The Problem with Numerology

If I'm not mistaken (and, granted, I live in a later time zone), the End of Days has not occurred today, May 21, 2011. Therefore, Harold Camping's prediction--based on his biblical calculations using numerology and other forms of esoteric interpretation--is wrong.

Last time this happened for Camping (1994), I pastored a congregation just up the hill from his church. I recall gathering shortly afterwards with local clergy for our monthly prayer meeting and one of them reminded us of the sober fate Camping would've faced if his failed prediction had occurred in Old Testament times (Scripture at that point mandated capital punishment for false prophets--see Deuteronomy 18:20-22!). Please, please, don't misunderstand me: I'm not in any way advocating the same for Camping or anyone else (nor do I think that the New Testament allows for this)! But there's a gravity to these kinds of predictive errors which must be mentioned. At the very least, these misguided efforts cast ridicule on Christ and the Church, they lead gullible people astray, and they present a pathetic witness to the world.

Worse than this, these attempts fly in the face of very obvious biblical teaching, which clearly states that no one--not even Jesus!--knows the day or hour of his return (see previous post on Matthew 24:36). At their heart, such erroneous calculations reveal the essential problem with numerology or any form of bible interpretation that purports to have discovered a hidden message in Scripture, particularly one that divines a future timetable: the Bible is meant for public revelation that leads its readers to a saving knowledge of God in Jesus Christ and facilitates faithful living in the present. It is NOT, repeat NOT, a mysterious Ouija board only to be interpreted by those anointed with special knowledge, nor is the Bible a sealed scroll to be unlocked by some mysterious interpretive key.

The Apostle Paul, writing to the Colossian church in the context of early gnosticism and mystery religions (both of which said salvation was only for the secret initiated elite, not the hoi polloi), was careful to stress that the gospel message was on OPEN secret! In fact, using the special language which these cults employed, Paul turned their meaning inside-out: the gospel was a public invitation (given by God to all!) of Christ's offer of life. Paul went further: he even revealed to everyone what the secret mystery was! "To [Christ's followers, that is everybody who trusts in him] God chose to make known how great...are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). The point is that the Christian message of life is an open secret given to everyone! Any interpretive grid which asserts a secret message in the Bible denies this essential aspect of God's revelation. God's intent in coming to earth and speaking to us through his Son Jesus Christ (and the writings he commissioned) is for the message of grace and new life to be available to all. To claim that one person alone (or a sect or cult) solely possesses insight into a hidden biblical mystery flies in the face of this and contradicts the clear intent of the Bible.

We've got to learn that we can't control many aspects of the world and our lives. To live with a reverent agnosticism (see my previous post) and to humbly admit we cannot know the time of Christ's return, is an indispensable aspect of our humanity and our discipleship.


john said...

a very good post. other analogies of what it the bible is NOT are a code that is deciphered, or an intricate puzzle with exactly fitting pieces that must be assembled just so.

iamTedKing said...

Thanks Carl. Agreed, great post. Lots of talk of the rapture here at the Tour of California. For the very short term I'll focus on Mt Valry today. Ciao.

Carl Hofmann said...

Thanks, guys, for checking in. John, you're near ground zero of this debacle--any unique perspectives from up the hill?

And, Ted, I'll be thinking of you and the others as you climb Mt. Baldy. I grew up in Riverside (Queen of the "Inland Empire"!) and my parents' house has a view of said peak. Catch you on Versus!

Anonymous said...

So Carl, why not preach what you just would make a great sermon.

Owais Khan said...

Your Life-Path number is probably the most influential numerological aspect to be considered. numerology