Somehow I ended up on a Frank Viola e-mailing list. Someone was very kind to add me. I suspect that the motive was either counterargument by proxy or they assumed that I would agree with what Mr. Viola is teaching. Whatever the reason and whoever put me there, thanks. I now have more fodder for my Spiritual Tyranny grist mill. Of course, I know some of you are Frank Viola fans, so this could get interesting. My fans are most affirming and vocal when I’m taking on the Sovereign Grace Ministries phenomena. I’ve said repeatedly that they are not my obsession, only a stepping off point. Anyone making a bid towards Spiritual Tyranny is fair game. To that end, let the frolic begin.
It must have been a divine appointment that I actually read the e-mail. As a rule, I delete what looks like spam. But I happened to notice that Frank weighed in on the Harold Camping End of the World deal. It was then that I knew I had another article to write. Actually, that is not quite right. I had an offline conversation with a long time reader first. They related a shift in their thinking after having read Camping Lessons. Here is a condensed excerpt from our conversation:
Reader: “I tend to treat the Harold Campings of the world as crazy and just dismiss their rambling. But after reading Camping Lessons, I realized that the issue is people’s fear. (…) their willingness to abandon themselves to any authority declaring an alternative reality. I’m laughing but it is scary.”
John Immel: “I was thinking about this a lot today. The issue is the ability to create a justification for ignoring reality. Camping’s problem is he has made a prediction that CANNOT be reconciled with reality, so he loses credibility almost immediately and therefore loses the stronger of his followers because they have sufficient personal identity to resist the moral judgment that compels rational compliance.”
Reader: “Well, reality proved Camping wrong. He has to discredit himself.”
John Immel: “But here is the real issue. What if an ‘authority’ can create a moral justification that CANNOT be challenged? In other words, what if the “authority” can create a rational environment where he can NEVER be disqualified?”
Reader: “Exactly. They appeal to our fears so that we will abandon CRITICAL REVIEW. Tsk. So any time someone appeals to your feelings instead of reason, that should be a red flag.”
John Immel: “It is more insidious than that. The issue is not reason vs. feeling. Feeling is as much a part of reality as any other human aspect. What tyrants succeed in doing is creating a “reason” to evaluate reality contrary to the cause and effect. They appeal to a transcendent ‘reality,’ a claim that dare not be evaluated or measured. They assert a morality that condemns all self-appointment. They do this to undercut how man knows what he knows.”
This conversation was in my mind when I caught Frank’s e-mail. As always, I have no interest in cherry picking content, so I have provided the full context here.
Let’s start in the middle and work our way out.
Frank Viola’s E-mail:
Lessons We Can Learn from Harold Camping’s Failed Prediction
Here’s are some of the more important lessons we can learn from the failed May 21st “end of the world” prediction . . . I think.
1. Leaders who have a lot of influence over a lot of people must have peers. Camping hasn’t allowed himself to have any peers. He is a man fully on his own out on a limb (and sawing hard). If a servant of the Lord doesn’t have peers, he or she will go off the beam at some point and end up hurting a massive amount of people.