Friday, November 04, 2016

Jack Chick Cartoon Tracts: Use or Not to Use?

The cartoon tracts drawn by Jack Chick are well known in fundamentalist circles.  Furthermore, there is no doubt that many of them have been read by unbelievers, and that out of the vast numbers of Chick tracts that have been passed out, people have, by the power of the Holy Spirit and through the instrumentality of the Word, come to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and been baptized into one of His churches, purposing to serve their Redeemer all their days.  In light of these facts, should churches use Chick tracts--are they God's best for His people in tract distribution?  While one can rejoice in the good done by Chick tracts (Mark 8:38-39), churches would be better off using more Scriptural tracts than those published by Chick publications.  That is, churches should not use Chick tracts, but better gospel tracts, for reasons including the following:

1.) The Triune God produces repentance and faith in the lost through the power of the Word, not through pictures.

Scripture says:  "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17).  When God wrote the only specifically evangelistic book of the Bible, the Gospel of John (John 20:31), He did not include a single picture.  The lost are begotten by God's will through the Word (James 1:18), but nothing of the kind is stated or implied concerning pictures.  Instead of using Chick tracts filled with many pictures, use tracts that plainly preach and explain the gospel, using many verses and making the truth clear for those who are willing to strive to enter the narrow gate (Luke 13:24).

2.) The pictures in Chick tracts too often displease God by teaching false doctrine.

Many Chick tracts contain pictures of God the Father, God the Son, and/or God the Holy Spirit, perhaps pictured as men sitting on three thrones with shining faces.  Such pictures are a violation of the Second Commandment (Exodus 20:4-6).  All pictures of Jesus Christ are forbidden by Scripture, even those in Chick tracts that (at least in this are accurate, 1 Corinthians 11:14) picture Christ with short hair.  (Please read "Images and Pictures of Jesus Christ Forbidden by Scripture" or the related resources on ecclesiology here for more on this topic.)  No Christian should pass out a Chick tract with an image of the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, for such is idolatry.

Furthermore, many of the other pictures misrepresent Biblical truth.  For example, angels are regularly pictured with wings coming out of their backs in Chick tracts, but the Bible never states that angels--God's messengers (Hebrew malak, Greek angelos)--have wings at all, much less that they have a pair coming out of their backs.  Demons are pictured with horns coming out of their heads, and often appear to be enjoying themselves, as if they could be happy in their rebellion, when the Bible states that they have no rest (cf. Matthew 12:43) even before they are cast into the lake of fire.  Such pictures--among others--in Chick tracts distort the truth, and distorting the truth does not help anyone come to Jesus Christ.

3.) The gospel is often muddied or unclear in Chick tracts.

Many Chick tracts have a lot more pictures in them than verses of Scripture.  Many Chick tracts teach that the lost are saved by asking Jesus to come into their hearts, when the Bible never records anyone asking Jesus into his heart nor gives the slightest hint that people are saved by asking Christ to come in.  The last page of every Chick tract (at least at this time as far as I can tell) contains the same message that allegedly is the gospel, which includes the misleading command:  "Through prayer, invite Jesus into your heart to become your personal Saviour," and contains a prayer to repeat:  "I now invite Christ to come into my heart as my personal Saviour."  Many godly men who have been deceived by this dangerous error can testify to the extreme danger of confusing the gospel in this way.  Even more importantly, it is not modeled by Christ and His Apostles or taught anywhere in the Old or New Testament.  The Bible often commands "repent ye, and believe the gospel," but never "invite Jesus into your heart to become your personal Saviour."

Furthermore, while some Chick tracts do mention repentance--which is very good, and churches should not pass out tracts that leave out repentance--many other Chick tracts do not command the lost to repent, which is unbiblical and a means of confusing the gospel.

4.) Chick tracts are too expensive.

