Socialist Savior: TRUE or FALSE?

Posted by Gabriel (G²) on October 20, 2007

In case no one caught it, the title of the thread was meant to display what is a MAJOR HOTBUTTON issue within Christianity…..& that issue is SOCIALISM/THE SOCIAL GOSPEL.  Many people may not know about it, but you’ve probably seen it more often that not. Whether it be in Organizations like “The Salvation Army” or others seeking to provide material goods to those who are destitute, the Social Gospel has influcneced MUCH OF OUR NATION ALREADY.

To be more specific,

The Social Gospel was a movement in the early twentieth century with a profound impact on churches and nonprofit organizations to the present day. Developing from mainline Protestant denominations from Baptist to Episcopal, it believed that Christians should work to improve social conditions for the poor, the sick and the downtrodden. Inspired by the miracles of Jesus and his Sermon on the Mount, it believed that the Kingdom of God would appear on earth, and that the faithful should work to achieve it.

Walter Rauschenbasch, a Baptist minister, was a prominent leader. As a young man, he worked in the slums of New York City known as Hell’s Kitchen and came to believe it was more important to heal, comfort, and educated the living than to save souls for eternity. Rauschenbasch felt that if Jesus were living there he would do this, just as he healed the sick and the blind 19 centuries before in Palestine. The Social Gospel maintained this was the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer phrase “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.” Bringing salvation on earth was a stage in Christian development appropriate for the time, just as earlier the stage was evangelizing. Adherents argued that humans were inherently good, not sinful, and that improving social conditions would prepare the way for the Second Coming of Christ. Americans were a Chosen People, like the ancient Hebrews. In addition to helping people directly, the Social Gospel was concerned with influencing government policy.

Although the terminology fell into disfavor 80 years ago, the Social Gospel continues its influence.


The Salvation Army, for all its good deeds, is a product of Social Gospel. Helping the poor, helping in natural disasters, soup kitchens, etc. These type organizations see sin and salvation as social rather than individual. Social Gospel for the most part embraced liberal theology.

Wikipedia has an interesting definition of Social Gospel

Are we making Christ our top priority and giving because He does and saying that is why we are giving? Or are we giving because we are considerate and kind and never mentioning our actions are because we know Christ and want to tell them it is because of what He has done for us? In the same encounter with a person, or people, are we exposing someone to Jesus Christ and telling them why we take such actions or are we just doing a good deed? If we are….then we are following a social gospel and not Christ.

James 2:14-17

James 2:20-26

Faith in Christ promotes a Christian to good deeds.

That said, there are many views on the Subject. For example, consider the words of an individual I listened to during a debate on the issue:

  Was Jesus a Socialist: Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler

Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler _
Jesus said to him, If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in Heaven. And come, follow Me.
Matt 19:21

Then Jesus, beholding him, loved him and said to him, One thing you lack.Go, sell whatever you have and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in Heaven. And come, take up the cross and follow Me.
Mark 10:21

And when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, Yet you lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you shall have treasure in Heaven. And come, follow Me.
Luke 18:22

Today we read about the story of when the rich young ruler came to ask Jesus about how he might inherit eternal life. The New Testament gospels mentions this 3 times in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Here we also see the Trinity where Matthew has a Jewish/Mosiac-Law perspective (Father); while Mark’s focuses on the sufferings during Christ’s earthly ministry (Son); and Luke’s shows a Gentile perspective (Holy Spirit poured out on all flesh). In all three gospel accounts we find a call to follow Jesus, by selling all that we have and giving to the poor for us to have this treasure in heaven. In every age of God’s Project of Salvation for mankind, these truths have remain unchanged. Our eternal life is this treasure – yet there is much opinion out there as to what it means to sell and to give in order to follow Him. Many today in Christianity are not defined on what it truely means to be poor. When we consider what each gospel represents, as well as the fine details that make each of these 3 accounts different from one another, we begin to see that it transcends religious materialistic presumptions and enters the prophetic and Spiritual.

