"Christians and the Internet" newsletter
CATI, Vol. 2, No. 16:  November 13, 2001.



Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is
Copyright (C) 2001 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved.  For
permission to reproduce material from this newsletter, contact
Barry Traver at cati@traver.org.  Permission is hereby granted,
however, to pass along this issue to others, provided that (1)
no changes are made and (2) it is passed along in its entirety.


Harold Camping, President of Family Radio and ex-elder in the
Christian Reformed Church, believes that "The church age has
come to an end" and that Christians are to leave "the external
church" (i.e., congregations governed by pastors, elders, and
deacons) to form "fellowships of believers," since "the church
era has come to an end and the church no longer has any divine

On what basis are Christians to adopt Mr. Camping's radical
viewpoint?  On what authority does he challenge the God-given
authority of pastors and elders (see Eph. 4:11-16, Heb. 13:17,
etc.)?  As I see it, he presents two main reasons:  (1) his
own idiosyncratic re-interpretation of somewhat obscure Old
and New Testament prophetic passages, and (2) his contention
that God is working more and more through "a ministry like
Family Radio" and less and less through the church.

Yes, this is the same Harold Camping who predicted that Christ
would return in 1994, and his exegesis of the Scriptures is
equally (un)skillful at the present time.  Unfortunately, as
President of Family Radio, he has available to him a "pulpit"
to proclaim his strange views to the many listeners of what
is called "Christian radio," and thus he is in a position to
cause significant harm in many congregations, including many
in the Reformed tradition (since he himself comes from that

Here (I'm quoting with permission) is a recent email that I
received from a CATI subscriber:

> Have you heard anything about Family Radio and Harold
> Camping's new teaching? It is affecting many OPC and PCA
> Reformed works, in that the teaching tells people to leave
> their church no matter how faithful to the gospel it is.
> If you want this web site it has been found to be a useful
> place to find out more about it.
> http://www.familyradioiswrong.com

That Web site is indeed a useful one, and I do recommend it
to you, since on this subject "Family Radio _Is_ Wrong," and
very much so.

Harold Camping's views are set forth on Family Radio and on
the Family Radio Web site, especially in this article:

Harold Camping: "The End of the External Church: Has the Era
    of the Church Come to an End?"

Later we'll take a look at some of the things Mr. Camping
says in that article, but before we do that I'd like to
share with you (again with permission) an email that I got
from another CATI subscriber and my response to that note.
(Incidentally, when I wrote my reply, I did not intend it
for publication, so I hope you'll forgive any infelicities
of style, disorganization, etc.)

Here's the email that I received:

> Have you seen or read or heard about the article below?  I
> copied it from the Family Radio Website.  This teaching is
> splitting the church I pastor.  Have you had any dealings
> with Camping or those who listen to him in the past?  I have
> heard that many PCA and OPC churches had problems back in
> 1994 when he predicted the return of Christ. Would this be a
> good topic for a future CATI?  Would you have any pastoral
> advice for a young minister who isn't quite sure what to do
> as people believe this heresy and leave the church?  Just
> thought I would pass it along and see if you had any wisdom
> to impart.  I would appreciate your prayers.

And here's my response:
Even though the following points are numbered, the order does
not have any particular system.  I'm just mentioning things
as I think of them.

First, remember Christ's promise that the very gates of hell
shall not  prevail against the Church (Matthew 16:18).  That
great old hymn, "The  Church's One Foundation," accurately
presents the Scriptural teaching concerning the Church.  (Read
all six verses!)

Likewise Chapter XXV of the Westminster Confession of Faith
is a good summary of the Bible's teaching on the Church.  Note
in particular article v:  "...there shall always be a church
on earth, to worship God according to his will."  This is in
sharp contrast to Camping's view that there will be (and now
is!) a time when "the church era has come to an end and the
church no longer has any divine authority."

Camping seems aware that the historic Confessions of the
Church stand against him.  This is evident from his complaint
that "it is almost impossible to find a church today that
will modify its Confessions to make them more faithful to the
Bible."  (What he means, of course, is change them to make
them more faithful to his own unhistoric views.)

