Saturday, May 21, 2011

Wise replies

I don't engage in a lot of apologetics on these pages. I am inclined to be more of an intellectual street-fighter than any kind of intellectual, which means that I enjoy good old-fashioned apologetics more than I should. Maintaining a blog over the past several years has really helped me to acquire the virtue of prudence and taught me how to better balance that with fortitude. So, I ask your indulgence in allowing two more brief apologetical observations about Harold Camping's second claim that the Rapture is neigh (he made the first in 1994). First, just like with The Da'Vinci Code phenomenon, it is enough of a pastoral concern that it requires a response. It also provides what we have glibly come to refer to as a teaching moment. We can not only teach those who are Christian sounder methods of engaging Scripture, but we can help those who think like we're all like Harold Camping see that faith and reason are not only consonant, but resonant, even symphonic.

The second observation is that any respondent to Camping's claim must know not only what Camping is claiming (i.e., the Rapture, a demonstrably un-biblical doctrine that we reject, will occur today), but how he arrived at his conclusion. To wit: he does not claim that God revealed the date to him. This gives him wiggle room vis-á-vis Matthew 24:36. He claims to have deduced it along these lines:

The fact is, we know that the year [of Noah's Flood] was 4990 B.C. Seven thousand years after 4990 B.C. is A.D. 2011. Remember that when we compute the passage of time between an Old Testament event and a New Testament event, we must add the two calendar dates together and subtract 1. We subtract 1 because there is no year 0. Thus, 4,990 + 2,011 = 7,001, and 7,001 – 1 = 7,000 years.

A better equation

It helps when giving a pastoral reply, even to something as outlandish as Camping's claim, to go to the trouble to know that to which you are responding. In other words, replies must be convincing. If those to whom your reply is directed listen to you and they have a basic knowledge not only of what someone is claiming, but the basis on which their claim is made, and they can clearly discern that you only address the what and ignore the how, then your reply may have the opposite effect and lead some to conclude that there is no reply.

In our rush to refute Camping, let us be mindful that it is an article of our Catholic faith, a dogmatic belief, that Christ will return to judge the world. So, again, like the wise virgins, we need to be prepared precisely because we do not know the hour or the day, coming as it will like a thief in the night. This is what St. Paul meant when he wrote to the Romans, "the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires" (13:11-14).

For those who are wondering, the equation above is a cheesy take on the popular bumper sticker 1Cross+3Nails=4GVN. I found it on another blog. The point is that the the value of one nail is mathematically calculated and expressed (i.e., 3S). It's a geeky-poor attempt at the whole faith and reason supposition.


  1. Camping fails along the befriend position if Sola Scriptura. He claimed biblical authority alone guaranteed May 21st as the day of judgement.
    He makes the error others do (only his error is glaringly more obvious). The problem isn't scripture. The issue is having an authoritative interpreter. That is why I was unable to remain an Evangelical.
    (There is a reason we have a Supreme Court. The Constitution is not self-interpretive. The same is true with scripture.)

  2. That is certainly another good argument to made contra Camping. One that Catholics need to know, especially living a culture as Protestant as the one here in the U.S.


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