Ray Comfort: “Eyes that see and a brain that works”

Ray Comfort’s “debate” happened this afternoon (watch here). I’m at least very thankful for his presentation of the gospel message, although he said he would not open his Bible. Atheist rebuttal: “The Ten Commandments were used wholly for his proof.” Indeed, there was a little bait-and-switch not unlike what Josh Sowin was worried about. Overall, the atheist argument was predictable, underdeveloped and a bit reminded me of high school debates (“there are way more better arguments”).

Kirk’s “wake-up call” for the audience to think was good as was his presentation of his testimony though no mention of the Cross.

The highlight for me was Kirk’s response to the question that god is merely the projection of our cultures. In other words, let’s assume god exists, why not follow the god of Islam? Cameron responded with REVELATION! How amazing. This is how you respond to this question (just don’t advertise the debate with the promise of keeping your Bible closed). God reveals Himself in His Word and His Son and converts sinners in America and Pakistan and wherever. This takes courage in a debate.

Overall, it was a strange “debate” that did not seem to showcase the best arguments on either side from a convincing scientific standpoint. Comfort said he could make undeniable scientific claims and would not open the Bible. He seemed to fail on both promises to a watching world. Evangelicals were concerned of being represented by Comfort and their concerns were justified. The lesson for future recollection: What parameters are Evangelical Christians willing to draw in advertising the debate? And what will they promise to deliver?

Atheism, the Cross and Revelation

Many debates between a Christian and atheist go something like this:

Christian: “God exists because we see the influences of a Creator all around us. Only His existence can make sense of everything else.”

Atheist: “Okay, so God exists. Now why are you a Christian and not Jewish or Mormon or Islamic?”

Christian: “Ummm” (insert awkward relativism like: “For me Christianity makes the most sense”) …

If you don’t think this fumbling happens, I would encourage you to listen to the recent McGrath/Dawkins debate. When a Christian debates an atheist – as you hear in this and many other debates – there comes a moment when the debate takes an awkward turn. The question changes from the existence of God to why the Christian has chosen his/her religion over all the others. It’s an awkward moment because it reveals that the Christian was debating from rationalism, not pleading obedience to God’s revelation. This misunderstanding gets exposed with one simple question.

So you believe in God. What makes Jesus Christ your god of choice? It seems the only objective answer to this most pressing question is to say God is found in His Son as revealed in His Word. It’s here that the wisdom of God will get you laughed out of an academic debate. But Scripture makes this point clear in several places:

1 John 2:23 “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.”

1 John 4:15 “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”

1 John 5:1 “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.”

2 John 1:9 “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”

In other words, if you have not persuasively turned sinners toward Jesus Christ and the Cross you have not persuaded sinners to God! Even if you can prove God exists — if this is where you end — you have won nothing. When Christians dialogue with atheists/skeptics/agnostics, the discussion must move beyond the mere existence of a god (and the skeptic knows this!).

Attempts to prove the existence of God make it very easy to forget the message of the Cross of Christ. Keeping the Cross central in our conversations with atheists demands that we have a firm handle on the revelation of God that breaks into our hearts and is confirmed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I’m not supposing we should disengage the debates. Certainly not! The church must continue to engage culture (and atheism is a growing segment of our cultural fabric in America). I’m arguing that a successful debate cannot be defined as the persuading of others of the existence of God. Rather, God is here, He is angry towards sin every day and sinners must bow and repent from their sin. Especially when we enter the philosophical and academic centers of the world God calls us to follow in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul (Acts 17:30-31).

If we have not (by God’s grace) persuaded skeptics to the Cross, neither have we persuaded them to God. The Cross — not Deism — is the goal.


As I finished this post, Jon Bloom posted an excellent comment on another post that fits here. Thanks Jon!

“The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species.” – Christopher Hitchens.

“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children” (Matt 11:25). “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:3). – Jesus

We will always be the infants of our species. Thank you, Tony!

Indeed, Jon. Thank you!

Free Book: Come Unto Me by Tony Reinke

Free book
Come Unto Me: God’s Invitation to the World
by Tony Reinke

This time last year I was staying up late and getting out of bed very early to put the final touches on my undergraduate thesis. I convinced my secular academic adviser that it would be good to clarify the contours of the biblical gospel. I’m sure he wasn’t too thrilled.

03spurgeoncumcover.jpgFor me, the opportunity to concentrate my attention on the character of our priceless gospel was incredible. The product was the book titled Come Unto Me: God’s Invitation to the World. My primarily goal was to take advantage of an opportunity to articulate the biblical gospel — both the work of Christ and the act of faith — with my academic adviser and fellow classmates.

Secondly, my non-Christian audience pushed me to think hard at how to best articulate the biblical worldview, something I had not consciously worked through in the past.

Finally, the book helps me retain an important balance in my personal ministry. There are several contours of the gospel and each are easy to forget or minimize.

The invitation to God, from God, is a biblical message filled with rich diversity. For those who accept it, this message requires sorrow and promises inexpressible joy. The invitation comes without price and costs everything. The invitation includes an offer of a relationship to God that is both forensic (or legal) and yet conjugal (or marital). The invitation to God is a call to leave past burdens and take up new burdens.

