(Originally printed in the Spring 2011 Issue of the MCOI Journal)
Harold Camping has predicted the end of the world again. One might have thought that after his failed prediction in 1994, the famed Family Radio pontiff would have learned to restrain his prophetic license. Unfortunately, Camping has grown all the more emboldened in his apocalyptic authority and has kindly given us less than five months to prepare for the rapture.
Camping’s latest prediction for the end of the world is May 21, 2011.
His means and methods for arriving at this date are so convoluted, that I suppose even the world itself could not contain the articles that could be written; but this one is written that you may know Harold Camping is a heretic and a false prophet.
Review And Critique
Camping was once an elder in the Christian Reformed Church and has held many of the basic tenets of the Calvinist tradition. In his teachings, the authority of the Bible, the depravity of man, and salvation by grace alone have been stressed. His ministry has been blessed by God and many—including myself—have been brought to faith through his teaching.
Nevertheless, Camping presently is leading as many away from the Church as he initially had led to Christ. His erroneous teachings are threatening the spiritual health and well-being of the blood-bought Bride of Christ.
Rather than refuting specific errors, this review is intended to expose the root problem: Camping’s hermeneutic (i.e., method of biblical interpretation). His method of biblical interpretation is the poison presently threatening the Church, and unfortunately, this booklet has been sent to millions and will continue to be sent free of charge.
As we examine and critique the hermeneutical principles set forth in Camping’s booklet, we shall find many of them are orthodox, while others reek of ancient Greek philosophy and vain speculation.
His book is divided into three sections:
1. Biblical Interpretation
2. The Bible is its Own Interpreter
3. The Bible has More Than One Level of Meaning
We shall maintain that format while giving special attention to his various theses.
We must remember that the Bible, in its entirety, is the Holy Word of God. Every word, every phrase, is God-breathed … it is imperative that we remember that the Old Testament is just as holy and important and uniquely the Word of God as the New Testament. (p.1)
This statement is as crucial as it is correct. It is derived from 2 Timothy 3:16, and we agree that as long as the Bible student begins with the truth “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, … ,” he is headed in the right direction. Further, the equality of the two Testaments is also here asserted, and this is as crucial as his first statement. So, in these two premises, Camping is in total agreement with both the Bible and the historic Christian view of Scripture [c.f., Belgic Confession 3 and Westminster Confession of Faith (WFC) 1]. The Bible alone and in its entirety is the Word of God. (p.10)
Again, nothing could be more accurate. By virtue of its being the very Word of God, the Holy Scriptures have absolute authority. Camping’s interest here is to expose and reject all attempts either to broaden or narrow the ultimate authority of Scripture. Indeed, we agree with his premise:
There is no other source of divinely articulated or verbalized truth. (p.10)
Camping employs Revelation 22:18 to prove that further revelation from God is impossible and rightly identifies extra-Biblical revelatory thoughts, tongues, dreams, and visions as threats to the true Gospel which is circumscribed by Scripture alone.
The theological concept that the Bible “contains” the Word of God is also rightly denounced. He refutes this attempt to diminish the authority of Scripture on the basis of Revelation 22:19.
The New Testament interprets the Old Testament … The later revelation sheds more light on the earlier one, and it is the final word. (p.13)
The necessary interrelation and interdependence of the two Testaments is here highlighted. Camping rightly asserts it is impossible to understand the OT unless we have carefully studied the NT. However, this principle could (and should) also be reversed.
The NT, although a later revelation, should not be regarded as superior revelation. The NT cannot be understood on its own anymore than can the OT, for “in the Old Testament the New is concealed; and in the New, the Old is revealed” (Augustine, Quaestiones In Heptateuchum 2.73).
A conclusion that allows us to set aside certain passages because they seem to be associated with a cultural problem of long ago and therefore said to have no application for our lives today, effectively, destroys the authority of the Bible. It is a direct violation of II Timothy 3:16. (p.16)
In his effort to establish the ultimate authority of Scripture, Camping addresses this popular-but-absurd notion and quickly gets to the heart of the issue: Are we ready to be obedient to what the Bible teaches? Those who are not ready conveniently will dismiss entire portions of Scripture as being so historically and culturally specific that there no longer remains any direct modern application.
