During my high school and college years I felt it was a privilege whenever I was able to listen to Family Radio. The programming of Family Radio was sound—good Christian music, Bible reading and sound biblical teaching. Living in the Catskills, we could not get the programming but had to wait until we were visiting friends or relatives in the New York City area. Listening to Family Radio was a real treat. When I went away to college and then served as a home missionary I was in an area where I could get Family radio all the time. I was encouraged in my walk for Jesus Christ.
Lately, however, the ministry of Family Radio has changed. Its president, director, CEO or whatever title he goes by, has taken over most of the teaching ministry and promoting his own peculiar endtime views. He denounces the organized church, and has set May 21, 2011 as the date for
Christ’s return. Apologetic Index, an encyclopedia listing cults and cultish ideas, now lists Camping and Family Radio as a cult. So what went wrong? How did a ministry that for so long was a champion of the Gospel come to the point that it is now recognized as a cult?
Before we look to answer that question let’s look at the issue whether Camping’s teaching constitute a cult. This we can do by considering what makes something a cult and not simply unorthodox teaching still within the realms of true Christian faith. But first we must consider that the core of
true Christian faith is the Gospel which is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 15:1-5). The core teaching of the Gospel is that all men are sinners and that Jesus, Who is God the Son, died for our sins and that believing this and accepting this by faith, we can be saved. What marks groups as cults is that they usually teach another Jesus, Another way to God,
and another revelation other than the Bible.
Another Jesus. Camping’s Jesus is not the Jesus that is taught about in the Bible, where He is presented to be God, the Son. Camping sated in a debate that Jesus is a mode of God. In addition, Camping states that Jesus is, in fact, the archangel Michael (The End Of The Church Age…And After, p.56). A mode of God cannot save. An archangel cannot save. Only God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity could pour out His Blood for us. Only the Jesus of the Bible can save.
Another way to God. While Camping proclaims, it is only through faith in Jesus that one can be saved, note that he also proclaims that only those that God chooses to give the gift of faith to believe
are truly saved. If a person wants salvation, all he can do is to repent, pray and hope that if he repents long enough and shows God his sincerity that perhaps God will choose to give him the faith that enables him to believes with “all his heart, soul and mind.” With this teaching, Camping cuts out the heart of the Gospel that teaches “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be
saved” (Romans 10:13) and replaces it with a hope so/ works religion.
Another revelation. Camping supports his interpretation of the Bible with his belief that this has been given to him by the Holy Spirit and that those who do not agree with his interpretations do not
agree do not have the Holy Spirit and therefore are not truly saved. In other words one must not just believe the Bible, but Camping’s interpretation of the Bible. That these interpretations are an entirely new revelation is clear. Only those who withdraw from organized churches and follow his teachings are saved. This is clearly apostate teaching.
It is clear then that Harold Camping’s Family Radio is a cult, but how did it get to be so? Back to the question, “What went wrong?”
There is much that cannot be known as I sit here at this computer. However, we can deduce from known facts certain things about the man and his organization. Camping was a wealthy businessman before getting involved in the Christian Radio ministry that has become family Radio. Camping did not start the ministry, but gained virtually absolute control over it. In the beginning, he had the support of many Godly preachers and ministries. The fact that this ministry has been so solid in the past, but now is so corrupt of the Gospel is mindboggling. It also explains why so many believers that have been blessed by Family Radio over the years, have been reluctant to draw away, despite
Camping’s heretical teachings. By hosting solid Gospel programs and associating with solid Gospel teachers, Camping somehow became identified as one of them.
But how did things get so? One writer has pointed out that it is dangerous to put too much power over a Christian ministry in the hands of one man. The point made is that there needs to be accountability. In Christian ministry we must always be testing of the spirits. When someone comes with money and a plan we must consider what they are all about. By the time they reveal themselves to be false prophets, the ministry could be so dependent on them that it is nearly impossible to back out from under their control.
But how did Camping get to where he is in his beliefs? The answer to this we probably never know. What has been reported is that he was a member of a Dutch Reformed Church that removed him from membership when he began expounding his heretical views. Clearly, Camping does not respect
spiritual authority of those God has placed as leaders over us. When his church denounced him, he then, since has denounced his church (and all organized churches).
I have not meant this blog to simply a denouncement of Camping and Family Radio. But time itself has a way of doing that. May 21 will come and go and Camping will face the same questions he faced in 1994 after the first date he had set for the end of the world did not come to pass. If history repeats itself, he will probably set a new date without admitting he was wrong. So how do we as
true believers in Christ seek from going so wrong that the true Gospel of Christ is unrecognizable in the Gospel we teach?
First, we must adhere to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Camping insists the Holy Spirit has revealed his teachings to him. But we must test the spirits. Any spirit that denies that Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity is not of God and ought not to be listened to. Any spirit that denies
the simple Gospel is not of God must be avoided.
Second, we must adhere to sound biblical study. Camping bases much of his ideas on an allegorical interpretation rather than a literal interpretation of Scripture. In addition he takes the unbiblical tradition of Numerology to support his positions. In this, he can make the Bible say whatever he wants it to say while supporting this with the belief that the Holy Spirit is directing him. The Bible is clear in what it says. We don’t need to resort to unsound methods of study to get new meanings.
Third, we must respect spiritual authority. Who has God used to teach us in the past? What do they say? It’s not that they cannot be wrong but we must seriously consider what they say. We must not ever get to the point that we are unteachable—for that is spiritual pride.