Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Day One of the Debate with Harold Camping Posted!
07/28/2009 - James WhiteWe wanted to get this up as soon as possible. We had major problems at first, but we got everything set up and still got a full hour or more in of meaningful exchange. As I expected, the focus was the proper one: Harold Camping's incoherent hermeneutical methodology. I am looking forward to tomorrow's exchange! Click here to listen to the program.
Harold Camping: Modern Day Cult Leader
07/28/2009 - James WhiteSome of you may know that over the past three weeks Le Tour de France has been going on. Those of us who are avid cyclists find this time period to be our "Super Bowl," so to speak. It just lasts for three weeks. Anyway, in the mountain stages you will hear the commentators use a particular phrase. When someone finally reaches their maximum output, their maximum cardio-vascular capacity, and they just can't keep up with the pace, they "blow out the back," and start "going backwards." But the phrase you hear all the time is, "the elastic has broken." That is, someone who had just been hanging on the back of a group on the climb disconnects, the elastic is broken, and they slow down and start losing more and more time on those in front of them.
It seems to be that for Harold Camping and Family Radio, "the elastic has broken." As I have invested the time of late in listening to Camping's Open Forum program, I have simply been shocked at how far from orthodox Christianity he has drifted. While he maintains his attack upon the church, which he began years ago, he has now added an entire cadre of outlandish beliefs to his repetoire, resulting in a most interesting group of callers and listeners. As you listen to Camping now you note that aside from his "May 21, 2011" prediction (which he referred to as "certain" and "the Word of God" in the programs I listened to this morning) he has now given a very prominent place to full-blown annihilationism. To this he has added another amazing aspect, that being his complete misunderstanding of two primary texts, Revelation 13:8 and Romans 1:4, where he now teaches that Jesus, as the Christ, died before the foundation of the earth, and then became the Son of God upon His resurrection: the cross then is just a "representation" of what He did in eternity past! The cross does not pay for sin, as that was done prior to the Incarnation! This incredibly absurd belief, which overthrows every possible part of the Bible's teaching on the cross, the incarnation, atonement, etc., is just another example of the fact that once you are cut loose from the foundation of Scripture, there is no end of the silliness you can end up promoting. Try to follow a portion of what Camping was presenting less than a week ago on his program:
He is declared to be the Son because he had risen from the dead. At the time that John 3:16 is being written, he had not gone to the grave as we read later on in the gospels, but it is pointing to the fact that before the foundation of the world God's whole plan of salvation was worked out and he not only named those who he planned to save but he paid for their sins and when he rose from the grave and how he did this is something we cannot understand of course at all anymore than how can we understand that he is Father, Son and Holy Spirit when there is only one God. We are in the presence of his glorious majesty who is infinite in every aspect of his being and is from eternity past. So we just read what it says about him and say oh yes that is what happened. And when he rose from the dead after he had made payment then he is called the Son of God. He's the firstborn from the dead....As I listened to this I thought to myself, "He sounds like a modalist. He does not sound like he is any longer a Trinitarian. He shows no understanding of the relationship of the Father, Son, and Spirit." More on that in a moment. Clearly Camping has no meaningful knowledge of the meaning of the Greek term [πρωτότοκος] (prototokos), as he thinks it must mean that Jesus is resurrected before He is even incarnated! How anyone can believe this kind of teaching is difficult to believe (then again, they followed Joseph Smith, too). He goes on,
But in order to be called a Son he had to have a beginning, and that beginning is when he rose from the grave after he made payment for our sins. He was not in eternity past the Son of God. He became the Son of God after He made payment for our sins. That was before the creation.Again I am thinking to myself, "This guy has abandoned the Trinity. He's gone modalistic in defense of this 'two deaths' theory he's come up with." I did not have to wait long to get my confirmation, for a caller asked Camping about how no man knows the day or the hour, neither the Son, nor the angels, etc. Camping actually has the temerity to suggest that the "Son" here might be....Satan! The absurdity of such a suggestion takes your breath away. But then he suggests that if this is actually Jesus, then it has to be "experiential knowledge." And that is when we are treated to the following:
Then it could not refer to Christ, because Christ is God. In that sense He has knowledge as we read in Acts, where it says that it's not....that's early in the church age... to know times and seasons, which the Father has put in his own power, and Christ always is identified as the Father. Remember in Isaiah he's spoken of as everlasting Father. So Christ in his knowledge of this whole business of payment for sin, he is the Father. He has full knowledge. As far as experiencing it, he experienced it as Christ, but not as the Son, until he demonstrated at the time of the cross how he suffered before the foundation of the world in making payment for our sins.If that isn't full blown modalism, I don't know what is. A plain confusion of the divine persons, a unitarian presentation of one Person being manifested in different modes. In fact, has Camping come up with a new spin on an ancient heresy? Because he seems to distinguish between the pre-existent Christ who is the Father, and who then becomes the Son at the resurrection! Maybe we have a quadernity! Who knows? What is certain is that the elastic has broken: Camping's name will be remembered by future generations alongside Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, Ellen G. White, and Charles Taze Russell: a clear example of an American-born cult leader.
