Petalumans were shocked a month ago as we drove towards downtown on D Street. Just before the Petaluma River bridge, a billboard warned “Judgment Day, May 21. Cry Out to God” The billboard advertised the address, www.familyradio.com, the website of Oakland’s 89-year-old Harold Camping, a TV and radio teacher who is predicting the end of the world, May 21, 6:00 PM (Pacific).
Setting aside the fact that this judgment date rudely interrupts my son’s high school graduation (May 27) and my daughter’s birthday (My 25), how does Camping come up with this date?
Camping writes that May 21 is exactly 7,000 years after the flood of Noah, which he dates 4990 BC. This is his first fallacy. He assumes that genealogies in the Bible are all inclusive. The world has been given seven days in which to get our act together. Camping uses 2 Peter 3:8 as a secret code ring when it says, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” So, convert the month and day given in Genesis 7 to the Roman calendar, assume the year as 4990 BC, convert the word “day” in Genesis 7:10-11 to “1,000 years” and do the math: May 21, 2011.
Seven thousand years after 4990 B.C. (the year of the Flood) is the year 2011 A.D. (our calendar). Says Camping, “the Bible has given us absolute proof that the year 2011 is the end of the world during the Day of Judgment, which will come on the last day of the Day of Judgment.”
Well, I believe the Bible, but I don’t agree with Camping’s assumptions. If you converted every occurrence of “1 day” in the Bible to “1000 years” the results would be ludicrous. For example, Noah would have been in the ark enduring the rain 40,000 years! (40 days and 40 nights).
If it is any comfort, Camping previously prophesied that the rapture and judgment day would come September, 1994. The day came and went and even Camping was left behind.
I believe there will come a day in which Jesus will come again to the earth. It will be a day of judgment and blessing. I’m not scoffing at that (see 2 Peter 3:3), but I am scoffing at Camping’s bold assertion that he knows the date. Jesus himself said no man knows the day and the hour. 2 Peter 3, the chapter to which Camping refers, says “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief” (verse 10).
No matter when that day may come, it is always good counsel to “live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” (verses 11-12)
Physicist Steven Hawking seems to agree with Harold Camping, but Hawking sets the date a bit later – by 15 billion years – but there’s wiggle room. “Life in the universe will cease to be possible when the universe becomes cold, dark and empty in about 15 billion years. But the real danger is that the human race will destroy itself in a shorter time scale.” (interview with Nick Roberts, on ABC News)
The headline news this week that Hawking says there is no heaven – it may be a fairy story for people afraid of the dark. And how does he know? Hawking is inferring that there may be no heaven because, in his view, positing God and heaven is not necessary to explain the universe. In his new book, The Grand Design, Hawking writes, “it is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper that set the universe going.”
“One can’t prove that God doesn’t exist,” says Hawking, “but science makes God unnecessary. The laws of physics can explain the universe without the need for a creator.”
Hawking admits it will take years, perhaps even centuries, of further research to prove that the universe came into existence through physics alone without any supernatural intervention.
It seems that the media assumes that everything that comes from Hawking is science speaking. Hawking has every right to express his beliefs and opinions, which are informed by scientific research and his own experience as a human struggling with mortality and Lou Gehrig’s disease. But, we should differentiate between what science proves and what a scientist believes and says.
We can benefit from science which seeks to explain how it worked, but science has not begun to disprove the words, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
As for when it will end? Somewhere between May 21, 2011 and 15 billion years later. Or could it be today?