At this time (late 2016), Chick tracts cost $0.17 each.  One could print detailed and careful gospel tracts with many Bible verses in them for far less than this.  One could print copies of God's "gospel tract," John's Gospel, for about this price.  I would much rather give people detailed and careful gospel preaching with many verses than a tract with a small number of verses and many pictures, some of which are misleading.  The reason Chick tracts are comparatively expensive is because of all the pictures.  Why not give out copies of God's evangelistic Book, the Gospel of John, with explanatory notes, or give out other detailed and careful presentations of the gospel, instead of spending all that money on pictures that are often not even Biblically accurate?

5.) Chick tracts can turn seekers off.

Chick tracts can support highly dubious conspiracy theories or contain serious factual errors.  Chick tracts claim that Roman Catholicism created Islam to advance Satan's causeRoman Catholicism is a wicked, Satanic religion, and so is Islam, but the conspiracy advocated by Jack Chick simply is false, and such wild-eyed ideas will hinder Muslims from coming to Christ. For another example, their tract "Big Daddy" is supposed to refute evolution.  Of course, the Biblical account of creation is true and evolution is false, and Jack Chick's "Big Daddy" tract contains a substantial amount of factually accurate information showing problems with evolution.  However, it also makes the claim that evolutionary professors do not know why protons can stick together within an atom--it says that atoms stick together because Jesus Christ is the Creator and Preserver.  While He is the Creator and Preserver, when the Chick tract denies the existence of the strong nuclear force (that force which holds atoms together in the providence of God) this tract will leave honest seekers who know a bit about science thinking that Christians must be fools.  Evolutionists already generally think creationists are misinformed fools--utilizing horrible non-science only helps confirm them in their opinion.  This gross factual error in this Chick tract actually kept me personally from becoming a young earth creationist for quite a long time, and it has doubtless put a stumbling block in the way of evolutionists who might otherwise have been open to the gospel.

One thing that the paragraph above is NOT saying is "Chick tracts turn seekers off because they are too strong and confrontational."  Biblical preaching is very strong and regularly very confrontational (e. g., Matthew 23; Acts 2, 7).  Chick tracts are NOT wrong to strongly condemn false religions like Roman Catholicism and Islam.  Biblical, pointed warning is part of faithful gospel preaching.  They are not turning seekers off by boldly condemning false religions, but by misrepresenting the truth in the condemnation.

6.) Chick's ministry is not under the authority of the pillar and ground of the truth, the New Testament Baptist church.

The doctrinal statement at chick.com teaches the serious error of the universal church, affirms nothing about water baptism at all, teaches a false doctrine of Spirit baptism instead of the historic Baptist and Biblical doctrine of Spirit baptism, says nothing about congregational church polity, about church authority or church succession, and contains other serious omissions, such as saying nothing about repentance.  Chick tracts call those practicing the truth "Protestants," when the truth is practiced in full by non-Protestant Baptists (who are nevertheless thankful for whatever portions of the truth Protestants stand for.) I have no idea what kind of church Jack Chick went to when he was on this earth, and it is not easy to determine that information at chick.com.

7.) Chick.com contains other doctrinal and practical errors.

Chick.com affirms other false teachings.  While their tracts commendably stand for the truth of perfect preservation and King James Onlyism, they run to the dangerous and unbiblical (Matthew 5:18) extreme of placing the KJV over the perfectly preserved Hebrew and Greek words God directly spoke from heaven.  According to Chick, the "King James Version . . . [is] our final and absolute authority, above and beyond all other authorities on earth," so if Jack Chick is correct, either God did not preserve His Hebrew and Greek words like He promised to, or there is now something better and more authoritative than what He preserved.  Such unbiblical extremism is a dangerous error.  There are others in Chick tracts--feel free to discuss them in the comment section.

But don't Chick tracts get read?

