Analyzing a silly media response from the Harold Camping debacle…

What can Christians learn from Harold Camping’s failed May 21, 2011 prediction?

By Gabe Lyons and Jonathan Merritt

“…Christians need to recognize that fear-based conversion tactics may work on young children, but they rarely resolve rational thinkers’ long-term concerns about faith. Those who went running for the rapture must now sit to wrestle with the serious questions that plagued them before. We must learn that it’s easy to rile people up with future headlines of destruction, but it’s better to inspire people with God’s will for our lives in the present…When Christians succumb to thinking that sees escape as the answer to the world’s brokenness, we know we’ve taken a wrong turn.” – Read More

If the writers of the above excerpts have a problem with a fear based message then they’re definitely going to have a problem with Christ’s fear-based admonition in Matthew 10:28 – And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. The problem with Camping’s false prophecy has nothing to do with it’s fear based message but rather his blatant disregard for Christ’s teaching in the Matthew 24:42 section of the Olivet Discourse when he states: Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. No one, I repeat, NO ONE knows when Christ will return (except obviously for God the Father);  Christ said this many times (Matthew 24:36, Matthew 24:44; Mark 13:33) so it’s hard to understand how Camping could have missed it and how the media could give Harold’s baseless utterances so much attention. One explanation I suspect is that the media will relish and exploit any excuse to defame the Christian religion. To underscore how uneducated the media is about Christianity, how come they failed to understand that if Harold Camping’s prediction was right then that would actually mean that God is a liar and that Christianity is false? Mere logic requires us to reach this conclusion since it’s Camping’s words versus God’s! The real headlines should have read: Harold Camping claims that God is a liar, the May 21st showdown will reveal the winner!


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Traditions of Men

He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
(Mark 7:6-13)

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work. Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith. But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil. And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you. And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ. Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
(2 Thessalonians 2:15-3:6)

Both of the passages above are used by Biblical (or Evangelical) and Roman Catholic apologists respectively to drive home a point of view. Evangelicals that espouse a bible-alone approach to truth will point out to the Roman Catholic the verses in Mark 7 and the Roman Catholic typically responds with the verses in 2nd Thessalonians and then the stalemate ensues. One could surmise that the two passages above create a contradiction but that conclusion would lack merit since the passages above are easily reconciled with mere reasoning. There are two ways of understanding the passage that come readily to mind:

1) Christ was denouncing “bad” traditions while Paul was extolling “good” traditions so it is fine for the Christian to elevate the traditions of “godly” men to the same level of reverence as the Word of God (per John Paul II – see R1) as long as the  Christian chooses the “good” traditions and not the “bad” traditions.

This is presumably the position that the Roman Catholic apologist would take in an attempt to reconcile the two passages above. If you notice, I have placed the words: good, bad and godly in quotes so that the reader understands that these words (or standards) need defining before one can understand the position above. What is a good tradition and how does it differ from a bad tradition? How does one ascertain a godly man or even whether a tradition espoused by a godly man is a good tradition or a bad one.  Peter, the apostle that Christ urged to “feed His sheep”, had a tradition of preaching and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ (Act 2:38) but Peter also had another tradition where he would refrain from eating with Gentiles when other Jews were around (Galatians 2:9-15). Are both of these traditions good? If not, how do we know which one of the traditions was a bad one and which one was good? I think Christians would agree that Peter that was certainly a godly man but we are only certain of this because of scripture. Likewise, we know that Peter’s refraining from eating with Gentiles when Jews were watching was a bad tradition only because scripture informs us so.  In summary, since we need scripture to discern between the good traditions and the bad ones, it follows that scripture alone is the only infallible guide for the Christian; all traditions of men must ultimately be judged by and brought into conformity with the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, the approach of embracing “good” traditions and denouncing “bad” ones must succumb to a much better rule, namely, embracing that which is more superior to the traditions of men.

2) When Paul refers to “the traditions … received of us” or “the traditions which ye have been taught” he is referring to the teachings found in scripture so there is no contradiction between his words and Christ’s words.

