Saturday, August 28, 2010

RAY COMFORT (Continued)

“However, when I witness one-to-one to a professing atheist, I am careful to take the time to patiently answer his questions, but not go down rabbit trails.”     ______Ray Comfort


Sometimes, letting the conversation go down a rabbit trail can lead to humorous depths. I remember once, when I was witnessing to a student at Fullerton College, the subject strayed onto "end times events." (A real hot topic in the '70s) When we read together the verse with the phrase, "earthquakes in divers places" (Matt. 24:7 KJV) the student started talking about her sister's experiences while scuba diving off the coast of Catalina Island.

Here is the article in The Evidence Bible where Ray addresses the issue of getting drawn away from the main subject, which is the Gospel:

Watch for “Red Herrings” or “Rabbit Trails”

The Bible warns us to avoid foolish questions because they start arguments (2 Timothy 2:23). Most of us have fallen into the trap of jumping at every objection to the gospel. However, these questions can often be arguments in disguise to sidetrack you from the “weightier matters of the Law.” While apologetics (arguments for God’s existence, creation vs. evolution, etc.) are legitimate in evangelism, they should merely be “bait,” with the Law of God being the “hook” that brings the conviction of sin. Those who witness solely in the realm of apologetical argument may just get an intellectual decision rather than a repentant conversion. The sinner may come to a point of acknowledging that the Bible is the Word of God, and Jesus is Lord—but even the devil knows that.

Always pull the sinner back to his responsibility before God on Judgment Day, as Jesus did in Luke 13:1–5. Whenever you are in an open-air situation, be wary of so-called Christians who are intent on distracting workers from witnessing. They argue about prophecy, of how much water one should baptize with, or in whose name they should be baptized. It is grievous to see five or six Christians standing around arguing with some sectarian nitpicker, while sinners are sinking into hell.              __From The Evidence Bible (Bridge-Logos)

On the previous post, a commenter, (Blogger name: BeamStalk), had this objection:

"The so called rabbit holes, is any question to him. Go back and see how many questions he actually answers and does not take the conversation down some rabbit hole of his own."

And he cited 1 Peter 3:15 to support his objection:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, - 1 Peter 3:15
 
The commenter who voiced this complaint was referring to questions asked of Ray at the blog, "Atheist Central." I invite readers to visit the comment pages at Atheist Central to see for themselves what he is referring to. Frequently, they are questions that have nothing to do with the subject of the post, and when Ray does answer them, he, more often than not, concludes with a brief Law / Gospel presentation, and asks the questioner to repent of his sins and trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. I doubt that Ray Comfort thinks of the Gospel and a plea to trust Christ for salvation as a "rabbit hole."
 
Some people point to 1 Peter 3:15, thinking that it places Christians under obligation to address, to their satisfaction, any and all objections and challenges thrown their way. Often the challenges are to "prove that God exists, using empirical evidence (peer reviewed, of course) and subject to repeatable testing; or to prove that the "Christian God" is the one true God, as opposed to the millions of others claimed by various world religions. Sometimes the challenge is to reconcile two bible verses that appear to contradict one another. 
 
First, let's look at the verse again. "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,"
 
Now, in context:
 
13Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." 15But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
1 Peter 3:13-17 NIV

Peter here is writing to Christians who are suffering persecution for their faith, and encouraging them , despite the pressure and slander, to confess their faith in Christ, which is the reason for their hope. That is the immediate context. We are however, to avail ourselves of the many good resources and helps to further our knowledge in subjects that people may ask about related to our profession of faith. We are not required, of course, to answer foolish questions, or those that we perceive are designed only to distract us from the Gospel.

7 comments:

BeamStalk said...

I agree that is why Peter is writing, but the context really doesn't change that one is suppose to give the reason for the hope that you have.

When Ray is questioned, he ignores the question and instead does his good person spiel (of which there are many things wrong with and we can discuss that further if you want but that would be a rabbit hole or red herring). He and Kirk both have said this is the way to handle all questions. He is then advocating doing what he claims is happening to him. He is creating a red herring or rabbit hole to get the conversation away from the actual question, no matter what the question is (check out "Hell's Best Kept Secret" or the episode of WOTM entitled "Evolution" for examples of Ray and Kirk advocating red herrings).

