Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Theology of the Social Gospel

The Social Gospel preached the doing of good works especially to help social problems such as crime and poverty, so that societal problems would cease. Only then would Jesus return. The notions of the social gospel appeared primarily in the United States especially among theologically liberal Protestants. The social gospel was criticized by more traditional Protestants as abandoning faith for works and not focusing on the essential matter of personal salvation.

One of the sharpest critics was Neo-Orthodox theological Reinhold Niebuhr, who in 1936 defined the assumptions of the Social Gospel in terms of six propositions:
  1. That injustice is caused by ignorance and will yield to education and greater intelligence.
  2. That civilization is becoming gradually more moral and that it is a sin to challenge either the inevitability or the efficacy of gradualness.
  3. That the character of individuals rather than social systems and arrangements is the guarantee of justice in society.
  4. That appeals to love, justice, good-will and brotherhood are bound to be efficacious in the end. If they have not been so to date we must have more appeals to love, justice, good-will and brotherhood.
  5. That goodness makes for happiness and that the increasing knowledge of this fact will overcome human selfishness and greed.
  6. That wars are stupid and can therefore only be caused by people who are more stupid than those who recognize the stupidity of war. [1]