Second, Harold Camping is one of the reasons why I am not a
real fan of "Christian" radio.  God's people need to exercise
great discretion in choosing what to listen to, because there
is so much unScriptural teaching on the airwaves.

If people are going to listen to Christian radio, it may be
good to provide some guidance as to what preachers and
teachers are, in  general, safe guides.  (For example, R.C.
Sproul and D. James  Kennedy can be helpful.  Charles Colson
often has a lot to offer, although he is not really Reformed
when it comes to such matters as  "free will," the problem of
evil, etc.)

Third, Camping's track record definitely does not show him to
be a reliable guide.  Rather, there is more evidence that he
may be regarded as a false  prophet.  Like some of the cults,
he predicted the coming of Christ, and  it didn't happen.  (In
his book _1994_?, p. 531, he said this:  "The results of this
study indicate that the month of September of the year 1994 is
to be the time for the end of history.")

"You may say to yourselves, 'How can we know when a message
has not been spoken by the LORD?'  If what a prophet proclaims
in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that
is a message  the LORD has not spoken.  That prophet has
spoken presumptuously.   Do not be afraid of him."
(Deuteronomy 18:21-22).

In spite of his Reformed background (at one point he was an
elder in the Christian Reformed Church, although his
professional training was not in theology but in civil
engineering), Camping is "off" in some of his other teachings
as well, from what I understand.

For example, I believe the Scriptural position on marriage
and divorce is accurately set forth in Chapter XXV of the
Westminster Confession of  Faith (i.e., that "adultery" and
"willful desertion" can be "cause sufficient of dissolving
the bond of marriage" and that those are the only two
grounds recognized in the New Testament), whereas Camping
teaches that there is no Biblical ground ever for divorce
(see his statement, "...there is not to be divorce under any
circumstances whatsoever," in his tract "What God Hath Joined

Fourth, the Bible tells us that the ascended Christ gave
"...some to be pastors and teachers to prepare God's people
for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built
up until we all reach unity in the faith...." (Ephesians
4:11-12).  God works His will out through ordained officers
in the Church.  Though at times parachurch organizations may
be useful, they can never take the place of the Church, which
is given  by God the tasks of preaching the Word in worship,
celebrating the sacraments (including the Lord's Supper), and
administering church  discipline.  (Note well:  all of these
require elders to perform them!)

God gave you and your session responsibility for (and a
certain authority over) the congregation that you pastor.  In
the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, when people become members,
they promise to "submit in the Lord to the government of this
church and ... to heed its discipline" (see Chapter 5 of the
OPC Directory of Worship).  Other denominations in the
Presbyterian or Reformed tradition have similar statements,
because that is how God governs His Church, according to the
New Testament (see Hebrews 13:17).

Who gave Harold Camping such authority over God's people?  Who
ordained that his Family Radio as a parachurch organization
should supersede the church?  Yet he seems (implicitly) to
assume that authority and more:  a self-assertive authority to
teach things contrary to the historic understanding of the
Church.  (The introduction to his book _1994?_ states, for
example, "No book ever written is as audacious or bold as one
that claims to predict the timing of the end of the world,
and that is precisely what this book presumes to do."  No
modesty  there!)

I haven't studied his teachings in detail, but I have the
impression that he thinks that although the Church may fall,
nothing shall prevail against his self-ordained ministry in
Family Radio.  That is, Camping wants us to distrust elders
and deacons (who in the future will be "guided by their own
minds rather than by the Holy Spirit") but instead to trust in
an individual, Harold Camping (himself at one time ordained an
elder), who has already in the past shown himself to be an
unreliable guide, predicting events that did not come to pass!

I know, Camping does concede that "no teacher of Family
Radio ... has the authority to command" anyone "to withdraw
altogether from the church as an institution," but he does
presume the authority to teach that there will be a time when
"the church [not just individual churches or denominations] as
a corporate institution has no spiritual authority."

By the way, the word "corporate" comes from the Latin word
"corpus," meaning "body," so when the Bible refers to the
Church as the Body of Christ, it is referring to the
corporate nature of the Church.  Perhaps part of Camping's
problem is a failure to appreciate all that the corporate
nature of the Church involves.

