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Ray Comfort in New Zealand

19 comments | 2:58 am | top |
World renowned evangelist Ray Comfort visited his home country of New Zealand last week. The man who began his ministry by preaching daily in Cathedral Square, and debating with the Wizard now heads up one of the largest evangelical movements in the World. I admire Ray for his devotion to the Great Commission which Jesus gave his followers moments before he ascended back into Heaven. Ray's model for witnessing is also of great value, and I have used it myself many times. You can view a web-presentation of this model by taking the good test. Living Waters, Ray's ministry has also been responsible for publishing many well thought-out and professionally presented tracts. In particular, I have been* a fan of the Smart Card, the Million Dollar Bill, and the Christmas tracts. More recently however, Living Waters has been publishing tracts (like this Obama Million Dollar Bill for instance), which cause me to roll my eyes and wonder what on earth they are hoping to achieve.

I attended three events in Christchurch where Ray was speaking, and found them to be increasingly dissapointing and frustrating.

On Tuesday17 March, Ray "debated" with an atheist at the Ngaio Marsh theatre, University of Canterbury. I can't remember the fulla's name, but he was a post-graduate philosophy student. I say "debated", because that's precisely what it wasn't. The atheist opened the forum by presenting his views, outlining his understanding that it was absolutely impossible for a god to exist, and then proceeding to pre-empt arguments that he suspected Ray would make, and then proceeded to answer them himself. A bit below the belt I thought, but nonetheless; he aired some weighty arguments for his case. Ray spoke next - and instead of addressing the atheist's arguments, he lightly touched on one or two of his comments, but then proceeded to give a short version of his life story, a collection of apologetic arguments, as well as a presentation of the Gospel. During question and answer time at the end, Ray ignored two fair and well thought-out questions, by simply responding, "yes... next question?" One of these was, "If humans are sinful and unable to please God, how are they able to ask God to save them; to repent?" Ray could have addressed this doctrinal issue, but instead left the question hanging. I spoke to a student (A Bahai follower I think) later in the day, and he told me that he had been surprised to hear Ray mocking people who disagreed with him.

The following Thursday I dropped in on Student Life's weekly meeting, where they had invited Ray as a guest speaker. This talk wasn't quite so bad, considering that it was in a different context. However I was reminded of Ray's neglect to consider other approaches to presenting the gospel. The whole of the Living Waters ministry is really stuck in the rut of their single Gospel model.

Sunday evening, I attended the evening service at South City Church where Ray was speaking. To kick off the evening, Ray told us a joke which immediately marginalised anyone in the audience who was dyslexic, or who knew someone who was. "I've just figured out what the acronym D.N.A. stands for," said Ray. "The National Dyslexic Assocaition." What the heck. That's relevant isn't it.

To his credit, Ryan the atheist had made it along to each of these three events. So I cringed as Ray proceeded to crack yet another of his thoughtless jokes. He told us of the time that an atheist organisation had flown him to another city in the United States where he was scheduled to speak at their conference; and had put him up at a hotel for the night. "When I got into the room," he said, "there was a big plate full of fresh fruit. I had someone else taste it first to see if they had poisoned it." What would Ryan - or any other atheist in the room think when they heard that... am I supposed to take these Christians seriously?

As with the last two speaking arrangements, Ray spent a large section of the time sharing his life story with us. In a manner that I can only say is foreign to Kiwis, but much more common with Americans, he excitedly told us of how many million tracts he had sold, how many atheist conferences he had spoken at, how his book had shot to number one in the Atheist section on Amazon.com, etc. I am delighted to hear of Ray's success in his ministry, however it comes across wrong, having him tell us this from the stage.

Ray gave us a good number of ideas for what Christians can say when sharing the Gospel. However as a friend of mine said, "Ray seems to think that if you follow his pattern of logic, you will become a Christian. He seems to skip over God's salvation of people, and simply thinks that we should laugh at people who are atheists or otherwise."

Thankfully, there are many more positive aspects to Ray and his ministry than negative ones. I agreed with, and appreciated much of the content of Ray's talks. He has a good knowledge of apologetics, the Bible, atheism and evolutionism. This post has not been an attempt at running him down, but rather summarising the opinions of myself and others - of Ray's talks while he was here in New Zealand.

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*I have been a fan of the Living Waters tracts. I have a 100 pack of Smart Cards sitting here on my desk; they've been there for a few years now. I don't know what to do with them. The Gospel message on the back is sound, apart from the explanation of what Jesus' death on the cross means to us. Here is the relevant excerpt:

"Jesus Christ suffered and died on the Cross, so you could go free. That's how much God loves you. We broke God's Law, but Jesus paid our fine."