This interpretation is the only warranted one because it is rooted in scripture. In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul states that we should only follow him in as much as he follows Christ. In Romans 3:4 Paul urges us to adopt a point of view in which only Christ’s words (i.e. the words of Scripture) are true but all other words from anyone else are false. Why does Paul want us to adopt this point of view? So that when man’s word is brought into judgment against God’s words, God’s words will always overcome (Romans 3:4b)! If you will allow me to overstate the point, consider 1 Corinthians 4:6 where Paul advices us not to think beyond that which is written in scripture or 2 Peter 1:19 where Peter discounts his own eyewitness testimony for the more sure and certain words of scripture.

I will end this blog with the commentary of Dr. Henry Morris (author of “The Defenders Study Bible”) on 2 Peter 1:19:

More Sure Word.
As sure as Peter was of what he had seen and heard, this was only his own experience, and could only be given as a personal testimony to others. Thus, he stressed that God’s written Word, available to all in the holy Scriptures, was more sure than any personal experience he or others might have. It is not in Peter or Paul as men, no matter how sincere or holy they may be, that we must trust, but in Christ as revealed (not in our experience either!) in God’s written Word.

References
R1
As a result the [Roman Catholic] Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, “does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (Wash. DC: United States Catholic Conf., Inc., 1994, 1997) Para 82.

Bill O’Reilly affirms what bible believers already knew…

…which is, anyone that has read the bible firsthand (and not vicariously) should know that Roman Catholicism is antithetical to scripture. Virtually every doctrine that the Roman Catholic Church adheres to in its catechisms, canons, and “ex cathedra” infallible Papal dictates are either gross perversions of biblical teaching or have no basis in scripture at all; this conclusion is evident to me without the need of any third party literature. Nevertheless, there are are no shortage of scholarly websites (including this one but also see: http://www.thebereancall.org and http://www.trinityfoundation.org), books, sermons, lectures, etc. in circulation that point out this painful fact.

To counter this travesty, an increasingly common strategy that Catholic apologists have employed is confusion.  By this I mean that the Roman Catholic church has rarely been consistent in it’s stances and has never spoken with one clear voice on any particular issue and some RC apologists are increasingly using this flaw to their benefit in an attempt to confuse the accuser as to the severity of the offense leveled against the Roman Catholic Church. By obfuscating the Church’s position, Catholic apologists know that they can leverage opposing sound bites that exist in the Catholic treasury whenever it is convenient to do so. My accusations against the Roman Catholic Church are ratified by one of their very own operatives. When confronted with the claim of the Roman Catholic church’s persecution of Galileo (a catholic scientist who sought to show that heliocentricism was compatible with biblical teaching, incidentally, his “persecution” had little to do with science and much to do with his disregard for papal orders – http://www.answersingenesis.org/tj/v14/i1/galileo.asp), Roman Catholic Jesuit Dr. Guy Consolmagno, an influential astronomer at the Vatican’s Observatory responded with the following: “It’s not a simple ‘The church was against science,'” “The [Roman Catholic] church never speaks with one voice on these things.”  It is doubly ironic but not surprising that the same accusation (of being double-minded on purpose) should befall Dr. Consolmagno himself who works on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church (which purports to believe in the Bible) and yet he contends the following:
-Believing that God created the universe in six days is a form of superstitious paganism and a destructive myth (http://blogs.answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2006/05/07/vatican-astronomer-accuses-six-day-creationists-of-paganism/)

