Semantic Hair-Splitting?

February 07, 2006

Here is an article about the pending lawsuit against the Air Force Academy about claims of proselytizing by chaplains: Government argues Air Force religion lawsuit must be dismissed. The government is attempting to have the lawsuit dismissed by arguing there is a difference between proselytizing and evangelism.

The government claims that the lawsuit only used part of a quotation by Brig. Gen. Cecil R. Richardson. He is quoted in the lawsuit as saying, "We will not proselytize, but we reserve the right to evangelize the unchurched.” The government argues that Richardson went on to explain his comment. The government claims, “The distinction, he said, is that proselytizing is trying to convert someone in an aggressive way, while evangelizing is more gently sharing the gospel."


Is there really a difference between the two terms? Both are attempts to convert someone. This could simply be viewed as legal hair-splitting or semantic games. However, if we accept these definitions then all Christians should commit to only attempt to evangelize and never proselytize. We should always gently share the Gospel and never aggressively. It would be great to see the definitions for all terms about attempting to convert people to be free of the word "aggressive."

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