The Social Gospel
Background on: "Let Us Rise Up And Build"
The Social Gospel Movement began in the late 19th century and as a movement, had played itself out by the time of WWI. The Social Gospel is a great example of something that started out with good intention, but lost its way. The good intentions were to emphasize the concerns of Jesus Christ for the poor, the hungry, the unfortunate, and the outcasts of society and to bring about a movement that would call attention to, and seek to solve, the social issues of the day. Most would agree that there is good in such goals. However, there were problems within the Movement. First, there was the move toward socialism which would, it was claimed, “level the playing field” so that, there would be an equalizing of the country’s wealth. Of course, full-blown socialism would “break the bank” as the rich were penalized for being successful and would pay for it all. The claim was that if the so-called “classes” of people were brought closer together on the economic plain, social evils would disappear. However, in such a system the leaders at the top live in luxury and the others are without incentives to succeed on a personal level. Second, the Social Gospel became more interested in social issues than the Great Commission – more interested in helping the poor than in saving anyone. If the hungry are fed, but left lost in sin, how have they really been helped for eternity? Third, the Social Gospel had a great influence upon the religious community and affected the theology of the churches, and the message was silenced. There was little emphasis placed upon salvation, inspiration of Scripture, and obedience to the commands of God. This resulted in what theologians called “neo-orthodoxy”, a philosophy that makes truth whatever the individual wants truth to be. All of this has influenced many in the churches of Christ who want to emphasize social issues, personal preferences, and what one wants to believe rather than biblical truth, the only thing that can make us free (Jn. 8:32). In the churches of Christ this means less and less emphasis upon preaching the gospel, biblical authority for beliefs and practices, and a hum drum approach to worship and sermons and correct doctrine. What about you? Have you set your own standard for “doing church”, decided within yourself that “playing church” is acceptable to God, and considered that being largely uninvolved with the church is equal to being a faithful Christian?
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