The Ethics of Evangelism

I have just read a very interesting book by Elmer Thiessen called The Ethics of Evangelism (Paternoster, forthcoming). It is

(a) a philosophical critique of the claim that proselytism is unethical in principle.

(b) an attempt to set out criteria for discerning ethical from unethical proselytism.

It is the first book to attempt to do this ... amazingly! The issue is a very contentious one - a hot topic globally and also in Europe and North America.

It is very surprising how little attention the ethics of evangelism receives in evangelical circles given the importance of such practise to evangelicals. Thiessen's book is at once a defence of the propriety of evangelism but also a call to self-examination on the part of proselytisers (including Christians). And for me I think the book will make a very useful contribution both the the general public debate (its target audience is not just Christian) but also to the discussion of praxis within churches.

Rather than spoil the surprise by revealing Thiessen's 15 criteria for ethical evangelism I thought I'd allow you to reflect on examples of unethical practise in evangelism that you have seen or participated in. Perhaps we can, between us, come up with our own criteria.


DS said…
pseudo friendship 'for the sake of the gospel' then dump um a la 'brush the dust off' if they don't jump through your hoops in the requisite time-scale - replace with say... real friendship
James Goetz said…
I have too many thoughts about this and too little time. First of all, I hate the word "proselytism". I share and proclaim the gospel while I don't "make converts". I'll disciple people who convert. But none of this is "making converts". Likewise, sharing views in a persuasive way shouldn't be called "proselytism".

And various countries outlaw proselytism when they should more clearly admit that they make it against the law for individuals to convert from one religion to another.

I suppose that one of the most important ethics in Christian evangelism is the belief that Christians proclaim the gospel while God makes converts.

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