Amidst the brouhaha surrounding the whole failed prediction of the end of the world, several of the media outlets that reported on Camping’s prediction (along with other venues where the conversation occurred) spoke of it specifically as a rapture prediction, which was Camping’s language I believe. The thing that strikes me as peculiar is that the idea of the rapture seems generally to have been presented as normative and typical of Christian belief. This is odd because the idea of the rapture is a relatively recent development in the history of Christianity. The theory spread largely through the efforts of a man named J.N. Darby in the first half of the 19th century and was then popularized largely through the widespread use of the Scofield study Bible, the notes of which advanced Darby’s rapture theory. So, if you consider the number of Christians through two thousand years of Church history who have believed in the rapture, you are looking at a relatively small percentage of the universal Church – only a select group from the last 150 or so years.
So, here’s the question. Given the reality that the rapture is a relatively recent innovation, why is it so often presented in the media as typical of Christian belief? Now perhaps I’m hearing the wrong reports, but from what I’ve seen the observation seems accurate. My hunch is that the media simply lacks precision when it comes to theological ideas, language, and the history of Christian belief, but one might expect a good reporter to read up a bit on the history of the ideas on which he or she reports. Whatever the case may be, there are a majority of Christians through history who have held and presently hold distinctly different ideas about the coming of Christ. I find it somewhat peculiar that we didn’t hear much about all that in the conversation surrounding the rapture prediction.
I’d like to hear from you. Did you hear any reports that discussed the history of the rapture theory as a context for discussing Camping’s prediction?