Fifth, to me the best response to false teaching is true
teaching.  If we concentrate all our efforts on combatting a
particular kind of wrong teaching, that does not necessarily
mean that our people are prepared to deal with other forms of
wrong teaching.  Instruction in the truth is the best defense
and the best offense.

To put it another way, the really important question is not
whether or not people are following Harold Camping (for even
though they may avoid Camping's errors, they may be followers
of some other false teachers) but whether or not people are
following God through His Word.  If they know what the Bible
teaches about the Church, they should be able to handle
various forms of wrong teaching concerning the Church.  (The
same is true for other areas of Christian theology, such as

Sixth, in addition to preaching, there are other means of
instructing people in the truth (e.g., in Sunday School
classes, in one-on-one conversations, in sharing good
Christian books or articles, etc.)  Make use of whatever
opportunities exist to build your people up in the truth and
in "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27; see also Acts
20:20-21, 28-32).  (But you already know that.)

Seventh, it can be good to let people know that in the area
of eschatology there are different views that have been held
by Bible-believing Christians (I've found Robert Clouse's IVP
book The Meaning of the Millennium:  Four Views to be helpful
in this area), but Harold Camping's view is "beyond the camp,"
so to speak, so far as any real acceptance by pastors in the
Reformed tradition (e.g., in the OPC, PCA, RPCNA, RCUS, ARP,
or URC) is concerned.

That is, to me it seems instructive that essentially you
have to go outside God's current ordained leadership in the
(Bible-believing Reformed or Presbyterian) Church to find a
"preacher" who teaches that the Church is doomed!  But, of
course, Camping has an answer to this, since if all pastors
understood the truth as Camping does, they would not be

Eighth, so far as splitting the Church is concerned, the
definition of the Church (for Presbyterians) is set forth in
the Westminster Standards.  As long as we believe that they
accurately represent the teaching of Scripture on the Church,
that is where the Church must stand.

If people leave as a result, that's not necessarily a
"splitting of the Church" (or of a specific congregation),
but often an indication that the people leaving are not really
part of that congregation (as defined in Scripture and as
summarized by the Confessions).  (See 1 John 2:19, "They went
out from us, but they did not really belong to us....")

Ninth, I hope that some of the preceding is helpful to you.
At the moment I am not aware of any recent printed refutations
specifically of Camping's views, but such probably exist.  If
it would be helpful, I could ask around to see what I can
find.  (Just let me know.)

Warm regards in Christ,


P.S.  My prayers are with you.

P.P.S.  The following was published in the March 2000 issue of
the Reformed Herald, a publication of the RCUS:

"In about 1990, Harold Camping, an ex-Christian Reformed elder
and the founder of Family Christian Radio, predicted that
Christ would come again in 1994. Using the same foolish
numerology [as William Miller in 1818] Mr. Camping figured out
his numbers very carefully and began preaching his false
prophecy across the United States over hundreds of radio

"Because Mr. Camping was of Reformed background, many Reformed
folks tried to get him to back away from his false prophecy,
but he would not. Mr. Camping became arrogant. When people
asked why this amazing prophecy had never been understood by
Bible scholars before, he claimed that the Lord waited until a
man competent to figure it all out came along, 'Namely, me,'
he said.

"Well of course it was all a big foolishness, but when asked
about it later Mr. Camping said, 'I cannot lose either way,
if I am right I am right, but if I am wrong I will still
have caused many people to repent and believe in Jesus.' The
problem is that Mr. Camping was wrong on  both counts. Not
only did the world not end in 1994, his false prophecy only
gave many unbelievers another opportunity to despise the
Bible. False prophecy does not save people, it sends them to

"We cannot expect false prophecies to end. We will continue to
have false prophecies, some of them made by very sincere
Christians, but the very fact that they are given in the name
of Christ makes them dangerous. Christ will come again, but
trying to figure out when is itself a sin. Jesus said on
several occasions that the time of His coming is secret. 'No
one knows,' He said, 'not even the angels in heaven' (Matt.


