O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith

Harold Camping: “Invisible Judgment Day”

When the rapture didn’t occur as predicted on May 21, 2011, Harold Camping had a few options. Here is how he could have responded to the failed prediction, in descending levels of crazy:

1. He could announce that he was wrong. This is the most reasonable option and was therefore unexpected. I would have been shocked had this happened. Failed prophets rarely do this.

2. He could announce that God, in his great mercy, had intended to bring judgment on May 21 but decided against it as a result of the faithful efforts of Camping and his followers. This is the so-called Jonah scenario — based on God’s plan to destroy Ninevah but then backing down once Jonah gave warning. Disclosure: this is what I expected Camping to announce.


3. He could inform us that he got the math wrong, recalculate, and come out with a new date. Camping has done this before, when the rapture didn’t happen according to his first timetable, having predicted it for September of 1994. That was an option then, but let’s face it: It’s hard to get away with this too many times, as Edgar Whisenant found out in the late 80s and early 90s.


4. He could announce that his prediction was right, regardless of how it appeared. That’s right: it DID happen, we just didn’t see it. The predicted judgment day happened right on schedule, only it was invisible or spiritual. This is by far the weirdest option, taking a page out of the old Charles Taze Russell rapture playbook. (Russell gets credit for first coming up with the yes-in-fact-it-did-happen-only-it-was-invisible scheme back in 1874. This strategy went on to be appropriated a number of times by the Jehovah’s Witnesses for their failure doomsday predictions.) It’s insane but very very convenient, and this is exactly what Harold Camping did.


Last night, in an address on his Open Forum program on the Family Radio Network, Camping spoke about how he felt when the May 21 scenario seemed not to have occurred:

“I can tell you very candidly that when May 21 came and went it was a very difficult time for me, a very difficult time,” said Mr. Camping, 89, a former civil engineer. “I was truly wondering what is going on. In my mind, I went back through all of the promises God has made, all of the proofs, all of the signs and everything was fitting perfectly, so what in the world happened? I really was praying and praying and praying, oh Lord, what happened?”


Thankfully, he figured out what happened. In the same program, Camping announced that May 21 hadn’t been the expected visible judgment day but an invisible, “spiritual” one. God’s judgment really did begin on May 21, he says, but on the down-low. Which means the end of the world will still occur on October 21, 2011 — only our “merciful and compassionate God” will spare us the chaos and tribulation of the next few months. So maybe there’s a little of #2 in there after all.

“We had all our dates correct,” Camping insists. And though it was spiritual this time around, the cataclysm won’t be spiritual on October 21. “The world is going to be destroyed altogether, but it will be very quick.”


“The world,” he said, “has been warned.”

“Yes, we have,” the world answered back. “Multiple times, thanks to you.”


Update: In honor of this weekend’s invisible judgment day and October’s end of the world, I’m having yet another last-days sale at — complete with an invisible book! Details here.


Comments read comments(20)
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Shawn Smucker

posted May 24, 2011 at 9:44 am

His biggest mistake now is saying that the October date will be a “real” destruction. What will he fall back on when it doesn’t happen? He’s ruled out the spiritual destruction option.

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posted May 24, 2011 at 9:51 am

I try really hard to be accepting of others belief systems. I really do. And I’m mostly successful.

Mostly. Whenever Mr. Camping speaks, however, I can’t help but roll my eyes.

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Sean R Reid

posted May 24, 2011 at 10:21 am

My wife and I were having the discussion last night about whether or not his sincerity makes it more difficult to be angry with him. He does seem to sincerely buy into his -albeit wrongheaded- belief. And, while he’s made no shortage of money in donations, his apocalyptic message wasn’t followed up with “send $$$ money to guarantee your spot on the rapture express!” Now, I’m willing to admit that I could be wrong on that fact, but I don’t see him leveraging this for financial gain. He seems like a very concerned older man who sincerely cares for people enough to want to warn them of what he thinks is impending doom.

At this point I think he might be struggling with pride quite a bit and I’m not sure he’ll get the same pass in October as I’m willing to grant him today. However, at this point, I have to ask if there is really anything wrong with him doing his damndest to spread the word and try to save people from something he really believes is dangerous. I can’t imagine that he would have a very clear conscience if he chose not to say anything and something had happened (imagine, say, having advanced word, even if it’s cryptic, of 9/11 and choosing to keep it quiet so people don’t think you’re a whacko?? btw, is 9/11 the new “godwin”??).

While I’m not giving the guy a free pass, after all his “prophecy” negatively impacted quite a few folks who weren’t discerning enough to question him, I can’t entirely find fault with him. I’m more inclined to question why those who believed him didn’t act more cautiously, but there’s a line of blaming the victim that I’m not sure I want to cross.

