By way of analogy. Imagine somebody giving you a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle as a gift. You look at the box, and it has an image of what the completed puzzle will look like. It is the image of a stunning photograph or a beautiful painting. The image is amazing, because if it weren't, the puzzle wouldn't sell. Maybe it's of a beautiful marina in Maine, with hundreds of nearly identical boat masts against a background of choppy blue water. Or of a field of flowers or a forest of redwood trees. Since it's the grandest of puzzles, the 1000 piece puzzle, you know its complexity and its mundane-ness will combine to form a good challenge.
You open the box and dump its contents out on a table or other surface. Now, we've all experienced the dangers of putting a difficult jigsaw puzzle together. Pieces can be easily lost. They can fall on the floor, or behind furniture. Children or pets can carry pieces away. A shirt sleeve can accidentally knock pieces off and vacuum cleaners can easily suck them up. The puzzle takes a long time to complete, and often others do your cleaning up for you as the table might be needed for a holiday family get together. A puzzle fanatic may have several puzzles going or have multiple puzzles in the toy box. Pieces from one puzzle can find their way into the boxes of other puzzles. The challenges go beyond the simple putting together of the pieces in the original box. Often there are numerous sittings required to finish the puzzle and each time the puzzle is alternately brought out and put away.
After dumping the contents out, the strategy follows. The face-down pieces are turned over. Maybe you look for the edge pieces, and especially the four corner pieces. Maybe you group them by color similarity or theme. You identify the corners, and start a frame, then fill in. Many of the pieces look exactly the same and you know those will take the greatest amount of time to put together. Some pieces don't fit with any other piece. You get stuck and can't find certain pieces. You begin to doubt if all the pieces are there. Maybe some of them are lost. Maybe they weren't all in the box to begin with. Maybe there are some from another puzzle. You form doubts and start asking questions.
But...But the one thing we never do is question the picture on the box. We have unwavering faith in the picture on the box.
And this is why Harold Camping is successful and has followers who continue to follow him despite being wrong. He has sold himself and his followers the picture on the box.
Now back to being stuck. There are several ways we get stuck when putting the 1000 piece puzzle together. One is that we find a piece that fits. We continue to try to fit other pieces around it, but to no avail. Then we suddenly see a piece that fits that really doesn't fit. We see a slight gap between two pieces, then realize that the piece is very slightly crooked. We put it in where we thought it would fit, the colors and details seem to fit, but we realize it was a very close miss. The jigsaw cut it with a curve that almost fit the curve of the piece that really goes there. No wonder all the other pieces wouldn't work until we found the piece that really didn't go there! Another way we get stuck is when we try to fit a piece with every other piece already in place. It doesn't work. Then we try to fit that piece with all the other pieces that haven't been placed yet. Still no fit. We try all of it over and over, dozens of times. We bang our heads against the fireplace bricks. Then we suddenly realize that the piece, which we thought we identified from the picture on the box, needs to be turned upside down! And in no time, the piece fits somewhere and, boom, other pieces start fitting together with great speed!
In order to get the piece to fit, we need to turn it upside down. Harold Camping needs to turn the "no man knows the day or hour" pieces upside down to get them to fit the picture on the box; the picture in which he and his followers have unwavering faith.
Each failed end-of-the-world prediction by Harold Camping is simply pieces of the puzzle not fitting together quite right. To him and his followers, it is simply a matter of tweaking and trying new pieces until they all fit together to result in the picture on the box. Because they have unwavering faith in the picture on the box, they are completely unable to realize that it is a false picture. They continue to successfully add more pieces that really seem to fit together, even taking wrong pieces out and replacing them with new ones; thus they can mark their progress, but never coming to completion. Harold Camping's view of the end times is a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle that he and his closest friends are putting together. What they don't realize is that the 1000 pieces from the bible dumped out on to the table won't result in his picture on the box. They have placed their faith in the picture on the box, and not in the pieces inside the box. People who have faith in the picture on the box will follow Harold Camping.
Read Part 3
Read entire series here.