Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron

Christian evangelist Ray Comfort and former child actor Kirk Cameron have used a televised debate with a pair of atheists to present the Gospel message to an audience estimated in the millions.

“I’m very, very encouraged,” Comfort told WND after the first part of the 90-minute program was broadcast at ABCNews.com. A shortened version of the program was aired on the network’s “Nightline” as well.

“I don’t think you can argue people into the Kingdom of Heaven,” Comfort said. “It’s a moral issue. People love their sins and they’re going to hold onto them. But we’re talking about eternity and it’s not to be trifled at.”

But he said he takes seriously the biblical instructions to preach the word. “Our agenda is just to preach the Gospel, to make a very clear Gospel proclamation that people can understand,” he said.

As WND reported, the idea for the debate developed after several atheists launched the Internet site Blasphemy Challenge, which offers to send people a DVD if they post on Youtube.com a video of themselves condemning themselves to hell.

The self-described “Rational Response Squad” said its DVD, “The God Who Wasn’t There,” was described by the Los Angeles Times as “provocative – to put it mildly.”

“There’s only one catch: We want your soul,” the website said. “It’s simple. You record a short message damning yourself to Hell, you upload it to YouTube, and then the Rational Response Squad will send you a free ‘The God Who Wasn’t There’ DVD.”

“You may damn yourself to Hell however you would like, but somewhere in your video you must say this phrase: ‘I deny the Holy Spirit,'” the website instructed. “Why? Because, according to Mark 3:29 in the Holy Bible, ‘Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.'”

ABC told of the website and the hundreds of responses in a story, getting Comfort’s attention.

He contacted the network and offered a debate challenge to the atheists.

He was given 13 minutes in the debate to present his proof of God, and he used the simple illustration of a soda can. Holding it up, he asked if there had been a design and manufacture process to reach that stage – a cylindrical container with a message printed on the outside and a product on the inside.

If so, there must have been a designer and maker, he concluded.

He said a similar proof is available with a painting: Take a dozen scientists into a lab and show them a painting, then ask whether there was, in fact, a painter, he said. Looking at the creation the world is documents the Creator, he said.

“You cannot have a creation without a Creator,” he suggested.

He also offered the proof of a conscience, which every person has, and third, a conversion.

“The greatest truth is when God reveals himself to you,” he said.

He said the underlying problem was significant. “There is something more sinister here than a few people not believing in God,” he said. “Why would so many be so bitter against Christianity in particular?

“Why aren’t they making videos that blaspheme Buddha or Muhammed or Gandhi?” he asked. “We made our own video clip and posted in on Hollywoodblasphemy.com to expose why.”

The debate was moderated by Martin Bashir.

ABCNews said the taping, which took place last weekend, was done before “a mixed crowd of atheists and Christians at Calvary Baptist Church in Manhattan.

“It wasn’t long before temperatures began to rise inside the auditorium,” ABCNews said.

“I want to pull back the curtain and show that the No. 1 reason that people don’t believe in God is not a lack of evidence, but because of a theory that many scientists today believe to be a fairytale for grownups,” said Cameron, referring to the theory of evolution, in which he used to have faith.

Atheist Brian Sapient and his “comrade, a woman who goes by the name of Kelly” then responded with their own beliefs.

The message boards and blogs started heating up as soon as the first segment was broadcast.

“I can’t think of anything more spiritually impotent than a face off between fundie Christians and fundie atheists,” wrote pagani66w on the ABC site. But another, Christianthinker88, said that attitude would be expected. “You can’t argue with people that don’t believe in God, they hate Him and want nothing to do with Him. So if thier (sic) heart is hard only God himself can soften it, not man.”

“God does not exist. All religions are based on superstition and mythical deities. Not one deity can be proven to exist,” concluded naturesprophet. But tuffcaci said the clear “hatred” on the part of the atheists made the Christians’ point for them.

“I think the Rational Response Squad members are pretty scary and I think that their hatred for God proves that there is in fact a God!” Tuffcaci said.

“Do you not understand that we have the original Dead Sea Scrolls and epistles to verify what we have in our Bible to be true?” asked heistheroc. “Do you not realize that the predictions in the Bible that have come true are proof alone that the Bible is inspired?”

“PLEASE CHOOSE WISELY!!!” begged AHAVA777. “Life here is but a vapor … Kirk and Ray have the courage given to them by the Holy Spirit, and watching them blesses our hearts.”

Comfort said the Bible tells Christians, “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God.” But, he said, “When one person listens to me share the gospel, it thrills me.”

Comfort and Cameron also have collaborated on The Way of The Master, an online teaching site that coaches Christians on how to explain their own faith.

Comfort said his only difficulty presented itself through the “rudeness” of members of the audience who didn’t support his position, and interrupted and heckled during the debate.

“I just let them rail,” he said.

Comfort is no stranger to challenges. He’s the Christian leader who produced Gospel tracts that look like $1 million bills, a situation on which WND has reported previously. The tract repeatedly has attracted the authority of the U.S. Secret Service, even though there is no such thing as a real $1 million bill. The agency several times has confiscated the tracts from people who have been handing them out.

Cameron also said he was “taken aback” by the aggression exhibited by atheists.

“The atheists made it very clear they didn’t like what we said,” Cameron explained. “They were full of mockery and sarcasm, belittling the many great scientists and intellectuals who recognize the existence of a Supreme Being. But the average American isn’t viciously anti-God. In fact, polls show that more than 90 percent believe in His existence. Our hope is that the program will cause people to think deeply about the evidence presented, and challenge them to consider this most important issue of life.”

Comfort and Cameron say they’ve already gotten encouraging e-mail from one audience member.

“Good job,” the viewer wrote. “Although I received my invitation to the show via the atheist camp, I must confess that I was impressed with the two of you (and that I was embarrassed by at least two atheist audience members, whose hostile questions bordered on heckling – I admired your calm and courteous responses). … I find the ‘Design means there was a Designer’ argument to be perfectly logical. I just have yet to come across convincing evidence that this Master Designer of the Universe inspired the Judeo-Christian Bible.”


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