It’s an important question. Harold Camping says the world will end on May 21 of this year. He’s done this before. So on May 22, I plan to wait for word on when the world will really end according to Harold Camping.
I recently came across an excellent series of blog posts on Camping, written by a man who studied under him in church. He confirmed something I’ve long suspected about Harold Camping:
After Camping began to work full-time with Family Radio, he spent much time studying the Bible. His knowledge of Bible verses is impressive indeed. But his study of the Bible was undertaken in isolation from other Christians and theologians. He adopted a proud individualism. He did not really learn from Bible scholars. He studied the Bible in isolation from the church and the consensus of the faithful. As a result his understanding of the Bible became more and more idiosyncratic. No one could help, direct, or restrain him. He was really an autodicdact, that is, someone who teaches himself. He never really submitted his ideas to be challenged and improved by others. He was truly his only teacher. He has repeatedly said that he would be glad to change his views if he is shown that he is wrong from the Bible. But this humble statement covers a very arrogant attitude, because no one can ever show him that he is wrong. He alone really understands the Bible.
This is something I’ve noticed about men who seem to go off the deep end later in their lives. I’ve seen it before, and I’ve heard it from other men. I once heard Chuck Swindoll say he had a mentor who was very solid in the faith, but later in his life, he strayed into some serious error and kooky theology. I added “kooky”. That wasn’t Chuck Swindoll.
I suspect what happens is men reach an age where they believe themselves to be unteachable and therefore above accountability. Once untethered from accountability, a man can head in any direction he wishes because he considers nobody wise enough to set him straight.
This symptom isn’t only reflected by older men. It can happen to anybody who becomes isolated and above accountability. I recently lost a good friend who fell under the influence of some kooky Internet Bible teachers. He started to believe it was unbiblical to assemble in a church building with other believers, and tithing to the church was one of the worse offenses you could make against God. I gently tried to hold him accountable, but he unfriended me on Facebook and I haven’t heard from him since. He was approximately my age.
No doubt, the church has gone astray in a lot of ways. I cringe at many of the pointless and off-base cliches I hear every time I go to church. I have a series of blog posts in my head about some of them. Maybe I should write them. I cringe when I see some members of the church worked into burnout serving to keep some ministries alive while other people do nothing more than show up for an hour on Sunday to get their tickets punched and leave, then complain about everything. My wife once had to teach Sunday School 4 quarters straight because the church supposedly couldn’t find another teacher. We had to cancel a weekend trip because she couldn’t find a replacement. Another time, I flat out told the church we wouldn't be there Sunday, and nobody was returning her calls to fill in, so they would have to find the replacement themselves or have no teacher for that class. We’re no longer in that church for various reasons, but our current church is working her and a few other people into the ground in the AWANA program because there’s nobody else.
If I were a pastor, well, I probably wouldn’t last 3 weeks. And if you sat in MY congregation and after 6 months of my pastoring couldn’t find books in the Bible like Habakkuk and Obadiah, I would yell at you. Then be fired. I know people who have supposedly been Christians and faithful church members for 50 years and don’t know where those books are, or what they’re about. I find it inexcusable. I wouldn’t tolerate gossip and passive-aggressive backstabbing either. I don’t know how pastors do it. I guess for all of our sakes, I’ll remain in IT and Engineering. We’re all better off that way.