I do not deny that some ungodly people like cartoons and will read a tract with a lot of pictures and only a little bit of God's glorious Word who would not read a tract with a lot of Scripture and only a little bit of other stuff.  However, the point of a gospel tract is not that everyone will read it.  Christ taught in parables to hide the truth from those who did not care enough about it want it (Matthew 13:13).  A Biblical study of evangelistic methodology reveals that gospel tracts should have enough information in them so that a person who wants to be saved will understand the gospel and be able to turn from his sins to Christ in repentance and faith.  It is far more important that a gospel tract communicate the gospel carefully and clearly than that it is read by everyone.  If a person who does not care about the gospel and will only reject more light if he gets it will not read a tract with a lot of verses, in a certain way he is better off because he has not made his damnation worse by getting more light.  I am not saying that the goal needs to be to have a tract with tiny print on poor quality paper that nobody will ever want to read.  What I am saying is that Biblical evangelistic methods emphasize making the gospel clear and convicting, and trusting in the power of the Spirit through the Word.  This truth may seem foolish to the world, which prefers cartoons, but God saves the lost through the foolishness of preaching His Word (1 Corinthians 1), not through pictures originating with sinful men.


There are tracts that are worse than Chick tracts--do not use them.  There are also tracts that are much better than Chick tracts--use them.  Go to a local church Baptist tract printing ministry and use tracts like Do You Know You Have Eternal Life? and Prepare for Judgment, famous classic tracts such as "What Must I Do To Be Saved?" by John R. Rice, as well as pamphlets such as Bible Truths for Catholic Friends, Bible Truths for Lutheran Friends, Are You Worshipping Jehovah?, The Testimony of the Quran to the Bible, The Book of Daniel:  Proof that the Bible is the Word of God, and so on.  Word documents of many of these works can be downloaded and personalized for your Baptist church in the "All Content" page here. While I rejoice in the good that God has done through what preaching of the Word there is in Chick tracts, Bible-believing and practicing churches and Christians can and ought to do better.

TDR

2 comments:

Kent Brandenburg said...

For those reading this, I'm thankful for Thomas's analysis. I want to add that I don't think it is wrong to hand out a Chick tract if it is very selective. Chick has not been my choice of tracts for many reasons, the same or similar to what Thomas wrote. However, I think they've had a lot of good effect through the years too. I have testimonies to that without being a proponent or advocate for Chick. I think believers mocking Chick tracts hasn't been good. I believe in many cases they are trying to separate themselves from his King James Onlyism, since Chick was strong King James.

Thomas had this written before Jack Chick died here in the last two weeks, so this wasn't about Chick's death. However, I read some reviews of Chick from those who would call themselves fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals that had lies about Chick. One had a "picture" of him, that this reviewer mocked, that wasn't even Chick. I know it wasn't Chick, even though there are maybe two pictures of him on the entire internet. This guy was not chick and yet this person mocked his appearance and it was one of those tin-foiled hat Chick fans, that Chick perhaps deserves, but it wasn't Chick. A lot of the opposition to Chick is unmerited in the ways that he is ridiculed and mocked.

It's interesting how "legalistic" and "judgmental," words evangelicals and now fundamentalists like to use about other Christians, they actually are themselves by their own standard against Chick. This is not stating support for Chick, just that I'm happy for some impact Chick had. My father-in-law, his life turned around in a major way from reading one of Chick's tracts. He's a very good Christian, knows the Bible very well, is a diligent student of the Word of God, who doesn't walk in Chicks circles, but he hands out Chick tracts, I think because of their impact on him. In the last month my in-laws were on vacation many hours away from home, and someone they gave a tract where they go on vacation, a waitress, came to them and said she was saved a year ago, as were her parents, all now in church, and it resulted from a tract my in-laws gave her, a Chick tract.

While being supportive of Thomas's essay, I'm bringing this angle to it as well. I have never used Chick tracts, but when I have read them, they have definitely got me to think. The "This Was Your Life" tract, perhaps his most well-known, is very thought provoking. I don't know that Chick thinks that's how things will go down, but it will not be that different, I don't think, knowing scripture, even though he takes a lot of dramatic license. This is not to approve of it, but to say that it is very thought provoking.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Pastor Brandenburg,

I agree that the Holy Spirit has used the Word in Chick tracts for the conversion of the lost, for which I am thankful as well.

There are certainly also a lot of wrong reasons why people don't use Chick tracts.

I had no idea that Chick had died and, I trust, gone to be with the Lord. May he rest in peace in his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As you indicated, I wrote the post a while ago and it is just getting published now.