The Damascus Road. An apt illustration of how "Let's pretend" is a dangerous game to play in diplomacy in the region. The Damascus Road. An apt illustration of how "Let's pretend" is a dangerous game to play in diplomacy in the region.

Judgment Day 2011 a bust

Judgment Day 2011 was a bust, as any student of the Bible should have known. But the real culprits in this disgraceful episode are not Harold Camping and his staff, but pastors who have never taught the Bible properly to their flocks.

Judgment Day 2011: prediction

For months, Harold Camping, age 89, has confidently predicted that the Last Judgment would fall on May 21, 2011. Judgment Day 2011 would come as a rolling earthquake that would follow day-to-night “terminator” westward around the world, beginning at the International Date Line. During that earthquake, those who accepted Harold Camping’s message of getting out of the church and getting their devotionals on the radio (his station, of course), would vanish from the earth. This would be the Big Snatch, or the Rapture, that Paul of Tarsus describes in I Thessalonians 4:17.

(The term Rapture comes from the Latin rapio meaning “I seize, snatch, and carry off by force.” Saint Jerome translated the Bible into Latin and used a future passive form of rapio to translate the Greek word harpagesometha meaning “we will be snatched.”)

Judgment Day 2011: (non)-results

Well, the Big Snatch did not occur. Neither did the rolling earthquakes. Camping promised a statement by midnight Jerusalem time, which would have been 5:00 p.m. EDT. Then someone at FamilyRadio.com said to expect the event at 6:00 p.m. PDT (or PST; someone got confused about whether Daylight Saving Time would apply). Camping has said not a word since, and FamilyRadio.com times out when your editor tries to browse it. But someone else, with no obvious connection to Camping or Family Radio, is already selling an “I Survived…” T-shirt.

Cheap merchandising aside, the Judgment Day 2011 campaign has been a disaster, not necessarily for Camping but for millions who believed him. Several people rented billboards to spread the world; others printed roadside signs, the same type of sign that a politician trolling for votes would print. Millions quit their jobs, sold their homes, and timed their savings to run out yesterday. Now they find that the world is going on, and they have no savings, no jobs, and no obvious support.

A debate broke out this morning on Fox and Friends, whether any of those people have standing to sue Camping. One lawyer said yes, citing other cases in which cult figures convinced people to give vast sums, sign away their homes, etc., to them. Others pointed out that Camping never asked anyone to give him their life savings, so the cult-figure analogy does not apply. Standing would be very difficult to show in court, because for standing you need to show that:

  1. You got hurt,
  2. Harold Camping and his prophecies hurt you, and
  3. Harold Camping could make it right with you if the court told him to.

The second part would be the hardest part to prove.

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But the real culprits here are the pastors and ministers, Camping’s obvious rivals. Most of them have never tried to teach their flocks how to read the Bible and understand it. Your editor’s own pastor, if he has said it once, has said it a thousand times: No one may know the day or the hour of God’s Judgment on humanity. The very phrase “Judgment Day 2011” is a fallacy. People, including Camping, have set dates before. Not one of those dates has come true. Nor will they. Because God’s Judgment will come without warning. What part of “like a thief in the night” didn’t Camping get? What part of “of that day and of that hour, no man knoweth but My Father in heaven” don’t people understand? And why didn’t the pastors explain it to them?

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Judgment Day 2011: what now?

The people who believed the Judgment Day 2011 hype will now be looking for answers. The atheists have their answer, all right: “Now will you listen to reason and follow us as we build utopia on earth?” That’s no answer, either. (Ask any defector from the former Soviet Union.) The pastors who didn’t teach the lesson in the first place, better have an answer this time. This is their chance to redeem themselves.

Furthermore, Judgment Day might still come at any time. President Obama’s recent Middle East speech could start a war, right in that part of the world that has always been the center of Divine Attention. Now that is worth watching, not some calculation (with no premises to back it up) that Judgment Day will happen on a specific date and time.

Featured image: the Damascus Road, where Paul of Tarsus saw the light. (Photo: CNAV)

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

bible, Israel, Middle East, prophecy, war


Terry A. Hurlbut

Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

Comments (13)

  • Yup…
    1 Thessalonians 5:2 (New International Version)

    2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
    3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

  • If people think this man’s prediction was front and centre, they should pay attention to what Jack Van Impe said I think in the early nineties on a telecast I was watching when he said Jesus would come in 2010. It never received any attention in the main stream press but perhaps some of the people reading this blog may have seen the episode. It caused me to say Hmmm, wonder why he said that if he is supposed to be a bible teacher. The only thing I could think of is that he believed he would be dead by then and no one would bring it up after he was dead. He died this year sometime and at one time last year I thought of sending him an email on it.

  • Hypocrite.

    Where is your post from *before* the non-event that points out Harold Camping’s lack of scholarship? Admit it: you thought he might – just might – be right, and you were too cowardly to make a post.

    We atheists knew it was rubbish all along, because there’s no such thing as god and so any idea of the rapture is therefore necessarily nonsense.

    • I was awfully busy discussing other events that are far more important–like the prospect of war in the Middle East. Besides, I sought not to lend any more credence to that man than I could help.

      • But you’re fine with mocking him after the event? Very Christian of you.

        As I said: hypocrite.

        • What would you know about it? You mock him, too. So you have no business criticizing me.

          • I’m consistent. I mocked him before and I mock him after. Since you weren’t prepared to comment on his predictions before the event, you shouldn’t say anything afterwards.

        • 15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

      • Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum sonatur.

        At least I can be consistent as an atheist, and don’t have to ignore the bits of a holy book that I don’t like. All Christians are hypocrites.

  • Really, folks, look at the TRUTH. Many of those that only followed because of the end they thought was here, will go back to the same old, same old. (and, be none to happy) But how many more will NOT let this deter their faith? Indeed, this will bring them closer to God, and the truth. They must ask “what went wrong?”. They all will seek not just the atheist “silly ignorant child” answer, because it isn’t an answer at all. More than likely, they will seek other religous persons for answers.

    See? God did come to some of us Saturday, but many of us already knew he was here all along. So, he skipped us, as he should. We are not the ones who need saving.

    Bash not the one who brought us this false event, because you would be bashing God. Even if it only brings one lost sheep back to the shepard, its a good thing.

    • Might be your browser. Or: you need to follow the link to the article itself to read it all.

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