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Rick Gebauer

posted May 24, 2011 at 10:56 am

People have bankrupted themselves because of this man’s insistence and sincerity. A mother tried to slit the throats of her daughters with a box cutter to save them from the tribulation that this man predicted. Who knows the unreported heartache his sincerity caused

Sincerity does not adjudicate this guy’s actions. Not anymore than anyone who’s religious zealotry has caused the pain and exploitation of others.

If he would have come out in humilty to confess his error, I would have felt more inclined to understand him. Instead his arrogance and insistence that he was not wrong baffles me and angers me because of what might happen to others around October 21st of this year.

I am a pastor and I become very protective of sheep who are being led into danger…it breaks my heart.


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Bob Harkema

posted May 24, 2011 at 11:51 am

I don’t really understand his mission to spread the “Gospel”. He claims only the elect will be saved and that perhaps some small percentage of those who beg hard enough will get “elected”? How is that the gospel?

While he personally does not seem to coerce listeners for money I would hold his board of directors responsible for exploiting the delusions of an old man.

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posted May 24, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Am I the only one who’s just really, really sad for this man? Of course he’s misguided, but imagine basing your entire recent life on one principle and being publicly proven wrong. It’s difficult enough experiencing a faith crisis like that privately – having to reconcile the error of those beliefs in front of a mocking nation must be awful.

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Susie Finkbeiner

posted May 24, 2011 at 4:26 pm

I would really like to hear his response to the attempted murder/suicide as well as other suicides that resulted in his failed prediction. I’d like to know if he feels it’s worth it to predict yet again and risk the lives of desperate people.

Perhaps his money and prophetic teachings would be put to better use healing the harm done by May 21.

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posted May 24, 2011 at 5:15 pm

As far as excusing him for the harm he’s caused because he believes so firmly and can you blame him for what his least sane followers do:

Do you feel the same way about priests and preachers who say abortion is murder and consequently some of their followers murder abortion providers?

What about preachers and priests who say homosexuality is evil thus justifying, in the minds of their nastiest followers, attacking homosexuals?

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posted May 24, 2011 at 5:21 pm

As I understand his latest statement, Jesus came down the other day, as was predictable from the Bible, and decided to do most of us in.

I have a question about this. If it was reliably foretold he would come that day and make that decision there then he had no ability to decide; his decision was pre-ordained. So how could you say he came down and made his decision?

And it would seem if Jesus knew his Bible he’d realize that.

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posted May 24, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Yeah, I didn’t say he’s blameless or that his actions are excusable because of the strength of his belief, but I do still think he’s pitiable, and we are all equally in need of grace as he is.

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Allan Clark

posted May 24, 2011 at 7:48 pm

An invisible judgment day? That’s pitiful! We were promised earthquakes and volcanoes.

There will never be an end to those who believe there is a secret message hidden in the Bible.

In fact the Bible (at least the KJV) was actually written by the poet William Shakespeare. Proof? In Psalm 46 the 46th word from the beginning is SHAKE and the 46th word from the end is SPEAR. What could be more clear?

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Cecelia Dowdy

posted May 25, 2011 at 6:09 am

Again, I’m still reminded of my JW (Jehovah’s Witness) days. When Christ didn’t appear as they’d predicted, they said he came invisibly/spiritually. Christ came and he’s ruling over this earth right now, we just can’t seem him since it was a spiritual coming….

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posted May 25, 2011 at 6:48 am

Leaders of Christians have had going on 2,000 years to perfect their explanations for why Jesus hasn’t come back yet.

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Christopher Hopper

posted May 25, 2011 at 9:05 am

Shawn: see options 1, 2, and 3.

Or just 2 and 3.

Skip 1.


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posted May 27, 2011 at 10:09 pm

It is quite hilarious to see other Christians explain why Camping is nuts. It’s all just as nutty. But the critics of Camping don’t have the balls to test their faith the way he did. They arrange their ‘faith’ so that it is always beyond the relm of actual examination. Just a supernatural event that happen someday.

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posted May 28, 2011 at 10:28 pm

Camping has too much time on his hand and he did a great disservice to his followers by giving misleading information about something he can not possibly predict.It’s too bad so many people are gullible and have wasted so much of their time and money on his rantings.

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Headless Unicorn Guy

posted May 29, 2011 at 2:03 pm

A mother tried to slit the throats of her daughters with a box cutter to save them from the tribulation that this man predicted. — RG

Did a search on it. It’s for real. Happened not that far from me (at least within the Greater Los Angeles area) — Lancaster, in the high desert north of Los Angeles. When Camping’s date came and she found herself and her daughters Left Behind, she tried to kill both them and herself. Somebody found them in time.

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Tim the bible reader

posted June 3, 2011 at 3:15 am

Harold Camping can find the answer to why judgement day didn’t happen
yet by reading Hebrews 9:27 “Just as man is destined to die once,and after that to face judgement.”
Harold Camping is now 89 he is now very close to his judgement day.

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