Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Joel McDurmon's hit piece on Ray Comfort's "Noah"

About week ago I bought and watched the digital download of Living Waters' "Noah and the Last Days" video. As with earlier LW movies like 180, Evolution vs God, Genius, etc, it was pre-launched in that format, for $20, before it was to be launched for free a little later. I have no problem supporting Living Waters' ministry, so I went ahead with it. 
To be honest, I found it to be the weakest of all of their movies so far, but I still applaud the effort and as always appreciate Ray Comfort's zeal to share the Gospel with the flakes, fruits, and nuts of California, the Cereal State. 
To my displeasure, a friend sent me a link to Joel McDurmon's recent attack piece on Ray Comfort and the movie, so I'd like to address it here. Let me cut to the chase first - Joel McDurmon has sinned against Ray Comfort in his article, and he should publicly repent and apologise for what he has said. It is even worse than his unhelpful critique of James White's debate against Bart Ehrman, which suggested even those years ago that there may be an unfortunate sort of pattern to Dr McDurmon's train of thought.
Disagreeing with someone doesn't obligate them to apologise. Dr McDurmon seems to be mostly correct in his review of the content, except for the way he dealt with 2 Peter 3, which was quite unclear to me. I don't see how 2 Peter 3 refers to 70 AD at all, and Dr McDurmon seems to imply that it does, though I wasn't too sure about what he meant in those sections.
It's the accusations of dishonesty and especially of money-grubbing that he should apologise for. A commenter made it quite clear that Dr McDurmon missed the boat on that one, badly, and he should repent.

Michael Earley says:
When you paid for the movie, did you miss this?:
“Those of you who took advantage of our pre-release download offer on “Evolution vs. God” enabled us to fund the production of “Noah—And the Last Days.” We would be grateful if you would consider doing the same with this movie, and in turn help us to continue producing similar projects in the future.
When you download this movie for $19.99, you will get a free downloadable Companion Guide (valued at $4.99) containing further evidence for the Ark and the worldwide Flood, plus a special video message by Ken Ham, “Creation and the Last Days” (valued at $12.99). “Noah—And the Last Days” will be available on YouTube and DVD starting March 28.”
I request you withdraw your slights about money. You sir, are in the wrong on that…
This commenter Michael Earley is 100% right to say that and Dr McDurmon, in comparing Comfort to the Word of Faith heretics, acts sinfully.
The movie will be available on YouTube. That means it will be free of charge. Just like all the other Living Waters movies.  And you can buy their DVDs for like $2 apiece on March 29. That's money-grubbing? If Dr McDurmon resents it so much, he should contact LW; I bet they'd let him withdraw his charitable donation, if he wants to be such a jerk about it.
I knew precisely what I was getting when I paid my $20 - a video of Comfort evangelising people all by himself with a chest-mounted camera and handheld mic, and using his theme as a bit of a hook to talk to people. I was not expecting a volume of systematic theology. I was not expecting Russell Crowe engaging in hand-to-hand battle with CGI sharks or herding dinosaurs onto a big CGI ark. If Dr McDurmon was expecting that, he is ignorant of LW videos anyway and should have kept his mouth shut, so that his critique would not be tainted by valid accusations of a hatchet job. If he has a problem giving $20 to such a ministry, nobody put a gun to his head to do it. I have zero problem playing a small part in funding Comfort's ministry, and I don't think anyone should. It wouldn't've killed Dr McDurmon to delay his critique until March 29, the day after the movie comes out for free on YT.

Dr McDurmon says:
I will show you there is no other explanation short of a cavalier sloppiness with the text that would disqualify anyone from being a public teacher of Scripture.

Fine, fine. Comfort is not the best exegete any of us have ever seen.
Now, prove your charges of dishonesty. He can't and he doesn't do so. So he should repent of this sinful accusation.

Comfort begins with the claim that “according to Jesus, the events surrounding the life of Noah are directly related to you.” He refers to the text where Jesus says, “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:37; Luke 17:26–27). This all, of course, assumed Jesus was talking to you and not His audience, but more of that as we go.

Yet that is poor exegesis of Comfort's remark here. Part of Comfort's claim is that the end will come suddenly upon people, and while I agree with most of Dr McDurmon's discussion of how most of those passages refer to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, the obvious parallel and principle remain, which is what Comfort alludes to during his evangelism efforts later on - the urgency of repenting now à la Hebrews 3.

an entire quarter-length of that very short time is devoted to a surprise gospel attack, not addressed at all to the subject the movie purports to be about. This is deceitful.

No, it's not deceitful. Dr McDurmon is just ignorant, and I would presume he didn't watch the trailer either. This is how LW movies are. If he doesn't like them, fine. "I don't like it" is not equivalent to "This is deceitful".

But this kind of hidden-agenda, stealth-attack approach is the very thing that turns away more people than it saves

I am amazed at how foolish this is. Dr McDurmon is supposed to be a Calvinist, and yet here he sounds just like the milquetoast evangellyfish he (rightly) critiques so much in other areas of his life. How precisely do people who are dead in sin get turned away from God more than they were before? And what is his evidence that more were turned away than not? What does he make of the many thoughtful conversations that Comfort had during the movie? Why does he imply that the approach is that which saves? This is just sloppy support for his sinful accusations.

