Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Evangelization Vs. Prsosyletization

[13] "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.
[14] [15] Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. Matthew 23:13-15 (ESV)

“For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte.” It’s odd to me, Judaism had to be different in those days. I don’t hear of converts to Judaism these days. I don’t see any proselytizing for Judaism happening either. I talked to a Jew the other day, we joked a bit about the 3 foot by 3 foot kosher section at Albertsons as an indicator of the size of the Jewish community in Tooele. It is his understanding that you aren’t a Jew unless your Mother is a Jew. I’m always curious as to when that change happened and why, as in the OT, the Jewish faith is very patriarchal.
Proselytism is controversial today. Christians call it evangelization. Funny though, it rarely is evangelization they engage in, but proselytism. Evangelism would give you the impression that it has something to do with the evangel, the gospel. But most “evangelization” efforts I’ve been exposed to were nothing but law oriented. Evangelization, would be what J.K. Rowling did with her Harry Potter Books, and Movies. I admit, I only watched the movies. But wow, I did not see that coming. She actually has done for our generation what C.S. Lewis did with Narnia. Worked the whole idea of the gospel, the resurrection and victory over death into a fictional narrative, what Tolkien called the eucatastrophy. I didn’t see it coming, but then I’m a literary dolt. Really, I only wish I could understand all the nooks and crannies of literary theory and dissect the meaning from a Shakespearean play. I read Hemingway novels, and find them enjoyable. I remember sitting with a professor of English who had his PHD in Hemingway for an hour and a half and being marveled at the connections I’d missed. “Old Man and the Sea” I was made aware is also a resurrection story, a Christ story, a telling of the eucatastrophy.
But that is evangelism, telling the story, and bringing out it’s importance for ones own life, applying it to the life of the individual. The gospel is about communicating the forgiveness of sins won by Jesus Christ with his death and resurrection. Prosyletizing is getting in a moral pissing match with your neighbor, over whose ethic is better. When you go about arguing whether or not polygamy is a good idea or not, you are not evangelizing. When you spend a half an hour telling another person why they shouldn’t engage in extramarital sex, or abstain from drinking, quit smoking, and how Christ can help you with that you are at best prosyletizing, and even making another twice a child of hell as you. Not that there isn’t a place for communicating Christian morals, but first make sure they are morals Christ, who made wine for drunk Jews as his first miracle, would be communicating. And then realize that the morals are not what makes Christianity Christianity. Christians adopt these morals for one reason, and one reason only, to thereby communicate the love of Christ to their neighbor, Christ, who forgives sins. But the reason for the morals is what makes Christianity Christianity. The Christian life is a forgiven life. It is being forgiven that you enter into the kingdom, it is forgiving others, especially those looking for forgiveness that you allow others to enter it.

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