The Social Gospel

May 21, 2007

Is there more than one Gospel? Does a “social gospel” exist, and if so, what is it’s message? At it’s base, a social gospel would take Christian principles and apply them to social problems. Many would view Jesse Jackson as a social gospel advocate. At the same time, Jerry Falwell could be viewed as a social gospel advocate. He was simply advocating different things than that of Jackson. Falwell took issues (social issues) such as abortion and homosexuality and made them political. Jackson has done the same thing for poverty and equal rights.

Timmy Brister recently wrote a post on his site, Provocations & Pantings, asking for opinions about socio-political priorities for evangelicals. As one can imagine, abortion (or the sanctity of life in general) topped the list. Here are a couple of quotes from the comments:

There is no greater evil in our country than the slaughter of millions of pre-born children.Most serious in America – abortion. Globally – terrorism and nukes.

And my favorite:

I think the issues of life (abortion, euthanasia, genocide, etc.) are the most vital issues of the day, and will remian to be. I find it strangely ironic that we have people consumed with saving the lives of people thousands of miles away, and stopping genocides across the world, when we neglect the fact that millions of children are being brutally murdered right under our noses.
Any sort of outcry for mercy and justice that denies the fact that abortion is both unmerciful and unjust, and that ignoring it is neither merciful or just, just rings hollow to me. (Do you hear that Jim Wallis?)
It’s hard for me to take people seriously who call us to save children in Africa when those same people ignore the millions killed hear…or rather endorse it.

First of all, there are greater evils in America today than abortion. You could make abortion illegal tomorrow, and you’ll still have untold millions that live this life, and die, without a relationship with a Savior. They will undoubtedly spend and eternity separated from Christ. That’s a greater evil. Secondly, I’m not ignoring or endorsing abortion. It exists. It’s a problem. But the solution is not to make it illegal.

A government, any government, will never be able to successfully legislate morality. More than 30 years ago Jerry Falwell established the Moral Majority. And for 30 years the Moral Majority attempted to legislate morality, especially regarding homosexuality and abortion. What are the fruits – abortion is still legal and some states have started to accept civil unions for homosexuals.

Through the Edict of Milan in AD 313 Constantine announced toleration of Christianity. This removed penalties and persecution for professing Christianity. From Wikipedia:

The reign of Constantine established a precedent for the position of the Christian Emperor in the Church; Constantine considered himself responsible to God for the spiritual health of his subjects, and thus he had a duty to maintain orthodoxy. For Constantine, the emperor did not decide doctrine – that was the responsibility of the bishops – rather his role was to enforce doctrine, root out heresy, and uphold ecclesiastical unity. The emperor ensured that God was properly worshipped in his empire; what proper worship consisted of was for the Church to determine.

By AD 476 the Roman Empire had fallen. Government can not effectively legislate morality. So why do we continue to waste our time? The same individuals that made comments on Brister’s post that abortion was the number one socio-political issue of our day also admitted that, by and large, they were doing nothing to help the poor, overcome oppression, and fight injustice. Why is this? Why do we insist on legislating morality while ignoring the orphans and widows. Helping the poor, overcoming oppression, and fighting injustice are tangible things that we can do today to impact a lost world for Jesus Christ.

Dr. Mohler has just written a post about several articles appearing in major newspapers regarding selective reduction (i.e. abortion). Toward the end of the post Dr. Mohler makes the following point:

The cold, clinical, calculating nature of the decisions reported by Liza Mundy takes us to the heart of the human problem. The essence of sin is the ambition to be as God.

I agree with Dr. Mohler that the nature of the decisions made by these women is the heart of the human problem…sin. But I disagree that the sin is the ambition to be as God. I believe that it’s ultimately the lack of knowledge (ignorance) of a saving God. To impact the morality of a society we must impact the individuals that make up that society. The only life changing impact that can change the course of a culture is that of Jesus. There is no social gospel. There is THE gospel. That Christ came as a sacrifice for the sin of mankind, that He desires to have a relationship with His creation. Only through this relationship will society be changed.

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