When I was being examined for my confirmation in the Anglican Church, I made several promises to God and to all who were present. One the most important promises was in response to this question, “what is your duty to your neighbor?” In response, I recited the answer placed into my mouth by the church, it began with these words. “My duty towards my neighbor is to love him as myself.”
This is perhaps the most difficult task that I have ever taken on, & yet it has been the most transformative. If for no other reason, because it regularly causes me to refrain from shooting from the hip every time someone strikes me the wrong way. I surely desire for folks to be patient with me, to hear what I am saying, and to try to get at my heart, & not merely what I am saying. Thus this promise provokes me to at least try do the same with others whom I would by nature have for lunch.
Never has this been truer than when it comes to the events of the past week. I was initially motivated to write scores of criticisms & condemnations regarding Harold Egbert Camping’s prophecies. However, I somehow (by God’s grace) remembered that promise I made long ago to love the way I want to be loved. This promise I made long ago gave me the opportunity to ask myself whether Egbert was setting out to do evil to the world? I don’t believe he desired to do evil; in his mistaken heart, he seemed to want to do good. He believes a mistaken version of the gospel that many others also believe, & he was serious about spreading it; moreover, he was even successful spreading his faith. All the while so many others who have it right will not put it all on the line to do so. Consequently, I say kudos to Egbert for his courage & willingness to put it all on the line & spread what he believed to be true. It is at that point that my charity towards Egbert stops. Why? Because he did harm the world, he dragged the name of Christ through the dirt, & made Christianity even more of a laughing stock, & he led many who followed him into ruin. Lord have mercy on Egbert.
What is it that gives a man such audacity? What gives a man such permission to see himself as the authoritative interpreter of scripture & truth? Perhaps the force that that gives an individual this kind of permission that is the true enemy exposed by the failed prophesy of Egbert. The fact is that everyone who was sure that the end of the apocalypse would not occur on the 21st of May at 6 pm is equally as guilty as Egbert. Why? Because, the church has already spoken regarding scripture on this subject.
The undivided church (not any one individual) has with one voice; the voice of the Spirit, said that regarding the last day no man knows the time or the day. This means that anyone who said to themselves, or publicly, that the world would not come to an end was equally as sure of their own prophetic capacities. The fact is Egbert was wrong, nevertheless, if the church was correct, then the end could very well have come at 6 pm on the 21st.
In the failed “Prophecy of Egbert”, as well as in the responses against him, we find the problem that the contemporary world seems totally powerless to overcome, & that is the assurance that we individuals have equal authority with the voice of the undivided church to declare dogma. Not until we learn to humble ourselves and embrace the voice of the Spirit who has spoken by His church, by means of the ecumenical councils do we even stand a chance to apprehend the truth. There is sure truth, & it is found in the voice of the undivided church, everything else that you & I come up with on your own is pure speculation & its relevance on the truth is small. It does not matter whether these speculations come to us as the voice of one man who calls himself Pope, or as the voice of another who says that it is his illumination & the authority of his bible. Both are two sides of one coin, & both find their origin in the Great Schism where one man placed himself above the church. If our voices do not match the voice of the undivided church, then it is mere speculation.