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Featured Review of "Hell's Best Kept Secret"

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by John of Japan, Dec 12, 2016.

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  1. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    This book by Ray Comfort has been mentioned quite a few times here on the BB, so I decided to read it and give my thoughts. I bought it second hand on Amazon, and read it through. Some things about the WOTM have become clear to me.

    First of all, note that the book is copyright 1989, meaning that the author may have changed his views on some things. I certainly hope so, because in 1989 he held some very problematic views.

    First of all, the good points. Comfort is an excellent writer, and keeps your attention. His logic is somewhat disjointed, but he keeps you reading. He is an extremely talented and engaging person, and that shows in this book.

    Secondly, he is writing about personal evangelism and encouraging folks to witness for Christ. This is almost always good, unless poor theology is wrapped up in the presentation. (I'll comment more on that later.) Comfort has seen some blessings in the harvest, so he mentions several souls saved in the book.

    Now to my observations. First of all, Comfort is untrained theologically, and it shows. According to Wikipedia (not always accurate), he did not even pursue a secular college education, much less a Bible college degree, so he lacks the basic skills of composition and rhetoric taught in English 102, in spite of his great talent. I would loved to have taught him as a freshman and helped develop some of that talent.
     
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  2. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Comfort's lack of training shows up in a number of ways. First of all, he fails badly when he tries to reference the original Greek. For example, on p. 35 he tries to shed light on Matthew 7:13-14 and Luke 13:24, in particular the Greek words for "strive" (agonizomai), "narrow" (thlibo) and "strait" (stenos). He has "strive" and "narrow" somewhat correct, though he makes the etymological error with "strive," saying, "from which we derive the word agonize," which is completely immaterial as to the NT meaning.

    For "strait" he has stenos, which he probably got right from Strong's. However, he has as its meaning "groaning," a gerund (verbal used as a noun) rather than an adjective, which is what it is in Greek. The meaning of "groaning" is incorrect. "To groan" is the meaning of the cognate verb, not the adjective in this passage, which does mean "narrow."

    There have been worse mistakes made from the Greek, of course, but frankly, if you don't know the Greek, don't pretend to. If you don't have a college degree, don't put on airs.
     
    #2 John of Japan, Dec 12, 2016
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  3. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Next, I'd like to note something that to me is very problematic. Comfort never seeks to define the Gospel in the whole book. How can you write a book on personal evangelism without even defining the message?

    He does not even mention the subsitutionary atonement, the heart of the Gospel, until p. 54, when he gives his personal testimony, saying, "That night I called upon the Lord as a dying man and embraced the good news that Jesus had suffered my punishment." He also discusses the atonement briefly on p. 132.

    But never in the entire book does he tell how to present the atonement to the sinner, which is a huge failure in a book on soul-winning. He does discuss what it means to believe on p. 133, and that's good, but it's not enough.

    He also never mentions the resurrection of Christ in the entire book. The resurrection is a vital part of the Gospel, especially when witnessing cross-culturally (which he does not discuss).
     
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  4. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Then we come to p. 127, where Comfort writes, "Notice, to this point, that I have not mentioned the cross. First the sinner must be brought to a point of crying, 'What must I then do?' If he doesn't see his guilt before God and that he is totally deserving of His wrath, there will be no genuine contrition, no real repentance, no gratitude for forgiveness, and therefore no zeal to do the will of God."

    According to this thinking, you yourself must judge the spiritual condition of the prospect before giving them the Gospel. This is not only a huge error, but a misunderstanding of the Gospel itself. It is disobedience to Mark 16:15, "Preach the Gospel...." The Gospel itself is incredibly powerful (Rom. 1:16). People are saved through the Gospel, not through conviction of sin. And no one is competent to judge spiritual conditions but God Himself.

    I have a friend who is a missionary to Japan who was saved at Berkeley U. through the "Four Spiritual Laws," and approached the matter very matter of factly, with no outward tears or emotion--yet he was genuinely saved.

    Give the Gospel. The whole Gospel. Then let God do the saving.

    P. S. Okay, here's another quote I was looking for, just before the above ones. Comfort says on p. 126, "If his heart is open but the sinner is unconcerned about the state of his soul, we sting him with the Law, then buzz off." This is a definite statement that Comfort does not believe in giving the Gospel to "every creature," and thus teaches disobedience to Mark's Great Commission.
     
    #4 John of Japan, Dec 12, 2016
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  5. TCassidy

    TCassidy Administrator
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    The Gospel is given, by Paul, in one simple but inclusive sentence in 1 Corinthians 15.