While we must acknowledge the time-conditioned nature of Scripture, we must also be careful not to abuse this principle; lest we lose the whole Bible (for every book and letter was directed to a particular audience at a particular point in history).
We, therefore, must agree with Camping (and more importantly with the Apostle Paul) that all Scripture is not only given by inspiration by God, but also “…is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that ” even the modern “man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Having rightly confirmed the Bible as the authoritative Word of God, Camping then turns to the next principle of Bible interpretation:
The Bible Is Its Own Interpreter
One of the most puzzling phenomena currently facing the church is that theologians of various denominations are so far apart in their understanding of doctrines supposedly related to or derived from the Bible. (p.19)
This is no current phenomena. Lack of agreement in understanding the Bible always has plagued the Church. One only needs to consult any Church history book in order to survey the various contentions and doctrinal disputes that have risen in past centuries.
In actuality, the Christian Church today enjoys far more doctrinal uniformity than any other time in history.
For instance, the debate concerning the doctrine of the Trinity was not “settled” until the fourth century. The Canon was not agreed upon until the same era. Likewise, the doctrine of justification by faith alone was not clearly articulated until the sixteenth century.
Granted, disputes still arise, but there are some basic Christian doctrines that are, for the most part, taken for granted (c.f., The Ecumenical Creeds).
Nevertheless, Camping obviously is less interested in essential doctrine than he is in eschatology;* for disagreement over End time issues is the prime example he cites to demonstrate this “puzzling phenomena.”
Let it be noted: No denomination in history ever has reached full consensus on End-time doctrines. Even the meticulous precisionists of the Westminster Assembly refused to be overly specific on such matters in WCF 33.
The problem is that theologians and pastors are taught to come to the Bible from the perspective of the already established theological position of the church or denomination to which they belong. (p.20)
This may be the case, but Camping over-generalizes here. He faults Baptists for coming to the Bible with Baptist presuppositions, Lutherans with coming with Lutheran presuppositions, Reformed coming with Reformed presuppositions, etc. The necessary consequence of such a process, he claims, is that no one ever leaves his tradition. So, we must ask the obvious question: Did he not leave his?
Furthermore, if the “perspective of the already established theological position” is the root of all evil, could one expect the multitude of modern non-denominational churches to embody Christian orthodoxy? This, of course, is not the case, because independent teachers who are exempt from accountability are most often the least orthodox in their teaching.
Camping’s aversion to denominations is as immature as it is unrealistic. Like-minded Christians will find one another and unite. This is inevitable. This reality can even be observed among Family Radio listeners. “Camping-ites” have adopted the presuppositions of their teacher in the same way as Baptists or Lutherans. Camping’s over-generalizations on this matter are almost as absurd as his proposed solution:
The solution to this problem is: we must go to the Bible with no prejudices and no presuppositions whatsoever. (p.22)
Camping cannot mean what he writes here; because he either contradicts it or corrects it on the very next page by saying we may hold presuppositions—so long as they are these: The Bible is true, it is the infallible Word of God, and it is the only rule for doctrine and practice.
Is Camping trying to recommend a revelational epistemology?** He does not use these terms, but it seems this is what he is trying to say when he writes:
… we cannot trust our minds … we must put every thought under the search light of the Word of God. (p.23)
His conclusion is:
If they [our presuppositions] cannot be shown to be derived from the Bible, they should be corrected. No presupposition should be retained if it is not in complete harmony with the Bible. (p.23)
With this premise, we agree. The inescapable question is this: Are Camping’s presuppositions in complete harmony with the Bible?
When I was finally able to ferret out all the biblical teachings concerning the nature of salvation, to my utter delight I found that the five points of Calvinism were in agreement with everything that I had found in my independent studies of the Scriptures. The Reformers of old had done their work well and accurately. (p.24)
This certainly is a gracious statement! Camping, in his own personal study, has found that Christ, indeed, has been Lord over His Church and His Spirit, indeed, has been leading the Church into all truth as he promised.
