Saturday, 21 May 2011

Camping it up?

I may be being a little premature here, but it seems, due to the lack of reports from the Antipodes of major cataclysm or of missing persons, that the much-heralded (in some quarters) Rapture has not begun - not yet anyhow.

Harold Camping, an octogenarian Pastor from the United States had declared that, through his study of Scripture, he is absolutely certain that the Rapture - the return of Jesus to Earth and the taking up of true believers to be with him in the air as the opening scene of Judgement Day - would take place at around 18:00 today 21st May 2011. Apparently this would be a rolling event, beginning in New Zealand and ending in Western Samoa over a 24-hour period (so at least those of us in the West would get advanced notice - how thoughtful!).

He had come up with this date, as I say, through careful and prolonged study of the Bible. He had, of course, come up with a date in 1994 through the same study methods, so maybe we shouldn't be surprised that he may have made a miscalculation again. The problem as I see it is that he seems to be treating the Bible as if it has some kind of hidden, coded message in it, that only certain people can decipher. Now that sounds like Gnosticism to me, and I thought that mainstream Christianity had written that off as heresy centuries ago.

The Bible is not some code that needs deciphering. It is a record of God's dealings with humanity and humanity's struggling with and searching for God over the course of a couple of thousand years, and it has been and is a means by which humanity has continued to struggle with and search for meaning and purpose in life. For those of us of the Judeao-Christian tradition it is a means by which God reveals God's nature and God's will to humanity: not in some hidden way but clearly and plainly, chiefly through the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth, whom the Bible reveals to be Messiah - the Christ, the Anointed of God - and the Son of God. And in one of his clearest statements Jesus is recorded as saying, of his own return: "No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." [Matthew 25:36 NIV]

His message was not one of 'you must escape this wicked world' but one of 'the Kingdom of God is among you'. It was a message of affirming life on Earth, not writing it off for some 'pie in the sky when you die'. It was a message of bringing dignity and worth to all humanity, irrespective of social status, culture, race, gender or sexuality. It was a message of transforming this world, not escaping to the next one.

That is the clear message of the Bible. You don't need special teaching to understand that: you simply need to offer yourself to a relationship of trust with the one who declared himself to be 'The Way, The Truth and The Life', who came that we might have life, in all its fullness, now, today, here, in this world.

Now to me that makes so much more sense than any of Camping's ramblings.

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