With the aid of more than 5,500 billboards around the globe, Harold Camping's ministry has been spreading the news: the Day of Judgment draweth nigh -- as in around 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, 2011.
But for Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, the Bible explicitly forbid(s) Christians to claim the knowledge of such dates and times.
It is an act of incredible presumptuousness to claim that a human knows such a date, or has determined God's timing by any means, Mohler said.
Camping, the 89-year-old founder and president of Family Radio Worldwide, first declared the end of the world to be in September of 1994, but when that prediction passed without cataclysmic results, he said he miscalculated and that the end, certainly, would be this Saturday. This time, he said, it is absolutely going to happen without any question.
Mohler, on the other hand, likes to point out that he's already been wrong. And he's not the only one to be wrong throughout the ages.
The Christian church has seen this kind of false teaching before, Mohler said. William Miller and his Adventist followers believed that Christ would return on March 21, 1844, Mohler wrote on his website. Also, in the 1970s, popular Christian preachers and writers predicted that Christ would return on various dates now long in the past.
According to Camping, he derived his final numbers on a formula he based on Bible verses. The reason he is privy to such sacred information, he claims, is because God revealed it to him personally. And since he has been a tireless student of the Bible for over five decades, he has been able to hear God's message. The tens of thousands of hours he has spent analyzing the Bible has given him a unique perspective of the entirety of Scripture, his website said.
And again, Mohler says he's wrong.
Camping claims to be basing his predictions on the scriptures. That sounds promising, Mohler said in an interview with IBTimes. But the Bible does not contain hidden codes that we are to find and decipher. We are not to look for hidden patterns of words, numbers, dates, or anything else.
Mohler said that while it may be tempting to think we can predict Christ's return day by day, hour by hour, year by year, the Bible does not talk about time as we know it now.
The scripture does not give us dates, it gives us times, Mohler said. But time, he said, is meant in another way entirely. He explained it like this: In ancient times, they did not operate off of a calendar system-which, according to Mohler, is a modern tool-but rather time was calculated by the events that happened within it. Creation is one example; the flood and Noah's ark another.
Still, Mohler said he can see why Camping has been able to attract a following.
I think it does reflect that there are big, historical events and changes happening around us, Mohler said. There is a yearning for the return of Christ, certainly among Christians. So, it's easy to pick up ample evidence from around the world and believe it's true.
Nonetheless, claiming and touting such knowledge, as Camping and his followers have, Mohler said, is, without a doubt, detrimental to Christianity on the whole.
When indeed we wake up on the morning of May 22, we will find that it is yet another embarrassment. An unnecessary embarrassment, Mohler said. And absolutely erroneous.