It alarms me how people crave the end of the world

There’s a group in the States that threw money at billboard companies in Omaha, Nashville and Detroit to advertise the Second Coming.

The Christmas-themed ads featuring images of the three magi and the star of Bethlehem tell people that “He is coming again.”

Allison Warden, whose family runs the website WeCanKnow.com, points to 1Thessalonians 5:4, where it states “but ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief” to justify their campaign.

Warden and her family are followers of Harold Camping, known for his controversial teachings on his station Family Radio Worldwide, which sponsored the billboards in Nashville.

Camping, who teaches people to leave their churches ahead of the end date, says that he arrived at the May 21, 2011, by using a mathematical calculation showing that day to be exactly 7,000 years since Noah’s flood.

And according to him, the world itself will end in October of that year. I’ve added the link to that website but I don’t know why anyone would want to go over there. More from the article:

Trying to predict the end of the world is not just unbiblical, according to Slater, but unChristian. He noted that in trying to live by knowledge, the group’s teaching looks more like agnosticism than Christianity.

I’ll argue it’s the opposite of agnosticism because Camping clearly believes in a god, something agnostics waffle on. I bold that other bit because it’s troublesome. Why? Dr. Thomas B. Slater, a professor of the New Testament, is about to blithely demonstrate why:

“I think the people are sincere but they also are making a grave mistake,” he said. “They are attempting to replace living by faith with living by knowledge. But knowledge of when the world ends cannot replace the power of living by faith.”

Slater considers the billboards to be misguided. I agree they’re misguided, but I think the real problem here has to do with how math and knowledge in general is being manipulated and mutilated to make Camping’s predictions add up.

Choosing to live by knowledge is a grand goal, one more people should strive toward, regardless of what faith they want to live under at the same time. Electing to live by a mockery of knowledge is not a grand goal. It’s a colossal mistake and an enormous waste of time and energy and Camping’s ludicrous prediction is going to ruin lives. He’s been wrong before and he’s going to be wrong again. Fat lot of good that’ll do his believers this time around, too.

Slater makes some good points, though.

“Jesus has told his disciples that they should not be concerned with the end of the world but they should be worried about making the world a better place. These people are doing the exact opposite.”

Slater referred to Matthew 25 where Jesus says that the righteous are those who feed the hungry, look after the sick, and visit those in prison.

“At every opportunity Christians should help other people,” said the New Testament scholar. “We should not just stop at being saved. We should continuously help people through life because we move toward sanctification. It doesn’t mean we ever get there but we are always striving to get there.”

If May 21 comes and goes, added Slater, the billboards are going to turn more people off Christianity if they haven’t so already.

Another problem I see here is how easy it is to warp the message of Christianity, assuming Slater is correct in his statement of what it’s supposed to be and what Christians are supposed to be doing to earn that righteous afterlife. If only the bible designers hadn’t thrown so many conflicting stories into it. Were four gospels absolutely necessary? Why didn’t they just draw lots and pick one? Did Paul, and the rest of them for that matter, correctly interpret things or did he misinterpret and tweak bits of history and folklore to justify his own actions and ideals? And then try to factor in everything done and said and taught in regards to that book by everyone since… yikes. No wonder there were so many schisms. No wonder they keep happening, too.

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2 Responses to It alarms me how people crave the end of the world

  1. Considering how many gospels were actually written, four is actually a pretty small number. Many early Christian sects only used one, and many of those actually had relatively sophisticated views by today’s standards; treating Christ as either fully god or fully human for example.

    As I understand it the selection of the big four was necessary to secure the cooperation of the religious authorities present at the Council of Nicea. Certain things they were able to agree on, but in other cases they had to include contradictory versions to placate participants or because the most consistent accounts available still contained major discrepancies.

    As for Paul, his agenda is very clear throughout his writings. Certain evangelicals (practicing what they call “red letter Christianity”) actually do reject much of what Paul says, granting higher authority to quotes attributed directly to Jesus. In other denominations it’s simply unfashionable to quote Paul anymore. That being the case, many modern Christians are still very impressed with his writing and cite him as a theological and historical authority.

    In light of all of these things I think it’s misleading to say anything “warps the message of Christianity”. There is no “the message of Christianity.” Textual arguments can be made in favor of some versions but if you go back far enough the earliest forms of the religion are both more diverse, more contradictory, and more heterodox than anything practiced today.

  2. 1minionsopinion says:

    I doubt you can tell Christians there’s no message they’re supposed to be spreading and expect them to agree with that. Slater obviously thinks he’s got the right message in mind. Camping’s crowd thinks they have it.. Each side winds up thinking the other is warping the True Meaning, however that group might define it.

    Good point about how much is missing in terms of gospels and stories. I suppose unifying the viewpoints they wanted into one combined (albeit confounding) document was the only way to ensure majority support for the project. If every minor sect had been allowed to keep its own ideology and conceptual notions of what to believe and teach then Christianity probably never would have gained much ground. There’s enough scrapping between schisms now; I can’t imagine what it would have been like then.

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