Let's take a look now at that article I mentioned earlier by
Harold Camping, since I suspect that some CATI readers cannot
believe that Harold Camping (or anyone else!) could really be
teaching what he is teaching.  I do not intend to deal with
his radical, idiosyncratic re-interpretations in the area of
Biblical prophecy (his abilities in that area or lack thereof
may perhaps be fairly judged by his book _1994?_), but it may
be of interest to look at Camping's own statements (and to
interact with them) rather than contenting ourselves with a
paraphrase of his position.

Family Radio is not a church, but a parachurch organization.
Harold Camping wouldn't necessarily be troubled by that fact
because, according to him, God is now dispensing with the
church in favor of "a ministry like Family Radio."  Note that
"as [you] look at the church [you] attend," according to
Harold Camping, you should "deplore what [you] are seeing,"
because "something drastic ... is happening in even the most
conservative of the churches" (but apparently not in Family

"On the one hand we see churches everywhere becoming more and
more apostate. Yet on the other hand we see a ministry like
Family Radio becoming more and more useful to the Lord in
sending the true Gospel into the world. Virtually everyone
[sic] of us, as we look at the church we attend, and as we
look at the other churches in our city, deplore what we are
seeing.... Indeed any spiritually minded believer must admit
something drastic has happened and is happening in even the
most conservative of the churches. How can it be then that a
ministry like Family Radio appears to be increasingly blessed
as it is able to share the true Gospel with an increasingly
large percentage of the world's population.... [T]here appears
to be a major contradiction between the Biblical prediction
of the expectation of an increasingly dead church and the
actuality of a robust healthy presentation of the Gospel by
means of an organization like Family Radio...."

By the way, Mr. Camping usually doesn't end a question with a
question mark, but with a period.  I'm not sure why that is
(unless his questions are not intended to be real questions,
since he himself is providing the answers).

Yes, some churches may be becoming "apostate," but are there
not yet today some "faithful churches"?  "Yes," says, Camping,

"But there is a larger plan of God that must be looked at.
This plan shows that a time will come when God will no longer
use the churches and congregations to bring the Gospel to the
world. They instead will come under the wrath of God....  Even
though many churches and denominations insist that the Bible
is the only infallible Word of God, they cling to a number of
doctrines of men rather than submit entirely to the truth of
the Bible....  If we can still find or are still a part of a
church that is reasonably true to the Bible, should we remain
there.... Fact is, what are we to do if we could find a church
where it appears that each and every doctrine they hold and
teach is faithful to the Word of God.... No longer are you to
be under the spiritual rulership of the church. This command
is given because God is finished with the era of churches
being used of God to evangelize....

According to Camping, the fact that "God is finished with the
era of churches" means also that God is finished with pastors,
elders, and deacons:

"The churches of today have had their candlestick removed....
The church has ceased to be an institution or divine 0rganism
to serve God as His appointed representative on earth....  If
the church age has come to an end, what are the believers to
do who are members of churches.... If a person or family is
a member of a church they can withdraw their membership and
fellowship on sundays with whomever there may be who are of
like mind.... [H]e has become convinced that the church era
has come to an end and the church no longer has any divine
authority.... If a congregation decides to be obedient to
this command they can reorganize their congregation from a
church congregation, to become a fellowship of believers. The
elders will no longer be elders. The deacons will no longer
be deacons. The Pastor will no longer be pastor. In other
words no individuals will have spiritual rule over the
congregation.... [T]he church as a corporate institution has
no spiritual authority...."

No pastors?  But Family Radio includes broadcasts of programs
by pastors, pastors of churches with elders and deacons.  And
not all of the programs carried by Family Radio agree entirely
in doctrine, and even fewer programs agree with Harold Camping
that "the church age has come to an end."  (In fact, do any
such programs agree with him?)  Why does Family Radio carry
all these programs (especially when the President of Family
Radio, Harold Camping, presumably thinks that we can trust
Family Radio more than churches governed by pastors, elders,
and deacons)?