If this summary is correct, then in fact every person in history is going to Heaven. In actual fact, Jesus died on the cross, paying for the sins of only those who would put their trust in Him. I agree that God loves everyone in the World; but not in a saving way as the tract implies. We've all broken God's law, however Jesus only paid the fine for those who would put their trust in Him. If Jesus in fact died for people who would never put their trust in Him, then God's plan is thwarted, and he is therefore not sovereign: that is impossible. I can't give out tracts that tell people that they're going to Heaven no matter what they do.

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19 Comments:

Blogger PersonalFailure said...

As an atheist who is continually annoyed by Ray's attitude towards atheists (which I encounter in many people), I thank you for this fair-minded write up of the New Zealand debates.

Spreading hatred and contempt is not a virtue, and I'm glad to see other Christians call Ray on this.

4:36 am, March 27, 2009 
Blogger Melissa Spence said...

Hello, got to your blog by following the comment you left on Ray's blog.
Thanks for sharing your observations and write-ups. I agree with a lot of what you said.
I have often wondered and questioned why their ministry neglects to consider other approaches to presenting the gospel. I'm sure it will never be taken into consideration being that they call their ministry "The 'Way' of the Master", not the 'ways'.
You make a great point in your ending statement, "I can't give out tracts that tell people that they're going to Heaven no matter what they do." I've tried pointing that out to my bro in-law whom works for Ray. That we must DO something, trust in Him and by ONLY His graces DO the good works He commands of us.

5:06 am, March 27, 2009 
Blogger ExPatMatt said...

Hey there,

You think Ray has a fair grasp of 'evolutionism'?

Yikes!

Other than that, your report seemed pretty fair and representative of the Ray we've come to know.

Regards,

Matt

5:23 am, March 27, 2009 
Blogger zilch said...

As another atheist, I too would like to thank you for this even-handed report.

I personally don't really care what people believe, as long as they behave nicely. Some of my best friends are Christians, and I love them and value their presence in my life. But Ray Comfort, as you must know if you visit his blog, does not treat people well if they disagree with him. I'm frankly baffled that he has such a large, and lucrative for him, following.

Anyway, thanks for the report. Cheers from the other end of the world (Vienna, Austria), zilch.

5:26 am, March 27, 2009 
Blogger BathTub said...

Thanks for the report, if you are interested in other takes on how it went you can read one from a member of the NZ Skeptics mailing list, and one from Sam himself (the guy ray debated) in this thread. http://www.wearesmrt.com/bb/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=826&start=54

8:41 am, March 27, 2009 
Blogger Danny Spence said...

What other "ways" are there to share the gospel? I only see one in scripture.

3:08 pm, March 27, 2009 
Blogger Andy Moore said...

Hi Danny,
it is good, but not necessary to take people through some of the Ten Commandments to show them how they have broken God's law, and then to tell them the good news. We can use other ways to explain man's dire situation. Check out the 2 Ways to Live tract for example.

3:17 pm, March 27, 2009 
Blogger Melissa Spence said...

Danny...hhhmm another Spence...
With your question are you insinuating that any persons who were shared the gospel in a different 'way or approach' than that of WOTM and claim to be Christians and 'born again' by God's grace must be false converts because they never truly heard the true gospel? Come on, that would be pretty bold.

Please provide Scripture that tells us the only ONE way to spread His good news. I'm sure you'll provide verses that back up the tactics of the WOTM...but plese don't ignore the Scripture as a whole.

3:50 am, March 28, 2009 
Blogger Danny Spence said...

Wow, you put a lot of words in my mouth over a simple question. I will tell you that there is a principle in scripture called law to the proud, grace to the humble. If a person is weeping and mourning over their sin-(James 4:9), then they don't need law, the heart is already broken and contrite (Ps 51:17). They need grace as Peter did in Acts 3 when he spoke with GODLY Jews. Sin IS transgression of the law (1 john 3:4). The law is good if it is used lawfully... the law was not made for a righteous man, but for sinners.(1 tim 1:9) By the law is the knowledge of sin (Rom 3:9). Jesus gave the law to the woman at the well and when she was broken, He gave her grace. The commandments are like a mirror that shows us ourselves the way God sees us. (James 1:25) Only people that are dead to themselves are made alive by Christ, and Paul said the law killed him (Gal 2:19). Whew!! I think i will stop there.

6:16 am, March 28, 2009 
Blogger Danny Spence said...