Harold Camping Debate Tuesday and Wednesday!
07/27/2009 - James WhiteWe have arranged to be able to webcast the Iron Sharpens Iron program on our regular Dividing Line link tomorrow. So here is how it will work: tomorrow starting around 10:25am or so (1:25pm EDT) we will start streaming the seminar I did on Camping's attack upon Christ's church back in 2002 or so. That will take us right up to noon our time, 3pm EDT, when Iron Sharpens Iron begins. Please help us take the burden off of ISI's servers by listening to the program on the regular Dividing Line link! We will webcast both days of the debate, Tuesday and Wednesday, and then, Lord willing, I will join Chris to take calls from the audience on Thursday. If we have, in fact, worked out the problems we have had in the past with the link to WNYG, then we MIGHT be able to take calls on our regular DL line as well. We will see! Of course, we will be recording the programs and posting them as soon as possible, as we know there will be a great deal of interest in listening to this interaction.
Glasgow "Art" Display Again Shows Man's Hatred of God's Ways
07/24/2009 - James WhiteThis morning I really pushed myself hard (too hard, as it turned out), on a 42 mile ride, starting at 4:05am, climbing 1250 feet. But while out there in the dark I listened to more of William Lane Craig's lectures on soteriology. I could literally write a book, I really could. But at one point the issue of the "general call" and the "effectual call" came up. One of the class members asked why Calvinists believe in a general call and all, and Craig clearly showed his cards in failing to understand why we do, in fact, believe that there is a general call of the gospel. He did, at least, try to come up with something, and what he came up with wasn't all bad. He recognized that the proclamation of the gospel could have a "leavening" effect upon a culture, but that was all he could come up with. That is true as far as it goes, but his main problem was that he kept saying that Calvinists don't believe that unregenerate men "can respond to the gospel at all." Untrue. We believe unregenerate men always respond to the gospel, and that strongly: with utter and complete detestation and rejection! That rejection can take the form of atheism, open hatred of God, or often takes the form of false religion and empty piety, but the fact is that man does respond to the Gospel, with rejection. It is only by God's grace that the elect respond in repentance and faith, and that is due to the powerful work of the Spirit of God.
Which brings me to today's example from culture. As I started looking through my RSS feeds I ran across the story of the Glasgow publicly funded exhibition that encourages people to deface the Bible. It is sponsored by the Metropolitan Community Church, a homosexual organization. We should hardly be surprised that anything associated with the Metropolitan Community Church would be blasphemous and offensive---the entire movement is a glowing, large-print fulfillment of Romans 1. They invited the public to "write themselves into the Bible" if they felt they had been left out. Of course, lacking a biblical view of sin, the results have caught them by surprise. But the irony is that "The exhibition has been created by the artists Anthony Schrag and David Malone, in association with organizations representing gay Christians and Muslims." Gay Christians and Muslims? So, the first thought across the logical mind is, "So, why don't you have a Qur'an sitting there to be scribbled in as well?" And, of course, we all know the answer to that. Anti-Christianity is good business and culturally acceptable.
So what fills the hearts of these men and women writing insults in the pages of the Bible in Glasgow? Are these morally neutral agents with autonomous free will that just need some more information to turn from their sin? If you think that--well, someone ripped major portions of the text out of your Bible. But even more so, on the Molinist perspectve of WLC, doesn't it follow that God chose to "actuate" these people who, in this context, would do exactly what they are doing (but, "freely" of course!), but, without any purpose or meaning? I confess, that makes not a wit of sense to me. The reality is, this situation illustrates why Calvinists believe God has a purpose in the "general call" and the proclamation of His will in human culture. Whether people like it or not, the Bible says that God's law will not be ignored. Either it will function as a curb, a limit, to the sinfulness of men, or, when God's Spirit brings judgment upon a culture, it will be used to demonstrate, over and over again, the desperate sinfulness of man's heart, and the just punishment of God that will come upon those who love their sin. In this instance, as Western culture hurtles toward self-annihilation in its hatred of God and His law, we see open desecration of Scripture being hailed as "art." Is this not a fulfillment of the Bible's own description of the sinfulness of man in Romans 1 and 3? And so when judgment comes upon this culture, will there be any question of its justice? Surely not.