It does not deliver what it promised...it borders on fraud...

Where precisely did it promise something that it did not deliver? Dr McDurmon seems to exegeting his own preconceived impressions of the movie. He judges it by what he thought it would be or wanted it to be and finds it so wanting that he accuses a godly man of deceit and money-grubbing dishonesty.

Some people will say that it’s OK because we should do anything we can do to save souls.

Dr McDurmon disingenuously implies that Comfort or other LW personnel have said this, when in fact they have a long history of saying precisely the opposite and have biblically defended their preferred methods of evangelism at length. Where is Dr McDurmon's refutation? What is Dr McDurmon's preferred method of evangelism? How "effective" is it? How "well" does it "work"? How often does he do it?

This “nothing matters more than saving souls” approach takes more away from Christ’s Commission than it wins.

But who said this? When? Where?
How did Dr McDurmon extract this intention from the hearts of Comfort and other LW personnel? Some private correspondence between Dr McDurmon and Comfort, where Comfort said "Yes, you're right, Joel, I'll do anything to save souls; it doesn't matter what"? What is Dr McDurmon talking about?

It shows the world that Christians will lie and extort in order to do what Christians are allegedly supposed to do.

Now it's not just money-grubbing. Comfort is extorting money from his viewers. Somehow Comfort found a skeleton in Dr McDurmon's closet and forced him to pay $20 to watch a half-hour film, and yet forgot to demand that Dr McDurmon not write a hatchet job review about how much he hated it.
Dr McDurmon should repent of this sinful language.

A gospel with questionable ethics is no gospel at all.

1) So Dr McDurmon believes that the sin of the man proclaiming the Gospel can in fact destroy its power. If I were American Vision, I'd want to check up on that pretty closely.
2) So I guess that means that the only people who should be proclaiming the Gospel are perfect preachers. Maybe we should all walk around like "Brother" Jed Smock and proclaim our sinlessness; at that point Dr McDurmon might say "OK, maybe you can preach the Gospel".
3) In fact Dr McDurmon himself has violated proper ethics in his sinful language about this faithful brother.

If a preacher is willing to twist scripture so transparently like this, how can you trust anything else he says?

Probably the same way Dr McDurmon presumably would like people to trust what he says even though he delivers poor exegesis at times. For example, not long ago he compared the charismatic church to a "wheat field with tares in it".
Yet in Matthew 13:37-38, Jesus explicitly states that the field is not the church, but the world.
And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one..."

Dr McDurmon twisted Scripture. I guess we should never trust anything else he says.

Or, maybe, he'd ask where our charity and patience with a brother are to be found. So I ask him the same question with respect to faithful brother Comfort.

What about hypocrisy in dozens of other areas? For example, say, Christian ministries bordering on false advertising and selling videos filled with half-truths and hidden agendas?

Again with the harsh accusations against brethren. I can't figure out what has prompted this sort of language from Dr McDurmon.
False advertising - where?
Selling videos? That will be given out for free in a week and a half?
Hidden agendas? You mean like sharing the Gospel and encouraging others with a video of how an experienced and skilled evangelist does it?

It was at this point, at about 21:10 through the video, that Comfort turns to his brand of high-pressure evangelism for the rest of the flick.

Perhaps the reason behind all of this is that Dr McDurmon's stomach turns when he thinks of approaching people you don't know on the street in order to share the Gospel with them. One is left wondering why. Could he not at least pat Comfort on the head and say "That's your calling, but not mine"? Why oppose this faithful evangelist in this way?
The very next line, he weakly protests "While I support evangelism, obviously", but it comes across as less than forthright.

I did not pay twenty bucks to watch Ray Comfort needle people on the spot about their sins. I paid to hear about Noah and the Last Days.

And there it is. Dr McDurmon did not want to support LW and their ministry and work. He wanted to be entertained.
And clearly he is not the kind of guy who finds entertainment in people being confronted with the truth of the Law and the Gospel. For my part, I like it a lot. I don't really fault Dr McDurmon for disliking it. I do fault him for his evil speech in his article.

he has to know exactly what he is doing.

My question is: How is it that Dr McDurmon doesn't know exactly what he is doing in this smear?

I want at least 25 percent of my money back.

If it would make Dr McDurmon feel better, if he values his Andrew Jackson that highly, I will personally send him $20. Just say the word, sir, and we will make it happen.

UPDATE: Dr McDurmon sort of apologises.


Anonymous said...

You know Rhoblogy you and me are as far apart as two humans can be. I wont argue our differing world views as I actually like you. I hate abortion though I dont protest I have been involved in supporting several kids, one cost me 17 years. Well worth the "price". Take it for what its worth Comfort is a tool, maybe he bought into the party line back in the day when he was standing on a box in Christchurch and hit the big time with his Hells Best Kept Secret and has not looked back.

I mean it takes alot of guts standing outside one of those clinics. Like I said I wont get into the theological issues etc. But Mr. Comfort is in an industry and you are in a faith and there is a big difference. I do wish you and your family the best. Robert (my middle name).

Rhology said...

Thanks for commenting.

I can think of a lot more people I'd say are "in an industry" before I'd say that about Comfort.