Monday, February 4, 2008

Review: "The Way of the Master" by Ray Comfort & Kirk Cameron

Comfort, Ray & Kirk Cameron The Way of the Master Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004. 230 pages. ISBN 1-4143-0061-1

In many ways, this review is difficult to write because by definition, a book review ought to be somewhat unbiased. This reviewer is admittedly biased; he has had the privilege of knowing the authors and working with them in several evangelistic outreaches. However, considering the goal of The Informed Evangelist, it makes sense to start with this book since it has been the introduction for so many biblical evangelists to the world of reading. Such an important book in the field ought to be reviewed.

Ray Comfort is an evangelist who lives in Southern California and who hails from New Zealand. Kirk Cameron, the former TV star and heart throb of the 1980's is nowadays a biblical evangelist, thanks to Ray's influence. Ray has written the bulk of this book, which is an updated rewrite of his earlier books, "Hell's Best Kept Secret" and "Revival's Golden Key". Kirk's contribution includes comments of varying lengths. Some of the comments have less value than others, but overall they are helpful. His contributions are more than just clever marketing. They help the reader understand the content. At times, it is like having a good friend gently urging the reader on while confronted with challenging concepts.

The theme of the book is the same as the theme of Ray's entire ministry; the importance of using the moral Law of God, the Ten Commandments, in evangelism. Ray buttresses his theme with solid biblical arguments and the argument from history. He also uses good old common sense. The statistics presented of the typical "fall away rates" in modern day evangelism make it clear that something is very wrong with the way that evangelism is done these days. The secondary theme of the doctrine of false conversion is likewise backed up with much Scriptural proof.

It is hard to imagine that anyone could read this book and hold to a man-centered, modern Gospel message. Clearly people do. This is proof that for so many, evangelism has more to do with traditions passed down from respected teachers rather than what the Bible actually teaches. It has more to do with cherished programs rather than the truth.

One criticism that can be leveled against the book is Ray's tendency to find allusions to the use of the Law in evangelism in Old Testament narratives. He allegorizes several OT accounts in order to make his case. Some of this same thing was done in his old "Excellence in Evangelism" video series (B.C.--"Before Cameron"). While this kind of hermeneutic is readily accepted in some circles, it is not good hermeneutics. Just because ten camels are mentioned in a narrative does not mean that the camels must symbolize the Ten Commandments. Fortunately there are only a few instances of this in the book, not enough to seriously damage the thesis.

Another criticism which has been leveled against Way of the Master as a ministry in general, and could be leveled against the book, is the fact that the entire Gospel is not articulated. Justification, the substitutionary death of Christ, the person and ministry of Christ is not dealt with here. Rather than see this as an omission, it is better to view it as a question of purpose. The book is not intended to analyze all of the issues related to the Gospel; it is meant to teach the reader how to use the Ten Commandments to prepare the listener for the Gospel. Whether Way of the Master as a ministry should deal with those doctrines is another issue altogether.

The last criticism is a technical one. While one must admire Ray for his desire to keep modern Gospel preachers anonymous, quoting them without citing the source is just bad technique. If they're worth quoting they're worth citing. Since Ray's thesis is correct, the preachers quoted ought to be exposed for the false teaching that they are guilty of.

The book is well written. Ray is a master of the use of anecdotes. His illustration of the two airline passengers who put on parachutes for different motives and results is a classic and much repeated one amongst biblical evangelists. Because he seems to have a sense of when to tell a story or give an analogy, the book moves the reader along and holds his interest. The book can be read in a couple of sittings. Those with a serious interest in evangelism might read it in one.

Overall, the book is a "must have" for anyone who is seriously interested in biblical evangelism. It is foundational for a basic understanding of the principles of biblical evangelism. It is not the last word in biblical evangelism, but it's importance cannot be underestimated. The greatest testimony to its value is the number of people it has started on the journey to becoming passionately involved in evangelism.

2 comments:

chris said...

If 'Way Of The Master' is supposedly the way Jesus used to evangelise, could you please show me even 1 place in the scriptures where the technique worked?

With the 'rich your ruler' it failed....and when it came to the 'woman at the well' the bible never records Jesus as telling her she was an 'adulteress' for breaking the Law. What did touch her was that Jesus gave her a 'word of knowledge' by which she knew 'he was the Christ!'

There is NO situation in the New Testament where this method was ever used by the Apostles....or in the book of Acts.

WOTM is more 'way of Ray Comfort' and religion!

WOTM which Jesus demonstrated for evangelism was to touch people by healing the sick, words of knowledge, casting out demons! (Mat 10:1, Mk 16:17&20 Luke 10:9, etc)

yours in Christ
Chris

Jon Speed said...

Chris,

I am late to respond to this but since others are still reading the review, I will now.

You apparently accuse Jesus of "failing" when He used the Law with the rich young ruler. Did Jesus fail?

On the "no situation in Acts" comment, read almost any presentation of the gospel in Acts and you will discover some reference to the broken Law of God. Acts 17 is a good example. Paul deals with the first and second commandments of idolatry and in verses 30-31 he reminds them of judgment for their rebellion against God.

In John 4 Jesus mentions the five men that the woman had been with and the fact that the one she was then with not being her husband. If that's not a reference to the 7th commandment, I don't know what is.