Veritas Forum at Harvard University
Imago Dei / Image of God
EVANGELISM vs. PROSELYTISM
It’s quite an interesting debate as to what the difference is between “to evangelize” and “to proselytize”.
But I think you can find it in three things.
One, is in our MOTIVES. The motives of evangelism are good motives, they are seeking the glory of Christ, that he should be given the honor that is due to him. In proselytism, our motives are often false; we are triumphalistic; we’re wanting glory to our church, to ourselves, to our denomination, to our agency, whatever it may be. And it’s when motives are skewed that evangelism becomes proselytism.
Secondly, it’s the question of METHODS. What method do we use in evangelism? Now, whenever you’re using any kind of inducement, if you’re offering, say, in the Third World, you’re offering to feed the hungry IF they will accept Christ. That is FALSE inducement.
Or, if you’re using psychological pressure techniques, even warning people, you know, they’re going to hell if they don’t. You can even twist that into our psychological pressure technique. That’s a false method.
Our only method is to make known the good news as honestly, fully, acceptably as we possibly can, and commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
That we reject all underhand and disgraceful ways.
So, our methods are different, our motives are different. Maybe I will add athird: our MESSAGE is different. In proselytism, you’re speaking AGAINST other religions, AGAINST other ideology. In evangelism, you’re only speaking for Jesus Christ and uplifting Him.
What is "liberation theology"?
...no Christian can have any, or should have any difficulty with the concept that God wants human being to be free. Andwhatever is oppressing them from that, we should seek their liberation.
The idea of the liberation of human beings from political, economics, social, personal, moral degradation and oppression—that we should seek their liberation is part of the gospel. Of course we want human beings, made in the image of God, to be liberated from anything that dehumanizes them. We want them to be authentic human beings. They can’t be if they are oppressed.
So to liberate them from dehumanizing influences so that they become more human is a desire that all Christian people should have.
Now our problems with the liberation theologians, particularly in Latin America, is, I think, first that they tended to confuse that liberation with what the New Testament means by salvation. And they are not identical things; they are two different things.
Secondly, that they tended to use Marxist, socialist analysis to explain the oppression under which people are laboring and suffering, which may be true but may not. But it’s a pity, I think, to baptize any political ideology into Christ as they’ve baptized Marxism into Christ.
And thirdly, they tended—again, I’m generalizing—they tended toespouse violence, that the only way to secure this liberation of the poor and the oppressed was not an evolution, not reform, but revolution.
So those are the three reasons I have question marks about themwhile applauding their commitment to human liberation.