Andy,
That tract you linked to was a lot of effort and very little substance. When I witness to someone, my goal is a broken heart, someone that they are a guilty, filthy sinner. That kind of heart is ready for the good news of the gospel. The tract you linked to gave a "life will go a lot better with Jesus" speech. Some people are fine with an eternity without God. That presentation did not even tell me what sin was except that it was a rebellious attitude. This is a man made effort to sanitize the Gospel and make it acceptable for the world. Look at my blog (www.speakupalittle.com) and will put down some other thoughts I have with this type of presentation.

6:35 am, March 28, 2009 
Blogger Melissa Spence said...

Sorry Danny I did not mean to come across putting words in your mouth, I was asking if that is what your question/statement implied. Thank you for sharing those verses. They were the ones I suspected you would share. So do you believe God commands us to only share the gospel by presenting the law? Is that the only way Jesus presented the gospel?

10:47 am, March 28, 2009 
Blogger Danny Spence said...

The law and the gospel are two seperate things. Jesus did not always give the law nor did He always give the gospel. The law was given to the proud and self-righteous, and grace was give to the humble, like Nicodemus. If a person is already repentant and understands their guilt, then the law is not needed. Did you know that the word righteousness means moral perfection and the standard of that moral perfection is the 10 commandments.The unregenerate are inherently SELF righteous, so the only way for them to see how wretched and depraved they really are is to look into that law and what the penalty is. (rev 21:8; 1Cor 6:9-10)

2:00 pm, March 28, 2009 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Comfort definitely uses ridicule and counts on audience ignorance in debate, and then switches to personal testimony and emotional appeal.

I'm no fan beyond amusement, but I will come to his defense on your criticism of the Smart Card which reads "Jesus Christ suffered and died on the Cross, so you could go free. That's how much God loves you. We broke God's Law, but Jesus paid our fine."

Comfort has used this message as consistently and frequently as a bridge between the "good test" and introduction to Christian salvation.

The basic flow is 1. Get people to believe they are not good and deserve punishment 2. Let them know that God loves them and wants to save them (Jesus died for your sins -- the bridge) 3. Invite them to accept that salvation.

For all I despise about Comfort's willingness to lie and deceive, he has Christian salvation down to the simplest, most straight-forward form I've seen.

4:22 pm, March 29, 2009 
Blogger Canterbury Atheists said...

Hi there,

I've done an article on Rays early days in Christchurch:

http://canterburyatheists.blogspot.com/2009/03/evangelical-frustration-early-days-of.html

Plus highlighted his earlier books, one of which he claims to cure cancer:

http://canterburyatheists.blogspot.com/2009/03/ray-comfort-claims-to-find-cure-for.html

One of the reasons I didn't go to his events is the guy gives me a headache!

Fair appraisal there Andy.

Cheers.

Paul.

12:21 pm, April 03, 2009 
Blogger Andy Moore said...

Cheers Paul, I'll take a look.

5:03 pm, April 03, 2009 
Blogger Andy said...

As another atheist, and another Andy, I too will think you for your honest appraisal of Ray's work in NZ.

However, I too must question your understanding that Ray has a good knowledge of either atheism or evolution. If he does then he must purposely hide it since he mischaracterises both at every opportunity.

His attempts to explain and/or question evolution show an ignorance that should make any fair-minded and intelligent person cringe.

1:36 am, April 04, 2009 
Blogger Andy said...

Oops, that should have been "thank" you for your honest appraisal.

1:37 am, April 04, 2009 
Anonymous Susan P said...

As a Christian who has studied the evolution topic a fair bit I have been frustrated with Ray's answers to evolution questions. I've thought "oh no, there's a far better answer than that. He should have said...." I have cringed at the thought of what the evolutionary savvy atheists must be thinking. To any atheiests out there who would like more objective discussion on evolution/Christianity issues you might like to look at some of Answers in Genesis stuff (some of it), or take a look at Johnathan Sarfati's books 'Refuting Evolution" 1 & 2. Don't let Ray's comments make you dismiss all Christians as emotive and unintellectual.

10:17 am, April 06, 2009 
Blogger BathTub said...

How about convincing famous Evangelical Christian Biologists like Ken Miller or (former head of the Human Genome Project) Francis Collins, that Evolution is false first.

Maybe then Christians who try and convert Atheists by telling them 'dozens of fields of Science are wrong because my 2000 year old text tells me so' would look at least slightly less foolish.

In other words, try getting all Christians on the same page first before expecting Atheists to believe it too.

11:50 am, April 06, 2009 

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