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!

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

So Cameron and Comfort have no facts on which to base their argument huh? Well neither does your Cameron /Comfort blog consisting largly of your opinion and implying they are uneducated boobs- to which you have no evidence. I don't agree with thier methods either, but I would at least write an unbiased and factual blog.

Calladus said...

No evidence other than the fact that there IS no evidence - at all - that either person has more education than High School. Sure, it may be difficult to find evidence on Ray Comfort's education - maybe he is modest and is hiding it. But after looking at Kirk Cameron's fan pages, filmography, and public interviews it is easy to see that he just hasn't had the time to put in as much as an AS degree.

But maybe I'm wrong. Perhaps one of these guys holds viable scientific qualifications that would show that they knew what they were talking about in regards to evolution. Or maybe one of them actually took an Associates degree in Seminary school. I'd love to see that evidence.

Perhaps you could help me out there? Or are you just relying on your opinion?

another anonymous said...

"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."
This argument isn't fallacious. It's tautologous. Simply by calling the earth, life on the earth, the universe, and whatever else "creation" it follows that it must have a creator (sorry, Creator). It's a slick rhetorical trick that many people will accept.
Of course, he is referencing the teleological argument for the existence of God which has been shown to be unconvincing many times over, but it seems as if he doesn't want to actually expand and explain the argument.

Calladus said...

Circular reasoning (tautology) is a type of logical fallacy.

It's just a particularly nasty version.

Don said...

First time I've been here, so sorry if I'm stating the bleeding obvious, but surely it is clear that the banana was intelligently designed. By us.

Austin Avery said...

Quoting Comfort:

"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."

Nice parallelism, but is that the right analogy? If I pick up, say, a rabbit, it has no creator. It was born of joined DNA, as were its parents before it, ad infinitum. If that then takes us to "well who created the first rabbit (or organism)," then the question, I think, is "Why do you say 'who'." Why not what?

another anonymous said...

"Circular reasoning (tautology) is a type of logical fallacy."

You're right. I only meant to make the point that Comfort and Cameron don't even try to make an exposition of the argument from design, and they don't need to when they start by calling everything simply "creation." I find that to be not just nasty but a bit sleazy as well.

Calladus said...

Ah, okay. You're not objecting to the label, you're objecting to it being "merely" a fallacy. Their fallacy was particularly bad.

This leads to an idea - perhaps fallacies should be listed in a hierarchal order, with some worse than others.

Matt D. said...

You can find full rebuttals (virtually word-for-word) to various Way of the Master episodes, including the episodes on atheism and evolution at the counter-apologetics wiki:

Iron Chariots.org

-Matt

Calladus said...

matt d.

Wow, I've only just glanced at this but already I feel that this is a wonderful resource! Thank you for the link to this!

Oh my, I'm already nearly finished with part II of this article - I may end up adding more content to it due to this Wiki.

Arrgh! Matt, you've cursed me with an interesting resource that may delay my goals! Must. Resist. Re-write.

Kazim said...

Calladus,

I'm glad you liked Iron Chariots. You've written some great material here and I'd like to encourage you to help further flesh out the articles on Comfort and Cameron at the wiki.

Ed Darrell said...

Banana's intelligently designed? Fire that damned designer - it's one tough banana to ship! Why not straighten them out? Easier to hold, cheaper to ship. (Consider why cigars are not curved like bananas . . .)

The banana appears intelligently designed only to idiots who know nothing about design.

Calladus said...

Kazim,

I'll consider it. But my life is busy enough as it is! Already I'm falling behind on the things I want to do - and I still think that I can actually post decent blog entries too? Oh my.

You know, the worst part of writing is reading your own dreck! Who wrote this? Where is his editor? arrrgh!

Ed,

While I lived in Korea I saw some of the first square seedless watermelons hit the local market. (They grew them in a box - it was supposed to facilitate shipping)

If creationists want me to believe in "designed" fruit, then they'd better show me easily stackable fruit that leaves no empty spaces!

lor said...

I am following your blog entries with interest, as usual.

I find this pre-occupation with their lack of education interesting. Only formally educated people are allowed to be smart or have opinions of their own?

For me, the beauty of the Gospel is that it's so easy that even a child can get it. Admit, Believe, Choose. That's it. The woman at the well didn't need a seminary degree to realize that Jesus changed her life, and did it with compassion and grace.

The Bible, as you know, is very clear on the fact that Jesus used ordinary people to convey an extraordinary message.

We all don't have to be theologians to appreciate creation. I don't have to be an auto mechanic to be able to drive the car. And I don't have to have a biology degree to appreciate God's fingerprints all over a vividly pink, purple and orange sunset or to recognize that evolution plays a role in God's plan.

While I dislike their approach - no need to be insulting I think - I don't think only having a high school diploma disqualifies anyone from having valuable insight.

Calladus said...

Well, I do say that they don't even have so much as a seminary degree - but Lor, it isn't a lack of religious study that I find appalling about Comfort and Cameron, it is a lack of science study.

One of the ways that Comfort attempts to convert Atheists is by discrediting the theory of Evolution. He does this by creating a strawman out of evolution and knocking it down. The problem is that Comfort doesn't have the math, science or biological training to understand more than the bare basics of evolution - but he has the hubris to believe that he understands it better than thousands of scientists.

You don't have to be a theologian to appreciate nature, nor do you have to be a scientist. However, you have to be a scientist to discover how nature works. And you must have the required background to understand the explanation of how it works.

Comfort and Cameron's background only qualifies them for a "goddidit" explanation. Claiming expertise where there is none is not only hubris, it is dishonest.

Calladus said...

Perhaps I should say that you have to be able to do real science in order to discover how nature works. There are plenty of people who know how to do science who are not doctorates.

But unless someone can point me to where Comfort and Cameron have been learning math and biology at a college level or equivalent, I'm afraid I'll have to consider them to be poorly prepared to do science.

lor said...

yea, I get that.

you know, I meant to tell you to that I love the art entries. I learn lots of cool stuff here.

do you ever check out nakedpastor? his is pretty hip, too

Peter Mc said...

The banana design question tells us only one thing about God. He has no taste buds.

Alyx said...

Ooo... you got linked by Pharyngula! Congrats! (Be prepared for a lot of extra traffic, tho! Just ask PossumMomma!)

A.T. Love said...

In response to who created God---

In the beginning was God. You don't get any time before God. God IS the beginning. You can say that as a "NOUN". He IS the beginning and the end. So, the beginning "IS" the CREATOR that created ALL of this for his OWN pleasure. Just because. All of this is HIS tag--- what we see, feel, hear... all of it. Thats why HE is SOOOO great.
A.T. Love

Calladus said...

Great hypothesis A.T. Too bad you are lacking any evidence or proof to show that it is true.

I'll tell you what, you prove to me that the universe was NOT created by the Invisible Pink Unicorn and maybe I'll take you seriously.

Better yet, prove that the Invisible Pink Unicorn did NOT create the universe a week ago last Tuesday.

A.T. Love said...

A pink unicorn would be a creation. I think thats the way u meant it. Why didn't u say something like... prove to me the earth didn't create all of this. Or the moon.... lol. U have more way more faith than I do. Love you man.
A.T. Love

Calladus said...

Nonsense. If you don't bother to do your homework and know what you're talking about, then I won't bother to educate you.

Go in ignorance.

Calladus said...

A.T. Love, your comment has been rejected for violating rule 3 of my comment moderation policy.