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An Ethic for Christian Evangelism

Cultic Studies Journal, 1985, Volume 2, Number 2, page 315.

An Ethic For Christian Evangelism

Richard L. Johannesen


An ethic for the Christian who seeks to persuade others to commit themselves to Christianity has been developed by Emory Griffin. Employing the metaphorical imagery of love and courtship which he finds in the Bible, in Plato’s Phaedrus, and in Soren Kierkegaard's Philosophical Fragments as the basis for his viewpoint. Griffin identifies the communication practices of the ethical Christian lover-persuader in part by the degree to which they implement the twin requirements of “love” (genuine concern for the consequences of an act upon other persons) and “justice" (adherence to universal rules of Christian conduct).

The true lover, the ethical Christian persuader, is both loving and just. Such persuaders care more about the welfare of others than about their own egos. They use appeals that respect the human rights of others, including the right to say "no." The non-lover attempts to avoid persuasion by taking a non-manipulative, detached, uninvolved stance. Indeed, Griffin sees this env as even more unethical than various false lovers because non-lovers are uncaring about their own beliefs or about other persons.

Various types of false lover-persuaders deny to others the free choice of whether to accept Christ. The flirt sees people simply as souls to be counted. The evangelist who is more “concerned about getting another scalp for his or her collection than for the welfare of others” exemplifies the Christian flirt. The seducer employs deception, flattery, and irrelevant appeals to success, money, patriotism popularity, or comfort to entice the audience. Because the religious seducer induces decisions for the wrong reasons, she or he is unethical. The rapist uses psychological coercion to virtually force a commitment. Intense emotional appeals, such as those which use guilt, effectively remove the element of conscious choice.

The smother lover overwhelms others with love, so much so that he or she win not take “no” for an answer. Smother lovers believe that they know what is best for everyone else; they treat everyone identically and ignore the uniqueness of each person. “Their persuasion is unethical, Griffin believes, because it fails to respect the free choice of others. Finally, the legalistic lover lacks genuine love and persuades purely out of a sense of obligation or duty. “Me legalistic lover may go through the motions when there is no genuine need, when he or she no longer feels personally motivated, or even while ignoring relevant human needs.

From: Johannesen, R. L. (798-3). Ethics in Human Communication. Waveland Press. (Here paraphrasing Emory A. Griffin in “The Mind Changers: The Art of Christian Persuasion. Tyndale House, 1-976. Ch. 3.)