Author Topic: Social Gospel  (Read 7436 times)

Mike Gehlhausen

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Social Gospel
« on: August 03, 2020, 09:24:22 AM »
On Thursday, Pr. Rolf Preus asked about Rep. John Lewis' description as a Christian hero.  None of us know Rep. Lewis' personal beliefs, but how he expressed them publicly especially in terms of his political career does raise questions about how Christian encouragement to help others and act rightly can sometimes overshadow and as that below here shows even deny the importance of Jesus Christ as our Savior.

Rev. Austin has written here on this thread that the recently deceased U.S. Representative John Lewis was “as great a Christian hero of our time as we will ever see.”  Lewis gave the benediction at the National Prayer Breakfast a few months ago.  He spoke to the audience as his “brothers and sisters” and said that we are a “people of faith.”  Then he added, “It does not matter whether you worship one God, many gods, or no gods.  We are all brothers and sisters.”  Later on, near the end of the benediction, he said that we must believe in one another.  We need not all believe in the same God, but we must believe in one another.

Rev. Austin, this is what I found after spending about a half an hour of my time searching the internet to find something from John Lewis that would indicate what his religion was.  I could not find anything he had said about Jesus as the Savior of sinners who died for us and rose again.  He said much about Jesus’s moral teaching, but I was not able to find anything he said about who Jesus is and what he has done to save us sinners from our sins.  You know much more about this man than I do.  Perhaps you can share with me something Lewis said that actually communicated the gospel of Jesus Christ.


This is the social Gospel; how we act is presented as more important than the God we believe in.  This brings up Two Kingdoms' theology.  How do we best work with others who believe differently to help one another while remaining true to our belief in Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation?  The day of Rep. Lewis' funeral was not a proper day to discuss that; the time may be proper now although I still believe it best not to specifically focus on Rep Lewis in discussing the matter.

Interestingly enough, while not containing a call to social action is so much of a way, NBA player Jonathan Isaac has shown us that this can be done:

One NBA player, Jonathan Isaac, is showing courage by standing up to the mob; he is not kneeling during the anthem or wearing a BLM shirt.  His thoughtful explanation during a post-game Q&A is worth consideration by us all:

Reporter:  So you didn’t kneel during the anthem, but you also didn’t wear a Black Lives Matter shirt? Uh, do you believe that black lives matter?
Isaac, who is black:   Absolutely. I believe that black lives matter. A lot went into my decision.  And part of it is, my first thought, is that kneeling while wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt don’t go hand in hand with supporting black lives.  My life has been supported through the Gospel, Jesus Christ and that everyone is made in the image of God and that we all fall short of God’s glory and that each and every one of us, each and every day do things that we shouldn’t do. And say things that we shouldn’t say. We hate and dislike people that we shouldn’t hate and dislike. Sometimes it gets to a point where we point fingers about whose evil is worse. And sometimes it comes out as whose evil is most visible. So I felt like I just wanted to take a stand on, I felt like we all make mistakes but the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that there’s grace for us. That Jesus came and died for our sins and that if we all would come to an understanding of that and understand that God wants to have a relationship with us, that we can get past skin color, we can get past all the things in our world that are messed up, jacked up. I think we need to look around. Racism isn’t the only thing that plagues our society, that plagues our nation, that plagues our world.

Here's a link to the video:  Link

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Social Gospel
« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2020, 09:45:26 AM »
We say: "Actions speak louder than words."
Jesus said: "By their fruits you will know them."
James wrote: "Faith without works is dead."
Verna Dozier in The Dream of God, writes: “The important question to ask is not, ‘What do you believe?’ but ‘What difference does it make that you believe?’ Does the world come nearer to the dream of God because of what you believe?” (p. 105)


Walter Brueggemann said something like this in a lecture: "There's no such thing as works-righteousness when you're the covenant people. They are God's people because God said so. They strive to keep the 613 commands of the Torah to show the rest of the world that they are God's people."


How we act is the witness to what we believe.
How we act proclaims our faith louder than our words.
If our faith does not influence our actions, it's a dead faith.
The gospel without social gospel is like a barren fruit tree - it's good for nothing.


Trying to make a distinction between the gospel and "social gospel" is a false dichotomy. In Jesus' parable about the sheep and the goats, nothing is said about faith; only their actions towards "the least of these." In addition, the phrase in the parable: "all the nations" is always used in Matthew of  unbelievers. (It could be translated, "all the pagans."

