Friday, July 04, 2008

Regarding Ray Comfort and talking at heretical events

It seems that both Ingrid Schlueter and Pastor Ken Silva have gotten wind of the fact that Ray Comfort have been accepting invitations to talk at Word-faith events, and have called upon Ray to desist from doing such, since it is profoundly unbiblical and destroys our witness and Gospel message. Ray have sortof responded in this missive in his in Christian Worldview Network here.

Having proven the doctrine of separation, what then is the correct manner of handling the situation? Sure, it is true that those people need the Gospel, and surely we should not limit the proclamation of the Gospel. If those people are lost, all the more we should preach the Gospel to them. In that, all of us would agree with Ray. Yet what about the damage to our Christian witness, or the confusion that will be caused to Christ's sheep?

As we read the Scriptures especially in Acts, we see how the early Christians and Paul proclaimed the Gospel wherever they go — in season and out of season. In this therefore, I think that we shouldn't reject invitations to proclaim the Gospel, even in Word-faith meetings or anywhere. Yet the question must be asked, how should we present the Gospel in such a setting? Since the Gospel is meant to be presented in such a way that the message of salvation is presented, and groups like the Word-faith cult deny a certain aspect of the Gospel message explicitly or implicitly and thus deny the Gospel, shouldn't the Gospel message to tailored to such a specialized audience? A typical run-of-the-mill Gospel message would not help here since the heresy embraced by such people undermines the Gospel message or redefines it, so the words used may be the same while the understanding of them is different. In order therefore to present a Gospel message that would be salvific in its content, the soul-damning heresy in such groups should be addressed, otherwise there is no true clear Gospel presentation to such a group. In "pseudo-emergent speak", the Gospel message must be contextualized by the addressing of these heresies such that it will reach the intended audience.

It is this thing that is missing from Ray's consideration. There is nothing wrong with accepting an invitation to preach the Gospel at a Word-faith gathering provided you do indeed preach the Gospel to them in such a way that they will understand it. And such a Gospel presentation would involve denouncing the errors of the Word-faith cult. Once Ray does that, I am sure that either these people will repent of their error, or they will kick Ray out and most definitely will not invite him anymore. It is this that is sadly lacking from Ray's defence of his actions. If you claim to go there to evangelize, then do it in such a way that they will get the Gospel message and not just hear Christianese!

So, in answer to Ingrid's question, "In the unlikely event that I’m asked to speak at a white supremacist conference, a lesbian pride rally, a wiccan convention, or a feminist gathering, should I accept the invitation?", my answer is: Yes, but preach so as to communicate the Gospel to them, such that only two responses are presented to them: 1) Either repent of their abominable heresies, or 2) Attack and denounce you and reject your message. I will hope that Ray and others like him will truly follow such an action. You want to preach the Gospel? Then go do it properly!

[HT: Word And Verse, Christian Research Net]

Addenum (20th July 2008): I was looking through my written articles with regards to the Gospel, and I found this gem I have previously written which is so appropriate with regards to this issue that I will reproduce it here.

So what exactly is the Gospel? In its broad sense, the Gospel is the entirety of Scripture, because ALL of Scripture is Good News and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting an training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16 -NIV). However, the Gospel most definitely have a narrower and more popular sense, in that it demarcates the basics of the faith that is to be proclaimed and believed in order for people to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. It is this sense which is prevalent in the NT Scriptures, whether it be distilled into a one-sentence message of 'Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit' (Acts 2:38); 'if you confess with your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved' (Rom. 10:9), or into proto-creeds as can be seen in 1 Cor. 15:3-8. Thus, we can see that the Gospel consists of propositional truth statements that are to be understood and believed in (not merely paying lip service), which results in the salvation of all who will do so. Such biblical passages definitely seems minimalistic; with the Gospel proclamation being reduced to one statement or a collection of statements. Or is that so?

What then does the Gospel consists of? The Gospel proclamation as found in Scripture is actually very simple and can be succinctly stated as: calling on all Man to repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior (Lk. 24:47; Acts 20:21). Together with the other passages we have looked at earlier, this seems to suggest that the Gospel message is very simple and easy, and it is. However, Man, due to sin and our own creaturely limitations, complicate matters. God intended the Gospel to be simple, but then it is only able to be effective in communicating its message if it is understood, which mankind fail to do so due to our own sinful, creaturely nature. Our hearts are darkened (Rom. 1:21) due to the rebellion of our depraved nature against God, and we have became blind to spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14) and without understanding (Is. 6:9-10; Eph. 4:18). Therefore, when given a simple Gospel presentation, rebel Man cannot understand it, and if they do, they would attempt to distort it. It is precisely because of this that the context of the various passages and the entire Bible itself is employed for the sake of the Gospel; that the meaning of the simple Gospel message can be made abundantly plain and clear (perspicuous); such that all Man would be able to understand it and be without excuse as to their rejection of the message.