Scripture tells us something about pastors and teachers:

"It was [Christ] who gave ... some to be pastors and teachers,
to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the
body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in
the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become
mature, attaining to the full measure of the fullness of
Christ.  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and
forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of
teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their
deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we
will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is,
Christ" (Eph. 4:11-15).

Most people would take this passage to be saying that "until
we all reach unity in the faith, attaining to the full measure
of the fullness of Christ" (something that has not yet taken
place) "pastors and teachers" will be used of God "to prepare
God's people for works of service."  Mr. Camping apparently
would have us believe, however, that that function will be
taken over by Family Radio and by similar ministries (although
it is never explained how they will be protected from serious
doctrinal error).

If you are a member of a conservative congregation which
seeks to be faithful to the Scriptures, I believe that the
following exhortation to you has not been revoked, but is
still God's command to you:

"Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.  They keep
watch over you as men who must given an account.  Obey them
so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would
be of no advantage to you" (Heb. 13:17).

If Family Radio is wrong (and I believe Harold Camping's views
are indeed wrong here), then it is a serious thing indeed for
him to urge Christians to reject that Scripture as no longer
relevant and to urge them to refuse to submit to godly men in
the God-ordained offices of pastor, elder, and deacon.

Yes, Camping may be sincere in his (mis)interpretation of
Scripture, but his teaching that "the church age has come
to an end" and that we are to ignore what the Bible has to
say about pastors, elders, and deacons (and indeed about the
church as a corporate body) as therefore now irrelevant is
a dangerous teaching, for it takes away from the Word of
God.  If Family Radio is wrong (as I believe) and the church
age has not come to an end, then Christians must continue
to be obedient to (and grateful for) what God has revealed
in the Bible concerning pastors, elders, deacons, and the
glorious body of Christ, "God's household, which is the
church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the
truth" (1 Tim. 3:15).

To explore this topic further, see the following:

Family Radio Is Wrong

P.S. When it is said that "Family Radio Is Wrong," what is
meant is that Harold Camping, President of Family Radio,
is wrong about the church age having come to an end.  I do
want to say that Family Radio does still broadcast many
worthwhile programs, such as "God's Word Today" by the late
Dr. James M. Boice, pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church
(PCA), Philadelphia.  Such programs, of course, do not agree
with Camping's radical views concerning the church.  If God
is blessing Family Radio, I believe it is because of Family
Radio's broadcasting of programs by Dr. James M. Boice, Dr.
Joel Nederhood, and other godly pastors in God's Church.


Was the destruction of the World Trade Center predicted by
the Bible?  Doesn't it say somewhere in the Good Book that
"the twin towers will crumble"?  Sure it does!  It's right
after the verses "God helps those who help themselves" and
"He that bloweth not his own horn, by whom then shall it be
blown?"  Which is to say, that many statements attributed to
the Bible by popular opinion do not in fact appear in Holy

The Bible Gateway Web site responds to this question and to
related questions:

"Q. Is there a verse that mentions 'The twin towers will
crumble...' or 'In the City of God there will be a great
A. No. Phrases that may appear to be verses, ... 'In the City
of God there will be a great thunder, Two brothers torn apart
by Chaos, while the fortress endures, the great leader will
succumb,' 'The third big war will begin when the big city is
burning,' ... 'the twin towers will crumble' and 'After the
two metal birds make the twin brothers fall, it shall be the
end' have been attributed to the Bible. In fact, these phrases
do not appear in the Bible at all. Many others have attributed
these predictions to Nostradamus, but this too is false."

Nostradamus was a famous French astrologer and seer who lived
in the 16th century.  He is falsely credited with predicting
many events of the 20th century.  His "success" is built on
the same principles of success of modern astrologers and
writers of horoscopes:  if you make your predictions vague
enough, they can be applied to (and "proven" by) almost
anything that happens.

