Noah Knew? Why Harold Camping is Wrong about May 21

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Aaron Blumer's picture
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Last year Harold Camping of Family Radio caught the attention of national media by displaying a series of billboard ads declaring that Christ would return on May 21, 2011. Apparently, a significant number of Christians believe his interpretation of the Bible. Many others have reacted with scorn.

Recently, a fellow pastor remarked to me, “Well, I guess we know one day the Lord will definitely not come back!” I didn’t inquire, but his reasoning was probably that if “no man knows” the day, and Camping knows the day is May 21, then the day must not be May 21.

But Harold Camping does not really know the day. May 21, 2011, is still a possibility, but not for any of the reasons Camping and his followers have claimed. Here’s why.

Camping’s case

Camping et. al. build their case for a May 21 rapture on two pillars. The first is that the faithful can know—indeed, will know—the date of Christ’s return.

In the Bible a wise man is a true believer, to whom God has given a profound trust in the authority of the Bible. True believers have been in existence since the beginning of time. But the timeline of history as it is revealed in the Bible was never revealed to the hearts of the true believers. … However, about 35 years ago God began to open the true believers’ understanding of the timeline of history. … However, it was not until a very few years ago that the accurate knowledge of the entire timeline of history was revealed to true believers by God from the Bible. (“No Man Knows the Day or the Hour?”)

In support of this idea, May 21 rapture proponents claim Ecclesiastes 8:5, Daniel 12:4 and 9, then add to that reasoning from Revelation 22:18-19 and the experience of Noah. The gist of their thinking is that Ecclesiastes and Daniel predict a time when knowledge not-then-known (concerning “time and judgment”) would eventually be revealed. Since no Scripture is to be added to what we already have (Rev. 22:18-19), the revealing of this new knowledge must take the form of a later discovery of information previously hidden in the Bible. (That idea alone is probably more damaging than any of the date-setting!)

So what does Noah have to do with it?

God gave Noah precise information so he could warn the world of impending destruction. Similarly, God commanded Jonah to give the people of Nineveh the precise day He planned to destroy the city of Nineveh. Likewise, in His mercy and love God has given the true believers of our day the exact time of the Rapture, which is the first day of the Day of Judgment, so that they can warn the world. (Same source)

The second pillar of Camping’s case for May 21 gets pretty technical. The short version is that calculations based on this and that indicate that May 21, 2011, is the day. Since the case for a particular calculation of the date depends on the idea that believers can know the date, I’ll focus here on that more basic idea. If there is biblical reason to believe Christians—however wise and righteous—are not going to know the date of Christ’s return, all the math is just a distraction (and I’m always happy to avoid unnecessary number crunching!).

Why we cannot know the day

Diligent students of Scripture have long held that the date of Christ’s return is not revealed and may not be discovered by His followers. This unrevealed-date view is correct for several reasons.

First, the phrase “as a thief in the night” is not, as proponents of Camping’s view suggest, a deceitful trick employed by “churches” (in Camping’s teaching, learning anything from a church is a bad thing! See http://www.wecanknow.com/).

WeCanKnow.com claims that the unrevealed-date view depends on the reasoning that “Christ’s coming will be like a thief in the night. In other words, no one can know….” The document then directs readers’ attention to 1 Thessalonians 5:2, where the phrase occurs, and suggests that we’ve all been duped because 5:4 clearly indicates that “ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you as a thief” (KJV).

Sadly, many believers who have not been exposed to a more complete look at what Scripture teaches on the subject (or weren’t paying attention) have been quick to believe Camping’s caricature of the unrevealed-date view.

In reality, the context of the phrase “as a thief in the night” in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 shows that Paul had several ideas in mind.

For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. (NKJV, 1 Thess. 5:2-4)

The word “for” at the beginning of 5:3 indicates that the verse explains the phrase “as a thief in the night.” The point is that, for unbelievers, the day of the Lord is unexpected (“sudden,” etc.), unwelcome (“thief”), painful (“as labor pains”) and inescapable (“they shall not escape”).

Consequently, when Paul says believers are not in darkness that the day should overtake them as a thief, he means that, for them, the day is not unexpected, unwelcome or painful—and they have no reason to want to escape it. The passage does not indicate that believers will know where it falls on the calendar (much less, on the clock!).

Second, Jesus explicitly rejected the idea that His followers can know the time of His return. Jesus used the thief metaphor before Paul did and had a slightly different meaning in mind.

Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matt. 24:42-44)

Though Paul’s use of the expression is broader in meaning, Jesus uses the metaphor to mean precisely what proponents of the unrevealed-date view use it to mean: that the precise timing of the Son of Man’s coming is not knowable.