James White vs. Harold Camping on Iron Sharpens Iron!
07/20/2009 - James WhiteWe just confirmed that next Tuesday and Wednesday, July 28th and 29th, I will be debating Harold Camping on the Iron Sharpens Iron radio program on the topic of Camping's teaching that the church has ceased to exist. As some of you may know, Harold Camping has been teaching for years now that the church age has ended; that no one can get saved in the church any longer; that true believers should flee the churches, etc. I wrote my book Dangerous Airwaves in response to Camping's teachings on this topic. Well, Chris Arnzen has once again found a way to make a debate happen that nobody thought could ever happen. So, for two days next week we will debate this topic. I will defend the biblical position that Christ's church remains His bride and that Christians are to be faithful in their service to Christ through her, and that Harold Camping's wild-eyed gymnastics with the text, his use of allegory and numerology, etc., is a gross abuse of inspired Scripture. Make no mistake about it: this will end up being a debate over how you handle the Bible and allow God to speak. As I said in response to Camping years ago in Dangerous Airwaves:
The grammatical-historical method of interpretation is a means of guaranteeing that we are hearing what the text says, not what we wantthe text to say. This is a vitally important point, especially when it comes to the Scriptures. When reading secular texts we are not nearly as tempted to insert a foreign meaning into the words of the author, since it is rare that such a text would be given sufficient importance to warrant the effort. We naturallyapply sound rules of interpretation to such documents since we are not at all threatened by theresults. But when it comes to the text of the Bible, much more is at stake. But if we are consistent in our beliefs, and truly want to hear what the Scriptures are saying and not what we want them to say or feel they should say, we need to have a means of reading the text that does not allow us to slipour own thoughts into the text under the guise of interpretation. The Bible needs to say the same thing in each language, in each culture, in each context, or it cannot be the means of communicating the truth to us that Christians believe it to be. The grammatical-historical method allows us to be both honest and consistent with the text of the Bible.
The fundamental reason we must reject allegorical interpretation of the biblical text is really quite simple: it is unverifiable. That is, there is no possible way to determine that the results of using allegorical methodology have anything whatsoever to do with the actual meaning of the text. One man's allegorical understanding can have no compelling force upon the thinking of another, for that person may well seesomething completely different in the text. Since the means provided by human language to communicate meaning are by-passed in the allegorical method, there are no "safety nets" to keep one from wandering off into the most fanciful of "interpretations" of the text. Hence, the person who says "the allegorical meaning of this text is such and so" cannot claim the actual authority of the text for his interpretation, for the actual source of the interpretation is not the text itself but the mind of the interpreter. This is why we say there can be no compelling force to one's allegorical interpretation, for it is merely personal, and if anyone else accepts it, it is because they choose to trust the allegorical interpreter rather than the text itself. Allegorical interpretations can have no more authority than the one proclaiming them.
When applied to the biblical text this methodology is devastating. The authority of the text is destroyed. No allegorical interpreter can honestly say, "The Word of God says," for in reality, the Word of God has been replaced with the more or less fancifulthoughts of the interpreter himself. The Christian doctrine of inspiration sets the Christian Scriptures apart from all other claimed divine revelations in that Christians believe the Scriptures are God-breathed. This means the written word communicates to us infallibly the very speaking of God in a miraculously personal manner (Matthew 22:31). The authority of the Word is not based upon the interpreter but upon the inspired text itself. The message of the written Word is the same through the course oftime. Without this affirmation, the Word becomes a purely subjective document, incapable of communicating divine truth with certainty.
This point cannot be over-emphasized. Allegorical interpretation destroys biblical authority. It replaces the divine message with the imaginations of the interpreter, and as such opens the door wide for every kind of abuse of the text. False teachers, seeking to draw away disciples after themselves (Acts 20:30), utilize such means to release themselves from the unchanging standards of Gods Word and insert, under the guise of thus sayeth the Lord, their own pet doctrines and teachings. The Christian who is untaught and unstable, a novice in the Word, can easily be taken in by such a teacher who exudes confidence and often hides the false teachings behind a veneer of self-professed orthodoxy. So when we defend proper exegetical methodology, we are not merely arguing about tangential issues, we are, in reality, defending the very authority of the Word, and its ability to speak with clarity and force to each generation and in every place.
Dan Barker MP4 Now Available!
07/06/2009 - James WhiteWe have just placed the MP4 video recording of the debate at the University of Illinois in our webstore, here. I understand the DVD is not far behind.