Thursday, November 29, 2018

The ethics of evangelism

1. For unbelievers, the death of missionary John Chau is a reductio ad absurdum of Christian theology. Many atheists have no firsthand knowledge of the Bible. Lack a rudimentary grasp of systematic theology. Would be shocked to discover there are intelligent arguments for Christianity. 

2. Chau was attempting to give the tribe an alternative. It's not as if atheists are opposed to challenging what people believe and providing an alternative. Think of all the books, blogs, podcasts, &c., by evangelists for atheism, devoted to talking Christians out of their faith. So they can't consistently object to the general principle. 

3. Consider a polygamist compound in which the cult leader warns his followers about the outside world. Cult members born in the compound have never seen the outside world, hidden behind the high walls of the compound. They've been told it's fatal to step outside the compound. Unspeakable horrors lurk on the other side! 

Suppose debunkers drop iPads onto the grounds of the compound, giving members a chance to see what the outside world is really like. Giving them an alternative vision. An alternative narrative. There's nothing wrong with that, is there? 

4. In addition, many atheists contend that you make your own meaning. Nothing has objective value or ultimate purpose, so it's up to each individual to find out what's important to him. But by that logic, they can't condemn Chau. Even if atheists think Christian evangelism is a fool's errand, they're in no position to judge what makes his life fulfilling. 

What about atheists like Koestler, Hemingway, and Orwell who inserted themselves into the Spanish Civil War. Isn't that foolhardy? Or Byron, who inserted himself into the Greek Revolution? 

What about all the people who O.D. on drugs. That's a dumb way to die, but atheists don't castigate people who die that way. 

What about other people who indulge in high-risk behavior, like homosexuals? Atheists don't condemn their reckless behavior.  

5. There are at least two kinds of metaphors we can use to illustrate the mandate to evangelize. One kind involves protective metaphors. Suppose I intervene so that someone who's high on drugs won't accidentally kill himself. Or should I do nothing? 

6. Another kind involves generosity. Suppose I have a life-threatening illness, but I have the antidote. Suppose another patient has the same illness, but I don't share the antidote with him, even though there's enough for both? 

Should Christians sit on the promise of eternal life, keeping it a secret, or do they have a duty to share that with others? 

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