More examples of Roman Catholic State Church’s confusion :
1. The Roman Catholic Church has had popes excommunicate other popes (So which Pope was right?)
2. The Roman Catholic Church has had popes declare other popes as heretics (So which Pope is the heretic?)
3. The Roman Catholic Church has had popes declare the ex cathedra (and thus infallible) teachings of other Popes as heresy (So which teachings are heretical?)
4. The Roman Catholic Church has said that good works must be done to get to heaven but has also said that good works aren’t required (wearing brown scapulas on a special day obviates good works) to get to heaven  (So which statement is  the Roman Catholic Church’s position?)
5. The Roman Catholic Church was supportive of Hitler and Mussolini (even after the ideology of these individuals was revealed to the world) before they were against them (So what are their true feelings about these dictators?)
6. The Roman Catholic Church has said that Muslims worship the same God but also that Muslims do not worship the same God (So which one of these statements do they really believe?)
7. The Roman Catholic Church has said that you need to believe in Jesus (in addition to other church-prescribed requirements) in order to be saved but also that you do not need to believe in Jesus (per Lumen Gentitum) in order to be saved (So which teaching represents their true position?)
– Many (if not all) of these claims are substantiated in the much maligned book “A Woman rides the Beast” by Dave Hunt

Unfortunately for my catholic friends, this list could go on for pages and pages but it is the 7th claim (the requirement for salvation) that I would like to focus on.

On April 25th 2011, the news personality Bill O’Reilly (who identifies himself as a Catholic) stated on his show, The O’Reilly Factor, that his (Roman Catholic) Church does not teach that people need to believe in Christ in order to be saved from Hell. In Bill’s attempt to present his guest (some “theologian” trying to posit the idea that Hell is fictional) with an argument for the reality of Hell he ends up calling evangelical Christians extremists for teaching that those who do not believe in Christ are consigned to Hell. Apparently Mr. O’Reilly and the Roman Catholic church have never read the following verses of scripture:  2Thessalonians 1:7-9, 1Pe 4:17-18, John 3:18, Mark 16:16, John 8:24, and 1 John 5:12.  Mr. O’Reilly then quoted some statements that sound similar to content in Chapter 2, Section 16 of Pope Paul VI’s “Lumen Gentium” which I have included below:

“Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life.” (Lumen Gentium 16)

I find it interesting but not surprising that the biblical God expresses a quite contrary sentiment to that mentioned above in Lumen Gentium. Consider the following words from the breath of God:

Lord Jesus shall …[i]n flaming fire tak[e] vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction [i.e. Hell] from the presence of the Lord. 2Thessalonians 1:7-9

Both Christ and the Roman Catholics cannot simultaneously be right as their respective stances are in oppposition to each other. So, as it turns out, both Bill O’Reilly and his guest are wrong (Romans 3:4). Bill erred by stating that you don’t have to believe the Gospel to escape Hell and his guest erred in his idea that Hell is fictional. And by the way, if you really don’t need to believe in the Gospel (at least according to Bill O’Reilly and the Catholic Church) which comes from the scriptures then why even bother to read the bible at all?
I suspect that many or most people (like Mr. O’ Reilly) suffer from the inability to think rationally and are thus prone to accepting arbitrary propositions as long as these propositions are not “offensive” to their confused minds.
After all, if it is OK for the Pope to assert that we do not ultimately need to believe in the Gospel in spite of biblical verses that state the opposite then it is also equally OK to contend that there is no place called Hell; both propositions use the same biblical hermeneutic (namely, a total disregard for what the text actually says) and are equally unsound.
Furthermore, if there is no Hell then it follows that there is also no Heaven so when we die we get to go wherever it is that we feel dead people should go. This may sound foolish but this is the logical absurdity of the contrary; the “reductio ad absurdum” of rejecting the biblical worldview is that you are reduced to foolishness.  Allow me to pursue this foolishness even further: Yes, in fact, if there is no Hell, then it follows that there is also no absolute standard for morality since our basis for morality is found in the same bible that introduces us to the concept of Hell. Also, if there is no absolute standard for morality then there is nothing inherently wrong (even though it may currently be against the law) with pedophilia, rape, murder, incest, lying, stealing, cheating or anything else that comes to mind. I’m able to reach these conclusions using the irresistible force of mere logic. I dare anyone to provide a rational explanation as to why the preceding conclusions are uncalled for (especially if you don’t need to believe in the gospel (and thus the bible) in order to be saved).

As the old cliche goes: Without Christ anything goes!