This suggest, therefore, that the Gospel message is a simple message which must be understood in the way of how God wants it to be understood. In other words, the Gospel message is the simple message of repentance of sins and belief in Christ as Lord and Savior; according to the definitions of the terms and concepts as dictated in Scripture. For example, what is 'sin'? Sin must be understood in the biblical sense of rebellion and crime against God which Man commit against God by breaking His holy Law and thus incurring wrath and punishment. Any other definition like being just 'wrong choices which prove that we are human' would constitute a denial of the Gospel message, even though the word 'sin' may be used. This goes for the other words like 'Jesus Christ', which must be understood as being the name of the Second person of the Trinity which was incarnated on Earth by being born of the virgin Mary, lived a sinless life, and suffered and died on the Cross for our sins etc, and definitely NOT the New Age 'Jesus Christ'.

Now, such an exercise of the definition of words used could theoretically go on ad infinitum ad nauseum, leading to a semantic 'turtles all the way down' infinite regression scenario (which seems to be the rage within Emerging church circles, I may add). However, the Bible does not lend itself to such skepticism, as God has created Man in His own image (Gen. 1:27) and has even written the work of His Law on the hearts of all Man (Rom. 2:14-15), and has also revealed Himself to them through the work of Creation in what is known as General Revelation, thus Man are all born with a recognition of God but reject Him anyway. Part of the image of God that Man has is the capacity to communicate, and therefore there would not be an infinite regression scenario whereby Man could never understand anything of the Gospel at all, though our sinfulness do mar our understanding. It is because of this General Revelation that the Gospel proclamation, and all communication, is possible. With sufficient clarification, the Gospel could be communicated and understood, and the amount of clarification needed for the Gospel message to be successfully communicated would vary between different persons.

The next important question is with regards to how many truths are therefore needed to be communicated in order for the Gospel to be understood exactly as the Scriptures meant is to be? This would definitely depends on the audience. For simple folks, the basic message of repenting of sins and believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior would suffice, as their conscience could aid in the understanding process. However, such is not the case for most people who have bought into the philosophy of the world and have therefore suppressed the truth (Rom. 1:18-19) and seared their conscience against the Truth of God. For example, a consistent evolutionist would have already suppress the general revelation given within him/herself regarding the Creation of the world and thus the existence of sins, and therefore cannot understand the Gospel message with regards to sins (which furthermore removes the need for a Savior). Therefore, the Gospel message must include the entire account of the Creation and the Fall in order to 'fill up the gaps' he/she has created through his/her embrace of the evolutionary worldview.

The contents of the Gospel proclamation therefore is a modular one based on the core truth: 'Repentance of sins and belief in Jesus Christ', and explanations which clarify this truth. Typically, most people are not so degenerate as to require detailed understanding of correct doctrine in order to be saved, except for those in cults. What is meant by this is that a typical non-Christian wouldn't be thinking that perhaps the Gospel message is a commitment to a demigod whose name is Jesus Christ, or to Michael the Archangel when he/she hears the Gospel message, unless they are from a cult who teaches that. Occam's razor does apply to our thinking process too, and therefore human beings do not normally multiply ignorance unnecessarily by trying to make a message more complicated than it actually is. The Gospel message thus can normally be communicated and clarified without trying to do the equivalent of giving the unbeliever a crash course in soteriology within the context of a Gospel presentation.

So what are the truths to be included within a Gospel presentation? The truths to be included within such a presentation would be those which most people do not believe in and would be a stumbling block to their coming to faith. It is for this reason that the reality and awfulness of sin MUST of necessity be proclaimed, since Man typically either disregard or downplay sin. With this in mind, the reality of Creation, the Fall, the Substitutionary Atonement of Jesus Christ are the key doctrines which must be covered so that the Gospel could be clarified. Other doctrines like that of the Trinity are important too, but they would be important only if the person being witnessed to comes from an anti-Trinitarian cult.

19 comments:

Sicarii said...

Good response, brother. It's been a long day for me today, so I'll post my response to this either later today (another long day, but with family) or Sunday.

Ouch, the headache... :(

PuritanReformed said...

Whatever happened to your head?

Sicarii said...

