Discern Don’t Burn! (Guest Post by Jordan Los).

Do you have a passion to share your faith? You do well. But do it with Discernment. One of our Elders processed the recent interaction on thecripplegate.com (one of my favourite blogs), regarding the Way of the Master, and the friendly critique it received at the 2012 Shepherd’s Conference. It is such a great example of careful reasoning and analysis that I asked him to share it with us here: 

Having listened to Jesse, read all the Cripplegate articles, and now Ray Comfort’s response (all here), I thought I’d like to pass some thoughts on.

Ray’s position: Evangelists need to confront sin so they see their need for Christ, which is why God gave his law. The 10 commandments are the law; to not mention the 10 commandments is to not mention judgement and therefore is not a biblical Gospel presentation.

Jesse’s position: I agree that evangelists need to confront sin and show people they are under judgement, but the law is more than just the 10 commandments. Your Gospel presentation is not unbiblical, but simply not the only way.

Conflict: Whether the 10 commandments are a subset proposition or a convertible proposition of the law. A subset proposition is a statement where one subject is equated with another broader subject and the statements conversion does not mean the same thing. For example, cars are machines does not mean the same thing as machines are cars; machines is a larger category containing cars. A convertible proposition can be presented either way: Meaghan is my wife and my wife is Meaghan mean the same thing.

The Law: Law is not equatable with the 10 commandments. A quick look at a half-decent lexicon will reveal that the word for the law of Moses, Torah does include laws but also implies teaching and instruction. The Torah itself is a large book and Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are not equivalent to the ten commandments. Mortimer Adler in How to Read A Book notes that a key to understanding an author is to understand the specific use of terms an author uses (and all good authors will define their terms). Failure to properly understand author’s use of a term is to fail to understand the author’s meaning. The Bible, as literature, is no different in this regard. This also explains Ray’s questionable use quotes from historical figures.

Lastly, Ray made no mention of the divisiveness that has arisen in the church, the very reason Jesse was asked to speak on the issue. Notice that parts of Ray’s conclusion show a very black and white view of this issue, which may cause further unnecessary division between genuine believers. Ray writes:

“If the above accusations are true, I should be thrown out of the Church and my teachings considered heretical. . . I wonder how many will now set aside the use of The Ten Commandments because of Jesse’s talk, and cease to mention Judgment Day, or open up the divine Law as Jesus did. . . .Look at these sobering words from the Prince of Preachers: The doctrine of judgment to come is the power by which men are to be aroused. There is another life; the Lord will come a second time; judgment will arrive; the wrath of God will be revealed. Where this is not preached, I am bold to say the gospel is not preached.”

Jesse’s charitable dealings with Ray are at the least a good reminder to show patience with those that one perceives are in error, instead polemics that lack subtlety and nuance which ultimately undermine the witness of a church.

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17 thoughts on “Discern Don’t Burn! (Guest Post by Jordan Los).

  1. Ray explained the biblical position on the law. Jesus and the apostles used it to show the sins of the listener being confronted with the truth of their sins, so have all the believers in ancient and cutrent times. People don’t see their need for the Savior without first seeing their sin and then seeing the severity of sins consequences once they learn what God demanded for sin payment and offer of salvation bought by Jesus on the cross.

  2. I have an inclination to call this “much ado about nothing”….another semantic battle where believers waste time which would be better spent just getting out into the highways and hedgerows and doing it, rather than arguing about methodology……BUT: Ray’s conclusion which you correctly describe as “black and white” is much more disturbing than the underlying issue. This apparently haughty “well, if that’s how you feel…..” makes it easy to infer an arrogance and unteachability in addition to lack of a reciprocal gracious attitude. That’s not where this needs to go……..

    • Thank you for your perspective. I know that both Jesse and Ray are passionately and actively engaged in evangelism. Hopefully this interaction can lead to a more effective evangelism for all believers, no matter what their preferred methodology.

  3. If one is to accuse someone else, explicitly, of “polemics that lack subtlety and nuance which ultimately undermine the witness of a church,” and implicitly, of being uncharitable and impatient, I might suggest that the proprietors of this blog use something other than “Discern Don’t Burn,” when entitling a contribution from a guest blogger.

    • Dan. You do have a point here. Still, while the author is admittedly biased, the body of the post presents a somewhat balanced critique.

      What’s your take on the “real” conflict/confusion between using the Law/Ten Commands and evangelism?

  4. Wyatt, thanks for the opportunity.

    This is obviously difficult to encapsulate in this short space. As I said in our discussion immediately following Jesse’s seminar, I don’t think this was worthy of a seminar. In fact, while one of Jesse’s two main reasons for presenting this seminar was the TWOM is purportedly causing divisiveness in churches, that very thing that he was concerned about, he has now unintentionally created. This is why I would like Jesse to respond to Ray’s conclusion (parts of which your guest blogger/church ‘elder’ cited above in his post… which, incidentally, was not as careful in its analysis as advertised)

    To your question, here is what, I trust, is NOT confusing: Everyone agrees that a person has to come to a knowledge of their own sin before they can truly see their need for a Savior.

    The reason there IS confusion is because the issues are not clear. I think Jesse is trying to make clear divisions where, in reality, the divisions are blurred at best, especially when it comes to using the law in evangelism. To say the ten “words” are different than the “law,” which is different than the “law written on the conscience,” well – and this may be above my pay grade – but those all overlap at various points. So to say that the use of the 10 Commandments in evangelism is in error is, to me, grasping at straws.

    That’s my short answer.

    I really wish everyone would cease and desist on this issue, and be focused on the task of biblical evangelism itself. And if we are going to use our energies to critique evanglistic methods, let’s spend our time “bumping chests” with the Finney-istic and seeker-sensitive methodologies rather than with “teammates.”

    However, if Jesse insists on a repeat performance at Shepherd’s Conference, let’s trot out “Two Ways To LIve” and subject that program to the same rigorous scrutiny to which TWOTM has been subjected.

  5. I find it telling that the misunderstanding of WOTM that I run across is so consistent. For some reason, I keep running into people who think that the WOTM method is the sole biblical method and if I’m not pulling out the 10 commandments on someone, I’m not doing evangelism the way the Bible teaches.

    I wonder why that confusion is the constant confusion I run into? I’ve watched Ray Comfort address the issue, but he actually dodged the issue. In an episode of “on the box”, Ray addressed the question of “Is the WOTM the only way to do evangelism?” and answered with something along the lines of “That’s the wrong question. The right question is to ask ‘is it Biblical?'”.

    That kinda stuff doesn’t help and furthers the problems of divisiveness that I run across in my own circles. Come to think of it, I’ve never ever found Ray Comfort allowing for an alternate method of evangelism either.

    Thoughts?

    • Thoughts? One comment and then one question for clarification? (and this is not me trying to dodge the issue)
      1a. Having lately read your very keen and very helpful insights to the “Strange Fire” discussion and other related issues, I find it somewhat odd that you believe the ‘is it biblical’ question is unhelpful. That would appear to me to be the exact diagnostic question you use to evaluate everything that you write about. And its one of the things I’ve appreciated about your posts and articles.
      1b. Could it be that Ray’s “dodge” was steering the question away from methodology and toward the Acts 17:11 test?
      2. Just wondering if it would be fair to re-word the question slightly. Since you keeping meeting up with people who believe WOTM isn’t biblical unless you pull out the 10 Words, would it be fair to re-word the question Comfort was asked to something like this: “Is using the law of God necessary to help a non-Christian recognize their need for divine grace and mercy?”

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