief in a date be the definitive sign of salvation rather than belief in Jesus? How is that faithful to the Bible?

Mind you, the Bible has not changed. Not in 88, not in 1988, and not in 2011.

You wrote that Judgment may be in September 1994. Now you say that it is definitely May 21, 2011.

Your credibility is questionable because while the Bible has not changed, you have. A lot.

Fortunately, there are two truths buried in your teaching; Jesus will return and we should read the Bible with zeal and focus. Thank you for this reminder, though it comes at great cost. You are an example of why we need the believing community as we study the Word, to keep us from wandering out of orthodoxy.

May God have mercy on your soul for the lives you have damaged. May God have mercy on those who followed you and wasted away many years and resources because they earnestly desire to do God’s will and think this is the way. When May 22nd comes, God-willing, you will still be here. I hope that then you and my loved ones will be free of the fallacy of a date-based, counterfeit gospel, and open to rejoining the believing community which you stole away from. I pray that you will have the humility and courage to repent and admit that your predictions were false, instead of blaming bad math, or worse, saying that you were right, but God must have relented like He did with the people of Nineveh…because of Family Radio and its followers. Don’t smear God’s name with your sinful arrogance. And please don’t set another date. Repent and receive God’s forgiveness, mercy and grace.

May the Holy Spirit take a hold of you, so that you live out and understand the Gospel, and turn away from committing the adultery of worshiping dates and times over the King of Kings. May God redeem the time that you have stolen.

For a free iTunesU class on the end times (also called Eschatology) offered by Dallas Theological Seminary, click here.

For a brief description of Harold Camping’s conclusions on salvation, churches and the Judgment, click here.

Sharifa Stevens

Sharifa Stevens is a Manhattan-born, Bronx-raised child of the King, born to Jamaican immigrants, and currently living in Dallas. Sharifa's been singing since she was born. Her passion is to serve God's kingdom by leading His people in worship through music, speaking and writing, and relationships with people. Her heart is also unity, inspired by John. Sharifa hates exercise but likes Chipotle, bagels with a schmeer and lox, salmon sushi, chicken tikka, curried goat (yeah, it's good) with rice and peas, and chocolate lava cakes. She's been happily married to Jonathan since 2006...and he buys her Chipotle.

18 Comments

  • Avatar

    Shmuel Levy

    You might also add the words

    You might also add the words from Deuteronomy 18:20-22 about prophets who declare that the Lord will do such and such, and he doesn't do anything of the sort. So since they have misled the people, they die for that crime.

    • Avatar

      Sharifa Stevens

      Grace and Mercy

      Shmuel,

      I have read and thought about that Deuteronomy passage in the context of this post. At the end of the day, Harold Camping is an example of the abundant grace and mercy of God – just as I am. In the time that Deuteronomy was written, the canon of God's word was not closed, Jesus had not come. There were drastic results for false prophecy, because God is holy, and seeks to keep His name and words sacred for His glory, and also in order to protect His people from falsehood.

      Now, the Holy Spirit is here to protect, and the canon is complete – so the believing community can pray for guidance and look to the Scripture for confirmation when someone says "thus saith the Lord."

      The Deuteronomy 18 passage demonstrates how serious the Lord is about people using His name to promote their agenda, and also how abundant His lovingkindness is because Harold Camping lives still. And where there's life, there's hope for repentance.

  • Avatar

    Sue Bohlin

    Preach it, sister!

    Sharifa, your long-time familiarity with the heartbreak of this unbiblical teacher has given you the ability to assess and analyze what's going on here in a way few others can. It's not just unbiblical–it's personal for you. I am so sorry. And I am so grateful for what you have written, and I'm going to post a link in a couple of different places so others can be blessed as well!

    Love you!

    • Avatar

      Sharifa Stevens

      Sue – I’m honored to receive

      Sue – I'm honored to receive encouragement from an apologist! And I can't wait for this chapter to be closed.. It has been difficult for both me and my loved ones (they are just as concerned for me as I am for them).

  • Avatar

    Jackie Stephens

    Sharifa Stevens response to Harold Camping

    Well said Sharifa.  Thank you for the courage & grace you have shown in your correspondence to Mr. Camping.  And thank you for the years of Truth you have spoken to those around you.  I want to be like you when I grow up.  Blessings

  • Avatar

    Julie C.

    No Doubt

    Sharifa,

    Thank you for such a clear rebuttal to Camping's false teachings. I felt such urgency for your loved ones, such grief, and yet such worship of Christ. Your passion for the One whose Passion saved us left no doubt in my mind that you are "signed, sealed, and delivered." 🙂

    Praying with you through to Sunday.

    Love you. Julie

    • Avatar

      Sharifa Stevens

      “passion for the One whose Passion saved us”

      Yeah – that phrase might be my favorite. That and an allusion to Stevie Wonder and salvation is just one small reason why you are one of my writing inspirations.

      Thank you for walking down this road with me. Love you.

  • Avatar

    AbrahamJoseph

    Praying for you . . .

    Sharifa,

    I know that this issue is of grave personal importance to you. We are praying for God's grace and wisdom to all those who have been misled by this man and that he would be humbled to repentance.

    Abraham

  • Avatar

    Glenn Harris

    I appreciate the

    I appreciate the forthrightness and the genuine love in which you addressed Mr. Camping. May God grant him the grace to repent, and the wisdom to never again do something so wicked and destructive.

  • Avatar

    2Tim17Life

    AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN!!!

    I couldn't have said this any better. When I hear about preachers such as Camping, I am reminded of the book of Jude where we are warned about people like him. He's feeding on people that want to be led and are ignorant to the word of God. He's preying on them like a wild beast… Thank you for your post and for your words.

    • Avatar

      Sharifa Stevens

      Thanks for your comment,

      Thanks for your comment, 2Tim! I agree; Camping is preying on people.

      I think that there are all sorts of people following Camping's teaching – and they're all reading the Bible. But when only ONE person is in control of how the Bible is interpreted, and only ONE person can define salvation in a way that deviates from the Gospel…well, that's trouble.  I don't hear much about Jesus in Camping's teaching, and that's a red flag.

      Jesus must increase. We must decrease.

      Cults of personality are just that…cults.

  • Avatar

    Wilmar M

    Hmmmm…..

    Honestly, who is Harold Camping and why is this the first time I have ever read his name? Although I believe I saw his billboards over the last week or two.

    Is this going to be another "Rob Bell" situation where I knew nothing about the person's existence only to get interested in what that person had to say because there was so much being said against him? Nah, his billboards have been far too ridiculous to even notice his name before, so why care now… Which is not what I'd say about that engaging Rob Bell videoclip, but then again, I know no theology nor understand theology, but your post does bring back my BIG question though… why in our G-d's name does He allows His name to be used so freely and irresponsibly by those who may (and will) lead others to wander away from Truth?  I don't care about Mr. Camping, but I'm puzzled about the fate of those, dare I say, well-meaning innocents who have fallen prey to his false teachings.

Leave a Reply