"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Terry W Culler

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Re: Social Gospel
« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2020, 10:31:13 AM »
The phrase "social gospel" has a distinct meaning in American theological discussions and it is impossible to divorce what went before from what is now when using the term.  For many of us the phrase signifies what Richard Niebuhr means when he described liberal theology as where a God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.  The American social gospel can legitimately be charged with ruining the faith of many thousands (maybe millions) of people
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Mike Gehlhausen

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Proclaiming The Gospel In a Pluralistic Society
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2020, 11:15:21 AM »
The phrase "social gospel" has a distinct meaning in American theological discussions and it is impossible to divorce what went before from what is now when using the term.  For many of us the phrase signifies what Richard Niebuhr means when he described liberal theology as where a God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.  The American social gospel can legitimately be charged with ruining the faith of many thousands (maybe millions) of people

Fair enough.  I doubt that I'll change the thread title, but I've changed it here.

I was struck by the contrast between Rep. Lewis' comments and Jonathan Isaac's.  We need to continue to proclaim Christ even as we proclaim mercy.  We understand that others believe differently.  We can work with them on temporal matters of care even as we continue to proclaim the truth regarding eternal matters.
« Last Edit: August 03, 2020, 03:47:41 PM by Mike Gehlhausen »

RDPreus

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Re: Social Gospel
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2020, 01:22:31 PM »
There is nothing wrong with using traditional Christian theological categories metaphorically to refer to something else.  The problem comes in when the biblical gospel is ~replaced~ by a social gospel that cannot give the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation that the biblical gospel can give.  We can speak of moral redemption, societal redemption, etc. without thereby denying redemption by the blood of the Lamb.  The question that rose in my mind when I was reading the accolades of Rep. Lewis, especially after learning that he had graduated from the seminary, was whether Lewis proclaimed the saving gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified for our sins and rose from the dead with life and immortality to give in the gospel.  I asked Rev. Austin if he could show us where Lewis actually proclaimed the Christian gospel.  He could not answer my question.  I am still waiting for someone to show me where Lewis confessed the gospel.  I'm talking about the gospel that Jonathan Isaac confessed when he said that Jesus came and died for our sins.

David Garner

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Re: Social Gospel
« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2020, 10:23:39 AM »
A friend of mine recently commented, wisely I think, that "social justice" is neither social nor just.  In broad, general terms, I tend to think the same of the so-called "social gospel."  Since "social justice" must mean societal justice, it is notable the "social justice movement" seeks not actual justice, but power. See, for example, the way in which it divides us into classes and seeks to delineate their disparate treatment, which is the opposite of what Christianity teaches.  In the same way, the so-called "social gospel" in my observation, and again speaking perhaps over-broadly since people can self-define as they wish, seeks not the application of the Gospel of Christ to society, but rather worldly improvements.  Worldly improvements are certainly worthy goals apart from the Gospel, but the problem with "social gospel" activists is they so rarely use the Gospel to bring about those improvements.  If you want evidence of this, you need only visit the websites of the mainline churches and look at their solutions.  While they certainly are couched in language of Christian morality, they too-often seek political solutions.

That is, too often, they seek imposition of power, which is emphasized more strongly than change of the human heart.  Not to the exclusion of the latter, but certainly in greater emphasis. 

I do think the same could be said of evangelical conservatism, for what it's worth.  One thing I really appreciate about the Orthodox Church is the lack of naked partisanship from the Church leadership.  You have it -- often detrimentally -- from individual Orthodox Christians, sometimes priests, and rarely bishops.  But for the most part the Church stays out of power politics and simply addresses societal issues.  Perhaps that is due to her long history of living under oppression, but I would argue that is a feature, not a bug.  We have learned to be the Church even in a world that opposes us, and so we do not feel the need to seek political power to impose the Gospel on a dying world. 
Orthodox Reader and former Lutheran (LCMS and WELS).

readselerttoo

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Re: Social Gospel
« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2020, 10:40:56 AM »
Making things right and just have to do with making things equitable.  To even out the playing field of indebtedness which most human transactions are about:  I give you something and you give me something in return.  Indebtedness means that the scales are tipped in someone’s favor.  Someone then has more than me.  Or some group possesses more rights than my group.  The indebtedness quotient goes off the charts.  This is life under the law, God’s law.  Evening out the debtor quotient is the way disputes are resolved.  The values of the so-called social “gospel” are simply matters dealt with under the law, seeking resolve through the mechanisms of the law.  It is hardly gospel in the Christian sense.