It is simply a clear case of projection on Ray's part when he makes these claims.

Also what would you consider gentleness and respect? Is off handed so called "light-hearted" comments about the people asking the questions (things like calling them piranhas or distorting and at times just straight lying about their beliefs) considered gentle and respectful?

I am not saying that you agree with him completely, but I chose the words of my description of him previously very deliberately and I am sure you caught the connotation.

stranger.strange.land said...

Beam,

Don't you get it? Maneuvering the conversation to a point where the Law ("good person test") and Gospel ("Jesus died to pay for your sins - repent and believe") is the entire objective of everything that Ray, LW, WOTM does. The "false convert" aspect is added when the person being addressed is a former Christian.

I have never read any of Ray's books except The Evidence Bible, but I'll bet that each and every one leads to a good person test and a Gospel. When Ray warns us about red herrings and rabbit trails, he is talking about anything that would tend to lead us away from a Law/Gospel presentation.

I have no doubt that Ray would go on stage with a nuclear physicist or an expert on the History of Mongolian Cultural Dance just to gain the opportunity to present the good person test and preach the Gospel to an audience.

BeamStalk said...

Oh I know, but it is disingenuous at best, especially when he acts like he is answering or says he will answer a question and does that. The basis of his good person test is an appeal to emotion also.

What is your stance on "false convert" by the way? And yes this would be a red herring, but I am just curious.

stranger.strange.land said...

BeamStalk asked...

What is your stance on "false convert" by the way? And yes this would be a red herring, but I am just curious.

I think there are two categories of "false converts." (And that doesn't include people who become members of churches for some ulterior motive.)

The first are identified in Jesus' parable of the sower. In Matt. 13:20-22, Jesus describes two kinds of people who hear and receive the word, but one departs from the faith when circumstances become difficult, and the other one departs when he allows himself to be drawn away by his desires for other things.

A second category, I believe, includes men and women whose departure is the fault of the church. There are many ways that churches can screw up and drive people away.

Here is an article that addresses that issue. It is taken from an address given by Lutheran pastor Rod Rosenbladt. I have a pdf file of the transcript of Rosenbladt's address in it's entirety, if you are interested.

As you know, Ray Comfort's point is that churches that teach the gospel without prefacing it with the law will tend to produce church members who have not been convicted of their sins. I think he is right, after all, the Epistle to the Romans has as it's motif, first, GUILT, then GRACE, followed by GRATITUDE.

Stormbringer said...

Sorry I'm late for the party.

Having had discussions with atheists in several places (including Atheist Central), many like to send you on rabbit trails without end. I do not spend much time or energy on someone who is not asking seriously, but just throwing out multiple questions simply for the sake of complaining, "You didn't answer that!", or "You did not (could not) answer my question adequately".

Rabbit trails can be a trap, and I fully agree that apologetics have their place, but will only give intellectual stimulation, and not the conviction of sin. I believe in a blending of both, where applicable, and where Spirit-led.

stranger.strange.land said...

many like to send you on rabbit trails without end.

Some of them have gotten to be quite good at it. We have to practice steering the subject back to law & gospel, sin, guilt and the cross of Christ.

That is what I was trying to do on the exchange of comments that you and I both participated in recently at Fish With Trish.

Craig

Stormbringer said...

"We have to practice steering the subject back to law & gospel, sin, guilt and the cross of Christ."

That is the main reason that I posted a detailed comment at Atheist Central about Hell, and going there does not have to happen.

I used to focus on apologetics, and I am still quite fond of it. But I had been increasingly uneasy, not seeing how it does anything other than provide a distraction in many cases. Sure, there are intellectual hindrances that need to be dealt with, but that won't happen when all of the time is spent on intellectualizing instead of "why it matters". Ray pointed out why we have to do what you and he are both saying, steer the conversation back to law and grace, and make it directly relevant to salvation.

This is a relatively new epiphany for me, and I have old habits that need to be refined. Instead of spending too much time on trying to make atheists actually think, or see the inconsistencies of their own logic, I have to remember to implement law and grace, like you and Ray are saying.