Principles of Ethical Evangelisation

by  Elmer J. Thiessen


Evangelism is often under attack, and would seem to be increasingly so today. Indeed, very often evangelism is associated with proselytising which is assumed to be unethical. Evangelism/proselytising is typically thought to be coercive, arrogant, intolerant, and meddlesome. Other critiques highlight the negative consequences of evangelism/proselytising – social disunity, hatred, and even holy wars.

Missionaries are thought to be guilty of cultural genocide. Sadly, many Christians, including some evangelicals, share these negative perceptions about  evangelism/proselytising. I argue that evangelism is not inherently unethical, and that generalizations about its negative consequences are much weaker than is typically assumed. Instead of wholesale condemnations of evangelism/proselytising, we need to put more emphasis on distinguishing between ethical and unethical evangelism and defining criteria to make this distinction.