Harold Camping and the Church Today

The session of Franklin Square OPC in Franklin Square, New York, sent the following letter to Mr. Harold Camping of Family Radio on September 10, 2001. We reproduce it here at their request. (Cf. 1994: The Year of Christ's Return? by Tremper Longman III, New Horizons, December 1993, pages 6-7; and Jason Wallace, “Harold Camping’s Kingdom Hall.”)

Dear Mr. Camping:

We write to you with great grief, but with a sense of necessity, because of your persistence in teaching things contrary to that which is in accord with both the Word of God and the historic Christian faith. We call upon you, Mr. Camping, to repent of your repeated false teaching that “this is the end of the church age,” that God is now “guiding groups outside of the churches into truth for this ‘latter rain’ period,” and even that “the gospel has never been sent out with more purity than it is being sent out now” by groups like Family Radio (cf. Open Forum, July 11, 2001). This extends even to asserting that it is not necessary for believers to meet in churches (cf. Heb. 10:25), but that “through Family Radio we can have this kind of fellowship” (cf. Open Forum, July 12, 2001).

The Scriptures are clear that Christ will build his church despite the power of the Evil One (Matt. 16:18). His order is not just that the gospel be preached to all the nations, but that disciples be made of all the nations by way of baptism and teaching (Matt. 28:18-20). This assumes the existence of the church, for without its ministers there will not be baptisms and the official teaching and preaching of the Word of God (cf. 2 Tim. 2:2). This order is to continue until the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). Further, there is to be glory given to God in the church unto all generations (Eph. 3:21). This cannot be fulfilled if, as you affirm, “it may be that now God is finished with the church.”

We are deeply grieved that, once again, you wantonly contradict established Christian teaching that has been held for nearly two millennia. “I believe in the holy, catholic church” is part of the biblical confession known as the Apostles’ Creed. Protestant confessions have unequivocally affirmed that, despite the power of error and wickedness, “there shall be always a church on earth, to worship God according to his will” (Westminster Confession of Faith, XXV:V). These affirmations come from the clear teaching of the Word of God. For example, it is impossible to speak of how “it is necessary for one to conduct himself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), if, at some point prior to Christ’s return, God is “finished with the church” and it is no longer necessary for believers to be part of the church. Such a teaching is both false and dangerous to the souls of those who are meant to receive the means of grace through the church. It is public teaching that even contradicts part of the “Statement of Belief” of Family Radio, i.e., “We do affirm and declare our belief in the Christian faith and do set forth the following .... Christ’s great commission to the Church to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, baptizing and teaching those who believe” (emphasis ours). Further, it contradicts part of the stated purpose of Family Radio, which is to “help local churches by encouraging regular attendance, membership, and personal involvement” (cf. “Introducing the Ministry of Family Radio” brochure).

For the honor of Christ, and for the good of your hearers, we again earnestly plead with you, Mr. Camping, to publicly repent of this serious divergence from the historic Christian faith, and that you publicly retract such statements. We believe it is correct to say that your teaching has, at this point, become heretical, i.e., a self-chosen opinion that creates schism in the body of Christ, denies clearly revealed truth, and accepts and promotes error (cf. “Heresy” in Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, p. 268). It is a grief to us even to think that you may need to be regarded as one who must be rejected after a first and second admonition (cf. Titus 3:10-11) because of warped teaching that endangers the souls of many.

We send this letter with prayer that you will respond in a manner that is faithful to the Word of God and to the teaching of the historic Christian faith.

Reprinted from New Horizons, December 2001  |  OPC Website