It never fails. First, there’s the prediction, which fails to come to pass. Then, there’s the explanation, which inevitably includes the word “spiritual.” Then, the setting of a new date. William Miller did it in the 1840s, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have done it several time, and now Harold Camping does it for the third time, according to the Daily Mail:

Harold Camping, 89, who became a figure of national ridicule after his warning of the apocalypse, said last night he was “astounded” when May 21 came and went without the Rapture.

But he is already examining new theories… including the possibility that God did not want mankind to suffer for five months, and so will end the world all at once on October 21 instead.

He also claimed that God did visit Earth on May 21 – but that he did so “spiritually”.

“We were convinced that on May 21 God would return here in a very physical way by bringing a great earthquake and ushering in the final five months of the day of judgement and the fact is when we look at it spiritually, we find he did come.

“We’ve already been talking about the end of the world being October 21 2011 but we have not emphasised that because the beginning of it was the fact that we’d see all these things happening (over the five months).”

He explained by saying he’d received a letter from a “listener” who offered a very interesting theory he wanted to read.

He quoted: “The great earthquake and rapture and the universe melting in fervent heat will be happening on the last day – October 21 2011.”

“It’s all going to happen on the last day.

“The great earthquake didn’t happen on May 21 because no-one will be able to survive it for more than a few days or let alone five months to suffer God’s wrath because everything will be leveled and destroyed after that earthquake and there will be no food or water to keep everyone alive.”

Camping continued: “The Bible tells us that Christ has no pleasure in the death of the wicked.  God is a very compassionate God and while the law of God demands that there has to be punishment it does not mean God is going to punish, and punish, and punish, and punish.”

According to news reports I’ve seen, as many as 80% of the employees at Family Radio’s headquarters in Oakland didn’t believe him regarding May 21, so I’m guessing there’s similar skepticism regarding October 21 (though that didn’t keep them from working to send out his message). Matt Tuter, international projects manager for Family Radio, says that Camping has in fact made a lot more predictions, most of which weren’t made public, according to the Christian Post:

While the public awaits his statement, Tuter noted to The Christian Post that Camping has actually made at least 10 predictions for the end times, though only a couple were announced publicly.

“I was here for nine out of the 10,” Tuter said.

And don’t blame Family Radio, whose web site before Sunday was about nothing but Camping’s prediction. Apparently FR was bamboozled, too:

The projects manager maintained that he is not a follower of Camping. Rather, he is an employee of Family Radio, which his mother volunteered at when he was a baby.

“I remember when the organization was normal!” he said.

“It was not always about Harold Camping. And I hope it will not be like that. Family Radio is a fine ministry. Other than Harold Camping’s program, the other programs are normal.”

Most of the staff at Family Radio do not believe in Camping’s Judgment Day predictions, he pointed out.

He even tried to convince some donors – who were going as far as letting their homes go to foreclosures in order to support the Judgment Day campaign – against making the contributions.

Tuter also directed them to Deuteronomy 18 to illustrate that Camping is a false prophet.

So Family Radio, most of which is “normal,” has been broadcasting the ravings of a “false prophet.” That certainly is the kind of thing that would give me confidence in a ministry. Meanwhile, the Family Radio web site has simply disappeared (maybe it was raptured?).

Here’s a message for the board of directors and employees of Family Radio: it’s time to pull the plug.

(Hat tip for Daily Mail article: Kate.)