The Defender’s Guide For Life’s Toughest Questions
Ray Comfort, in the preface of this book, writes, “Most of the questions and objections in this book come from those who call themselves ‘atheists.’ Many have placed their faith in erroneous information…and because of it have hardened themselves against God and Christianity (Romans 1). They ask questions but don’t really want answers. My hope is that you are open to reason, and that you will find that that the answers will give you another perspective” (7).
I agree with Comfort’s observation that many atheists have placed their faith in erroneous information. The same, however, could be said of many groups, including some who call themselves Christians, for not all who call themselves Christians exclusively use the Bible as the “rule and norm” for faith and life. Again, I agree that some atheists really don’t want answers, that is, the truth that the Bible provides. Similarly, there are others who follow suite, not wanting the truth at all, but only evidence that seems to support their conclusions. This applies not only to atheists, but to all people, including Christians as well. None are immune to the deficiencies and limitations of human reason. And none perfectly resist the temptation to defend only that which benefits oneself.
These are dangers for which all need to be aware—trusting erroneous information and not really wanting the truth. These do not lead to honest and forthright investigation at all, but only intensify the divide between the two or more contrasting positions. Incorrect information only leads further away from the truth and may further confuse the issues. Not wanting the truth but only that which supports one’s own position really only demonstrates an unwillingness to consider the truth at all, not as anyone sees it, but as it is—the truth.
Such a comment certainly does assume that absolute truth does indeed exist. However, truth exists, not because I or anyone else believes it to exist, but because truth is truth, regardless of my own presuppositions or assumptions. In the words of Comfort, “unbelief or belief doesn’t negate reality” (p48).
John 3:16, for example, as all of Holy Scripture, is true, even if I don’t believe it. Whether I believe or not doesn’t make something less true. It only means that I don’t believe it. I can believe that gravity doesn’t exist should I jump out of the plan while in the air, but that won’t at all change what is true, that gravity will result in my falling to the ground.
In the same way, the Bible is God’s Word and is therefore true, whether I believe it or not. Only Christians take this truth seriously. Others may joke about the Bible and act as if it means nothing at all, but their attitude does not change the true and faithful Word of God (i.e. Psalm 119:89), nor what it is or what it says.
Comfort’s belief that the Bible is God’s inerrant Word is welcome and encouraging. Christians can give reasonable explanations to the many questions and statements of the day as posed by atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and others. They can do this, not only using their God given reasoning abilities, but Christians also and especially have the Word of God. Christians can not only address faulty logic and false conclusions. They can also say what God has said.
Should the “scientific evidence” seem to contradict the Word, Christians can rightly question the evidence and the assumptions held concerning the evidence, and therefore, get to the deeper conflict that the nonbeliever has with reference to sin and grace.
In five chapters, Comfort addresses these topics:
- Humanity: Rights and Suffering
- The Bible: Biblical and Theological Issues
- Science: Scientific Thought and Evolution
- Philosophy: Beliefs and Worldviews
- Religion: God and Atheism
Throughout these topics, Comfort often points to man’s inability to keep the law. He exposes the error of false belief and seriousness of the human condition. For the most part, Comfort does a fine job addressing many of the issues between the covers.
However, in certain responses, I believe that he could have answered more charitably. In some places, he seems to write with a bit of sarcasm and/or what may sound as derision. It seems to me that he does not entirely stick with the issues at hand.
Overall, I found this work to be of benefit for two primary reasons. The first reason is that Comfort does present a number of arguments, comments, and questions by mostly nonChristians. These are beneficial in that they present the Christian with a greater understanding of what is being said about Christianity and what Christians believe concerning matters of faith and life. Secondly, Comfort can help Christians consider answers to the critics based on the Bible and sound reason. Sound reason will not convert anyone, but it may give critics reason for considering their position. God’s Word creates faith (Romans 10:17). Man’s word does not. Nevertheless, Christians are to use the gifts God has given them, in service to the Gospel, and directed by God’s Word.
Among the weaknesses of this work is the constant refrain of “if…then” statements. Comfort is coming from a background that assumes sinners can “make a decision for Christ.” This is what we call “Decision Theology,” and this book is loaded with phrases that place the burden of sinners in need of a Savior, not fully on Christ, but on themselves. Comfort does indeed articulate the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins, but in many instances, this is not as clear as it could be.
Though Comfort does indeed call for the sinner to repent, and though he does speak about the depth of sin, he doesn’t seem to go far enough, for he at least implies that man can somehow “choose God,” even in his sinful condition. The Bible, however, indicates that man is much more corrupt than this, and must be completely born again, something that Comfort doesn’t adequately address (i.e. Genesis 6:5, 21; Psalm 14:1-3; 19:12; 51:3-5; Matthew 15:18-20; John 1:12-13; 3:3, 5-6; Romans 3:10-20; 5:6-11; 7:24-25; 10:4, 14-17; 14:23; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Galatians 2:20-21; Hebrews 11:6)
Because of Comfort’s inconsistency about the depth of human sin and man’s corruption, he is unable to fully declare God’s grace in Christ. He doesn’t rightly distinguish Law and Gospel throughout. He therefore also fails to consistently articulate man’s salvation by God’s grace through faith (salvation, God’s grace, and even faith) as pure gift (i.e. Ephesians 2:8-9).
This doctrine, that sinful man is saved only God’s grace in Christ through faith, is known as the doctrine of justification. This doctrine teaches that man can do nothing for his salvation, that God has done it all in Christ through His death on the cross. Salvation and God’s grace, and even faith, are fully gifts of God (as is Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper).
The doctrine of justification is objective, sure, and certain. Anything of man, even any decisions or choices he makes, is uncertain and doubtful, whereas the things of God give only confidence and certainty.
Unbelievers, including atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and any others, will not know such certainty or believe God’s grace apart from Jesus Christ. They will not believe the forgiveness of sins without the Holy Spirit. Christians can address the faulty and limited logic of the naysayers. They can give rational arguments for their understanding of the evidences. But only God, by means of His Word, creates faith to believe that Word, even that Word which is now flesh, Jesus the Christ. It is this Word, also, that God calls His people to speak consistently and truthfully throughout, as in Jeremiah, “He who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully” (Jeremiah 23:28).
 Ray Comfort, The Defender’s Guide For Life’s Toughest Questions (Green Forest, AK: Master Books), 2011.
 Cleary absent from this book is any reference to baptismal regeneration. Comfort often confuses Law and Gospel, too.
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