Camping stops here to explain how he had been brought up in a Reformed Church, but he was not taught how to prove its doctrines from Scripture. This, without a doubt, is a lamentable fact, but it is not sufficient ground to dismiss or despise the Church’s historically received doctrinal standards. If Camping wishes to start from scratch, he certainly may. However, he ought not to spread this mentality in the Church.
It needs to be acknowledged there are those who simply do not possess the necessary gifts and resources to search the Scriptures as intensely and accurately as the Reformers of old. That is precisely why Christ gave teachers to his church (Ephesians 4:11). May we not trust Christ in this regard, and did He not promise to send learned shepherds to look over our souls?
Whether intentionally or not, Camping has propped up the postmodern idols of individualism and egalitarianism. In doing so, he also has laid a burden upon the sheep they never were intended to bear.
The only curiosity is this: Why are his followers suspicious of all teachers but him? This notion of “implicit trust in a leader” is more indicative of a cult than a church.
… if all appears beautiful, complacent, and secure, then we can wonder, “Do we really have the truth?” Remember that Jesus said, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!” (p.27/29)
This statement further illustrates the “suspicion mentality” that Camping’s teaching breeds. It also represents his tendency to de-contextualize Bible passages in order to prove his point (i.e., Luke 6:26 quoted above).
Rather than seeing the present and relative peace of the Church as a blessing from God, he sees it as the proverbial calm-before-the-storm.
Such suspicion has devastating effects upon the believer. Persecution rather than peace is seen as the predominant benefit of salvation. This is strange; for is it not the wicked who find no peace: “There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22).
When bringing judgment, God first blinds theologians so that they begin to rewrite the rules of the Bible. As a final judgment on the church prior to Judgment Day, He will allow the churches to be overcome by false gospels – gospels in which it is taught that there is more to divine revelation than the Bible alone (p.28)
Camping admits, “We have wandered beyond the scope of our study…” (p.28). Lest we do the same, suffice it to say Camping’s heretical ecclesiology*** and eschatology are wreaking havoc in the community of faith.
One must wonder just how he comes to such erroneous conclusions when he can say such sensible things as:
Regardless of how clear a verse may appear to be, the doctrinal conclusion we derive from that verse should not be taught as Gospel truth unless it has been checked against anything and everything else in the Bible that might relate to that conclusion. (p.31)
This statement seems legitimate in that it only requires our conclusions to be thoroughly biblical. With this premise we shall not contend. However, Camping has begun to introduce the notion that most of Scripture is not clear. This is contrary to both the internal testimony of Scripture and the historic Reformed doctrine of the perspicuity (i.e., clarity) of Scripture (c.f., WCF 1.7).
If we wish to know the meaning of word in the Bible, we do not go to a dictionary of Greek or Hebrew … . To do so would be useless. (p.33)
In this absurd statement, Camping asserts “the Bible is its own dictionary” (p.33). Yet, this is ridiculous, because more than once in his book Camping recommends Young’s Analytical Concordance and Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance as being able to “help immeasurably” in one’s study of Scripture.
Young’s Analytical Concordance and Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance help immeasurably in this re spect because they give every word used in the original languages and where the words are found in the English King James Bible. (p.2, cf. p.38)
Both of these volumes utilize a dictionary format and are, in fact, a step removed from the more foundational linguistic tools of the Hebrew and Greek Lexica.
Again, if Camping is trying to stress the authority of the Bible, that is admirable; but his argument is irrational.
In the case of hapax legomenon (i.e., single occurrence of a word), he recommends leaving the word un-translated, and one is to “… trust that at a future date God will open the eyes of a Bible student to learn its meaning.” (p.34)
Ideally, the rules of grammar and the meanings of words should be derived entirely from the Bible, because the Bible alone must stand as the final authority in all matters of which it speaks. (p.34)
Camping continues his line of fallacious argumentation by making the Bible its own grammar book as well as its own dictionary. In this, he fails to realize Hebrew and Greek were not mystical, Bible-only, heaven-languages, but rather, they were the common languages of ancient civilizations.
