Posted by: AJ the Irish Lass | November 11, 2009


A blogger on Revlife recently posted an entry about why scare-tactic evangelism just doesn’t work. Read more about it here and tell me what you think.


  1. There are valid points in the posting. Love and justice are both of God.

  2. The problems with Evangelization: Re-Beheading John the Baptist

    You know a perspective, while interesting, is going to be incomplete when it is based upon a false dichotomy.
    In this case the author makes an understandable category error by putting love and fear as mutually exclusive qualities or dimensions.
    Before addressing what is ultimately a pragmatic argument about evangelistic technique I want to point out that it does not take a Bible scholar to understand that all through scripture a frequent response to an encounter with God is abject fear . Let me be clear for all those folks who have heard the “fear of God really means being really impressed or awed by God” sermons. Isaiah’s comment “Woe to me, I am ruined for I am a man of unclean lips” is not properly understood “Woah! I’m impressed!” The constant refrain of angels telling people not to be afraid when they were encountered should not be translated, “don’t be so impressed, it’s just little old me.” Fear of God clearly involves being frightened.

    That said, the argument in the blog is really saying don’t warn people they are going to hell because they don’t believe in it. What that means is really, you are hoping to use fear as a motivator but it is ineffective because people don’t really believe in the scenario you are describing. I buy that. If I tell someone walking on train tracks they are going to get killed by a train and they don’t believe in trains I might be right but my argument will be unpersuasive.

    Additionally, the blog argues Christians should not say or do things that are offensive to non-Christians. There is another category error here when the blogger associates being loving with not offending. Further, the blogger bases his evaluation of the appropriateness of evangelistic method on the affective response of the non-Christian. The logic works like this. This information or communication offends me or makes me dislike Christians therefore it is bad.

    Let’s look at these ideas. I want to propose an idea that is somewhat radical but I ask you to consider it before reacting. When we say someone “feels offended” in terms of classical Christianity we mean they have felt their pride wounded. Like a Rorschach test, the experience tells us more about the person who is offended than the offender. I have a friend who didn’t go to college and got offended whenever people spoke about their college experiences. She imagined them “rubbing it in” or “thinking they are so superior”. The poor offenders had no idea she was being upset.

    So the blogger is right. If I am selling something offending someone may alienate my prospect and pitching my product in a way that is as attractive as possible to the prospect is wise.
    However, if I am not salesperson selling a lifestyle enhancing product or service, but a doctor selling lifesaving medicine – I am limited by how nuanced I can be in my sale. Do I tell the patient they are terminal? Do I use tough love with the alcoholic or do I avoid offending them?

    Unfortunately, no one can come to Christ without humility. None of us can experience conviction of sin without some compromise to our pride. We cannot accurately diagnose the human condition and protect everyone’s ego. The author is very much spot on from a pragmatic point of view. A spoonful of sugar does help the medicine go down. The more the message of the gospel feels like the messages of the world the more welcome and attractive they will be.

    Like the tough love of an intervention. You cannot rescue an addict if you take all your cues from whether or not they are happy about what you have to say. And like an intervention sometimes even from the author’s pragmatic point of view – tough love works.

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