Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I Remember Harold: Memories of Family Radio

Camping Countdown clock:

I've been following the Harold Camping situation closely. In my area, Family Radio has had a large presence, it always has, at least in my short life.

My parents were fond of Family Radio music so I suffered through years of it as kid (until the invention of the Walkman). My father though couldn't tolerate Mr. Camping, so he would change the channel when he came on.  The only fun part of listening to Family Radio back then was waiting for one of their records to skip or get caught in a perpetual skip.  It seemed to me the station was on auto-pilot, so a "stuck" record could go on indefinitely.

I can never recall a time when there was no Family Radio. It's always been there, same spot on the dial, the same barber-shop-quartet-type music, the same Mr. Camping. Over the years I'd tune into to Open Forum from time to time. No matter where my theology (or  even unbelief) was at, I could either never follow his explanation, become easily bored, or find a quick chuckle over some one calling in a goof question. At one point in the early 1990's I used Camping's voice on my answering machine simply saying, "And shall we take our next call please...hello..."

I've met various Campingites through the years. There is one in particular who stands out. My friend Kenny is an incredible musician. He's a larger than life guy, a true "personality." meet him once, you'll never forget him. He's always been a Pentecostal, with tongues, minus the "God wants you to be rich and healthy stuff." He married this quiet conservative non-Pentecostal girl. Her mother was a militant Campingite. This woman appeared to despise Kenny, as well as his friends (like me). She poured tons of money into Family Radio, and advertising Family Radio. It got her a seat every year at Camping's table for the yearly Family Radio banquet at the Wayne Manor. Listening to Kenny describe his interactions with this woman were often humorous and often sad. The tension between a Pentecostal and a militant Campingite was like a rag in a bottle of gasoline.

Then I eventually embraced Reformed theology. Now listening to Mr. Camping got a bit more interesting because I was told he was a Calvinist. I'd listen in with different ears. Sure, he'd say some Reformed-type of things, but  the hermanuetic was... wacky. If Camping was Reformed, it certainly sounded a lot different than R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur. We had some Camping-lite folks in my Reformed church. They would LOVE to quote Mr. Camping on divorce & remarriage, and other various issues. I would cringe. Here we have a rich and robust Reformed theology, and these little old ladies were quoting... Harold Camping.

So here I am now, listening almost exclusively to Family Radio. It's an unbelievable irony when I stop and think about it. I'm suffering through the barber shop quartets and Harold Camping. Since I'm not certain if Family Radio will continue after this week, the thought of not having Family Radio has produced a slightly melancholic feeling. It's kind of like a store that's always been on the highway, and then one day it's gone. It's not like you cared for the store, but it's something you've always known. Those of you who've moved away from your hometown know what I mean. When you come back, you see the passage of time by what isn't there.

Of course, the other irony is that while Mr. Camping says God is judging the apostate church, the truth is that Mr. Camping will be exposed of heresy to all of his followers on May 22.  Take a look at this pro-Camping website. Will it be there next week? What will become of these people? Hopefully repentance.

That Family Radio may disappear off the dial is also a tremendous blessing. When I think of all the lives Camping has ruined, I'm sickened. He ruined lives even before 1994. The Reformed community should have tried to pull his plug years ago. But since he spewed out all sorts of conservative old fashioned religion, the Reformed tolerated him. Even churches that I love and respect tolerated Camping, and broadcasted their church services on Family Radio. His hermeneutic alone should have provoked Reformed congregations to not associate with him. But, Camping was "conservative" and conservative people sometimes embrace being conservative more than they do proper Biblical hermeneutics. It's more important that Camping spoke against divorce, homosexuality, and worldliness. How does he interpret the Bible? Who cares? This sort of free pass from serious Reformed people always bothered me.

So now I'm about to embark on my morning commute. I'll be tuned in to Family Radio.


John Bugay said...

James, it's amazing how pervasive all of this is. We have a white board at work, where anyone and everyone can just write comments. Someone was complaining about the rain. Then someone wondered if it was going to rain all summer (such things have happened here in Pittsburgh). Then someone else said, no, you're in luck, the world is going to end this Saturday. Amazing.

James Swan said...