In that these languages existed before, during, and after the time of the Divine inspiration of Scripture, is it not conceivable they may have developed an accurate dictionary or grammar book?
Further, Camping’s assertion contradicts one of his own primary rules. Nowhere in the Bible does the Spirit speak concerning “rules of grammar.”
One need only consult the trusty Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance to find that grammatical terms such as tense, mood, syntax, etc. do not appear anywhere in the text of the Bible.
Surely, Camping’s motives seem good, but his continued absurd assertions only further discredit his argument. Consensus is never a basis for truth. (p.34)
This presupposition is probably the most troubling in his whole book; because it lends credence to the separatist and individualistic tendencies of both Camping and his followers.
This premise also violates the second most important Bible verse related to the development of a biblical hermeneutic: 2 Peter 1:20, where Peter through the Spirit says, “knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation” with good reason. Granted, consensus is no guarantee, but it is a great help in determining whether one has reached a true interpretation. One must always be wary when departing from the traditional interpretation of any given passage, because the Bible was not given to individuals but to the “… the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15).
What self-confidence and sinful audacity does that one manifest who accuses the entire historic Church of being mistaken!
One must understand that only the original autographs are to be considered infallible. (p.37)
This premise is another example of Camping’s lazy argumentation, as he fails to point out these “original autographs” no longer exist. Fortunately, he does maintain that the copies we have are “virtually infallible” (p.38), but he gives no explanation of exactly what he means by this.
The biblical doctrine of the preservation of Scripture (c.f., WCF 1.8) could have strengthened his argument here, but instead, he falls back on the tired Wescott-Hort rule that “… the earlier the original was copied, the more faithful the copy” (p.37). His inconsistency here is particularly astounding in that Camping is a staunch Textus Receptus/King James Version (TR/ KJV) advocate.
For all his desire to uphold the authority and perfection of Scripture, Camping fails to defend his position. The best he can say is that the Bibles we have today are:
… almost as infallible as the original texts. (p.38) God is infinitely wise. He could have written the Bible simply, so that no one could misunderstand it. God did not intend to write the Bible to be always easily understood. (p.38)
Camping had previously hinted that the Bible is not entirely clear, and he now begins to develop that notion. It will soon become evident Camping, wittingly or not, has, adopted the ancient Alexandrian Model of allegorical interpretation. In order to establish his position that the Bible is not clear, he even employs the same proof texts as the ancient allegorical interpreters: Proverbs 25:2 and Proverbs 1:5-6.
We shall revisit and more fully demonstrate this connection in our consideration of the third section of his book.
One must realize that the Word of God is to be accepted first by faith and not because one understands it. (p.39)
This is an interesting but false dichotomy. Faith and reason are not natural enemies, and the rationalists who give priority to reason are no better than the mystics who give priority to faith. While faith may be above reason, it is not necessarily against it. Faith and reason must be responsibly reconciled lest all of life become unintelligible.
The Bible Has More Than One Level Of Meaning
According to Camping:
These levels are:
a. The historical setting.
b. The moral or spiritual teaching.
c. The salvation account. (p.43)
While Camping may not be aware of it, this threefold division of the meaning of Scripture comes from ancient Greek philosophy and not from the Holy Spirit.
It was Plato (428-347bc) who taught the human soul had three parts and illustrated their interrelation in Phaedrus.
In the second and third century, this idea was married to Christianity as interpreters like Clement of Alexandria (ad150- 215) began subjecting Scripture to what had become known as the Allegorical Model of interpretation. This method of interpretation valued the “deeper sense” of Scripture as being more valuable than the plain or literal sense.
