Friday in the wild: April 25, 2014

April 25, 2014

It’s been a while since I’ve done an edition of FitW (let alone blogged anything at all, for that matter). However, in light of a few recent current events, I felt moved to post something, centred around the theme of same-sex “marriage.”

Christians are often asked, “Why are you so obsessed with homosexuality?” My answer is, “Because homosexuality is the wedge issue by which a secular society is trying to vilify and marginalize Christians.” Or, as a friend on Facebook has also pointed out, it is actually a sex-obsessed society that is demanding answers from us. (Similarly, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler has said that the media frequently contacts him for an opinion.) It makes you wonder who is really obsessed, doesn’t it?

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And now . . . this – Mar. 11/14

March 11, 2014

Your best take now

You know what I’m having trouble feeling right now? Sympathy.

An estimated $600,000 was stolen from Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church this weekend in Houston.

According to a statement sent to church members, someone allegedly stole cash, checks, and credit card information from the church safe, reported the Houston Chronicle, one of the first of many media outlets to cover the story.

[Full Story]

For some reason, I am most strongly reminded of this verse from the Bible:

[H]ow can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. (Matt. 12:29)

It was easy to clean out Osteen’s church. There wasn’t a strong man around.

I do feel for the people who have possibly had their banks accounts or credit cards compromised. As for Osteen himself, well, maybe if the prosperity-gospel huckster had had more faith, this wouldn’t have happened. I’m sure the poor soul will have to go a whole extra week before he can polish his solid-gold house again.

Thank you for calling and sharing, and shall we take our next false prophet, please? (Harold Camping, 1921-2013)

December 17, 2013

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

– T. S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

Harold Camping, the discredited former radio preacher who doubled down on a false end-of-the-world prediction and lost, is dead.

[T]he California preacher who used his evangelical radio ministry and thousands of billboards to broadcast the end of the world and then gave up public prophecy when his date-specific doomsdays did not come to pass, has died at age 92.

Family Radio Network marketing manager Nina Romero said Harold Camping, a retired civil engineer who built a worldwide following for the nonprofit, Oakland-based ministry he founded in 1958, died at his home on Sunday. She said he had been hospitalized after falling.

[Full Story]

Most people’s knowledge of Harold Camping and his nonsense probably doesn’t go back much farther than 2010 or 2011, when his infamous prediction of the end of the world on May 21, 2011 became international news. As many date-setters are wont to do, when that prediction failed, he “discovered” an error in his calculations, and revised his prognostication for October 21 the same year. And yet, here we all still are.

I first became aware of Camping when I chanced to tune in Family Radio on my shortwave in 1992 or 1993. I listened to his “Open Forum” call-in show every now and then. Apart from hyper-Calvinist leanings and a tendency to prefer “spiritual” interpretations of the Bible to straighter literal ones, he was a voice of relative sanity on the madness that is Christian shortwave radio. However, he had recently published two books, Are You Ready? and 1994? in which he predicted the end of the world on or about September 6, 1994. This subject began to dominate his airtime. When the 1994 prediction also failed, declared an error in his calculations and revised it for one year later. (Two years later, I was still finding the odd copy of 1994? on Christian bookstore shelves!)

Camping’s tendency toward allegorical theology and date-setting went back years earlier, though. In his 1970 book The Biblical Calendar of History, Camping asserted that the world was created in 11,013 BC, based on an unorthodox reading of the genealogy of Noah (which I discussed here). Camping subsequently claimed that exactly 13,000 years later, on May 21, 1988, the Church age came to an end. The Holy Spirit had departed all organized Christian churches, which were thereafter under God’s wrath. Coincidentally—or perhaps not—this was about the same time that Camping was removed from teaching Sunday school at his Christian Reformed church because of his increasingly eccentric theology. He left that church altogether a few months later. Camping encouraged his listeners to leave their churches and form loose fellowships in which they listen to Family Radio instead (from which he also expelled all programming that supported the continuation of the church). In the early 2000s, between failed Rapture predictions, this was the teaching that Camping was most notorious for.

And then, some time in 2009, it came out that Camping was doing it again: he had announced that the end of the world would occur on May 21, 2011. This date is very significant because it comes exactly 23 years after May 21, 1988, as well as exactly 722,500 days after the Crucifixion on April 1, AD 33. 722,500 is the square of 5 × 10 × 17, which are (according to Camping) “enormously significant spiritual numbers.” No, I don’t get it either.

Predictably, as was the case in 1995, 1994, and 1988 (which, I have come to understand, was yet another possible date for the Rapture, if only Camping hadn’t discovered it years after the fact), nothing happened. Camping had unambiguously left himself no way to weasel out of this prediction when it failed again, and so he became a laughingstock, both in the church and out. It didn’t make matters much better when he tried to weasel out of it anyway, claiming that the May 21 event was “spiritual” and that the really-and-for-true end of the world was on October 21. Well, that wasn’t true either. In the meantime, he also suffered a stroke that effectively ended his public ministry.

After October 21, 2011, Camping finally clued in that something was fundamentally wrong with his methods, and issued an apology before disappearing into a well-deserved obscurity. On the occasion of his death, however, Family Radio’s note whitewashes the fact that he (and they) swindled his followers out of millions of dollars used to promote the apocalypse that never was. Many of these people sold possessions, quit their jobs, or went on the road for the sake of promoting Camping’s message. I wonder where they ended up?