The Christian Gospel and it’s teaching are diametrically opposite to this.  Someone who knew no sin was made to be sin in our place.   Someone who was always just was made to be our injustice for us so that we might be freed from serving justice to serving the One who is always for you and never against you.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2020, 10:43:22 AM by readselerttoo »

D. Engebretson

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Re: Social Gospel
« Reply #7 on: August 04, 2020, 10:43:39 AM »
It seems to me that the "social gospel" has become more popular in mainline denominations as mission and outreach efforts, in the traditional sense of proclaiming the gospel, have waned.  It also seems like the latter occurred, in part, when the distinctiveness of Christ as the sole means of salvation was downplayed in an effort toward closer ecumenical relations with non-Christian religions.  Perhaps those more familiar with, say, the curriculum of the ELCA seminaries, could better show if there is indeed an emphasis on evangelism and mission today in their offered courses.
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

readselerttoo

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Re: Social Gospel
« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2020, 10:48:23 AM »
We say: "Actions speak louder than words."
Jesus said: "By their fruits you will know them."
James wrote: "Faith without works is dead."
Verna Dozier in The Dream of God, writes: “The important question to ask is not, ‘What do you believe?’ but ‘What difference does it make that you believe?’ Does the world come nearer to the dream of God because of what you believe?” (p. 105)


Walter Brueggemann said something like this in a lecture: "There's no such thing as works-righteousness when you're the covenant people. They are God's people because God said so. They strive to keep the 613 commands of the Torah to show the rest of the world that they are God's people."


How we act is the witness to what we believe.
How we act proclaims our faith louder than our words.
If our faith does not influence our actions, it's a dead faith.
The gospel without social gospel is like a barren fruit tree - it's good for nothing.


Trying to make a distinction between the gospel and "social gospel" is a false dichotomy. In Jesus' parable about the sheep and the goats, nothing is said about faith; only their actions towards "the least of these." In addition, the phrase in the parable: "all the nations" is always used in Matthew of  unbelievers. (It could be translated, "all the pagans."

The covenant people referenced above are the nation of Israel.  We are not that nation.  So there is a false attribution made by Brueggemann.  Secondly fruits happen when the tree is first made good.  Good trees bear good fruit.  So being and relationship are prior to actions.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2020, 10:51:24 AM by readselerttoo »

Dave Benke

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Re: Social Gospel
« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2020, 11:03:06 AM »
We say: "Actions speak louder than words."
Jesus said: "By their fruits you will know them."
James wrote: "Faith without works is dead."
Verna Dozier in The Dream of God, writes: “The important question to ask is not, ‘What do you believe?’ but ‘What difference does it make that you believe?’ Does the world come nearer to the dream of God because of what you believe?” (p. 105)


Walter Brueggemann said something like this in a lecture: "There's no such thing as works-righteousness when you're the covenant people. They are God's people because God said so. They strive to keep the 613 commands of the Torah to show the rest of the world that they are God's people."


How we act is the witness to what we believe.
How we act proclaims our faith louder than our words.
If our faith does not influence our actions, it's a dead faith.
The gospel without social gospel is like a barren fruit tree - it's good for nothing.


Trying to make a distinction between the gospel and "social gospel" is a false dichotomy. In Jesus' parable about the sheep and the goats, nothing is said about faith; only their actions towards "the least of these." In addition, the phrase in the parable: "all the nations" is always used in Matthew of  unbelievers. (It could be translated, "all the pagans."

The covenant people referenced above are the nation of Israel.  We are not that nation.  So there is a false attribution made by Brueggemann.  Secondly fruits happen when the tree is first made good.  Good trees bear good fruit.  So being and relationship are prior to actions.

On the other hand, the Epistle of James.

Dave Benke

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Re: Social Gospel
« Reply #10 on: August 04, 2020, 11:10:11 AM »
We say: "Actions speak louder than words."
Jesus said: "By their fruits you will know them."
James wrote: "Faith without works is dead."
Verna Dozier in The Dream of God, writes: “The important question to ask is not, ‘What do you believe?’ but ‘What difference does it make that you believe?’ Does the world come nearer to the dream of God because of what you believe?” (p. 105)


Walter Brueggemann said something like this in a lecture: "There's no such thing as works-righteousness when you're the covenant people. They are God's people because God said so. They strive to keep the 613 commands of the Torah to show the rest of the world that they are God's people."


How we act is the witness to what we believe.
How we act proclaims our faith louder than our words.
If our faith does not influence our actions, it's a dead faith.
The gospel without social gospel is like a barren fruit tree - it's good for nothing.


Trying to make a distinction between the gospel and "social gospel" is a false dichotomy. In Jesus' parable about the sheep and the goats, nothing is said about faith; only their actions towards "the least of these." In addition, the phrase in the parable: "all the nations" is always used in Matthew of  unbelievers. (It could be translated, "all the pagans."