Then, having accepted Plato’s threefold division of the human soul and believing Scripture was given for the salvation of man’s soul, Clement’s disciple Origen (ad185-254) developed and articulated the “threefold sense” of Scripture in De Principiis. His division (almost identical to Camping’s) was this:
These early interpreters soon forgot God’s revelation was both clear and accessible; and it took over a millennium for this basic principle to be rediscovered by the Reformers.
WCF 1.9 explains Scripture interprets Scripture, difficult passages can be clarified by more simple passages, and the sense of the Scripture is one.
Let it be noted that to say that the sense of Scripture is one is not to deny the rich diversity of God’s revelation. The Lord, indeed, employed parables, allegory, historical narrative, etc. We are only asserting the Holy Spirit speaks with a singular and specific intention in any given text. Therefore, the plain meaning is the “deeper meaning”.
God’s purpose for writing the Bible was not to give us a book on history or science. It was to reveal His salvation plan, and God did this in an historical context. His plan comes to fruition in history. (p.45)
In a defense of his “historical setting” (first level of meaning), Camping briefly defends the historical accuracy of the Bible. He takes a few stabs at modern-day scientists, offers a few evidentialist arguments, and ultimately concludes that whatever the Bible speaks of is true.
He claims God recorded historical incidents and conversations so “His salvation plan” “shines through” them.
However, he then admits the Bible wasn’t intended to be history book. Certainly, it is odd he believes the Bible to be a sufficient dictionary and grammar book, but not a sufficient science or history book. This is another example of gross inconsistency in his argumentation.
At times he does acknowledge the historicity of the Bible, but he somewhat undermines it here by making that almost irrelevant. As a good allegorist, he affirms the usefulness of the literal; but he quickly turns to the more “important” aspects of the text.
The Bible is the standard God established for the well-being of mankind. The Bible records hundreds of historical situations which can be examined in light of these rules to discover the blessings that come with obedience and the curse that comes with disobedience. (p.47)
Camping now explains the second level of meaning: “The moral or spiritual.” This level highlights the many rules contained in Scripture.
Using 1 Corinthians 10:11, Camping sees the moral lessons of Scripture as being God’s means of showing the natural man his need while showing the regenerate the path of blessing.
We will not contend with his premise but will point out Camping has little or no concept of the rich history of redemption that can be seen when one properly looks at inscripturated history in terms of providential and linear progression.
This is no surprise, for the allegorist seeks a meaning that transcends actual events, and this perspective blinds him to anything but moralistic applications of any given text.
The third level of meaning persistently shines through the Scriptures: the Bible is the presentation of the Gospel of grace. Unquestionably, this is the most important purpose of the Bible. (p.48)
Priority here is given to the third level of meaning: “The salvation account.” All Christians agree the Bible is the presentation of God’s Salvation plan, but Camping is inferring something more here.
This author agrees the Bible’s chief purpose is to make known the Gospel of Grace. However, this revelation was developed and delivered through redemptive history, which Camping has essentially rendered irrelevant. Camping essentially has reduced Scripture to some redundant reiteration of one main idea.
When giving such heavy priority to the third level of meaning, doesn’t Camping also diminish the value of the other two levels? For example: Are we to read Genesis 1 to find out how the world was made, or do we read it primarily to discover what it tells us about salvation? If the third level of meaning “is the most important purpose,” then, perhaps, we finally can embrace those liberal Bible interpreters who deny creation ex nihilo. “After all,” one might say, “It is the plan of salvation that matters most.”
The Bible makes many statements that bear directly on the message of salvation, but the message is not always immediately apparent – sometimes it is hidden within the biblical language. (p.50)
“Hidden” is classical allegorist terminology. It is very true that all passages in Scripture are not equally clear. For this reason, most interpreters follow the basic principle where we allow “simple” passages to assist in the interpretation of more “difficult” ones. However, this is not what Camping means.
The message of salvation, as he explains, is sometimes “hidden” behind a text that seems to be teaching a less than purely salvific message.
This word “hidden” is admittedly alluring in that it suggests understanding the Bible is some esoteric and mystical matter achieved only by the enlightened elect rather than a gift from God intended for all his children.