Some may counter, “Well, Jesus said we won’t know the hour, but what about the day?” (Interestingly, Camping allegedly claims to know the hour as well. See US preacher warns end of the world is nigh: 21 May, around 6pm, to be precise.) Jesus clearly rejected the “day but not hour” option also.

Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. (Matt. 25:13)

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Matt. 24:36–37)

Third, there is no evidence that Noah knew the day when the flood judgment would come. Camping’s billboards advertising the date of Christ’s coming have included several claiming “Noah knew,” with variations on the theme that we may also know. “No Man Knows the Day or the Hour?” claims that God gave Noah “precise information,” and WeCanKnow.com also argues along these lines.

But Scripture gives no indication that Noah knew the day of judgment in advance. Genesis 7:11 reveals exactly what day the flood itself began relative to Noah’s age, but Noah learned of that day only when God commanded him to enter the ark seven days earlier (Gen. 7:4). The seven-day “head’s up” before the first rain drops wasn’t advance knowledge of the day of judgment. It was a necessary interval for getting everybody and everything safely on board. The judgment itself began the day Noah’s ministry ended and he began loading the ark.

It’s true that Noah was aware for years that the time was limited and that judgment was coming, and he preached with that in mind (Heb. 11:7, 1 Pet. 3:20, 2 Pet. 2:5). Our day parallels his in that believers also know judgment is coming and time is limited and the gospel must be preached.

But, like Noah, we will not know the day judgment is to begin until the day it begins.

What about Ecclesiastes, Daniel and Revelation? Though the Scriptures are indeed complete, Ecclesiastes 8:5 is about how to get along with kings. The Daniel passages (12:4 “seal the book until the time… knowledge shall increase” and 12:9 “the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end”) probably refer to safely preserving documents until their promises are fulfilled. In any case, nothing in these passages teaches that the date of Christ’s return was hidden in the text of Scripture to be discovered later by a faithful few.

As the old rule of thumb says, it’s best to let the clearer passages interpret the less clear ones. Though some questions have no clear passages, “Can we know the date of Christ’s return?” is not one of them.

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Attachments

Because the web pages linked in this article are likely to disappear after May 21, I'm making them available here as attachments.

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Harold Camping is amill

Harold Camping is amill right? When you stop believing what God actually said, anything goes.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

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More serious problems

He's got way more serious problems than being amillennial, if indeed his amill.

Very high errors-per-sentence ratio!

Camping wrote:
We had learned that May 21, 1988 was the last day of the church age and was also the first day of the 23-year period of Great Tribulation, during which Satan has been employed by God to officially rule all of the churches as well as the whole world. During the first 2,300 days of this 8,400-day period the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from all of the churches as well as the entire world. This produced silence in Heaven. This sad situation is to continue in the churches until the end of the 23-year Great Tribulation period. However, beginning 2,300 days after May 21, 1988 (the end of the church age), the Holy Spirit was again poured out, producing what the Bible calls the “latter rain” (Zechariah 10:1; James 5:7)

On and on it goes. (http://www.familyradio.com/graphical/literature/nomanknows/nomanknows.html)

(I'm sure some are thinking "This is really just the natural byproduct of dispensationalism," but if you can't see the difference between Camping and Ryrie there's not much I can say to straighten you out on that point! It is a kind of dispensationalism run amok, I guess... but sort of the same way some equally bad theologies are a kind of covenant theology run amok.)

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Out here

He's also known for his distorted soteroilogy. I won't insult by reformed brothers by mis-identifying his position as hyper-Calvinism.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

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Amillenial Datesetter, Uber-hyper-Calvinist, Errant Inerrantist

This debacle is both sad and fascinating. I grew up listening to the Family Radio as a young person and was often ministered to by the music. Back then, Camping's Open Forum broadcast was a mixed bag of good answers and offbeat opinions, but he's long since migrated into full blown heresy. Cults form all the time, but it's really sad to watch one spin directly out of an evangelical/fundamental environment.

It will be VERY interesting to see the fallout with his followers on May 22nd (if the Lord tarries). I'm no prophet, but I expect that Camping and the core of his followers will regroup and reinterpret his teachings (ala "When Prophecy Fails," a book from the 50's about a UFO cult that predicted doomsday). I really pray people will firmly turn away from Camping and head toward orthodoxy, but I fear that many will feel too over-invested to revert to the truth.

