The “Good Person” test, a widely distributed evangelistic tract used by Ray Comfort’s Living Waters Ministry, has recently come under criticism by atheists who find the message inaccurate and deceptive.
Joseph Hanson, creator of truth-saves.com, a website dedicated to exposing Christianity’s claims, hopes to reveal the California ministry’s “dishonest attempts to guilt [people] into following them” by taking a closer look at the tract.
The test in question, illustrated by Cedric Hohnstadt into a comic strip and animation, asks unbelievers several questions that seek to illuminate the meaning of “goodness” from God’s perspective and not their own.
Observing a few of “Mr. Nice Guy’s” actions in the light of the Ten Commandments, “The Good Test” attempts to show non-Christians that they could never be good enough to go to heaven and therefore in need of a Savior.
But Hanson believes the test is all wrong. Rebutting the arguments of the tract, the 32-year-old atheist, dissected each claim made in the comic strip and offered his own opinion of “goodness.”
Looking at the first question in the tract, “Have you ever told a lie?” Hanson penned, “A person is not considered a ‘liar’ unless that person repeatedly lies.”
“Telling a lie on occasion does not mean the person is actually a liar, just as a person who played baseball once as a child would not be considered a ‘baseball player.’”
“Now robbing a bank only once is enough to label a person as a ‘bank robber’ but such descriptive titles are based on frequency AND degree,” he added. “If a person stole a lot of money from a bank they would be a bank robber, if they stole just a dollar or maybe a pen they would not be charged as a bank robber.”
He also criticized the question, which asked, “Have you ever looked at someone with lust?” referring to Jesus’ radical words in Matthew 5:28: “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
“[That] does not, by any means, make you a bad person. It just makes you a person,” Hanson explained.
“We are biologically designed to lust after others. If a person thinks lusting after someone is a bad thing then they should be taking it up with the designer, not the design. Humans and other animals have no control over such desires, they were built to have sexual tendencies.”
Responding to Hanson’s critiques, Ray Comfort, the founder of Living Waters, told The Christian Post, “As human beings, we tend to trivialize sin.”
“We call lies ‘white’ in an effort to convince ourselves that they are not serious. However, lying in God’s book is extremely serious. He killed a husband and wife (in the Book of Acts) because they told one lie.”
“The Scriptures inform us that ‘lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,’ and God’s judgment upon liars is the Lake of Fire. Sin is so serious to God, He gives it the death sentence (Romans 6:23),” Comfort shared.
Additionally, comparing baseball with lying was like comparing apples to Oreos, the lead pastor said.
“Baseball is a game, lying is a moral violation of the Ten Commandments. Even in criminal court, lying just once on the stand will get you in big trouble, and you will be called a ‘liar.’”
As to the issue of lust, Comfort did agree with Hanson when he said, “If a person thinks lusting after someone is a bad thing then they should take it up with the designer, not the design.”
“I agree. Take it up with the Designer,” the Christian author wrote. “He is the One that said that if we lust, in His eyes we commit adultery (Matthew 5:27-28).”
But don’t be so foolish as to blame God for your sins, Comfort added.
“It doesn’t work in a court of law to say that God made you this way ‘and that’s why I stole a car or raped a woman.’ Try that defense and the judge will throw the book at you. God created us, but He holds us morally accountable, as also does criminal law.”
Furthermore, Hanson also accused Living Waters of changing their claim about eternal life.
In “The Good Test” by Living Waters, the last illustration stated, “You can’t earn eternal life, it is God’s gift to all who humble themselves and come to Jesus.”
“So you can’t earn God’s gift but you can also earn God’s gift through ‘humbling’ yourself to Jesus?” Hanson questioned. “Wow, Living Waters changed their claim in the same sentence. Impressive.”
But Comfort reiterated, “A gift cannot be ‘earned.’ The person who wrote this rebuttal is a very confused individual – it would take a book to counter all the false claims he made. He has made very serious mistakes.”
Even in his arguments, Hanson appeared confused about salvation and eternal life. He stated, “Scripturally speaking, you can’t just desire to be worthy of going to Heaven, you have to do the deeds to earn it.”
Scripture, however, clearly describes repeatedly that eternal life cannot be earned because it is a gift. Ephesians 2:8-9 reads: “For by grace you have been saved; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
“We are saved by grace alone through faith alone, without works,” Comfort stressed.
Appearing to garner a negative response from his “Good” tests, The Christian Post asked the pastor if his ministry’s test was making salvation seem works-based to nonbelievers.
“Not at all,” Comfort responded. “The moral Law shows us God’s standard, so that we can see our need of His forgiveness.”
“Jesus and Paul used the same principle that we used in the tract (see Mark 10:17 and Romans: 20-24) –using the Ten Commandments to bring the knowledge of sin (see Romans 3:19, 20, Romans 7:7).”
While Comfort and many believers saw “The Good Test” as a great and simple evangelistic tool to explain the Gospel message, Hanson remained unconvinced of the meaning and the method.
For him, only one question seemed appropriate to ask, illustrating his own version of the tract on his site.
“Do you try doing what will cause the least amount of harm for others?”
“Yup!” answered “Mr. Nice Guy,” the protagonist in Living Water’s illustrations.
“Congrats, you are a good person!” reads the comic, essentially eliminating the need of God’s gift, Jesus Christ, and replacing heaven with the here and now.
Hanson, in his post, appeared to echo the sentiments of several atheists, including English comedian Ricky Gervais.
Like Gervais, Hanson appeared to measure “goodness” in terms of how he wanted to be treated and how he treated others, not accounting for God’s standard.
“I’m good to people because it’s the way I want to be treated and I don’t believe I’ll be rewarded in heaven,” Gervais, an outspoken atheist, had previously told Piers Morgan on CNN. “I will be rewarded now.”
He added, “I’m not a Christian, but I live my life in a good way. And some people say, well, who says what good is?”
“Well, you know what?” Gervais posed, reiterating Hanson’s illustration. “I do.”