Take a listen to Dr. White's recent mp3 lecture. It's a sort of free-form talk.

He rightly points out that this will be big news for a few weeks, Christians will get another "black eye" and then it will sink into obscurity.

John Bugay said...

I've downloaded it and will give it a listen when I get a chance.

Rhology said...

There's a "we can know" billboard in the barrio in Oklahoma City; I've driven by it a few times, but I have never listened to Family Radio outside of Dr White's interactions with Camping.

Michael said...

This rubbish has spread far and wide... for a few weeks at least there was a billboard with a May 21st message on a busy road in Sydney Australia!

Pennant Hills rd, just after Thomson's Corner for those of us from there ;-)

LPC said...

But, Camping was "conservative" and conservative people sometimes embrace being conservative more than they do proper Biblical hermeneutics. It's more important that Camping spoke against divorce, homosexuality, and worldliness.

He gets tolerated because we humans have a real affinity to the Law and the preaching of it.

We all get attracted to someone who knows how to grand stand.


Ken said...

I watched the latest Camping video today - 3 days left at the Ezekiel thirty three 3 You Tube site. (below) and also listened again to Dr. White's debates with Camping. Camping just ignored everything that Dr. White said and went on with his allegory, numerology, subjectivism and connecting different passages together that have nothing to do with each other.

Irenaeus around 200 AD wrote of the Gnostics that did that, grabbing a verse here and connecting it with a verse somewhere else.

Sound Hermeneutics and theology and reading whole chapters and whole books at a time for context are the great need in local churches once again.

What is really ironic is that he told everyone years ago to flee the churches, and yet he has a "church service" there. (pulpit, audience, etc.)

It is incredible to watch him and to think that he really believes this stuff.

Matthew 24:36
Acts 1:6-8 (for Dr. White's debates with him)

Ken said...

Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1:8:1

in this passage, Irenaeus tells us the Gnostics do 2 things,

1. The gather information from sources other than the Scriptures

Camping keeps claiming he does not do that; but the way he connects numbers in different passages and "breaking down" the numbers is really outside from Scripture and also from his own mind.

Chapter VIII.-How the Valentinians Pervert the Scriptures to Support Their Own Pious Opinions.

1. Such, then, is their system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the apostles delivered, but of which they boast that beyond all others they have a perfect knowledge. They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures; (footnote #96) and, to use a common proverb, they strive to weave ropes of sand, while they endeavour to adapt with an air of probability to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. . . .

2. Connecting different passages without following the context.

". . .
In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked art in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions. Their manner of acting is just as if one, when a beautiful image of a king has been constructed by some skilful artist out of precious jewels, should then take this likeness of the man all to pieces, should rearrange the gems, and so fit them together as to make them into the form of a dog or of a fox, and even that but poorly executed; and should then maintain and declare that this was the beautiful image of the king which the skilful artist constructed, pointing to the jewels which had been admirably fitted together by the first artist to form the image of the king, but have been with bad effect transferred by the latter one to the shape of a dog, and by thus exhibiting the jewels, should deceive the ignorant who had no conception what a king's form was like, and persuade them that that miserable likeness of the fox was, in fact, the beautiful image of the king. In like manner do these persons patch together old wives' fables, and then endeavour, by violently drawing away from their proper connection, words, expressions, and parables whenever found, to adapt the oracles of God to their baseless fictions. We have already stated how far they proceed in this way with respect to the interior of the Pleroma."

Same thing that Roman Catholics about Mary and other issues, seeing her in the arc of the covenant, etc. as others have pointed out.


PeaceByJesus said...

Like a true cult, Camping effectively exalts himself as the supreme interpreter of Scripture to the exclusion of those who dissent from him, and even teaches the lost are those who deny that
believers will know the hour of Christ's coming. Yet prior to that he said that he makes plans
for future business on earth (as does his ministry), even while teaching he expects 2011 to be the end. (Time
has an end, p.22)

gutenberg'sbible said...

I grew up in northern NJ(morris plains), and started listening to family radio as a 14 year old "new born again Christian." I regret the time wasted listening to him.
I pray he wises up before he dies.

James Swan said...

I grew up in northern NJ(morris plains),

Arthur's Steakhouse!