Background on Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron – part 1 of 2

(Note: Part Two to this series is now posted.)

I’m trying something new today. I’m offering part one of a two-part series to give background on Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron and their ministry in light of the upcoming debate between them and the Rational Response Squad.

In this first part of my two-day series I will give a thumbnail sketch of Comfort and Cameron and their ministry. I’ll also offer a suggestion of the possible method that Comfort will use to “Prove” the existence of God during their debate. In part two I will show Ray Comfort himself at work applying the methods of his ministry, and I will suggest ways that a non-believer could respond.

Ray Comfort is a pastor at the Calvary Chapel Fellowship. The Calvary Chapel doctrine believes in the holy Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Ghost) and they believe that the Bible is inerrant. They believe in the Rapture, the time of Tribulation, the Second Coming of Christ, and in Christ’s thousand-year reign as King of the Earth.

The structure of the Calvary Chapel Fellowship is that just about any church that follows Calvary Chapel doctrine can join in the fellowship. Calvary Chapel doesn’t require any seminary training of its pastors – which is a good thing since Ray Comfort has no formal training. Comfort seems to have no other education past high school, which makes me wonder if one of the reasons he does what he is doing because he can’t afford to stop. It is a good thing that neither Comfort nor Cameron are female or gay – either would disqualify them from being a Calvary Chapel pastor.

One thing I’ve noticed about the various churches in the Calvary Chapel Fellowship is that their pastors are all trying to create methods to help other churches in the fellowship. Since the individual churches are only loosely affiliated with each other, the type of help can vary widely. Pastors offer anything from DVD and Video Tape lecture series for sale, all the way to freely downloadable pamphlets designed to be handed out to non-believers. Several church pastors have so much for sale that they seem to be “pimping the Gospel”. Googling “Calvary Chapel” is instructive.

Kirk Cameron is a child actor who was famous for his role in “Growing Pains”. His education seems to have been grabbed between takes on the set while growing up. Child actors these days do receive a good High School education, but it is difficult to teach under those conditions, so I wouldn’t be surprised if much of his science courses didn’t stick. Around the age of 17 Cameron converted to evangelical Christianity and started making an ass of himself to his coworkers and boss. He was in an enviable position of being a popular show persona, and it would have been difficult for the producers to write him out of the show. They stuck with his attitude, but he didn’t win many converts – or friends. Cameron’s education also seems to have ended at High School, and he has not attended any sort of seminary training.

Although the Calvary Chapel Fellowship stresses glorifying God and learning God’s word, they also stress evangelism to a somewhat lesser degree. So when Ray Comfort teamed up with Kirk Cameron in 2002, they came up with an evangelical training ministry that presents a method of evangelism called, “The Way of the Master” and offered it to their community. (Somehow the name isn’t that surprising – very Christian geeky in a Star Wars-ish way.)

The Way of the Master teaches a method of evangelism based upon the Ten Commandments. The whole thing is based on a loose script where the evangelist speaks to a person one on one and attempts to have that person admit that he or she has broken one or several commandments and has therefore sinned. At that point the evangelist asks the person if they would be judged innocent or guilty by God if they were judged at that moment. (Presumable after a sudden, unexpected death.) Heaven and Hell are of course brought in as final destination points, and pressure is applied. Then the evangelist tells the poor sinner that a Christian belief in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection is the key to salvation. The sinner is invited to repent, and have faith in Jesus.

As I said, this is all a loose script so the outline of this script is very easy; it is also free to all who browse their website. What isn’t free is the teaching of pat answers to frequent objections that are raised by obstinate or hostile sinners. These answers can be as complex as using debate tactics to confuse and discredit objections based on evolution or science, or they can be as simple as pushing emotional triggers in order to play upon a person’s feelings of guilt or their willingness to please a pleasant stranger.

The techniques are similar to those techniques that cults use to gain membership, and in order to learn them you’ll need to spend a little money for a CD or DVD. Some items are not that cheap either – but they are all flashy.

And yes, Comfort and Cameron do deny evolution. Comfort denies evolution very comically in his now (in)famous Youtube classic about the Banana designed by God. (He completely misses that the banana is an invention of humans through selective breeding. He has since denied that he was actually serious about this argument.) Comfort and Cameron’s website, Living Waters, is full of evolution denial. Most of the evidence against evolution is presented as books, DVDs, and even a board game, all for sale on their web site. Obviously a nonbeliever like myself isn’t going to purchase this sort of thing, so I can’t tell you how an uneducated person like Ray Comfort, who has no religious qualifications other than his conversion story, is able to understand biological science better than thousands of scientists.

I did find one quote from his newsletter that was instructive to me:

The Bible calls those who deny a Creator, a fool (stupid). Only dim-witted folks would say that a painting didn’t have a painter, that a building didn’t have a builder, and that creation had no Creator. These same folks often have blind faith in the theory of evolution. They believe a theory as though it were fact, and look down on people who have a trust in God.

This argument is of course fallacious. It reeks of the Watchmaker and the random chance of a 747 being assembled cyclonically in a junkyard. An easy disproof is to ask if all things must be created, then who created the Creator. An answer of “he was always there” could easily be applied to the universe – perhaps the conditions that create universes are continually happening and they have always been there. At the moment there is really no way to prove or disprove this. (Although physicists are working on it!)

During our last Fresno Atheist meeting, Scott (Fresno’s resident Molly Award winner) suggested that Ray Comfort would probably use the denial of Evolution as his method of “proving” God’s existence. Scott pointed out the hints that Comfort has let slip, and I must say that I agree completely with Scott. Comfort has a very short time to make his point, and he has bragged that he can do it in less than 13 minutes without the use of faith or the Bible. That leaves him only with the choice of trying to disprove some sort of science – and Evolution is the popular Christian target. (Say, isn’t Hubris some sort of sin?)

And that is it for part one of my two part series. In part two I will show you Ray Comfort himself using the techniques of “The Way of the Master” on helpless victims. You will see as he browbeats poor sinners into responding the way he wants them to respond, and leads them toward inevitable repentance and salvation.

I will then deconstruct some of his methods, and suggest ways that a non-believer might respond.

Stay tuned!