April 24th, 2008

A Pocket Full of Murder

Is Conversion Coersion?

Got this link from wittingshire a couple of weeks ago, and thought it an essay worth recommending:

When Others Pray For Your Conversion

To take the ideas in that article a little further -- my brother recently remarked that evangelical Christianity, if it is truly evangelical, is not a fearsome enemy of non-believers but rather the best friend that (say) a secular liberal person could wish for. Because, he said, a Biblical approach to evangelism demands that the Christian maintain an open and respectful dialogue with non-believers -- and never treat them as a lost cause, or as the enemy.

The good news about Jesus Christ cannot be imposed or enforced, either on individuals or on nations; it has to be sincerely understood and received by individuals of their own free will and in response to the Holy Spirit of God working in their conscience -- things that no external influence can compel. Therefore any Christian who claims to be "winning souls" by means of threats or bullying tactics, making false promises or offering bribes, withholding sticky facts or suppressing honest questions, or otherwise distorting the Biblical message is disobeying Christ's teachings and example. Rather, the Christian is to share the message of salvation through Christ freely, but always to do so "with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience," as the apostle Peter wrote.

The danger that many secular liberals and other non-Christians fear arises when people who claim to be Christians behave in un-Christlike ways, attempting to force legalistic standards of righteousness on those who do not believe -- but a Christian who truly follows Christ's example and teaching will not side with such people, but rather against them.