An Open Letter to the Followers of Harold Camping

May 18

Written by: wyman

5/18/2011 3:07 PM

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May 18, 2011

To The Followers of Harold Camping,

I am not writing this letter to offer you more of the condemnation you no doubt are already receiving from many quarters.  I am writing instead to plead with you to think clearly in what will soon be the aftermath of the failed prophecy that you have embraced.  I do so not to rub salt in the wound, but because you will soon find yourselves at an interesting crossroads in life at which you will be faced with many options.  I am writing to encourage you to reject the bad options and embrace the wise ones.

I believe that you are sincere people.  I believe that many of you sincerely believe in the Lord Jesus and I believe that many of you sincerely trust in the scriptures.  Unfortunately, in embracing the prophecies of Harold Camping, you have sincerely believed in a false prophecy and a false prophet.

On Sunday, May 22nd, many of you are going to face feelings of confusion, loneliness, isolation, and even shame.  Many of you will likely become objects of derision and punchlines in jokes made at your expense.  You will reach a point where you will begin to wonder how what you previously believed in with such certainty could have been so very untrue.  In light of this fact, let me offer you some words of perspective and encouragement for the future:

  • Please face honestly and courageously your error and repent sincerely.  You will be tempted to claim, when this prophecy fails, that it really did not fail.  You will be tempted to claim that the prophecy happened but perhaps in an “unseen” or “spiritual” or “invisible” kind of way.  You know that is not the case.  Your pride will tempt you to rule out the possibility that you were simply and clearly wrong.  This will lead you to any number of ingenious ways of claiming you were, in fact, right.  Please, I beg of you, do not go down that path.  When your error is definitively confirmed, embrace it, acknowledge it, and admit that you made a mistake.  Your pride will protest, but please argue down your pride.
  • Some of you will be tempted to reject the truthfulness of the Bible in the aftermath of the failure of the teachings you have embraced.  But let me encourage you to remember this:  when Judgment Day does not occur on May 21, it does not mean the Bible is untrue, it simply means that the theories of Harold Camping have (once again) proven to be untrue.  The Bible remains the Word of God even when those who claim to be preaching it faithfully are proven to be untrue.
  • Many of you will be tempted to go back to the scriptures in search of new clues for a new date.  Let me plead with you to consider instead the importance of solid, basic, principles of reading and interpreting the Bible and stop looking for hidden or secret “truths.”  In particular, let me encourage you always to be suspect of any major emphases in any person’s teachings that are founded on allegorical teachings.  In particular, be very careful around those who push numerological interpretations.  Numerology has some basis in truth, but it is highly subjective and should be approached very humbly, very cautiously, and definitely with a “less-is-more” attitude.  The Bible is not a puzzle to be unraveled or a set of hidden numerical clues.  What God says He says openly.  Live in the clear passages of the Bible and be very suspect of those who claim to have discovered major truths in some of the more obscure portions.
  • Please use this occasion to question the other teachings of Harold Camping:  particularly his teaching of the complete apostasy of the visible churches.  In fact, what you most need at this point is (1) a return to the simple gospel of Christ and (2) the nurturing fellowship of a strong Bible-believing church.  If Camping is wrong yet again on his date for the end, there are legitimate reasons to look at his other unorthodox opinions, namely concerning the churches today.
  • Let me encourage you not to be utterly destroyed by the undoubtedly intense scrutiny, criticism, and derision that is about to come your way.  Not everybody, including not everybody in the church, is going to treat you with grace.  I fear that many of you are going to have some tough days ahead.  But remember this:  there are believers in Christ who sincerely grieve over the error into which you have fallen and will be willing to help you put the pieces back together again should you allow them.  I trust that you will not be driven to despair.
  • Learn lessons from this unfortunate incident that will change you from here on out.  Be careful who you follow.  There is a healthy sense of questioning without lapsing into outright cynicism.  This healthy sense of questioning would likely serve you well.  Ask appropriate questions of those who claim to be speaking for God and do not take at face value what your favorite “teacher” claims is true.
  • Remember:  sincere humility and repentance is your best and only path.  Do not calcify in pride or seek to justify what was, in the last resort, a lie.

Many of us are praying for you, especially after May 21st.  Just because you have embraced a lie does not mean there’s no such thing as the truth.  Come back to the Lord who loves you, who will forgive and restore you, and be better for having gone through this tragic experience.

Most Sincerely,

Wyman Richardson

Pastor, Central Baptist Church

North Little Rock, Arkansas