My two favorite tracts in the universe are “You can be eternally secure” and “The best news you’ll ever hear” by Bob Bryant. I don’t often distribute tracts to the masses as I’m more of a “Let’s grab some coffee and talk about what the Bible says” kind of guy (which, is another thing that I’ve picked up from Bob Bryant), but I do like tracts and have used them to facilitate further biblical discussion.1
There is a new tract called, “The Four Points.” It looks really cool:
The tract uses four symbols, which also appear on hats, bracelets, t-shirts, etc. The symbols look like PlayStation buttons and each carries a meaning, which can turn into a discussion. That’s pretty groovy.
Some of my friends who use “The Four Points” used to use “The Four Spiritual Laws” (a popular tract by Bill Bright). They say that “The Four Points” is essentially the same message as “The Four Spiritual Laws,” but updated for contemporary audiences. “The Four Points” has definitely made some stylistic improvements, but I think that if we will look at the contents of “The 4 Points” and the contents of “The Four Spiritual Laws” and other writings by Bill Bright, we will see some doctrinal differences.
Here are the two “fours” side-by-side:2
|God loves you and created you to know Him personally.||God loves me|
|Man is sinful and separated from God, so we cannot know Him personally or experience His love.||I have sinned|
|Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. Through him you can know and experience God’s love and plan for your life.||Jesus died for me|
|We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know God personally and experience His love.||I need to decide to live for God|
The order is the same: Love, sin, the Cross, and a decision. I like that “The Four Points” simplifies the language into short statements. That makes them easier to remember and easier to put on a card.
At the end of “The Four Spiritual Laws” tract, there are suggestions for Christian growth and finding a church (of course, finding a good church was much easier in the 1960s in America than today in Europe). “The Four Spiritual Laws” is not just about conversion; it’s about knowing God personally and growing in fellowship with Him.
“The Four Points” is more concise. It says, “I need to decide to live for God,” but doesn’t tell how to live for God. Whoever is explaining “The Four Points” can get into those details later, but the purpose of “The Four Points” is evangelism now.
See the difference in purpose? While “The Four Spiritual Laws” might be a better tract for getting the unchurched into churches in Christian societies, “The Four Points” seems to be a better starting point for discussing things in a post-Christian society. The goals are slightly different, aren’t they? Since I live in the relationship-driven, post-Christian world (or, perhaps the “post-post-Christian world” would be more precise), I tend to favor the minimalistic goal of “The Four Points,” with the understanding that I can help a baby Christian along in his journey even after he believes in Christ.
So far, we have seen that “The Four Points” is similar to “The Four Spiritual Laws” in its logic, but has updated some wording and ambitions for a contemporary setting. Now, let’s dig into the actual content of the booklet. There are a few different versions out there, so I found the English that best represents the Ukrainian tracts that I’ve seen:
GOD LOVES ME
The four points is an overview or summary of the entire bible and the first thing you need to know is that God is crazy about you. His love is unlimited and completely unconditional. There is nothing you can do to make God love you any more or less than He does right now. There is nothing that God wants more than to love and be loved by you.
Psalm 100 v5 and 1John 3 v16
I agree that God loves me. And you. And everyone else. However, there are degrees of fellowship with God. Just look at Christ’s ministry on earth: He loved everyone and died for them, but he was much closer to the 12 than the 72 and closer to the 3 than the 12. Today, a believer can “grieve the Holy Spirit” (Eph 4:30), which, of course, doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit will unsave the believer, but it does mean that the believer’s fellowship with God can be hindered by sin and can be restored through confession (1 John 1:9).
“The Four Spiritual Laws” inserts John 3:16 at this point, which is a better verse for the first point, in my opinion, than the two that “The Four Points” gives. John 3:16 shows the relationship between God’s love and our salvation. 1 John is a book written to believers and talks about living an abundant life; it’s no surprise that in that context, John writes, “we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16), but is this really pre-evangelism theology, or is it instruction for the Christian life?
I HAVE SINNED
Sadly we have been separated from God’s love by something the bible calls sin. Simply put sin is choosing to live for ourselves rather than God. We sin when we ignore God, break His laws and basically do things our own way. Sin destroys relationships with friends, with family and with God. The bible says that sin ultimately brings death.
Isaiah 59 v2 and Romans 6 v23
It looks like the theology here is similar to “The Four Spiritual Laws.” Both cite Rom 6:23, though “The Four Spiritual Laws” also quotes Rom 3:23 (which is more contextually appropriate than Isaiah 59:2) and uses the fire of 2 Thess 1:8, 9 as a warning to step up the urgency of the message. Talking about hell is controversial and “The Four Points” side-steps the issue. I think it’s ok to stay focused on the Gospel rather than hellfire and brimstone, but the doctrine of hell might be an elephant in the room and we need to be prepared to discuss it with unbelievers.
JESUS DIED FOR ME
The third point is probably one of the most well known facts in the history of mankind but is often misunderstood. The key is to realise that the penalty for sin is death. We’ve all sinned and we all deserve to die. But God, who is full of mercy, loved you so much that He sent Jesus to come and die in your place. Jesus died so that we can have eternal life.
1John 4 v9-10 Romans 5 v8
If you are going to say that Christ’s death is “probably one of the most well known facts in the history of mankind,” then be ready to back that up with some evidence. Years ago, Christians approached me with this argument and could not support it. Eventually, it was the evidence of the resurrection that got me to convert to Christianity. Cool story for another time.
