Thursday, May 10, 2018

How To Bring Men To Christ - A Review


How To Bring Men To Christ by R.A. Torrey was recommended to me recently. I'm glad that it was. A short book and quick read. Even so, it contains a lot of powerful information.

Some readers will take issue with some of Torrey's theological positions. However, there is much wisdom that can be gleaned in the main thrust which is bringing people to a saving knowledge of Christ through the use of God's word under the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Greatest Strengths

1. Dependence Upon God's Word and Spirit

Torrey emphasizes from beginning to end the need for the effective witness to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of God's word. Nothing else will be effective in bringing the lost to the living Lord and Savior. The first chapter deals with certain conditions that Torrey believes are necessary for the Christian to be effective in service and witness. The final chapter discusses the controversial topic of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Regardless of whether you agree with every position Torrey takes the emphasis is clear: the Christian must yield themselves to God fully. The ministry of reconciliation is not a half-hearted ministry.

2. The Role of the Holy Spirit In Witnessing

I know that the topic of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is controversial. Whatever you may believe about this topic, Torrey's final chapter brings important scriptural observations to consider. Far from being overly emotional or charismatic, Torrey shows how Christians in the New Testament are empowered for testimony and/or service in every case of being filled with the Spirit. In our modern day, most of the controversy surrounding such discussions revolve around the ecstatic or dramatic effects that accompany such a baptism. Torrey remains close to the text instead of relying on experience or emotion. This chapter, in my opinion, was worth the purchase price alone. I have read many different treatments of this topic. I thought Torrey's handling of the topic was the best I've read in a long time.

3. Hints and Suggestions

The second to last chapter is "Hints and Suggestions." It is evident that these tips are the result of many years of faithful service in the ministry of reconciliation. Whether you are new to witnessing or have been witnessing for decades, there is something here that will edify you.

Greatest Weaknesses

1. Seemingly Contradictory Sections

Some of Torrey's thoughts are border-line contradictory. I choose to give him the benefit of the doubt. This is a book on evangelism practice, not theology in general. Perhaps, if he took more time to elaborate on some of his statements the seeming contradictions would disappear. The clearest example that seemed to run through the entire book was how Torrey deals with those who make a profession. For those who are seemingly coming to Christ, Torrey suggests time and again to have them read God's word and believe the promises are theirs. However, he mentions in chapter 7 in dealing with a particular group of people who lack assurance or who are back-sliding:

It is very important in using these texts to make clear what saving faith is; because many may say that they believe when they do not, in the sense of these texts, and so get a false assurance and entertain false hopes and never find deliverance.

Torrey seems to give with one hand what he takes from the other. Depending on your theological persuasion, you will likely take offense or issue with some of the points he makes on this matter. Taken together he gets close to a faithful biblical picture. However, the language he uses is not always qualified or as careful as I think it should be. The result is closer to contradiction than I'm sure he intended. Also unclear is how and when the Christian worker should qualify their statements to one who has made a profession of faith according to Torrey's view. The reader will have to make their own conclusions as to what is right.

2. Difficult To Implement Immediately

Those familiar with Bill Faye's method, Share Jesus Without Fear, may immediately notice how similar the approaches are in theory. However, Faye's method is much easier to adapt and begin using immediately than Torrey's. The reason is that Torrey is less interested in giving you a simple path through God's Word to take with everyone. Instead, relying on the lead of the Holy Spirit, he suggests different types of people you may meet and possible Scriptures that you could use in those situations. It may be overwhelming to some readers to see how many different verses Torrey recommends for his many different categories of people.

3. Easy To Read, Difficult To Study

This weakness is related to the second. This book can be read in just a few sittings. However, to truly digest the content and allow it to inform your practice will take much more direct effort. I would have appreciated a chapter or appendix at the end that had all of the suggested verses listed out. As it stands, I will have to make my own. This will likely require a greater time commitment than reading the book in the first place. It is possible that such extra investment will make this a strength instead of a weakness but I include it in the weakness section because many will not take the extra time to make their own study of the material. Sometimes the hardest methods are the best ones but the difficulty of implementation can be a discouragement to some, especially those new to witnessing for Christ.

Torrey attempts to alleviate this difficulty a bit by emphasizing the importance of earnestness and the effectiveness that can come from mastering just a few passages as opposed to knowing many texts but lacking earnestness and mastery in any of them. I believe he is right. Torrey makes this encouragement in his second to last chapter and may have lost some of his readers to discouragement before they ever got there.

Conclusion

I found Torrey's book to be refreshing, edifying, and sometimes challenging. For a short book it packs quite a punch. I know that the theological positions may make it a book that some criticize heavily. I suggest looking past whatever theological quibbles you may have to the substance:

1. Dedicate yourself fully to the Lord's work;
2. Depend upon the grace God gives and the power He provides;
3. Focus on the main task of leading people to Christ, not arguing over other details, and;
4. Continue in the grace of God until the end for the praise of His great name.

Hopefully we can all agree that this is good and right for Christians.

Torrey's short book is a worthwhile read and one that I will likely read again in the future.

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