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Question on the Social Gospel

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  • Question on the Social Gospel

    Since my reading of the Bible indicates to me that I should have a concern for the welfare of Christians and my neighbor, I sometimes struggle with what is wrong with the social gospel.

    Do you think its fair to say its a combination of these factors:
    • Living in this world while neglecting preparing for life in Heaven
    • A belief that enough Christians working hard enough can make Heaven on Earth
    • Neglect of developing a relationship with God

    Yes, no, other?
    "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

    "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

  • #2
    Possibly what you mean by "social gospel" is discussed in this Wikipedia entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_gospel
    The greater number of laws . . . , the more thieves . . . there will be. ---- Lao-Tzu

    [T]he truth I’m after and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance -— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

    Comment


    • #3
      If I had to guess it would be that some of its proponents do not seem to spend a lot of time on the individualistic portion of the gospel. But I suspect that here we are accepting a separation of something that was not intended to be split into two parts. The gospel calls for personal repentance and living according to kingdom values. So many Christians focus on one of the two but not the other (myself included!)
      "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

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      • #4
        The Bible does not promote socialism. So that would be the major problem with it.

        Originally posted by Wikipedia
        It is likely that the Social Gospel's strong sense of leadership by the people led to women's suffrage, and that the emphasis it placed on morality led to prohibition.
        The Bible does not support women's suffrage, either, or prohibition.

        The movement applied Christian ethics to social problems, especially issues of social justice such as economic inequality, poverty, alcoholism, crime, racial tensions, slums, bad hygiene, child labor, inadequate labor unions, poor schools, and the danger of war
        Of this list of issues, the only ones that the Bible seems majorly concerned about would be alcoholism, probably the danger of war, and possibly racial tensions.

        Comment


        • #5
          William Webb argues in his modern evangelical classic Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis that the Bible sets trajectories that can lead to this kind of reform, especially in the case of women's rights. (He argues that the church long ago recognized the same on the slavery issue, but that there is no similar trajectory that leads to justifying/celebrating homosexuality.)
          "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

          Comment


          • #6
            The Bible says that women rule when a nation is cursed.

            Isaiah 3:12
            As for my people, children are their oppressors,
            and women rule over them.
            O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err,
            and destroy the way of thy paths.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Obsidian View Post
              The Bible says that women rule when a nation is cursed.

              Isaiah 3:12
              As for my people, children are their oppressors,
              and women rule over them.
              O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err,
              and destroy the way of thy paths.
              Uh, first of all, this is not a general statement, but a specific one about a specific instances. Secondly, according to biblequery.org:

              When there are stable dynasties of kings, and in times of peace kings live to an old age, and the next king usually is fairly mature. When kings are frequently captured or killed, a symptom of this instability is that women and youths often rule.
              "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

              Comment


              • #8
                I don't think it's talking about female monarchs because the Chronicles do not describe any queens during this period. Also, I doubt that the Babylonians, Assyrians, Philistines, or whoever else was oppressing them via females. I do agree that it isn't the clearest verse, though. But where in the world do you get the idea that the Bible promotes women's suffrage?

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                • #9
                  There's nothing in the Bible to suggest women's suffrage, and for that matter, there's nothing to suggest the idea of democracy. I think we're getting too bogged down on those specific aspects of what some have done in the name of the "social gospel", but the main thing that I see is that people are trying to separate faith and works, and we know what James said about that. They go hand in hand.
                  "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

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                  • #10
                    I don't even understand what you mean by that. You're saying that it promotes good works, but without faith? I think it promotes wicked works.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Obsidian View Post
                      The Bible says that women rule when a nation is cursed.

                      Isaiah 3:12
                      As for my people, children are their oppressors,
                      and women rule over them.
                      O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err,
                      and destroy the way of thy paths.
                      Just like Israel was cursed when Deborah was a judge, and in 2007 with a woman interim president, and South Korea and Brazil today, and so many times recently in San Marino. Those wretches places are so much more accursed than Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Afganistan, India, North Korea, etc.
                      I am become death...