If you are discussing “The Four Points” with an unbeliever, be ready for some questions here. “How do we know that Christ really resurrected?” “Why did God have to send His Son?” “Why can’t God just forgive everyone already?” “So… you worship a zombie?” By all means, encourage people to ask, but be ready to give an answer (1 Peter 3:15). Thinking back to my unbelieving days, it frustrated me that Christians weren’t prepared to answer.
Regarding Jesus’ provision, I like the wording of “The Four Points” more than “The Four Spiritual Laws.” It’s more conversation-provoking.
I NEED TO DECIDE TO LIVE FOR GOD
God has done everything He can to demonstrate just how important you are to Him. It is now up to you to decide what you want to do. God is offering you life in all its fullness for all eternity. All you need to do is accept you’ve sinned, ask for God’s forgiveness and to decide to live the rest of your life only for Him. The choice is yours.
Deuteronomy 30 v19 1 John 1 v9
“The Four Spiritual Laws” uses the words, “faith” and “believe” 26 times. “The Four Points” tract uses the words, “faith” and “believe” 0 times. In fact, if you open every Bible verse that the booklet quotes, none of them mention faith either. I hope you find this to be concerning.
Further, “The Four Points” uses Deut 30:19 as an evangelistic verse. The actual context of this verse is God giving the Law to Israel and making a covenant that if they will live by the Law, then He will bless them, if not, then temporal cursing will ensue.
I disagree with Bill Bright on some nuances of the Law, but the question of the day is, “Are ‘The Four Points’ and ‘The Four Spiritual Laws’ the same?” So, let’s look at some things that Bill Bright, the author of “The Four Spiritual Laws” has said about the Law, and see if it lines up with “The Four Points” usage.
Under the Law, God demanded righteousness from man. The Law was connected with works.
Under grace, God in Christ gives righteousness to man, and that righteousness becomes ours by faith (John 1:17; Ephesians 2:8,9). […]
The Law of Moses was a covenant of works. God said, “You shall” and “You shall not.” The laws were definite, and the attached penalties were definite if the conditions were not obeyed. […]
These laws were presented as God’s standard of righteousness for that time. They were literally a yardstick for man. The New Testament reveals that “by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Jesus Christ came to “fulfill the law,” and now God’s standard of righteousness is Christ Himself. (source)
Does it sound like Bill Bright would say that it is necessary “to decide to live the rest of your life only for Him” in accordance with Deut 30? Not really. In fact, it should come as no surprise that “The Four Spiritual Laws” does not contain a single reference to any Old Testament Scripture. Meanwhile, “The Four Points” takes a verse that summarizes the entire Law and puts it into the Gospel.
I was discussing “The Four Points” with some friends at Victor Street Bible Chapel in Dallas. One of them pointed out, “You cannot derive a saving message from the information in this brochure.” Technically, he is correct. The booklet does not direct someone to faith in Christ, but to faith in his own works.
The message of “The Four Points” was probably influenced by Bill Bright, but if we really look into it, we see that they are not teaching the same Gospel. “The Four Spiritual Laws” could use some revision, both theologically and stylistically.
Theologically, “The Four Spiritual Laws” needs to take a step toward Grace,3 but “The Four Points” took a step in the other direction: toward Law.
Stylistically, “The Four Points” has some great things going for it. Its unique and minimalistic design is going viral and raising questions, which turn into important conversations.
I know several people who disagree with “The Four Points,” but use the bracelets and other accessories for evangelism instead of the tract. If you can use the icons to start a discussion that leads someone to faith in Christ rather than the Law, then that is awesome! But, I have at least three reservations about using their symbols:
First, every “The Four Points” bracelet I’ve ever seen has “www.the4points.com” written on it, which leads to “The Four Points” website, where there are videos and articles that expound on the brochure’s theology. Granted, the site is currently only in English and Japanese, but more translations are bound to come and even if not, a few clicks will generate a rough machine translation.
Second, it is a gray area in ministry ethics. When we take material from “The Four Points” and modify them to teach a gospel that is different from what they intend, then we undermine their purpose. Would you like someone to edit your message to add works to your Gospel of grace? I should hope not.
Third, THE4POINTS Ltd. is a for-profit organization, which is actually a cool way to do a ministry, but that means that all of the sales for the accessories go to the business in Liverpool that allows them to print more brochures and advocate for a works-based salvation message.
There is much we can learn from “The Four Points” movement, so let’s learn! Instead of trying to change their message, let’s improve the way that we promote ours.
- By the way, if you would like us to send you our tracts on James 2 and the dispensations, send us a note in the Contact section and say something like, “Send me your tracts on James 2 and the dispensations!”
- “The Four Spiritual Laws” has been updated through the years. I am using the version found here.
- If you ever really want to test a Gospel tract, read it and ask, “Is this telling me to believe something or is it telling me to do something in order to receive eternal life?” I’m a fan of Bob Bryant’s tracts because they promote faith in Jesus as the Gospel. When you believe in Christ, He gives you eternal life. You don’t need works to be saved and you can’t lose eternal life. Your works are of benefit after you are saved, but are in no way necessary for receiving eternal life. There is a clear distinction between faith and works. “The Four Spiritual Laws,” in my opinion, unfortunately blurs this distinction, especially in the fourth law.