    1 Corinthians 15:1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
    1Co 15:2a By which also ye are saved,
    3b how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
    4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.

    No resurrection, no Gospel! :(
     
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  6. Baptist Believer

    Baptist Believer Well-Known Member
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    The first time I heard the gospel in a way I could comprehend, I responded. Although many around me were crying and on edge, I was almost supernaturally calm. I prayed and everything was okay. I didn't notice anything special going on except that I was the only one around me NOT crying.

    But the next day, I noticed that something had shifted inside of me where I no longer felt like cussing or holding other people in contempt. I was also hungry to know God, something that I had not experienced before.

    While others around me were not sure I had an "experience" of salvation, the trajectory of my life was radically altered that Friday evening in June 1979.
     
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  7. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Excellent testimony, illustrating my point admirably. Thank you.
     
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  8. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    One last post today in this review. (Got a lot of grading to do.) I was quite surprised to learn that Ray Comfort was a Charismatic at the time of this writing. Since the book was copyright 1989, he may have changed since then, to be fair. But this is a deal breaker for me. I oppose that movement with all of my heart, having suffered three times from Charismatic interference in my church.

    Notice that on p. 137 he wrote, "Don't be afraid of the gifts of the Spirit, particularly 'speaking in tongues....' Keep in mind that tongues have a public and private use. Speaking in tongues in a public church service must have an interpretation; private use of tongues is to enhance the prayer life of the individual believer and does not require understanding. This gift is to strengthen and edify the believer. Read Luke 11:9-13."

    Again, on p. 179 Comfort endorses John Wimber's "Power Evangelism," a Charismatic theory. Furthermore, according to Wikipedia (often not a reliable source, I must admit), his first stint as a pastor, an assistant actually, was in a Calvary Chapel, which is a Charismatic denomination.
     
  9. annsni

    annsni Administrator
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    John - I will disagree with you about the tongues thing but I think we will actually be agreeing in the end. I've seen the "tongues" that go on today within churches and I honestly don't think that those are truly the tongues that are spoken of in the Scriptures. However, I've heard from NUMEROUS missionaries that they have given the gospel to someone, had them respond and later found out that the person did not understand the language they were speaking. In other words, speaking English to deliver the gospel, have the person respond in English and be saved - to later learn that person did not know English. I know of 3 people who have been in the mission field who have experienced that first hand so I have no doubt that it is true and in that case, the gift of tongues in these cases was real. But as I said, it is NOTHING at all like the babbling that we hear in some churches but it was a true miracle of God.
     
  10. TCassidy

    TCassidy Administrator
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    The confirmatory sign gifts have ceased. Period.
     
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  11. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Ann, there is a vast difference between the Charismatic tongues Comfort describes ("in a public church service" and "private use of tongues") and the tongues of Acts 2. Concerning an Acts 2 type of tongues in modern times such as you describe, as long as such incidents remain only anecdotal, undocumented with no corroborating witnesses, I remain skeptical. (My position is that the tongues of 1 Cor. 12-14 are simply learned, not miraculous.) But that's a thread for a different time. :)
     
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  12. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    One place in this book that is theologically suspect is his pneumatology, which is very poor. One would expect a Charismatic to be strong in this area, but that is often not so.

    (1) One area he gets right is that according to Scripture it is the Holy Spirit who convicts of sin. Comfort notes this several times in his book (p. 109, etc.), but then actually is teaching the opposite when insisting so much on using the Law in witnessing. He writes, "The way to produce conviction in the heart of a sinner is to take him through the Ten Commandments" (p. 119). However, if it is the Holy Spirit Who convicts of sin, then we ourselves cannot produce conviction of sin no matter what Scriptures we use.

    (2) I must apologize to evangelist6589 at this point. I looked at part of Ch. 6, "No Anointing--No Results," of this book on Amazon and told him it was about the Holy Spirit, which he denied. However, he was correct. Anything about the anointing of God ought to be about the Holy Spirit, but this chapter only mentions Him twice in the whole chapter, and even then not as the Anointer. This is very problematic, and shows that Comfort's pneumatology is very lacking.

    I'll have to take a break here and get back to this tomorrow.
     
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  13. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Here are more comments on Comfort's pneumatology.

    (3) He quotes Jim Peterson (Evangelism as a Lifestyle) as asking about Peter at Pentecost, "Was Peter more spirit-filled? Was Peter a better communicator. No. The difference was that the Jews' religious heritage prepared them to respond eagerly to the gospel" (italics in original; p. 44 in Comfort).