Long day and new glasses that I am still getting used to (my degree's gone down some) so it gives me a bit of headache.

PuritanReformed said...

Oh, sorry to hear that. Do get some rest.. =P Btw, you want come this Sun?

Ken Silva said...

"1) Either repent of their abominable heresies, or 2) Attack and denounce you and reject your message."

This is the third year now that Comfort has spoken there. You tell me if he's denounced "abominable heresies."

And if it were me I'd accept their invitation this way: Yes, I will come speak provided I not be censured and because I do not agree with your version of Christianity I do not want my name associated with yours in promotion for the event.

And my central point in the piece I wrote is: We are awful naive to think this is how Comfort handled this situation. Sadly, Ray is being used by these heretics to promote their conference supporting the Iternational College of Excellence: http://www.collegeofexcellence.org/

PuritanReformed said...

Ken:

Of course I agree with you on Ray's error in speaking there 3 times without calling them to account for their heresies. That said, I do not think that there is anything wrong with proclaiming the Gospel at such events per se.

Just trying to come at this from a different angle from the point of the proclamation of the Gospel. We agree on the issue, but I think we should be upfront that we are not trying to restrict the preaching of the Gospel as long as it is preached as it should.

Sicarii said...

Have you guys moved to Bukit Merah? Gee, we should get MSN or Skype on instead of private conversations on our blogs like this :P

PuritanReformed said...

We'll be moving this week, and I need to find out where the place is also coz I don't know exactly where is it; have a map that's all. But anyway, you didn't tell me your MSN if you have it. :)

Ken Silva said...

Hi Daniel,

Not to be concerned I believed we were in agreement and simply talking like friends over coffee.

My post wasn't about preaching the Gospel in settings like that so I didn't cover the point.

We agree in that area as well. Preach where asked and hold nothing back, absolutely.

Sicarii said...

ikechua@msn.com :)

I'm usually on "invisible" mode, but are usually online actually. Just drop me a note and I'll add you too! :)

Coram Deo said...

When the pure and eternal gospel of grace is faithfully proclaimed then sinful men's hearts will be changed by the power of God alone as He saves His elect from every kingdom, tribe, tongue and nation to the praise of His glory alone forever and evermore.

It seems to border on hubris to think that somehow sinful men ought to be allowed to modify God's own chosen method of saving souls which is the foolishness of the preaching of the cross.

No modification of the gospel of grace is required by the ingenuity of sinful men in order to affect the supernatural and miraculous salvation of men's souls which is the work of God and God alone. Personally I can't understand this line of reasoning given the consistent and clear monergistic teaching about salvation within the Holy Writ.

Where in the scriptures are preconditions attached to the faithful proclamation of the eternal gospel of grace?

Where in the scriptures are caveats attached to the Lord's Great Commission?

The eternal gospel of grace IS the answer to the WoF heresies.

As men's souls are enlightened by God alone through the hearing of the true and faithful proclamation of the eternal gospel of grace alone then God and God alone will ensure that He finishes the good work that He has begun in His elect. This is the very foundation of the doctrines of grace - that salvation is God wrought meaning that our salvation, sanctification, and ultimate glorification is ALL OF GRACE!

It isn't up to Ray Comfort to attempt to correct the erroneous beliefs to which the WoF adherents hold - this ought to be crystal clear because according to the scriptures unregenerate sinners have no spiritual discernment!

What possible good could a clever oratory on spiritual discernment and the manifold heresies of the WoF heretics do for their deceived adherents who probably haven't even heard a faithful proclamation of the eternal gospel of grace and thus are dead in their trespasses and sins and spiritually blinded? NONE!

God bless Ray Comfort and may the Lord grant that he present a faithful proclamation of the true gospel of the REAL Jesus Christ to those WoF'ers and let us pray that it might please the Lord to save some of His elect who are in attendance there from their present miserable estate of bondage and oppression by His Gospel power alone.

In Christ,
CD

PuritanReformed said...

Coram Deo:

nobody is talking about giving a "clever oratory on spiritual discernment and the manifold heresies of the WoF heretics". We are just asking Ray to preach the whole Gospel, including attacking their false idol of wealth. There is no necessity to refute the WoF heresies point by point; just need to preach the Gospel of salvation from slavery to sin, and against the idolization of material things which is the focal point of the WoF heresy. Maybe he can preach one Gospel sermon on the passage of the Rich Young Ruler. Or he can follow Paul Washer in preaching through the second half of Mt. 7. After all, aren't we called to preach Solo Christo which IS part of the Gospel, and call upon them to repent of false gods and idols?

Coram Deo said...