The covenant people referenced above are the nation of Israel.  We are not that nation.  So there is a false attribution made by Brueggemann.  Secondly fruits happen when the tree is first made good.  Good trees bear good fruit.  So being and relationship are prior to actions.


Are we not the people of the new covenant? Thus we are now the covenant people.


Yes, being and relationship with Christ are prior to actions; but the actions witness to our being in relationship with Christ. Jesus tells us to let our lights shine (= do good works). How does the world know that we are "good trees"? By our fruits.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2020, 11:11:52 AM by Brian Stoffregen »
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

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Re: Social Gospel
« Reply #11 on: August 04, 2020, 11:13:37 AM »
We say: "Actions speak louder than words."
Jesus said: "By their fruits you will know them."
James wrote: "Faith without works is dead."
Verna Dozier in The Dream of God, writes: “The important question to ask is not, ‘What do you believe?’ but ‘What difference does it make that you believe?’ Does the world come nearer to the dream of God because of what you believe?” (p. 105)


Walter Brueggemann said something like this in a lecture: "There's no such thing as works-righteousness when you're the covenant people. They are God's people because God said so. They strive to keep the 613 commands of the Torah to show the rest of the world that they are God's people."


How we act is the witness to what we believe.
How we act proclaims our faith louder than our words.
If our faith does not influence our actions, it's a dead faith.
The gospel without social gospel is like a barren fruit tree - it's good for nothing.


Trying to make a distinction between the gospel and "social gospel" is a false dichotomy. In Jesus' parable about the sheep and the goats, nothing is said about faith; only their actions towards "the least of these." In addition, the phrase in the parable: "all the nations" is always used in Matthew of  unbelievers. (It could be translated, "all the pagans."

The covenant people referenced above are the nation of Israel.  We are not that nation.  So there is a false attribution made by Brueggemann.  Secondly fruits happen when the tree is first made good.  Good trees bear good fruit.  So being and relationship are prior to actions.

On the other hand, the Epistle of James.

Dave Benke

I recognize that the "social gospel" is NOT the Gospel of Jesus whose death and resurrection was for forgiveness, life, and salvation. I lament that some Christians have wrongly substituted one for the other.

At the same time I am not prohibited as a Christian citizen from working and voting for greater justice in our society when called to do so. An orthodox Christian is not required to be a right wing social and economic conservative.    :)

Peace, JOHN
Pr. JOHN HANNAH, STS

Terry W Culler

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Re: Social Gospel
« Reply #12 on: August 04, 2020, 11:15:53 AM »
John: Your argument above implies that social and economic conservatives are not interested in justice--some would consider that a slur
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Re: Social Gospel
« Reply #13 on: August 04, 2020, 11:28:31 AM »
Social justice depends on treating people according to a group identity, which is inherently unjust. For example, people who attack police officers in retaliation for the Floyd killing are engaged, in their minds, in social justice-- they're not attacking an individual but a representative of an oppressive group. Which is injustice in every instance. Even in warfare, where the individual is often unavoidably treated according to membership in a group, it remains injustice and is in fact a war crime to treat non-combatants as combatants or to punish innocent individuals for the deeds of other people in their group.

 

 

Mike Gehlhausen

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Re: Social Gospel
« Reply #14 on: August 04, 2020, 11:28:45 AM »
I recognize that the "social gospel" is NOT the Gospel of Jesus whose death and resurrection was for forgiveness, life, and salvation. I lament that some Christians have wrongly substituted one for the other.

At the same time I am not prohibited as a Christian citizen from working and voting for greater justice in our society when called to do so. An orthodox Christian is not required to be a right wing social and economic conservative.    :)

Peace, JOHN

I agree with this.  The Bushes' "1000 points of light" and "compassionate conservativism" appealed to me.  More liberal efforts to care for the least among us whether through government programs or privately do appeal to me.   Mercy is one of LCMS President Harrison's strongest themes, and his past career work epitomizes that.

Outside of caring for others though, I do have problems believing that an orthodox Christian is not required to be a right wing social conservative.  I agree that we are to comfort and care for those who have chosen abortion, but we do not need to become pro-choice to do so.  I agree that we are to act in love towards those in the LGBTQ+ community, but we do not need to affirm their lifestyles as God-pleasing to do so.

Perhaps you disagree with me on those positions and want to discuss that with me. Or perhaps you don't believe someone who holds these beliefs is necessarily a right wing social conservative.  My perspective is that society does believe that is right wing social conservatism.