Friday, May 11, 2007

The Social Gospel, Another Gospel

The Opinion Journal has posted an interesting article on the 100th Anniversary of the publication of Christianity and the Social Crisis, an influential book by Walter Rauschenbusch that pushed the social gospel.

I’ve always had contempt for the social gospel. Francis Schaeffer called it “another gospel,” and he was right. At the least, it has always distracted from the real Gospel. More often, it has opposed the Gospel.

And, sure enough, even back in 1907, that was the case.

It is hard to see, though, how Rauschenbusch's theology could be called Christian in any meaningful sense of the term. It required no repentance or atonement and carried no fear of judgment or bracing hope of eternal life. He famously denied the doctrine of Christ's Second Coming--with its promise of perfect justice and enduring mercy.

But do Rauschenbusch’s errors discourage the usual suspects from praising his handiwork? Nah.

The centennial edition of "Christianity and the Social Crisis"--just published by HarperSanFrancisco--includes essays from various liberal and progressive admirers. Tony Campolo, a left-leaning evangelical, praises Rauschenbusch's "holistic gospel" for offering both eternal life and dramatic changes in the social order. Stanley Hauerwas calls him "an evangelist of the Kingdom of God." Jim Wallis likewise lauds Rauschenbusch's "Christian social ethic" as an "eloquent and necessary corrective" to privatized faith.

As for what I think . . . heck, let’s see what St. Paul thinks.

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
Galatians 1:8,9

Hat tip to Stand Firm.

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