Daniel,

Where in the gospel is the message about "the false idol of wealth"? As you've correctly pointed out the WHOLE gospel covers ALL sinful man's needs - Ray needs to present the WHOLE gospel and not attempt to tinker with God's chosen method of saving men's souls. I seriously doubt Ray or anyone else would think otherwise.

But to suggest that sinful man needs to tinker with or somehow modify the gospel message in some way is, you see, exactly what I'm talking about!

For men to add preconditions or caveats to another man's faithful presentation of the pure gospel is simply without biblical precedent.

Now I could see us having this debate AFTER Ray preached his sermon and loving, discerning fellow belivers took occasion with his message; but for brothers and sisters to be heaping demands on Ray BEFORE he even preaches?

Maybe you're speaking of "contextualization", I'm not sure, but at the bottom of things God doesn't need (or indeed does He allow for) sinful men to modify His chosen method of converting sinners which is a faithful presentation of His eternal gospel of grace.

Thanks for taking the time to respond! I'm off to church!

In Him,
CD

PuritanReformed said...

Coram Deo:

hope you have a blessed time at church.

>Where in the gospel is the message about "the false idol of wealth"?

Isn't the Gospel about abadoning all our idols (as part of repentance)? And if so, isn't the idol of wealth a subset of "all our idols"?

>As you've correctly pointed out the WHOLE gospel covers ALL sinful man's needs - Ray needs to present the WHOLE gospel and not attempt to tinker with God's chosen method of saving men's souls. I seriously doubt Ray or anyone else would think otherwise

Neither do I think otherwise.

>Maybe you're speaking of "contextualization", I'm not sure, but at the bottom of things God doesn't need (or indeed does He allow for) sinful men to modify His chosen method of converting sinners which is a faithful presentation of His eternal gospel of grace.

Yes, I am speaking of "contextualization". It was never about adding or subtracting from the Gospel. Regardless of whether you are Conservative or Emerging-friendly, it must be admitted that Peter's message to Jews in Acts 2 and Paul's message to the Atheninans in Act 17 are decidely different in the way the Gospel was presented.

Back to Ray and the WoF heretics, it is most definitely correct for him to proclaim the whole Gospel, yet he should contextualize for his hearers because the WoF heretics have redefined quite a number of biblical terminology and therefore the Gospel must be communicated in such a way that we are not talking Christianese (Christian jargon) while we are proclaiming the Gospel. Some of such cults immunize themselves from Gospel preaching by redefining biblical terms so that the Gospel message cannot come across to them if presented the traditional way. And if Ray does exactly that, I sortof doubt these false teachers will re-invite him to preach in their conferences. After all, Paul Washer wasn't invited back to that church in which he preached what is probably his most famous sermon, on the second half of Mt. 7, was he?

Coram Deo said...

Hello again Daniel!

Thank you for your beatitude and yes, my church experience this morning was most blessed and I pray that King Jesus was honored and magnified! I believe that He was for in fact the entire sermon this morning was a Biblical exposition on, what else?!?

THE WHOLE GOSPEL OF GRACE! I praise the Lord for His providence!

To be quite honest I don't think you and I are too far apart on this issue but perhaps some clarification is due on my part since I barged into your space already knowing where I was coming from whereas you, obviously, couldn't have known.

Isn't the Gospel about abandoning all our idols (as part of repentance)? And if so, isn't the idol of wealth a subset of "all our idols"?

Partly, yes but again neither of us, it seems, believes that Ray or any faithful believer should present a partial gospel; as you concede in your following statement. A partial gospel is in many cases another gospel altogether and in such cases is accursed - as we know (and as you've pointed out) the WoF'ers (among others) already have an accursed false gospel of health, wealth and prosperity.

it must be admitted that Peter's message to Jews in Acts 2 and Paul's message to the Atheninans in Act 17 are decidely different in the way the Gospel was presented.

Their approaches were certainly different, however what else can we see from these Biblical examples apart from their approaches? We can see that they weren't constrained by man into the preaching the message they shared. Instead they were faithful to and accountable to God and God alone for their sermons. Shouldn't we afford the same liberty in the Lord to our fellow bondservant Ray Comfort?

With respect to your final analysis I guess I would say we're going to have to agree to disagree on your point - as I understand it - that the eternal gospel grace in Jesus Christ can somehow be "immunized" against by false teaching since this belief makes God less than sovereign and means that the cleverly devised fables of men and the deception of the enemy are in fact greater in power than the all-powerful Christ and His eternal gospel of grace which is an impossibility and is flatly denied by scripture at every point. Please understand that I'm not trying to pick a fight here, and I grant that I may have misunderstood the point you were trying to make.

