Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Third Great Disappointment

The Rapture has come and gone, much to the amusement of a vast array of people, atheist, agnostic, and Christian alike.  Harold Camping's endtimes prediction has been proven to be the schizophrenic ravings of a lunatic that it always was:
Camping presented several numerological[19] arguments, or biblical "proofs", in favor of the May 21 end time. A civil engineer by training, Camping stated he had attempted to work out mathematically-based prophecies in the Bible for decades. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle he explained "... I was an engineer, I was very interested in the numbers. I'd wonder, 'Why did God put this number in, or that number in?' It was not a question of unbelief, it was a question of, 'There must be a reason for it.' "[20]

In 1970 Camping dated the Great Flood to 4990 BC.[21] Using this date, taking the statement in Genesis 7:4 ("Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth") to be a prediction of the end of the world, and combining it with 2 Peter 3:8 ("With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day"), Camping concluded that the end of the world would occur in 2011, 7000 years from 4990 BC.[7] Camping takes the 17th day of the second month mentioned in Genesis 7:11 to be May 21, and hence predicts the rapture to occur on this date.[7]

Another argument[22] that Camping used in favor of the May 21 date is as follows:
  1. The number five equals "atonement", the number ten equals "completeness", and the number seventeen equals "heaven".
  2. Christ is said to have hung on the cross on April 1, 33 AD. The time between April 1, 33 AD and April 1, 2011 is 1,978 years.
  3. If 1,978 is multiplied by 365.2422 days (the number of days in a solar, as distinct from lunar, year), the result is 722,449.
  4. The time between April 1 and May 21 is 51 days.
  5. 51 added to 722,449 is 722,500.
  6. (5 × 10 × 17)2 or (atonement × completeness × heaven)2 also equals 722,500.
Camping said that 5 × 10 × 17 is telling us a "story from the time Christ made payment for our sins until we're completely saved."[20]
It's all in the numbers! - 2011
Taking the Bible literally, or even as the unerring word of God demonstrates a profound ignorance of history.  The Bible is not a narrative (though it's framed that way), but a collection of texts made canon by patriarchs and priests at meetings like the Council of Trent for Catholicism, as well as various other councils or proclamations for Protestant faiths.  The first four gospels of the New Testament are the only books of the Bible that are even relevant to the teachings of Jesus, and none of them even claim witness.  It's not until Paul of Tarsus, a liar and a fraud, claimed personal witness to Jesus that the New Testament claims direct authority from God.

In fact, it's a passage from Paul's Thessalonians that forms the basis of Rapture thought:
15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. - 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
 There are several views on when exactly Jesus is going to come back in Millenialist thought.  People who believe in the Rapture assume that the coming of Christ will precede the Millenium, and not only that but that they will be conveniently whisked away with all the deadites before all the end of the world business.  These people literally hope to God that they receive a "Get out of Armageddon Free Card" just for going to church on Sundays.  It's a selfish, vile form of thought which revels in the suffering of sinners while claiming membership among God's elect (which I SO am gonna be).

Most people who believe in the millenial apocalypse don't claim to know the exact date of the coming like Harold Camping, but this is not the first time in American history that doomsday predictions gained some popularity in the United States.

During the early 1800s, the Baptist minister William Miller believed he had figured out the exact date of Christ's return to the world.  Gaustad & Schmidt write a bit on Miller in The Religious History of America:
... predicted that Christ would come again sometime between March 21, 1843, and the following twenty-first of March. Basing his prophecy on Daniel 8:14, Miller argued that the "two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings" spoken of there really meant a time period of twenty-three hundred years.  That period began, Miller calculated, with the command of the Persian king Artaxerxes in 457 B.C.E to rebuild Jerusalem.  If one subtracted 457 from 2300, the mathematical remainder pointed unmistakably to 1843--the year when the New Jerusalem would be established as Christ descended from the heavens. (pg. 152)
It's all in the numbers! - 1844
 By the 1840s, the people who believed in Miller's prediction had turned into a movement with tens of thousands of believers, and hundreds of thousands of followers who anxiously awaited the date in case Miller proved correct.  Yet by October 22, 1844, Christ hadn't come back yet and the Millerites experienced their first Great Disappointment.
Our fondest hopes and expectations were blasted, and such a spirit of weeping came over us as I never experienced before.  It seemed that the loss of all earthly friends could have been no comparison.  We wept and wept until the day dawned. - Hiram Edson, (pg. 154)
 Many Millerites left the movement disillusioned, but some continued to revise the prediction.  Several new dates were predicted for 1845, but when the Second Great Disappointment rolled around the Millerite movement disintegrated.

William Miller would be a footnote in history were it not for the lasting legacy of the Millerite splinter group, The Seventh Day Adventists.  Among the more widespread influences of that crazy sect, is the notion of Young Earth Creationism.  In 1923, George McCready Price wrote that the Earth was less than 10,000 years old in The New Geology.  The Seventh-Day Adventist view of "flood geology" claims that all the fossils which we find in the geological record were placed and shifted by the Great Flood.  Price's work was later popularized in the 1961 book The Genesis Flood (Baptists again!), and Young Earth Creationism has formed the basis of the more popular American creation mythology.

Camping had already predicted the world would end in 1994, so this time there is no room for revision.  Yet hucksters and madmen like him will continue to con people into forsaking this world for centuries to come.

1 comment:

  1. And we can all sit back and be amused.

    It could be argued that God put Camping on the planet just to amuse the rest of us.