About Elmer John Thiessen

Elmer Thiessen moved to Waterloo, Ontario in 2007, after having retired from teaching philosophy at Medicine Hat College, in Alberta, for 36 years.  His official position now is that of a “roving philosopher,” open to short-term teaching and research positions anywhere in the world. In the fall of 2013 he taught a course at the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology in Kingston, Jamaica.

He received a B.Th. degree from the Mennonite Brethren Bible College, in Winnipeg, a B.A. degree from the University of Saskatchewan, with a major in physics and philosophy, and an M.A. in philosophy from McMaster University.  While working on his M.A., he spent a year of study in Germany.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of Waterloo in 1980, writing his dissertation on the problem of indoctrination.

Other teaching posts have included Waterloo Lutheran University, early on in his teaching career, and more recently, one semester at Lithuania Christian College, and one semester at the Evangelische Theologische Faculteit in Leuven, Belgium. In the summer of 2011 he taught a course, “Philosophy, Theology and Logic” at Meserete Kristos College in Ethiopia. 

Elmer was a research reader/scholar/fellow during his four sabbaticals, at Mansfield College, Oxford, England, Stapleford Education Centre in England, and more recently the Centre for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto, and the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria.

He has published numerous articles and book reviews, both in professional journals and religious magazines.  His research specialty has been the philosophy of education – here he has published two books, Teaching for Commitment, and In Defence of Religious Schools and Colleges  (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1993; 2001).  His most recent book entitled, The Ethics of Evangelism: A Philosophical Defence of Proselytizing and Persuasion, was published by Paternoster Press (UK)  and by IVP Academic (USA) in 2011.  This book won the Word Guild Canadian Christian Writers Award in two categories: Apologetics/Evangelism and Culture.

Elmer Thiessen is a member of the Waterloo North Mennonite Church in Waterloo, where he is involved in teaching and preaching, and until recently served as chair of an active seniors group. While in Medicine Hat, he was a member of the Crestwood M.B. Church, serving the church in a variety of capacities – moderator, lay-minister, and Sunday School teacher.  He has also served as a board member of Concord College, and has given seminars and sermons in various churches and Christian Colleges across Canada. 

From 2008-2009, Elmer served as a member of the Community Editorial Board of The Waterloo Region Record. He was also on the Board of the Waterloo Public Library from 2011 to 2014.

Elmer enjoys kayaking, cross-country skiing, and mountain climbing in the Canadian Rockies.  He and his wife have three children, and are proud of their five very lovely granddaughters, and one very lonely grandson.

For more information on Elmer Thiessen, see his post, “A Philosopher’s Journey with Christ,” a chapter-length intellectual and spiritual autobiography, published June 26, 2013.

(updated August 2015)


6 Responses to “About Elmer John Thiessen”

  1. diane evans Says:

    Hi Elmer, I am canadian born mennonite but have lived in the uk for many years.After doing a theology degree at Redcliffe college I am now a chaplain at Hereford Sixth Form college. I have been invited to write a paper for an international symposium on relgion/education/spirituality/human flourishing for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and the Guerrand Hermes Peace Foundation. My paper is entitled Integrating the Sacred Elements of Forgiveness into Further Education.
    My paper is exploring the value of religious texts on forgiveness for young people and how they can be integrated into the state education sector.
    Just wonderintg if you had any thoughts on this subject. I am just reading a book by Trevor Cooling that sites you and I instantly picked up on the Mennonite connection.
    You may well know some of relatives: Dan Epp Tiessen, Henry Pauls(Mennonite artist)

    thanks Diane Evans( Pauls, from Leamington)

  2. Len Schroeder Says:

    You will be as surprised to hear from me as I am to find you in Waterloo-both of us having spent 30+ years in Alberta. You may recall when I first met you in your home in Saskatchewan, member of radio quartet being hosted by your mother and you; you where inquisitive and keen. And, of course, in addition to meeting up with you on occasion in AB, I have encountered you many times via MB Herald.
    I have been doing some internet research on the ’emerging church’ and am wondering what your take on it may be. Most opinions have a bias and my readings confirm this to be the case on this subject.
    “Christianity Today”, from the article I read, appears to me ‘too’ tolerating. In its extreme,’ emerging church’ appears to me to compromise scriptural teaching in its attempt to make it culturally relevant. Are we bending too far in accommodating non-Christian faiths? Is this the tip of an iceberg?
    I would appreciate your comments. Thank you.

  3. Charles A. McIlhenny, B.C.C., D. Min. Says:

    I’ll be interested in reading your book on “Defense of Proselytizing, etc…” I’m a pastor-chaplain-teacher at LAC+USC Medical Center downtown Los Angeles, CA. I’m facing a constant threat of censure for my desire to witness for Christ, evangelize, and proselytize. I’ve had to go over the head of the Dir. of Spiritual Care on these issues because of his threats to kick me outta d’hospital. I’m very interested in the concept of “proselytizing and the chaplaincy in a secular environment.” It’s as tho we lived in the People’s Republic of China here at LAC+USC Med Center because of these restrictions – it wasn’t always this way. This censureship has evolved over the years I’ve been here. I represent the “old way” as opposed to the so-called new way. I am also a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church; I also pastored a church in San Francisco for 30+ yrs and dealt with the “gay-community” while living there…I’m currently collecting books & articles on the subject of proselytizing both pro and con as well as good and bad proselytizing…God bless

    Chuck McIlhenny
    Pastor, Chaplain, Grandpah

    • elmerjohnthiessen Says:

      Thank you for sharing your experiences regarding evangelism at a Medical Center. I am sure your experience is not an isolated one. Do read my book as it looks at arguments on both sides. I would very much appreciate your feedback once you have read it.
      Elmer Thiessen

  4. gospelfororthodox Says:

    Evangelism or Proselytism?
    Rev. Barkev Darakjian


  5. The Bible and a Hermeneutic of Suspicion – The Mustard Seed Kingdom Says:

    […] here to find Elmer’s blog and here for a more complete […]

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