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Obsidian View Post
                        I don't even understand what you mean by that. You're saying that it promotes good works, but without faith? I think it promotes wicked works.
                        What I'm saying is there's so much more to a "social gospel" than women's suffrage. You're just focusing on that one specific issue when there is so much more. In a country like the US, nobody would think twice about it because women already can vote. People who subscribe to it focus on other issues.
                        "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The social gospel doesn't require socialism, nor the neglect of our relationship with Christ. There is a human tendency to pick something and take it an extreme. That can be done with the social gospel just like it can be done with a focus on individual salvation.

                          Of course the original book on the social gospel involved more than social action. It was an interpretation of Jesus' teaching. Rauschenbusch was part of what today we'd call the historical Jesus movement. He looked at some of the consequences of the fact that Jesus defined the Gospel as establishing the Kingdom of God, and not just individual salvation. But he didn't see the kingdom of God as something we're going to create by secular politics, as some of his followers have done, nor did he deny the individual aspects of it. But the term became associated with an oversimplified version.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Truthseeker View Post
                            Possibly what you mean by "social gospel" is discussed in this Wikipedia entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_gospel
                            Thanks that was helpful.

                            So TODAY is social gospel just an expression to insult the mainline denominations?
                            "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

                            "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Thoughtful Monk View Post
                              Thanks that was helpful.

                              So TODAY is social gospel just an expression to insult the mainline denominations?
                              Partly. Mainline denominations definitely do have a different concept of the Gospel than conservative Protestants, and "social gospel" isn't an unreasonable way to describe it.

                              Mainline Christianity tends to use Jesus' definition of gospel, whereas conservative Protestants tend to use Paul's. For that reason, mainline Christianity tends to emphasize Jesus as establishing the kingdom of God. Not (as sometimes claimed) that we expect to establish the Kingdom by political action, but that Jesus wasn't just interested in individual salvation but the establishment of a community. That's part of what Rauschenbusch meant by "social." Many of us will say that the Church is the core of the Kingdom today. Mainline Christianity has also tended to emphasize Christians' responsibility to make a difference for others, not to the exclusion of personal salvation, but with at least as high a priority. Again, as Jesus does, though there's probably more of a concept that making a difference is often done by looking at institutions, and not just individual action. (That was, of course, one theme in the prophets.) That's another element of "social." (Catholics will see similarities to elements of recent Catholic thought.)

                              These are all things described in Rauschenbusch's book "Theology for a Social Gospel." (I strongly recommend that book for anyone interested in mainline Christianity. He's a great writer, and it's a key book.) The problem isn't the use of the term social Gospel, but how it's described. It tends to be used as an insult based on a misrepresentation of what it means.

                              It's worth noting that many evangelicals have begun to adopt these themes, though I'm not sure whether they've connected it with the early 20th Cent pioneers of liberal Christianity.

                              I'm one that thinks "liberal" shouldn't be an insult. There's a substantial liberal tradition going back to the late 19th Cent. I don't agree with all of it (largely because I think they were overreacting to critical scholarship, being overly pessimistic about our ability to know what Jesus really taught), but it's still important not to lose our history. Not all of that loss is due to conservatives. Karl Barth was arguably the most influential theologian of the 20th Cent. He set about to destroy the reputation of liberal Christianity, and is one of the major creators of the myth that liberal Christianity was simply giving into the world. He did this because he saw the surrender of Christianity to the Nazis as due to the liberalism of German Christianity. I don't know whether he was right, but the way the liberal Church developed in Germany wasn't necessarily the same as in the US and elsewhere, and it's simply not fair to misrepresent a major part of the Protestant heritage. (Rauschenbusch and mainline Christianity in the US wasn't quite the same as the German liberal tradition anyway.)

                              Today's mainline combines elements of a number of 20th Cent developments: both wings of 19th Cent liberal Christianity, the social gospel, Barth, and the historical Jesus movement. However different people balance the themes differently. I tend to emphasize historical Jesus studies, because for me it's a high priority to base Christianity on what Jesus actually taught. But I find that the social Gospel as Rauschenbusch described it is actually a reasonable attempt to interpret that in an early 20th Cent context.
                              Last edited by hedrick; 07-06-2014, 10:11 PM.

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