Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Way of the Master on Nightline

Last Friday night, the ABC News show Nightline aired a story on the Way of the Master ministry. It was an informational and investigative piece (not an expose or an investigation of impropriety) and it was actually pretty good.

I had just a few comments on it that I'd like to share: There was good, bad, and profoundly great parts to this story.

The Good:

Overall, the reporter did a fair job of showing what the ministry is. I would sum up the ministry in the following way: Fellow Christians, we need to seek and save the lost. We must do this the way that Christ did - law to the proud and then grace to the humble. The report showed this in different encounters where Ray Comfort or Kirk Cameron would be speaking with someone and show (by their own confession) that these people violate the commandments of God (sin), and that if God judges people by His righteous standard...they'd go to hell.

That portion was done well. It was accurate not superficial, and the questions asked by the interviewer (Martin Bashere, I think) drew out the serious nature and the fact that eternal stakes compel the evangelistic team.

The Bad:

In the middle of the story, there was a segway to other things that this television ministry does. The one thing that was discussed was the debate over evolution/intelligent design. There was a small piece thrown in about how Ray and Kirk make fun of evolution by hanging out with primates and even trying to get a primate a ticket on an airplane. Let me try to reconstruct the dialogue for you:

Ray: Can I bring this chimpanzee on the plane if I buy a ticket for him?
Airline: No, the only way that this animal can fly would be if it traveled in the cargo hold.
Ray: Oh, so there is no way that he can come with me, even if he's a relative?
Airline: No...wait. What do you mean by "a relative?"
Ray: We're taught in schools that we're all related to primates, and I find that offensive, don't you...

This was not sold as a "serious" thing that Ray was doing, it was supposed to be silly and an attempt to show the foolishness of the idea of evolution. That being said - I think that the way that it was inserted into the whole story with no time to really deal with the logical arguments against evolution, but focusing on a scene where Ray and Kirk were eating with an ape as well as the interchange with the airline person put this whole portion of the ministry in a foolish light.

My thought was this - if Ray & Kirk were made to look foolish and dismissable on such a topic as evolution (because there wasn't a fair presentation of what they say, do, think, or believe) that this dismissal could translate to the main part of the story - the gospel presentation.

The Profoundly Great:

The subject was brought up about the nature of the gospel presentation - law and then grace. The reason is that sometimes when this is done, it causes an angry reaction from people who hear it. Most people don't like to be told that they're sinful and going to hell (even if it is from their own lips). And the interviewer asked a very pragmatic and reasonable question and was given a very profound answer:

Interviewer: Do you not worry that using language like this only exacerbates the polarization in your country?

Cameron: My goal is not t o depolarize an audience or a nation.

This was so great to hear. Kirk and Ray made a great point of saying that the methods that are employed are not done in order to gain popularity or fortune - but they're done in order to be faithful to the message. In fact, there were shots taken at the health and wealth "Send us your best check now, and we'll send you this cloth..." types of ministries. It was great!

It is so true that our goal should not be to depolarize the culture or an audience. The gospel, the message of Christ, is never a palatable message. It will always cause strife - it is either going to be a stumbling block or foolishness to the world around us (1 Cor 1:23). I wrote about this idea in a previous post called "Being Offensive is Necessary" and I urge you to read it and think about the message that we preach.

1 comment:

nate J. said...

Thanks for your summary of the Nightline special Eric, I was not able to see it myself.
You are correct, our goal should not be to antagonize people or cause strife. That is why our method and attitude of presentation is so important. That being said, the message is (I believe) more important. We should never sacrifice the message because we are worried about offending or "polarizing" people. We are not out to make friends with the world and get them to like us - we are out to warn the world that they are in trouble with God because of their sin and that judgment will come. This is actually a very loving message when you think about it. God doesn't want them to go to Hell and neither do we. The Gospel is good news, but only to those who are humble and broken enough to accept it (by God's grace).

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