Harold Camping – Are Adventists Looking In The Mirror?

Harold Camping has predicted the end of the world in late May of 2011. This is not the first time he has made such a prediction. Many have gone on before.

Well guess what, the time came and the time passed, and Harold Camping changed the date again. Now the date is October 2011. I see many folks laughing at him. Others stand with a critical eye on his work. But just like others before (especially the Second Advent Movement that moved the date to October after a missed date) he changed the date.

Doug Bachelor said, “Reckless predictions of the second coming of Christ create an artificial excitement among believers followed by a corresponding depression.” You can find it here: http://www.cnbc.com/id/43054329

Some of these same folks either act like they don’t know, or they don’t know that the Advent Movment was born in this type of thing. And all of the arguments that they are using now could have been used against their origins.

Camping is not the first gentleman that I know who has predicted the end…I have a few friends who send me material predicting the end ALL THE TIME. I have a particular elderly friend who is always predicting the end, only he has no radio program to publicize his predictions.

I sometimes wonder if my elderly friend is allowing his great desires for the end of time to cloud his judgement. I wonder if we have the heart longings of an older man who probably does not wish to die, but wishes to be translated…mixing in with the apocalyptic prophecy that he has made the foundation of his thought…and old age with its struggles on 80 year old people…all mixed together to create a climate where predicting the end is almost unavoidable…perhaps those who are close around him should be more deligent about protecting him…

Be that as it may, I still look forward to the time when the coming kingdom is fully realized. I cut Camping some slack. I know it looks bad on christinaity. I know there will be a lot of disapointed believers. But for some reason I got an image in my head of my friend, Harold Camping, my elderly friend, William Miller, and Jesus when the kingdom is fully realized. Like all of these men, I long for that day…

Yearning For Home And Adventist Living

A friend of mine asked me about the Negro Spiritual “Deep River” and its connection to Adventist living. This was a very interesting question that I began to think about. The singer of the Spiritual said:

Deep River
My Home Is Over Jordan
Deep River, Lord
I Want To Cross Over Into Campground

The singer of this spiritual has a deep yearning for home that you can feel even in the words as well as the music that accompanied it. But there is something that is standing in the way of home. That is this deep chasm. There is a barrier to going home. We know that the singer of this spiritual was someone who was either removed from home, or never saw home in that the singer was one who was born in an alien land that every day reminded her that she was not home.

Whether it was the daily indignities of slavery or the threat of violence and even having family forcibly removed, there was no home for the slave. I definitely do not wish to minimize that alienation that was felt by the slave in making this comparison, but in some sense all of us who are pilgrims passing through this land deal with this alienation. We realize that we are not home.

The early Advent people must have felt a close kinship with the singer of this song on that October 23, 1844 when the day had past and Christ had not returned. They must have felt this “yearning” for home. They must have felt that there was this deep chasm between them and “home” and they just simply wanted to cross over into camp ground.

This yearning has been kept alive amongst the Second Advent people through the years. Listen to some of the old saints talk and you can still catch a glimsp of this “deep river feeling.” They speak of being in the “Last Days.” They speak of “wanting to go home.” They speak of “last day events.” Yes the still sing “Lift up the trumpet and loud let it ring, Jesus is coming again.” They still have that yearning for home that was a part of this movement.

I wonder if this “yearning for home” is something that is deep within the psyche of Adventists. Some have theological issues with this mindset. They say it promotes an otherworldly religion that does not deal with real issues of here and now. There probably is some truth to that. We have not always been at the forefront of calls for justice in this world. But, I wonder what will become of an Adventism that has lost this “yearning for home?” The slave who loses that yearning either loses “home” or has to change the definition of “home” to a place that does not look like “home.” I wonder if the movement is at that crossroads now. Certainly it has been a long time. Certainly it is difficult to hold on to the hope of the coming. But at the end of the day, just like the slave, this yearning is what makes us who we are, and more than that, it keeps us from being comfortable with any “home” that is not really “home.”

Do We Really Know our Doctrines?

In the mythology of Adventism it is told that Adventists were once called people of the Book. Alegedly, during this time, you could pull just about any member aside and ask that one for a text that teaches the Adventist understanding of the Sabbath, State of the Dead, or Sanctuary and any could give that to you. I am not sure if this day really ever existed or if it is simply something that seeped into our collective memory without really having any basis in fact.

At any rate, I was listening to a few preachers who seems to buy this idea totally. They not only believe that it was true at some point in the past, but they also believe that it is true right now. One preacher literally said that today you could grab any Second Advent believer and that one could still recite a text to defend 1844, Sabbath, state of the Dead, or any other doctrine. The preacher further stated that Adventists spend too much time worrying about and thinking about the doctrines of the church. They said that Adventists can quote the text, but do not know the author of the text. The preacher then concluded that we need to know Jesus more than we need to know the doctrines.

Really I wonder where these people are living. I doubt you could find many people who could explain these doctrines even without texts. I mean who can tell you what the Sabbath is for? Certainly they may tell you something about the 7th day, but then they are out of ideas. Is that knowing too much doctrine? How many Adventists really could explain anything at all about the Sanctuary? Whether you agree with the Adventist understanding or not, we all would agree that very few could tell you more than a vague notion that something happened in 1844 that they can’t explain the relevance.

While I do not know every Adventist, I doubt very seriously that you could go into many Adventist churches in America and get just about any to tell you why they believe what they claim to believe. It is true that Jesus needs to be the center of all our doctrinal teaching. But these preachers have given a missed diagnoses of the problem for the days of Biblical literacy in and outside of our church are gone, if they ever really existed. So what can we do?

Steps to Biblical Literacy

Preachers need to preach from the Bible. I think that the common preaching type that we have learned from our “evangelistic sermons” is to jump all around the Bible. We read a text here and a text there. Certainly this can be good and needed, but do not use too many texts. What happens is that the people leave without a solid understanding of any one of the texts. Take one text, explain it, use a few texts to help explain the major text.

I was reading somewhere where more and more churches are emphasizing the reading of the scripture. One way to combat the illiteracy is to read and explain the texts. We need solid preaching, but we need more than sermonizing. In addition to sermonizing we need teaching. Wednesday night can become an evening of prayer and study. Sabbath School can become a real learning experience rather than a way for novice preachers to preach to a captive audience.

You know, One of the great components of the Black Preaching Tradition is that it has a tendency to preach the great stories of the Bible. Our White brothers and sisters are more inclined to use the didactic portions. The nice thing about the stories is that they go deep into your head.

Stop The False Diagnoses

As long as we continue stating what is not true, we can never deal with the true ailment. Adventists do not know the doctrines at the expense of our relationship with the Master. Adventists need a closer relationship with the Master as well as need more knowledge of doctrines and the Bible. Maybe then we can have substantial conversations about the Sanctuary. Maybe then we can start talking about the Sabbath beyond simply saying it is the Seventh-day.

Simply put, we are like everybody else. We don’t know the Bible, we can’t find texts, and even quite conservative Adventists can’t explain the doctrine of 1844 let alone calculate it from the scriptures. Yet for some reason we think we know what we don’t know…and preachers who promote this mythology almost obliterate the reality that we don’t know squat. Yes we need to know Jesus, but how many of us have any idea of what the Bible says about him? In short, we don’t know…we think we know…and nobody is helping us to know. Now that is a recipe for disaster…