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Social Gospel.

Teaching of a soc. salvation whose objective is rebirth of soc. through change of the soc. order by mass or group action. Tries to persuade individuals to practice the social* ethics of Jesus. Makes little or no reference to reconciliation with God through Christ and to the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit. For many it is essentially a this-worldly gospel of works, not a Gospel of grace for this life and heaven. The term “Social Gospel” is inadequate, since it is hard to separate “soc.” from “individual” gospel when applied to Christian life.

The Soc. Gospel movement, influenced by F. D. E. Schleiermacher,* A. B. Ritschl,* and K. G. A. v. Harnack,* came into prominence in the US in the 1870s, declined after WW I, perhaps affected adversely also by the Great Depression (began in the late 1920s, lasted far into the 1930s). Exponents include H. E. Fosdick,* W. Gladden,* E. S. Jones,* S. Mathews,* W. Rauschenbusch,* C. M. Sheldon.* The Soc. Creed of the FCCCA was an adaptation and expansion of the Soc. Creed of Methodism (see Methodist Churches, 2). The Soc. Gospel flourished esp. among Methodists, Baptists, Congregationalists, Unitarians, and Episcopalians.

Critics of the Soc. Gospel see in it an idealistic, purely humanitarian, falsely optimistic, utopian and pacifistic, soc. reformist movement not essentially Christian (since it bypasses essential elements of Christian doctrine and life). JD

See also Bellamy, Edward; Modernism, 3.

E. Troeltsch, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches, 2 vols., tr. O. Wyon (London, 1931); C. H. Hopkins, The Rise of the Social Gospel in American Protestantism 1865–1915 (New Haven, Connecticut, 1940); W. A. Visser 't Hooft, The Background of the Social Gospel in America (Haarlem, Neth., 1928); F. E. Johnson, The Social Gospel Reexamined, 3d ed. (New York, 1940); H. P. Douglass and E. de S. Brunner, The Protestant Church as a Social Institution (New York, 1935); H. R. Niebuhr, The Social Sources of Denominationalism (New York, 1929); J. N. Hughley, Trends in Protestant Social Idealism (New York, 1948); The Hartwick Seminary Conference on the Social Mission of the Lutheran Church (Princeton, New Jersey, 1944); C. C. Morrison, The Social Gospel and the Christian Cultus (New York, 1933); E. E. Fischer, Social Problems: The Christian Solution (Philadelphia, 1927); A. Cronbach, The Bible and Our Social Outlook (Cincinnati, Ohio, 1941); R. T. Handy, The Social Gospel in America 1870–1920 (New York, 1966); P. A. Carter, The Decline and Revival of the Social Gospel [enl. ed.] (Hamden, Connecticut, 1971).

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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