    This is one of the most mistaken statements I've ever read on Acts 2, yet Comfort endorses it. It takes very little intelligence or training to read Acts 2 and know the difference is that they had received the "promise of the Father" (Acts 2:33), the Holy Spirit. And the idea that something or someone can be "more filled," in this case with the Holy Spirit, is semantically ridiculous. Either you are filled or not. You can't be "more filled."

    Comfort makes a similar mistake with this on p. 151: "I believe that one of the greatest encumbrances of evangelism today is that multitudes of 'set free,' 'Spirit filled,' 'Bible believing' Christians are bound by an inferiority complex. They are paralyzed by the fear of man."

    I submit to you that it is exactly the fullness of the Spirit, properly understood, that gives boldness in evangelism and deletes fear. Comfort, being a Charismatic and thus not understanding the fullness of the Spirit, is ignoring the most basic teaching about the subject: "And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness" (Acts 4:31).

    Comfort's teaching about a Christian "inferiority complex" in Ch. 15, which begins with the above quote, has no basis whatsoever in Scripture.
     
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  14. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    And now to Comfort's worst problem in this book: his hermeneutics. He misses two very important principles.

    First of all, he uses proof texts rather than proper exegesis. On p. 118 he mentions Gal. 3:13 in connection with his doctrine that the Law must be used in evangelism, but doesn't examine the context: "By preaching solely the good news that the Father paid all in Christ, that 'Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law' (Galatians 3:13), we have left the sinner totally ignorant of that very law." But the whole point of the book of Galatians is that the law is not effective, that faith is what is needed rather than the works of the law! He does this kind of proof-texting all through the book, but I'll stop with the one illustration.

    His second great error in hermeneutics is that he sometimes does allegorical interpretation. On p. 154 he tells about reading the story of Paul shaking the snake off into the fire. He says, "The 'hand' of the Christian is the area of his effectiveness in God," and concludes that the snake is Satan trying to paralyze the Christian's ministry. There is absolutely nothing in the text that remotely allows for this interpretation, not even as an application after exegesis!
     
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  15. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Do you like my beard? I was Balthazar in our church play.

    Here are just a few more observations.

    (1) It is irritating that he almost never cites his sources. We are to believe his statistics and quotes without question I suppose.
    (2) He downplays the heart of the Gospel, Calvary. "Have you ever wondered why the sinner isn't moved by Calvary?" (p. 21). What about the power of the Gospel to save, as in Rom. 1:16?
    (3) Over and over again he refers to people he has witnessed to, but then never tells us if they got saved! To be fair, he does mention several saved through his ministry, but writes, "
    (4) He often makes momentous statements with no source at all. For example, he writes with no source, "Most evangelicals, however, shy away from even mentioning the law in preaching or even in personal witness" (p. 48). However, the methods of James Kennedy and John Van Gelderen both use the law, as do other modern methods.
    (5) He writes, Preach hell without the Law and you will get decisions, but those who come will come in fear, rather than repentance" (p. 59). This is a shallow statement with no Scriptural basis. (He doesn't even give a proof text here.) My wife was saved at the preaching of Hell.
    (6) He judges whether or not people are saved (p. 147, 182, etc.). That right only belongs to God.
    (7) He excuses not doing followup (discipleship) with the story of the Ethiopian eunuch (p. 141). That is not what that incident is in Scripture for!
    (8) He gives an extra-Biblical revelation on pp. 171-172 based on the fact that on a "prayer walk" he saw his own shadow as being fifty feet tall, so God says to everyone, "Remain small in your own eyes...and...the risen Son of Righteousness will extend the shadow of your ministry beyond your wildest dreams."
    (9) He admits that he has not seen many saved at that time (p. 68). So why in the world did he write a book about getting people saved?

    I'm done. Now I'll wait (perhaps in vain) for the great BB defender of this book to refute this review. :Coffee
     
    #15 John of Japan, Dec 16, 2016
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  16. annsni

    annsni Administrator
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    Doesn't this fly in the face of Jesus' own words to "make disciples"?
     
  17. InTheLight

    InTheLight Well-Known Member
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    Really? God supernaturally catches away Phillip, miraculously "transporting" him to another city and that's cited as an example of what we should do? LOL!
     
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  18. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Exactly! And, "teaching them all things."
     
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  19. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Good post!
     
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  20. annsni

    annsni Administrator
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    When you lead someone to the Lord and baptize them, you will instantly teleport to another dimension! Don't you know that????
     
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