Additionally, if one believes that the “hidden” meaning is the most important, we have to wonder what other Gnostic† tendencies they will eventually adopt.
One major way in which God hid the salvation message is in the ceremonial laws. (p.51)
Was it that God hid the message, or did He foreshadow it? Camping may refuse such a distinction, but in this he departs from historic hermeneutical principles.
Types and shadows do play a significant role in Scripture— especially in the OT. They were intended to point toward the Christ (Messiah) and were made effectual by the Holy Spirit to build up believers in the faith.
The reason we recognize the ceremonial laws as being types is because the Spirit makes it clear in the New Testament which people, items, and events from the Old were intended as shadows. Nevertheless, imaginative people can always find more than the Spirit has specifically named. This is where one must be careful.
Can one improve upon God’s revelation? Should one attempt to draw conclusions where the Spirit has not?
It is not a matter of motive (for the ancient allegorists used their model of interpretation for the defense of the orthodox faith), but it is a matter of principle: Can one be wiser than God?
Since it is God who chose the types and shadows, we must allow Him to point them out as well. Camping does give lip service to this concept when he states:
When God indicates that He is speaking in parables … then it is safe to develop spiritual truth from these Scriptural accounts.” (p.52)
Unfortunately, two pages later, he contradicts and invalidates that statement when he says:
Scripture says that Jesus always taught with parables … (p.54)
The declaration of Mark 4:34, “without a parable spake he not unto them” applies to the whole Bible. (p.54)
Historical events are, in effect, historical parables. (p.54)
Through this line of reasoning, Camping would make the entire Bible a parable. It is a classic non sequitur. Perhaps, sensing the lack of logic here, Camping attempts to prove his conclusion on theological grounds.
His argument is this: Since Christ is “the Word of God” (Rev. 19:13) and spoke through the OT prophets (1 Peter 1:11), then His statement about speaking only in parables (Mark 4:34) applies to the OT as well as the NT. He alleges further “proof” of this is Psalm 78:1-3 and Proverbs 1:5-6.
Thus, having declared the entire Bible is one big parable, Camping now has freed his speculative mind to wander.
Parables classically are defined as earthly stories with heavenly meanings; and while this is not a bad definition, it does determine a certain approach to interpretation. It suggests parables have a lesson to communicate, and it also admits a certain distance between the event and the reality of that lesson.
One might then wonder: Of what value is history if it is recorded only to point us heavenward? Further, does the exaggeration often employed in parables compromise the accuracy of their supposed historical record?
For instance, Camping would never deny the historical accuracy of the Creation account in Genesis 1. On the radio, He indeed, has waxed eloquent upon the theme that “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3) is really a promise that Jesus would be sent as “… the light of the world …” (John 8:12) and be raised from the dead on the first day of the week. Is the key word “light” or “first day” or both? This is what Calvin called “syllable-snatching” (Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion 4.17.14- 23). What warrant does he have to reason so?
Really, it does not matter. This arbitrary assignment of deeper meaning to various passages is at the heart of Camping’s hermeneutic. Let us examine another example.
If Boaz is a representation of Christ, it must be decided who Ruth and Naomi represent, and who or what is represented by the other kinsman, the cities, and the other historical elements in the written account. (p.55)
The connection between Boaz and Christ is universally accepted on the basis of both having applied to them the title redeemer (though Camping recognizes no such word clue).
On what basis, then, will these other allegedly “necessary” connections be made? Vain and fanciful speculation is the answer.
When a statement in the Bible appears to have no direct bearing on salvation, we must look for a deeper spiritual meaning of that statement that relates to salvation. (p.55)
This search for “a deeper spiritual meaning” is as unwarranted as it is inappropriate.
Camping admits a student may spend hours with one verse and never find this “deeper spiritual meaning.” He claims:
This is God’s way of keeping us humble. (p.55)
Could it be that such an enigmatic meaning simply is not there? Could the dreadful words of Jesus at Matthew 13:10-17 explain why some never come to understand his words?