M. Scott Bashoor Happy Slave of Christ

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An itinerant band at Walmart

Today, we have two RV's parked at the front entrance of Wal-Mart near our church building. The entire sides of the RVs are covered with the May 21 message. Too bad I didn't have my digital camera with me. The travelers are out in the massive parking lot busily passing out three brochures.

http://heartissuesforlds.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/judgment-day-may-21-2011/

Wait a minute. Why wait three weeks from now? I am ready to go today.

et

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And Washington DC

I was looking out my office window yesterday and saw a man across the street with a sign mounted on his backpack. Thinking that part of it said something about Judgment Day, I pulled a small pair of binoculars from my desk to read the smaller print and quickly saw that it was a Family Radio/May 21 warning sign. I then noticed a second person with a sign and saw that they were engaging some in conversation as they passed by.

What struck me the most was the "seal" on the signs saying "The Bible guarantees it." So when May 21 passes without the events the group is predicting, the Bible is wrong again??!!?? This is not good.

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As the quantity of communication increases, so does its quality decline; and the most important sign of this is that it is no longer acceptable to say so.--RScruton

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Camping's Aberrations

Good article. I’ve not been familiar with Harold Camping. Could someone briefly point out his biography and theological aberrations?
David R. Brumbelow

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Dr. Godfrey from Westminster Seminary California

Dr. Godfrey from Westminster Seminary California did a couple short articles on him for the uninitiated: You can read part 1 here http://wscal.edu/blog/entry/the-end-of-the-world-according-to-harold-cam... and part 2 here http://wscal.edu/blog/entry/the-end-of-the-world-according-to-harold-cam....

Of course, there's the obligatory Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Camping.

He was featured in a Michael Moore episode of "TV Nation" in 1994, interviewed by Louis Theroux (now with the BBC): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McnOBV_oB98.

M. Scott Bashoor Happy Slave of Christ

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Camping

David, there's a pretty good discussion of Camping's teachings at his http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Camping ]Wikipedia page.

This excerpt is taken from his " http://www.familyradio.com/graphical/literature/nomanknows/nomanknows.html No Man Knows The Day " page:

Quote:
Nevertheless, there is a very striking statement in the Bible. It is recorded in Ecclesiastes 8:5. There God declares:

Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man’s heart discerneth [better translation: will know ] both time and judgment.

       In the Bible a wise man is a true believer, to whom God has given a profound trust in the authority of the Bible. True believers have been in existence since the beginning of time. But the timeline of history as it is revealed in the Bible was never revealed to the hearts of the true believers. For example, throughout most of the church age it was generally believed that Creation occurred in the year 4004 B.C.

       However, about 35 years ago God began to open the true believers’ understanding of the timeline of history. Thus it was discovered that the Bible teaches that when the events of the past are coordinated with our modern calendar, we can learn dates of history such as Creation (11,013 B.C.), the flood of Noah’s day (4990 B.C.), the exodus of Israel from Egypt (1447 B.C.) and the death of Solomon (93l B.C.)*

       However, it was not until a very few years ago that the accurate knowledge of the entire timeline of history was revealed to true believers by God from the Bible. This timeline extends all the way to the end of time. During these past several years God has been revealing a great many truths, which have been completely hidden in the Bible until this time when we are so near the end of the world.

...This book was sealed with seven seals. Therefore, in order for the full information written in the book to become available for understanding, all of the seven seals must be removed. Indeed, Revelation 8:1 describes the removal of the seventh seal:

And when He had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.

WHEN WAS THERE SILENCE IN HEAVEN?

       Several years ago we had learned that the silence in Heaven for about half an hour referred to the 2,300 days that were the first part of the 23-year (exactly 8,400 days) Great Tribulation period. This period began on May 21, 1988. It was during this 2,300-day period that, both in the churches and throughout the world, very few, if any, were saved. Revelation 8:1 reports that there was silence in Heaven. This would have been the situation beginning on May 21, 1988, because joy in Heaven occurs as sinners repent. In Luke 15:4-32 the Bible reports this joy in Heaven, a joy that was not in silence.

       We had learned that May 21, 1988 was the last day of the church age and was also the first day of the 23-year period of Great Tribulation, during which Satan has been employed by God to officially rule all of the churches as well as the whole world. During the first 2,300 days of this 8,400-day period the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from all of the churches as well as the entire world. This produced silence in Heaven. This sad situation is to continue in the churches until the end of the 23-year Great Tribulation period. However, beginning 2,300 days after May 21, 1988 (the end of the church age), the Holy Spirit was again poured out, producing what the Bible calls the “latter rain” (Zechariah 10:1; James 5:7) throughout the world (but not in any church), and God began a final great harvest of salvation, bringing great joy in Heaven. This salvation is not occurring in any church, but will continue outside of the churches to the end of the Great Tribulation, on May 21, 2011.

