The Scandal of Evangelism: A Biblical Study of the Ethics of Evangelism

This book has just been released under the Cascade label of Wipf and Stock (May, 2018).

In today’s multi-cultural and multi-religious world, evangelism is often viewed as scandalous, not only by those who are opposed to anything religious, but also by many Christians. In this book, I provide a response to those who find most or even all Christian evangelism objectionable. I do this through a careful analysis of what the bible says about the ethics of evangelism. From this inductive study, mainly of the New Testament, I propose 30 guidelines for ethical evangelism. Part II examines some specific contexts that pose unique challenges for doing evangelism ethically — evangelism of children, evangelism within a professional context like the secular academy, evangelism within the context of relief and development work, and finally the problem of proselytism, understood in the special and narrow sense of sheep-stealing.

This book is a sequel to my earlier work, The Ethics of Evangelism (Paternoster and IVP, 2011), written for a broader readership. In this earlier book, I suggested that each religion engaging in evangelism needs to develop a code of ethics for evangelism from within its own religious framework. Hence, The Scandal of Evangelism, written from an explicitly Christian perspective. I am hoping that it will become an indispensable guide for an ethical approach to proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction:
Chapter 2: An Approach to Biblical Ethics and the Ethics of Evangelism

Part I: Ethics of Evangelism in the New Testament:
Chapter 3: The Gospels and Jesus
Chapter 4: Acts and the Apostles
Chapter 5: Paul’s Epistles
Chapter 6: General Epistles and Revelation
Chapter 7: Summary of Biblical analysis of Guidelines for Ethical Evangelism
A. Foundational Guidelines; B. Guidelines Relating to the Interface between the Human and the Divine; C. Guidelines Relating to Freedom and Coercion; D. Guidelines Regarding the Content of Evangelism; E. Guidelines Regarding the Delivery of Content and Persuasion; F. Relational Guidelines: G. Guidelines for Responding to Resistance and Rejection; H. Motivational Guidelines; I. Guidelines Concerning Means, Ends, and Success.

Part II: Applied Topics
Chapter 8: Evangelism of Children
Chapter 9. Evangelism in Professional Life: the Academy
Chapter 10: Evangelism and Humanitarian Aid
Chapter 11: Ethics of Proselytism (understood as sheep-stealing)

Chapter 12: Conclusion

“Since the publication of the document “Christian Witness in a Multi-religious World: Recommendations for Conduct,” published in 2011, world Christianity has been waiting for this book: a detailed discussion of the major questions involved. Elmer Thiessen’s biblical study of the ethics of evangelism provides such discussion, and the result is superb. Thoroughly considered for years, taking up the relevant international discussion, and tested in discussions with the highest level of representatives of the major branches of Christianity, The Scandal of Evangelism is a compendium of the major problems and questions involved. Both friends and foes of evangelism have much to learn here. This book will open a new chapter in the discussion.”

—Thomas Schirrmacher, Professor of the Sociology of Religion, University of the West Timisoara, Romania

“In a world awash with political correctness, Thiessen rehabilitates the art of committed dialogue and inspired persuasion as essential to human flourishing. His careful analysis of New Testament teaching and his discussion of contemporary contexts suggest a positive future for ethically practiced evangelism—more gift than goading, more mutual discovery than manipulative diatribe. Thiessen is clear, helpful, and hopeful.”

—Mark Oxbrow, International Director, Faith2Share

“In The Scandal of Evangelism Professor Thiessen sets out and develops a biblical and theological basis for explicitly ethical forms of evangelism that are modelled on the beliefs, values, examples, and practices of the early church as recorded in the New Testament. . . . This is an excellent book that all interested in Christian mission, broadly conceived, should read. It is a book that shows us how to engage in evangelism in ways that respect the dignity of others, while preserving the truth and integrity of Christian faith.”

—L. Philip Barnes, Emeritus Reader in Religious and Theological Education, King’s College, London

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