Cultic Studies Journal, 1985, Volume 2, Number 2, pages 306-307
Ethical Evangelism, Yes! Unethical Proselytizing, No!
Otherwise peaceful people may become emotionally inflamed when loved ones choose to practice a religion which differs from theirs. If the means employed by individuals or groups to advance their religious commitments are unethical, then there is just cause for strong reaction. In many cases, though, a person converts to a different belief in response to ethical evangelism not unethical proselytising.
Two basic assumptions underlying this analysis of ethical evangelism and unethical proselytism are that people are distinctively human and have inalienable rights.
The adherents of religions are not robots programmed or deprogrammed entirely by others or circumstances. Christians believing that all people are uniquely created in the image of God have more reasons than most for acknowledging the dignity, the inherent value, and the redemptive potential of all human beings, regardless of religious affiliation.
Religious persons, as others, ought not be deprived of their right to hear, read, and critically evaluate various sides of any religious issue. Tolerance means recognition of these rights for all, including those who differ strongly from us. Protestant Christians who believe that all persons are created in the image of GA and that an Christians are priests responsible to and capable of direct relationship with God, should respect the individual’s uncoerced self-determination in religious beliefs, practices, and associations.
Given the inherent value of personhood and its inalienable rights, we may compare and contrast unethical proselytism (including coercive programming and coercive deprogramming) with ethical evangelism (including pre-evangelism, apologetics, follow-up, or rehabilitation).
There are similarities between ethical evangelism and unethical proselytism. Both seek to persuade people. Both intend for the convert to accept certain distinct beliefs about ultimate reality, to form a religious world-view. Both encourage the convert to become part of a religious community or church, with a particular world view, set of values, and way of life.
With such similarities, it is not difficult to see why evangelism is sometimes confused with proselytism. But they are different in many vitally important respects.
Ethical persuasion does not destroy the persons God created; it renews them! Ethical evangelism does not destroy the mental and critical faculties God created; it liberates them from the effects of selfishness, greed, and sin. In the stimulating atmosphere of academic freedom and intellectual honesty, people in a pluralistic society can present a case, not only for popcorn and soft drinks, but also for the justice and the grace of God.