Harold Camping and the End of the Word: Part 3
W. Robert Godfrey
Part 1 appears here, Part 2 appears here.
Camping’s knowledge of Bible verses and confidence led many to follow him as their only leader and teacher. He had become their guru. It is interesting how often people seek someone to follow unquestioningly. This reality has been called the Fuehrerprinzip or the leader principle. Whether a false prophet or a political leader or an intellectual authority, many people want someone whom they can follow simply and blindly. For some listeners to Family Radio, Camping became their leader or guru.
Sadly instead of promoting confidence in the authority of the Bible, Camping has inculcated confidence in himself. One of his followers recently said that if Jesus does not return on May 21, it will show that the Bible is wrong!
For many years Camping taught an adult Sunday School class at the Alameda Christian Reformed Church. This class attracted a number of listeners from Family Radio who did not become integrated into the life of the church. They looked to Camping to tell them what to accept and not to accept in the teaching and preaching of the pastor. The elders of the church finally decided that this situation needed to be remedied and stated that in the coming year Camping would not teach an adult Sunday School class. This decision led to Camping and his followers leaving the Alameda CRC and forming their own Reformed Bible Church.
The formation of this new congregation may not have been schismatic in itself. Initially they sought a new denomination with which to affiliate and sought a pastor. Camping did not believe that he should be the pastor.
The new congregation never found a pastor or a new denomination, however. Camping had begun a study group on the Heidelberg Catechism and he proceeded to improve or revise the catechism. Once again his arrogant individualism asserted itself. Not surprisingly no Reformed denomination would accept Camping and his congregation on the basis of his revised catechism. At this point he had become schismatic.