Frequently I need to be reminded of these important contours.

And so now I offer this book for your reading. It’s free for you to download and read. Thanks to the help of gracious friends, it now comes in three mouth-watering flavors:

1. Come Unto Me in HTML format. This is the basic text format but ideal if you are interested in browsing or reading the content online. Click here for HTML.

2. Come Unto Me in PDF format. Ideal if you are interested in downloading and printing the book. This file preserves the original pagination and formatting. Click here to download the PDF file.

3. Come Unto Me in LOGOS format. Ideal if you want to incorporate my research of the biblical gospel into your own research. Thanks to my friends at StillTruth, you can download and install my book into your Logos software. Click here to access the StillTruth Webpage and download.


Tony’s Book Club pick #4: The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer (0060684127, book review)

Weighing in at just 3.4 ounces, Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy is a tiny book with a heavyweight hook! Of all the great works out there on the attributes of God, this is my favorite.

I was first introduced to Tozer when I led a group of local college students through the book, The Pursuit of God (another excellent, must-read). I was drawn especially to Tozer’s simplicity, biblical depth and straight talk. In articulating the sweet communion the believer enjoys with God, Tozer communicates with a clarity no author (except maybe Martyn Lloyd-Jones) can match. Pound-for-pound, no writer provides the preacher more quotes than Tozer!

The Knowledge of the Holy is a 23-chapter, 120-page study of the attributes of God. It is the perfect size for group studies or to recommend to readers who have trouble with larger books.

Tozer covers the attributes you would expect (immutability, omniscience, transcendence, omnipresence, faithfulness, goodness, justice, mercy, grace, love and sovereignty of God). But he throws in some chapters that often are forgotten in short attribute studies, like the Self-sufficiency and Self-existence of God.

Tozer writes out of a burden that each generation holds tightly to an accurate view of God.

“Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind” (p. 4). And on the page earlier he wrote, “Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them.”

Tozer’s presentation of the attributes of God is passionate because a wrong understanding of God is (as he writes) ‘deadly.’ Our generation must look beyond the creedal affirmations we inherited and ask the honest question: Who do I believe God is? And since each Christian comprises the Church, this self-examination is necessary for everyone in the church (see p. 114).

Tozer properly shows that an accurate understanding of God flows first from faith in God and the accuracy of His Word. Without faith in the impossible (the resurrection, for example) there will never be a clear understanding of who God is. In the eternal, revelation must precede reason.

The danger for our generation (and every generation) comes when we fashion God into our own golden-calf-image. God is who He is and remains who He is. And, “were every man on earth to become an atheist, it could not affect God in any way. He is what He is in Himself without regard to any other. To believe in Him adds nothing to His perfections; to doubt Him takes nothing away” (p. 33).

It is the Christian’s duty and joy to pursue this God and Tozer proves himself to be a reliable guide in the journey.

The church’s great danger: Wrong thoughts about God

“Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.

Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards decline along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.

Before the Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is, and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.”

– A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (HarperCollins: San Francisco), 1961, p. 4.

Why one church in Minneapolis defines herself as ‘Cross-Centered’

After recently listening to a great sermon on the Cross I have been convicted. Convicted because I have not been spending enough time studying the Cross. So over the next few weeks and months I am planning to study through John Stott’s, The Cross of Christ (IVP: 1986). I am a big fan of Stott but admittedly have never read the entire book through (please don’t email, I know the shame of this admission). So for the coming weeks I am going to center my attention and affections upon the Cross through this study.

The quote that brought conviction came from a sermon entitled The Glory of the Cross delivered by Rick Gamache, the senior pastor of a neat church in Minneapolis (April, 2006; Sovereign Grace Fellowship). Itself is a wonderful sermon well worth your time this weekend (listen in .mp3). Here is a short excerpt:

“I want to try and articulate briefly for you why we are very careful to refer to Sovereign Grace Fellowship as a ‘Gospel-centered’ or ‘Cross-centered’ church. If you have been around here for any amount of time you know we don’t refer to ourselves mainly as a ‘God-centered’ church though I definitely use those terms. We use that term on occasion because we are thoroughly centered on God here. But we don’t even use terms to refer to ourselves namely as a ‘Christ-centered’ church. Now, again we sometimes use that phrase because here we are thoroughly centered upon Christ. But we prefer to be even more precise so we use the term ‘Gospel-centered’ or ‘Cross-centered’ church … Because the Cross is the centerpiece of the good news, the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 6:14 that he ‘boasts in’ (‘exults in,’ or ‘rejoices in’ – that one Greek word can have all those meanings), he ‘rejoices in’ nothing except the Cross of Jesus Christ because it’s where our salvation was purchased and where God was revealed in glory. So Martin Luther was correct when he wrote this: ‘The Cross alone is our theology. There is not a word in the Bible which we can understand without reference to the Cross.'”

Rick Gamache, sermon on The Glory of Christ; April, 2006, Sovereign Grace Fellowship; Minneapolis, MN

(sermon on The Glory of Christ; April, 2006, Sovereign Grace Fellowship; church in Minneapolis, MN)