       Because at the beginning of the Great Tribulation period (May 21, 1988), Christ removed the seventh and final seal from this book that Daniel was commanded to seal, we can now understand why it is that during these past years God has revealed to us so much new truth from the Bible. This includes the precise time of the end and much about God’s Judgment plan. The word “time” is a synonym for “hour.” Judgment refers to the Day of Judgment, which is frequently called “the Day.” Thus, to know time and Judgment as prophesied in Ecclesiastes 8:5 is to know the “day” and the “hour.” This fits perfectly with the mercy and love of God for the whole world. Remember, God gave Noah precise information so he could warn the world of impending destruction. Similarly, God commanded Jonah to give the people of Nineveh the precise day He planned to destroy the city of Nineveh. Likewise, in His mercy and love God has given the true believers of our day the exact time of the Rapture, which is the first day of the Day of Judgment, so that they can warn the world. How kind, how gracious, how loving God is. And wonderfully, God is still saving many people today (Revelation 7:9-14) even as He saved the citizens of Nineveh in Jonah’s day (Matthew 12:41).

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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Thanks

M. Scott Bashoor & Jay C.,
Thanks for the information.
David R. Brumbelow

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Sad impact

I have a friend who received a note from his lawn-care guy, stating that his services would not be available from May 20th on, and suggesting they secure other companies to provide their lawn care. The poor guy will not only have the disillusionment of realizing his trusted teacher is wrong, but also will have destroyed his means of income.

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2 Th 2:1-4

Jesus is not coming on May 21, 2011.

"Despair does not lie in being weary of suffering, but in being weary of joy."
G.K. Chesterton

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Parts Three, Four, and Five

Here are the rest of the Harold Camping posts that SBahoor linked to above:

http://wscal.edu/blog/entry/the-end-of-the-world-according-to-harold-cam... ]Part 1
http://wscal.edu/blog/entry/the-end-of-the-world-according-to-harold-cam... ]Part 2
http://wscal.edu/blog/entry/harold-camping-and-the-end-of-the-word-part-3 ]Part 3
http://wscal.edu/blog/entry/harold-camping-and-the-end-of-the-word-part-4 ]Part 4
http://wscal.edu/blog/entry/harold-camping-and-the-end-of-the-word-part-5 ]Part 5

More commentary (from Part Five):

Quote:
Camping’s teaching reaches the status of heresy in his recent appeal to the world, “Judgment Day,” an eight page statement online. The saddest and most distressing element of Camping’s latest theological statement is that it is Christless. He does not write about Christ’s return, but about judgment day. In his eight pages of warning and call for repentance he writes only this of Christ: “Because God is so great and glorious He calls Himself by many different names. Each name tells us something about the glorious character and nature of God. Thus in the Bible we find such names as God, Jehovah, Christ, Jesus, Lord, Allah, Holy Spirit, Savior, etc. Names such as Jehovah, Jesus, Savior, and Christ particularly point to God as the only means by which forgiveness from all of our sins and eternal life can be obtained by God’s merciful and glorious actions.” Notice that Camping says nothing of the Trinity, writing as if Christ and the Holy Spirit are not distinct persons of the Trinity, but just different names for God. If Camping means this, then he is not a Trinitarian, but has adopted the ancient heresy of modalism. Notice also that there is no mention of the cross and Christ’s saving work for sinners. Forgiveness is nowhere linked to the work of the incarnate Christ. For Camping the mercy of God comes simply to the repentant. He never mentions faith in Christ. He also makes clear that those who cry for mercy might be saved. He offers no assurance of salvation: “Nevertheless, the Bible assures us that many of the people who do beg God for His mercy will not be destroyed.” Notice that not all, but only many who repent will be saved.

Camping’s presentation of God’s mercy is from beginning to end unbiblical and unchristian. He has no Trinity, no cross, no faith alone in Jesus alone, and no assurance. His vision of God and mercy is more Muslim than Christian. If Camping still believes in the Trinity, in Jesus and his cross, and in justification by faith alone, then his recent teaching shows that he is a failure as a teacher of the Gospel and his call to repentance lacks enough content for sinners to find salvation in Jesus.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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May 21

It would have been a nice birthday present for me, though.

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Date setting

Seriously though, if Harold Camping "figured it out" and happens to be correct, who receives the glory? I cannot believe that he's doing this for the glory of Christ. I don't know his heart, (I think we can look at what he has said and get a good idea, though) but if it happens as "predicted", Camping would definitely be able to brag that he figured it out. This idea of date setting is man centered. It is not Christ honoring or is it Christ glorifying.