There’s a reason that James said teachers needed to be careful about their teaching because they would incur a stricter judgment (Jas. 3:1). Harold Camping did not fight the good fight, and he abandoned the faith years ago for all manner of apostasy: for example, annihilationism, modalism, adoptionism, and hyper-Calvinism. His doctrine and date-setting led many Christians to follow him into the ditch, and drove Family Radio, a once-legitimate Christian ministry, into the ground. They still want to eulogize him. I think I’ll take the advice of the Who, instead: let’s forget him, better still.

Same-sex marriage and the church

June 30, 2013

One of the fundamental themes in the apologetics of Francis A. Schaeffer is the way that radical new ideas influence society. In his earliest books, such as Escape from Reason, he argues that as a general rule, ideas begin in the academy (particularly in the humanities, such as philosophy), then work their way out into the arts and music, and spread into the general public. Finally, they come into the church.

This is the stage that has now been reached on the gay-rights front, particularly on the issue of same-sex marriage and benefits. Even 20 years ago, the idea of two men or two women actually marrying would have been practically unthinkable. Now, it is generally accepted by nearly everyone that same-sex marriage is a Good Thing, while opposing it is “homophobic.” Last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decisions concerning the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 essentially repudiated the traditional view of marriage as backwards and bigoted. By contrast, the time between the Emancipation Proclamation and the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which prohibited discrimination based upon skin colour) was just over a century. And that is for a cause that virtually all rational people today accept as a great good! The rapidity with which same-sex rights have been accepted is almost preternatural. (In my opinion, this is primarily due to a full-court press by the primary agenda-setters in the public mind—the media and the entertainment industry, who speak with a nearly unanimous voice in favour of gay rights, something that would not necessarily have been true for previous generations.)

Now, advocacy for same-sex marriages is finding its way into the churches. I don’t mean merely the liberal churches, such as the United Church of Canada or the Episcopal Church, where no leftist cause célèbre ever went uncelebrated. We would expect that kind of thing from institutions who abandoned the faith for social activism ages ago. I mean evangelical churches, where the authority of God’s word is still supposedly held in high regard. The official position of my own church, for example, is that marriage is an exclusive covenant relationship between one man and one woman. It is enshrined in the statement of faith. Nonetheless, I know of a handful of people within the church who are no longer convinced that the bible teaches this. Maybe some of them never were truly convinced.

For anyone who claims to believe in the authority of Scripture, this is simply untenable.

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Wednesday cruci-fiction

March 27, 2013

There are two constants on the fundamentalist liturgical calendar. One occurs in late October, as Hallowe’en approaches: the Annunciation of the Evils of Trick-or-Treating. The other takes place in the spring: the Epiphany of Good Wednesday.

Yes, Good Wednesday: the belief that Jesus’ crucifixion had to take place on Wednesday, and not on Friday as tradition (read: Roman Catholic) has maintained.

I’ll grant this: These folks take the authority of the Bible seriously, unlike, arguably, the majority of Christmas and Easter Christians who come to church a couple times a year to assuage whatever guilt they have, and can’t be bothered to think these things through the other 363 days of the year. It seems to me, however, that the Wednesday crucifixion thing just doesn’t work, and I think a better case can be made for the traditional view.

Some years ago, the only people you would have seen making this kind of argument were from Sabbatarian sects, such as the Seventh-day Adventists or the various groups that grew out of Herbert W. Armstrong’s teachings. It’s clear why they would advocate for a Wednesday crucifixion: they want to undermine the foundations of Sunday worship in favour of their Sabbatarian theology. Christians gather together on Sunday because that was the day Jesus rose from the dead. I don’t see why any group of Sunday worshippers would want to copy their arguments, however; I guess it has something to do with a suspicion of all things Roman Catholic. Just because it’s traditional doesn’t necessarily make it wrong, and if our timeline of Holy Week is based more on some kind of “Romophobia” than exegesis, then we’ve started off on the wrong foot.

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And now, presenting what may very well be the stupidest question ever…

March 4, 2010

Just tweeted this evening by a self-described “prochoice Christian”:

If chastity and abstinence works [sic], where did Jesus come from?

No, seriously.

You need a license to drive and own a gun, but anyone with a computer can use the Internet. Explain that.

What if the Hokey Pokey really was what it’s all about?

February 27, 2010

I guess it would look something like this.

I’d love to think this was some kind of joke. I really would.

I don’t normally expect better from Rick Joyner and Morningstar Ministries. They’ve been a locus of goofy Christianity, “faith healing” and false prophecy for many years. After all, these are the same people who endorsed Todd Bentley – at least, until his marital infidelity singlehandedly killed the Lakeland “Revival” in Florida. (They continue to oversee his supposed “restoration.”)

So somehow, the “Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey” is right up their alley. But check out the incongruity between the earnest vocal stylings, and the subject matter. Never has such nonsensical blasphemy been sung with such absolute conviction. It’s “worshipful,” even.

Even more absurd are the “healing” testimonies that came about as the result of this garbage. My favourite was the woman at the end, who complained of back problems, until she, too, did the Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey:

Y’all said put yourself in and put yourself out, and I put myself in and my back is completely healed. . . . I put myself in and I put myself out and it is healed. My spine is healed. He is real he is real he is real.

Who is real, she doesn’t say. I can only assume it isn’t Jesus. I don’t think he’s got anything to do with this crap.