Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Does the Social Gospel Save?

While watching Cable TV the other night a program on an inner city black church showed people of faith going out into their community to stand against drugs and violence. The actions by the members of this particular church were commendable to be sure, but in the end, what have they accomplished?

The social gospel has been preached for decades now in all kinds of churches. Protestants are standing shoulder to shoulder with Roman Catholics in Prolife demonstrations. Many Evangelicals have successfully lobbied President Bush to nominate "Originalists" to the Supreme Court. All of the many things that are being done in the Name of Christ may be fine of themselves, but what do these things have to do with men's souls?

Is making men more patriotic going to bring men to Christ? Is converting a man to the Republican party going to save his soul? Does Jesus bless men who are committed to saving babies yet have no idea what the Gospel is? To bring this question back to the Cable program, will telling men not to do drugs because it is bad for you or will telling them to stop drive-by shootings going to really solve society's ills?

I was given a link by a "channel rat" Phileas and Dr. White. This link demonstrates that those who hold to a social gospel quite often really have no gospel at all. What was surprising about one of the greatest social gospel preachers Martin Luther King Jr. is that he seemed to deny the foundation for the very thing he was doing. He was in fact a heretic.

King Jr. denied the full Deity of the Son. He denied Substitutionary Atonement (as many evangelicals do as my own interim pastor does). He denied the ability and power of God to save an elect people in Christ. Teaching that sinners are converted solely by the preaching of the Law and Gospel and the regenerating work of the Spirit is simply left in the dirt.

For many years the social gospel has had its chance. It has miserably failed as a simple glance in our churches shows. Our churches are full of unregenerated members, who are doing good works for various reasons. The Gospel may change society, but only if it is preached consistently and preached from the Biblical text.


TheFilmCritic said...
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TheFilmCritic said...

Would you say that Dr. King's denial of Christ's substitionary atonement is similar or the same as modern evangelicalism's? If so, in what way? I guess i am wondering if you were able to ask both of them would they say that they don't believe it - or would they simply subvert the actual meaning with fancy talk to retain their orthodox image?

Howard Fisher said...

Great question. I was wondering if someone would take me to task on this post.

There has always been discussions among Calvinists as to how much one has to believe in order to be considered orthodox. There are some (thank God not many) that would say if you are not a 5-Pointer, then you do not have the Gospel.

I remember not even understanding the Gospel clearly as I should have, yet I was a believer and was saved. I had no idea what the Substitutionary Atonement meant and I certainly had no idea what the doctrine of Election was. Yet, over the years as I study the Scriptures, I have strive to grow in my understanding of God's Word.

I do however think there is a point when one fully embraces Arminianism and becomes unorthodox. Most Evangelicals probably are simply inconsistent in the view of the Gospel and therefore are not really either Calvinists or Arminians. They are simply inconsistent with either view.

King as you read was not a Trinitarian. He clearly denied Substitutionary Atonement. He denied the full Deity of Christ. This throws him completely in any camp but Christian.

So to answer your original question, would many evangelicals deny substitutionary atonement as King did. They might in their answers sound like King at some points, but I think when forced to be consistent, true believers will be teachable and certainly not define the Atonement as King did.

King sounds like he had more of a Governmental approach to the atonement. Most evangelicals would have no idea what that means.

God Bless