**IMPORTANT UPDATE #2**: Harold Camping Admits Sin, Announces End to Doomsday Predictions
This post was written prior to the news above. Please read it with that context in mind:
Harold Camping made worldwide waves last spring when he started being more vocal about his predictions that the Rapture (return of Christ) would happen on May 21, 2011. As many may already be aware, Camping has a history of making failed predictions on Christ's return and the end of the world. The most recent was May 21, 2011. He claimed that he made some calculations based on scripture and came up with this date. Since nothing of apocalyptic levels happened on that day, Camping has explained how his prediction was still accurate and that the world and all unbelievers will be annihilated on October 21, 2011. You can find Camping's official statement here. In his revised "pre"diction Camping claims that Christ returned to earth spiritually back in May.
As someone who likes to test things, this caught my attention. Camping has essentially made a claim that is untestable. If Christ came back spiritually, how would we know? If Christ did not come back spiritually, how would we know? If someone says that something will happen, but that there will be no evidence of it, how can you say that their prediction failed?
One of the popular claims made by skeptics of the Resurrection of Christ is that the Gospels were written by people who were intentionally trying to deceive the masses about Christ coming back from the dead. One of the responses to this charge is to point out that the Gospels make it clear that the Resurrection physically happened, and Jesus did things that require a physical body. The idea is that if the disciples wanted to deceive the masses into believing that Christ had resurrected (when they knew he really didn't), they could claim that the resurrection was just a spiritual resurrection, not a physical one. The claim can be falsified if it is, indeed, false. Paul said as much in 1 Corinthians 15.
Camping has changed his prediction to state that Jesus returned spiritually. Such a claim cannot be tested or falsified. This is what people expect to happen if the person making the claim knows that something physical did not happen. However, no such move was made on the part of the Disciples. Instead many of them died a martyr's death believing that Christ physically rose from the dead, when they were in the unique position to know if it was not true. The records show that they were not attempting to deceive anyone.
As for Camping, I highly doubt that he continues to make predictions because he wants to deceive people. I am more likely to believe that he continues to do so to save his reputation...all it would take is his being right once, and his life's work on the topic will seem vindicated. However, I don't expect that he will be right this time or anytime in the future.
In the meantime, no one should forget the importance of the claim of something physical taking place in history. The truth of the resurrection can be tested, has been tested, and has been found compelling.
I have come across several posts regarding Harold Camping and his predictions that you might find of interest:
- End Times Predictions? (My post from this past spring)
- Does Harold Camping Discredit Christianity? (From Carson Weitnauer at Reasons For God)
- Is Jesus Coming Back on May 21, 2001? or October 21, 2011? (Both posts from Arthur Khachatryan at Cold And Lonely Truth)
- Poetry and Judgment Day (From Holly Ordway at Hieropraxis)
- An Open Letter to Harold Camping (From Christiana Szymanski at In Defense of the Christian Faith)
- Harold Camping Revisited: The Actual Judgment Day (from Austin Gravely at Another Ascending Lark)
- Harold Camping is Right, Judgment Day Approaches for Thousands (from Cris Putnam at Logos Apologia)
- The Risen Jesus and a Future Hope by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona (see my book review here)
- The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ by Gary Habermas
- The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach by Michael Licona
- William Lane Craig's scholarly and popular articles on the resurrection