In relation to the third level, [salvation account] any spiritual meaning found within a passage must be in agreement with these three principles:
1. The deeper, spiritual meaning must relate to the Gospel of salvation.
2. The spiritual identification of elements within the parable or historical account must have biblical validation.
3. The spiritual conclusion must be in total agreement with everything in the Bible that clearly relates to the nature of salvation. (p.73)
The arbitrariness and speculative assignment of hidden meaning to the different elements of a text is here somewhat bridled; and for this, we should be thankful. At least the fantastical insights of Camping will not intentionally contradict the main message of the Bible. Nevertheless, it is quite impossible to interpret every aspect of a text without violating one or more of his rules.
For instance, in his example of “Ruth as a parable,” (remember, according to Camping, “the whole Bible” is a parable) Camping rightly designates Boaz as a type of Christ. The text not only allows this, but even demands it.
However and as previously stated, if Camping is consistent, he would also have us assign “a deeper spiritual meaning” to all aspects of the Book of Ruth. 1Editor’s brief summary of the Book of Ruth: Naomi was a widowed Jew; and her daughter-in-law (also widowed) Ruth was a Gentile who loved and was determined to follow Naomi and her God. Boaz was Naomi’s Jewish Kinsman Redeemer within whose field Gentile Ruth finds food and protection. Through Naomi (Jew), Ruth (Gentile) learns more about Boaz (Jewish Kinsman Redeemer), and they eventually marry. Initially, Naomi grumbled against the God of Israel for His dealings with her; but God eventually renews and restores her through what happens with Ruth This simply cannot be done without violating one or more of his own rules. Allow us to demonstrate:
When we apply Camping’s thinking to Ruth as he does to other passages, if Boaz signifies Christ, then we must give “a deeper spiritual meaning” to Ruth as a picture of the redeemed. Now we have a problem, for was it not Ruth who came to Boaz? Would this not suggest in “a deeper spiritual meaning” that we initiate salvation by coming to Christ?
This conundrum might be solved if we say that Naomi, who sent Ruth, is a picture of the Holy Spirit. But if that’s the case, we then have another problem with the deeper meaning: Naomi essentially speaks against God for His harsh dealings with her in Chapter 1.
What implications might that have for our understanding of the perfect agreement and interrelation between the Three Persons of the Godhead?
It becomes clear that one runs into a multitude of problems when trying to unravel every supposed and specific parabolic mystery of the Bible.
Camping has done a great disservice to the Church. He has essentially turned “The Revelation of God” into “The Secret of God” and will have to answer for this in the Judgment.
Camping should take his own advice to heart:
We who believe that we have been called to preach or teach have a grave responsibility to be as accurate as possible in the Word of God. God declares in James 3:1: “My brethren, be not many masters [teachers], knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” (p.17)
May God have mercy on Harold Camping’s soul.
All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Bible.
*Eschatology=the study of end times
**Epistemology=the study of the nature of knowledge with reference to its limits and validity
***Ecclesiology=the study of the history and theology of the Christian Church.
†Gnostic=the belief that learning esoteric spiritual truths free humanity from the alleged evil material world
Christian McShaffrey was called to Reedsburg, WI after his graduation from Mid-America Reformed Seminary (Dyer, IN) in 2003 to serve as an evangelist of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. In 2007, Grace Reformed Church was organized, and he continues to serve there as pastor. He and Kelly, his wife, have five children.
End Notes [ + ]
|1.||↑||Editor’s brief summary of the Book of Ruth: Naomi was a widowed Jew; and her daughter-in-law (also widowed) Ruth was a Gentile who loved and was determined to follow Naomi and her God. Boaz was Naomi’s Jewish Kinsman Redeemer within whose field Gentile Ruth finds food and protection. Through Naomi (Jew), Ruth (Gentile) learns more about Boaz (Jewish Kinsman Redeemer), and they eventually marry. Initially, Naomi grumbled against the God of Israel for His dealings with her; but God eventually renews and restores her through what happens with Ruth|