Yet sadly Daniel, this matter with Ray Comfort began - and evidently continues - because some people seem to think that the faithful preaching and presentation of the WHOLE GOSPEL OF GRACE is in some way insufficient.

In fact this position has been articulated to me in private and it is also available for public view as you can see here in this comment: Ray, You Have To Warn, Not Just Preach the Gospel. (You'll need to click "READ MORE FEEDBACK" and scroll down to read this comment in its entirety.)

..."not JUST PREACH THE GOSPEL"?!?!

..."not just preach the gospel?!?"

This is the real touch point where this whole controversy started Daniel, that somehow the gospel itself, properly and faithfully presented is INSUFFICIENT in some way which is, of course, a lie from the pit of hell. In fact it's hard for me to imagine a more man-centered and anti-christian sentiment than to say the gospel isn't enough.

It's MORE than enough since it's the very means whereby God in His sovereign wisdom and good pleasure has been chosen to supernaturally and miraculously enable unworthy, sinful men not only get to go to have their sins forgiven, not only to get to go to heaven, not only to enjoy eternal life, not only possess the treasure of eternal joy away from the presence of sorrow and sin, but to possess the TRUE treasure of eternal joy beholding the unveiled and unspeakably majestic glory of the One True and Living God in the face of Jesus Christ forever and evermore.

To think that the pure gospel needs "just a little help" from Ray Comfort - or any other sinful man or woman for that matter - is shockingly unscriptural and in my mind represents a pathetically low and unbiblical view of the omnipotent, omniscient, absolutely holy, just, righteous, infinite, only wise One True and Living God of the Holy Bible.

He and His gospel are more than able.

He and His gospel are more than enough.

He and His gospel are more than sufficient.

And, as we agree, His chosen method of converting sinners is the faithful presentation of His gospel of grace.

With this in mind let's join together and pray for Ray Comfort and all those who are willing to go anywhere and preach to anyone about the wondrous good news of the kingdom of God in fulfillment of Christ's Great Commission regardless of their reputations or whether or not they "get invited back again".

The measure is God's glory as His eternal gospel is faithfully proclaimed, not the results or responses of wicked, fallen men.

I apologize if I'm coming across as unloving in my comments as this isn't my intent. Unfortunately the nature of this medium doesn't allow for inflection, or tone of voice, or body language so I pray that you and your readers will hear my heart, which desires to glorify God alone.

In Him,
CD

PuritanReformed said...

Coram Deo:

sure, no offense taken. I can see you mean well.

>Shouldn't we afford the same liberty in the Lord to our fellow bondservant Ray Comfort?

I agree. If you read my post carefully, I was talking about Ray's defence of his actions, not about Ray going there to speak. I was asking Ray to preach the whole Gospel such that these people will "get-it", not just hear Christian jargon. Nowhere did I say that Ray is not going to do so.

> this belief makes God less than sovereign and means that the cleverly devised fables of men and the deception of the enemy are in fact greater in power than the all-powerful Christ and His eternal gospel of grace which is an impossibility and is flatly denied by scripture at every point

If by that you mean that people can somehow tune off the words of the Gospel because they are deceived and thus we must "shock" them into hearing it, then yes, I am with you. However, what I am talking about is more akin to preaching the Gospel in English to a Chinese from China who doesn't understand English at all. If your audience don't even get your message, then even if you preach the whole Gospel to them in the traditional way, they cannot understand it; the message might as well be in Greek or Chinese to them.

>To think that the pure gospel needs "just a little help" from Ray Comfort - or any other sinful man or woman for that matter - is shockingly unscriptural and in my mind represents a pathetically low and unbiblical view of the omnipotent, omniscient, absolutely holy, just, righteous, infinite, only wise One True and Living God of the Holy Bible.

I agree.

Coram Deo said...

Peace, brother.

Thanks for the edifying engagement!

In Him,
CD

Beng said...

I have to agree that the "pure Gospel" as preached by Paul Washer is more than sufficient, and it is the power of God behind the preaching, rather than the preacher.

So much so that I have been giving out CD's of his sermons to people whom the Spirit has impressed me to hand them out to, after sharing with them.

I know that some of his "hard sayings" may be tough for some folk to stomach, but I have learnt - from some article I read somewhere... ;) - that we should promiscuously declare the gospel so that the elect may come to hear, and hearing, believe.

PuritanReformed said...

Beng:

I agree... Paul Washer IMO is better than Ray Comfort.