Harold Camping, the President and General Manager of Family Radio who predicted (twice!) that the world would end with God’s Rapture in the year 2011, died yesterday at the age of 92. You may recall Camping making international headlines on May 21st, 2011, when his numerological-based prophecy turned false. I wrote about Camping on that day and offered what was hopefully a grace-saturated response to not only Camping’s foolishness but also grace-saturated counsel for anyone who bought into his fringe thinking. Sadly, his two ‘End of the World’ predictions in 2011 (the second one on November 21st, 2011) weren’t isolated incidents in his life. Camping had a history of making false prophecies about a ‘secret rapture’ and the end of the world that dated back to the 1970’s. Even more tragic, because of the wide spread popularity of Family Radio (over 140 radio stations spanning 4 continents) and his daily 90 minute radio program, the collateral damage that resulted from his false prophecies is hard to measure. In an obituary piece, published yesterday by the New York Times, they highlighted just a few.
Camping was obviously a successful businessman. He was a millionaire at the age of 35 who owned his own construction business. He bought his first radio station in 1958 and over the next 50 years transformed it into a media empire. Estimates value Family Radio at over $90 million dollars in assets and investments with an annual budget of $34 million ($18 million from listener contributions alone). With his passing, I could not help but wonder what Camping could have achieved with better teaching that was foundationed on solid theology. Family Radio was not affiliated in any way with a church or denomination and as far as I have read, Camping himself was equally autonomous. He was denounced over and over again by mainstream Orthodox and Evangelical leaders. But to no avail. I an convinced this was a major reason as to why he was able to get away with so much false teaching.
With Harold Camping’s passing I would like to think that predicting ‘the end’ and hoping for a ‘secret rapture’ would also cease. But I doubt that will happen. Someone(s) else will eventually take his place.
And yet, in spite of his silly predictions, Camping, because of his doggedness and widespread platform still was able to reach a number of people for Christ. How many? Who knows for sure. This is another statistic that is equally hard to measure. But consider this: The $18 million in listener contributions came from somewhere. At worst, Camping leaves behind a mixed legacy. But then again, don’t we all?
Harold Camping (1921-2013) – Dead at the age of 92. Rest in Peace. Man knows not his time – Ecclesiastes 9:12.