When May 21 comes and goes, I hope that people will see this man for the wolf he really is and stop supporting his "ministry". He has perverted the Scriptures and I fear that many people will associate him with every other preacher. I fear for the souls of his many followers which will harden their hearts after May 21? How many unredeemed souls will associate him with my pastor, because they are both preachers? How many of my unredeemed friends/family/coworkers will associate his followers with my church because we both call ourselves Christian?

We have an opportunity to use his prediction as a conversation starter with our unsaved friends/family and discuss what the Bible truly teaches about Christ's life, death, resurrection and return.

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Warning of judgment

As far as motives go... he seems to sincerely believe that he is warning people of the coming judgment and so the date setting is a way of expressing the urgency of the need to turn to Christ.

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motives are tricky things

Yes, motives are difficult to discern, partly because they're so often multi-layered. I agree that Camping seems sincere, but he also seems arrogant, though I don't know how attuned his conscience is to that. Deceiving and being deceived.

M. Scott Bashoor Happy Slave of Christ

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Why are people quitting their

Why are people quitting their jobs, etc.? Why not just go on living life and if the rapture happens, so be it? Does God call us to be sure we take care of covering our shifts when the trumpet sounds?

formerly known as Coach C

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5/20

I think it would be fabulous if the rapture happened tomorrow instead.

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BLieve wrote: I think it

BLieve wrote:
I think it would be fabulous if the rapture happened tomorrow instead.

Or today.

I think the job quitting thing has to do with the pressure within the group to show your faith. Unless the motive is sort of "eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we get raptured"?

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bizzare programming

So strange listening to their programming as "the day" approaches. For instance, they have segments from the Christian Medical Association talking about immunization and maintaining good health. Other segments on raising good kids. It's both laughable and sad.

M. Scott Bashoor Happy Slave of Christ

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Todd Wood wrote: Today, we

Todd Wood wrote:
Today, we have two RV's parked at the front entrance of Wal-Mart near our church building. The entire sides of the RVs are covered with the May 21 message. Too bad I didn't have my digital camera with me. The travelers are out in the massive parking lot busily passing out three brochures.

http://heartissuesforlds.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/judgment-day-may-21-2011/

Wait a minute. Why wait three weeks from now? I am ready to go today.

et

Eh, Todd, you don't have a cell phone? In these last days, all phones have cameras in them...

Just kidding on the above, but trying to turn things into lemonade, maybe, in that those RV's will provide temporary homes for the 'family' until they get back on their feet. Here's praying they own them themselves and they leave the cult, and go camping elsewhere for a while as they...I dunno...look for jobs?

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Motives II

@ SBashoor: As with most cults, follow the money. On their shortwave broadcasts at least, they advertise every few minutes that H.C. takes no money for his ministry/teaching. However, in the same ad they steer you to their web site where you are allowed to watch the teaching a couple of times and then it becomes pay TV. They must figure they will get you hooked (first sign of a cult?) then you sell everything and they purchase another media (TV station, Web page, etc.) in Moronovia and start the process all over. Mr. Camping never looked under dressed, so maybe there will be some tax inquiries later. Sad.

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Anybody heard?

Anybody heard yet what he's got to say now? As for the "hooked" and "cult" stuff, I don't know. It's standard media-marketing technique. But there is alot of messed up doctrine there, that's for sure.

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local news report upcoming

Our local news in Southern California is going to issue a report and interview. I'll post as soon I hear.

M. Scott Bashoor Happy Slave of Christ

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Alas, only a teaser

Well, the "news" report was neither an interview nor much of a report. Just repeated what most of the outlets had said earlier about his being flabbergasted and how he's looking for answers. Supposedly, he'll make an announcement through Family Radio today.

Family Radio's website has pulled all the Judgment Day info down (at least off of navigatable pages). Supposedly, the Board of Directors is meeting tomorrow to discuss the network's future.

M. Scott Bashoor Happy Slave of Christ

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But they still say the church age is over

I probably posted to quickly. They still have some wacky stuff in their "about" sections, but May 21 proclamations are down.

M. Scott Bashoor Happy Slave of Christ

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Unrepentant Camping

Camping says that a spiritual judgment fell on Saturday, and the world will still end on Oct 21.

UNBELIEVABLE! Well, I guess it isn't. But it's still outrageous.

Huffington Post is liveblogging his comments:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/23/harold-camping-speaks_n_865867....

M. Scott Bashoor Happy Slave of Christ

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Fascinating post - cheers.

Fascinating post - cheers. This was a truly riveting article. I hope to read others in future.

Gregaria Smith

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