One widely circulated email message put together various
fragments from Nostradamus with words that were not his and
claimed that this supposed "prediction" of the Twin Towers
tragedy was written by Nostradamus in 1654.  (The email does
not explain how this was possible, since Nostradamus died in

The "Urban Legends" reference pages at Snopes.com contain
some appropriate words from Barbara "la cosa nostradamus"
[so she calls herself] Mikkelson concerning the Nostradamus

"This prophecy is truly the Mr. Potato Head of predictions --
if the parts don't fit to your liking, just rearrange them and
try again. Just once, we'd like someone to (accurately) tell
us what one of Nostradamus' "prophecies" means in advance of
the events it supposedly describes.... If Nostradamus was such
a profound prophet, then why is it that not one person in the
world was able to decipher his "prediction" in time to sound a
warning about the horrors of 11 September 2001? Bottom line: A
prediction that can only be interpreted after the events it
supposedly foresees have occurred is not a "prediction" at
all. If I could spew out a thousand vague "prophecies" and not
have to explain what they meant until after the events they
supposedly predicted had occurred, I'm sure I could manage a
pretty impressive record for accuracy too."

A number of variations of the bogus Nostradamus prophey have
been going around on the Internet.  Mikkelson gives a rather
thorough analysis of the particular version:

"In the City of God there will be a great thunder,
Two brothers torn apart by Chaos,
while the fortress endures,
the great leader will succumb,
The third big war will begin when the big city is burning"

Sound impressive?  Yes, perhaps, until you take time to
explore the background, as Barbara Mikkelson does:

"Nostradamus did not write the quatrain now being attributed
to him.... It originated with a student at Brock University in
Canada in 1997, appearing on a web page essay on Nostradamus.
That particular quatrain was offered by the page's author,
Neil Marshall, as a fabricated example to illustrate how
easily an important-sounding prophecy can be crafted through
the use of abstract imagery. He pointed out how the terms he
used were so deliberately vague they could be interpreted
to fit any number of cataclysmic events.... It appears
someone mistook Marshall's illustrative example for an actual
Nostradamus prophecy and, not content to let well enough
alone, added 'The third big war will begin when the big city
is burning.' A fabrication was thus further fabricated."

Even more additions were made (including some actual words
from Nostradamus), and Mikkelson gives the full details
about how this "prophecy" added even more details after
the event supposedly prophesied in it.

For some time after the "twin tower" tragedy, the most
popular search term on the Web was not anything that you
might have guessed, but was "Nostradamus," a fact which
may suggest something about the gullibility of people around
the world.  The Bible (which warns against following false
prophets) has proven its accuracy through the centuries, but
people, it seems, would rather pursue a lie than the truth,
preferring to trust in the words of a dead man (Nostradamus)
rather than in the Word of the living God.

The Bible did not predict the World Trade Center disaster,
but it did accurately predict events much more important,
viz., the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ.  The
recent attack on America, however, has led to many related
hoaxes on the Web:

"Did Nostradamus predict the attacks? Did CNN fake Palestinian
celebrations? Did Canadian writer Gordon Sinclair rise from
the dead to comment on the attacks? Did a camera capture a
photo of an unlucky tourist at the top of the WTC just before
one of the planes hit? (answers: no, no, no and no)"

If you are interested in exploring further what's a hoax and
what's true in what's going around the Internet concerning
the attack on America (as well as the supposed Nostradamus
prediction), here are some resources:

ABCNews: "Prophecies and Predictions" by John Allen Paulos

About.com: Urban Legends and Folklore: Sept. 11 Terrorist
    attacks stoke the Internet rumor mill
Part 1: Rumor Watch
Part 2: Did CNN Fake News Footage?
Part 3: Did Nostradamus Predict the Tragedy?

ChristianAnswers.Net: Did Nostradamus predict the bombing of
    the Twin Towers in New York?

Crosswalk.com: Nostradamus and the Attack on New York

CSICOP: Terrorist Attack HoaxWatch

How Stuff Works: How Nostradamus Works

Snopes.com: Rumors of War
(Did Bert, the Sesame Street muppet, appear on posters carried
by supporters of Osama bin Laden? You may be surprised by the


This is the sixty-first issue of a free newsletter devoted
to Christians And The Internet ("CATI," pronounced "Katy,"
but spelled with a "C" and an "I" for "Christians" and the

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Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is
Copyright (C) 2001 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved.  For
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