I have not followed the controversies surrounding the evangelism methods of Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort until I saw the movie Fireproof, starring Kirk Cameron. Then, in discussing this movie with friends, I got into this story.
Ray Comfort is an evangelist from New Zealand who has created quite a storm in his appearances across the United States. He is bold, if nothing else. And he is determined to never water down the rough edges of the gospel, at least as he understands it. Cameron, who also starred in the Left Behind movies and Growing Pains in the 1990s, has linked his efforts with Comfort in an approach called "guerrilla evangelism." In late 2001 Cameron and Comfort launched The Way of the Master to teach Christians how to share their faith "simply, effectively, biblically . . . the way Jesus did." Something about this troubles me, especially the assumption that they are sharing "the way Jesus did." What makes them so sure? And is this claim truthful and relevant contextually?
Look, I teach evangelism. I share my faith. I preach the gospel. I do apologetics, formally and informally. I am not attacking these two men or their motives, which I feel sure are solid. They obviously love Jesus and want to do a great deal of good. They may do more good than I could ever dream of doing. But their methods are debatable, as are their claims.
Ray Comfort has made a name for himself regarding his distinctive doctrinal emphasis as well. He regularly says that most church members are not regenerate and then argues that the Ten Commandments are the way to show them that they are still sinners. Two of his favorite sermons are titled: "Hell's Best Kept Secret" and "True and False Conversions." His stress is on "biblical repentance," which he defines in generally accurate ways but with his own unique mixture of passion and application. He speaks in churches and seminars all over the world but particularly in America.
Comfort, who was born Jewish, was raised with no religious faith at all. He was converted in his 20s. He has since designed and distributed scores of tracts and is known for his passionate proclamation. He made himself into quite a celebrity by arguing that he could prove the existence of God. ABC television picked this up and their Web site featured the question: "Does God Exist?" Two atheists took on Comfort and Cameron in a dialog on the ABC site. These two atheists had already produced a "Blasphemy Challenge" on You Tube that challenged youth to denounce the Holy Spirit and "damn themselves to hell." When all of this happened in 2007, many Christians came out in force to support Comfort and Cameron. But many then wished that serious apologists like Ravi Zacharias or William Lane Craig had led this public effort.
The problem with the evangelism of Comfort and Cameron
is that, though they are obviously sincere and filled with immense passion, they are simply wrong at some points. They were unprepared for these debates with the two atheists, and showed a lack of understanding of the issues that were at hand. Neither of these men has serious theological training and it shows, very sadly. Cameron even attempted to "prove" that God existed by showing why evolution would not work. This is a debatable point among Christians but as a serious apologist I do not think you can prove God by showing that evolution did not happen. This in no way proves the existence of the God of Holy Scripture. In fact, I do not think that you can "prove" God's existence in the way these two evangelists argue at all. But Comfort insists that he can prove God's existence without faith or biblical reference.
Cameron comes across, as in Fireproof, as likable and winsome. But his arguments are the real problem. Dealing with professional debaters who attack Christianity is one thing, while bearing faithful witness to another person who is your friend is a different matter altogether.
These two men are clearly sincere Christians who have a great deal of courage. I admire them for this more than you may know. What I question is the wisdom of their witness and approach.