We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Social Gospel

The January 2009 issue of the Jews for Jesus newsletter has an article by David Brickner about the “Social Gospel.” This movement by the likes of Rick Warren and his ilk is nothing new, as Brickner points out. Here is an excerpt from the article that I think sums it up:

Why was it, and why is it popular to blend evangelism with social action? Can’t each stand on its own merits? Some believe it is necessary to combine them in order to gain an entrĂ©e for the gospel, or to earn respect from those who think Christians don’t care about social concerns. The problem is, since social action is far more acceptable to unbelievers than attempts to point them to Jesus, it is easy to convince ourselves that our social actions will speak volumes about our faith. And people will want to know more about Christ, some insist, without our having to offend them by talking about sin and the Savior.

We all prefer appreciation to rejection - I know I certainly do. And isn’t it wonderful that some of the things God commands us to do may lead people to appreciate us? But if we try to blend that which people usually appreciate with that which they often reject, we should not be surprised to find ourselves giving precedence to the former at the expense of the latter. That’s how many “missions” programs minimize the difficult doctrine of the uniqueness of Christ for salvation, undermining the gospel message and rendering it essentially powerless. Hence the phrase “social gospel” implies a lot of social, but not much gospel.

Rick Warren, are you listening?

3 comments:

Marie said...

Glenn,

Thanks for this, and the insightful quotes. This is a "balance" I can say I struggle with, having come out of a "social gospel" church where Heifer Project and Habitat for Humanity qualified as "missions". They didn't just water down the Gospel, they eliminated it.

OTOH, I have a lot of respect for ministries that DO evangelism and discipleship, but combine it with feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, so to speak. That's why the missions I focus on in my blog (many of them in poorer countries) have to meet both criteria. This care towards the most vulnerable members of society is important - it's a big part of God's heart, and a command to us - but we do them a grave dis-service if we don't lead them to the Savior. I'm glad to see the issue of how easy it is to compromise the Gospel when busy doing good addressed so bluntly.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

The best way to judge whether it is the social gospel or a part of Christian outreach would be this: Are they well fed, clothed, housed, and taken care of in every way but still on their way to hell? Then it's a social gospel. Most of those, like Warren, who do the social gospel do not want to "offend" by including the Gospel. But if we've left them without the Gospel, we've done them no good no matter how much better off they are materialy.

As you perfectly express, the missions you report about on your blog are doing the job right.

Marie said...

"Feeding a man without sharing the Gospel with him is like giving a sandwich to a man on his way to the electric chair. ......it is making someone more comfortable on his way to hell."

-- K.P. Yohannen, founder of Gospel for Asia