Some 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.