In the gospel of Matthew we see the overall theme of Jesus Christ as our King of Kings. Indeed we serve a Heavenly King, rather than an earthly one. Today religious Christianity serves society and the rights of the people. In fact this is what the name Laodocia means literally: the rights of the people (Greek 2993 – λαοδίκεια – Laodikeia: from a compound of G2992 and G1349). Laodocia was a presumptuous Church that Jesus had nothing good to say about in Revelation chapter 3. A place where people are their own masters, and kings of their own lives – serving their own interests. Such people are described with the example of this young rich ruler, spoken of in this account. This man was in fact a materially rich young ruler – the indeed the king of his own life, serving his own interests – hoping to justify himself by his own merits for perfection. In this gospel Jesus says “If you want to be perfect..” and goes on to describe what to do. In the end the young man’s true love is revealed, and he goes away sad. This raises an important question for ourselves: do we want to be perfect, or is it just religious words and a concept we agree with on a detached intellectual level? In order to be perfected, we must serve our King of Kings and His interests. This must be our want, our need.

In the gospel of Mark describes Jesus as a suffering servant. It is in this gospel that He says for us to take up the cross. Jesus died on the cross after carrying for a great distance in agony for us, and 3 days later rose to new life. The scriptures teach that our lives ought to imitate His. We must die to our own flesh, and seek to live in sanctification. We too will experience much suffering at times because our sinful flesh is at war against the Spirit who works inside us. There is no reason for us ever to be taking pleasure in sin. We groan inwardly awaiting the Lord’s return so we can be free of these temptations, and mortal pains. It’s also uniquely mentioned here how Jesus was beholding (or “looking at”) this young man, and loved him, prior to answering his question about what he still lacked. We must allow Jesus to look at every corner of our heart. To search us, and try us, to see if there be any wicked way in us, so that his love might abide in our hearts (this was David’s prayer in fact – Psalm 139:23-24). We must seek Him to find out what we still lack, what darkness remains. We cannot mix darkness with light (2 Cor 6:14). We must die to the flesh daily (1 Cor 15:31) – which at times can be very difficult – yet there is hope in Jesus Christ (Rom 7:14-25). Never the less, we press on, fighting the good fight, knowing victory through Christ is already been assured (Rom 8:31-39; 1 Cor 15:57). We must be cleansed by His Blood to be a channel of blessing – reminding us that salvation is a process.

The gospel of Luke describes Jesus Christ as the perfect man, who lived a sinless life. How was He able to do this? Jesus suffered the same trails we suffer daily with temptation – He was fully God and fully man. This is why Jesus was constantly in prayer, fasting often – He was showing us that the means of grace (pleading for the Blood of Jesus, fasting, early dawn, etc) are the means to maintaining the blessing and fellowship with the Father.

Jesus Christ prayed with all His might and being – and so should we. He cried out to the Father. How about us? Are we speaking to the Father in Jesus name, so He can hear us? In this account we are told that Jesus “heard these things” the young man was saying, before Jesus Christ answered. Further more we ought to be listening for His answer, and waiting on the Lord patiently. His answer often comes at a later time when we least expect it. One time Jesus met His disciples, while walking over a stormy Sea of Galiee at night, at a time when they least expected. So too Jesus Christ comes to us at a time we least expect, both for victory and also in His return. We must remain awake and in prayer with Him as He exhorted John, Peter and James in Gethsemene. Finally the exhortation to give is a little different here in this gospel. Instead of saying give (Greek 1325 – διìδωμι – didōmi), Jesus says to distribute (Greek 1239 – διαδιìδωμι – diadidōmi: to give throughout a crowd, that is, deal out; also to deliver over (as to a successor): – (make) distribute (-ion), divide, give.) Jesus wants many to hear our testimony, and for us to give them something to eat from His table – reminding us of the act of salvation, that first moment we came to believe. This wasn’t a call to favor socialism over capitalism (both human inventions, both systems having good and bad points, which ultimately divides people.) This was a call to evangelise and unite those outside the Body of Christ, into this Body where we live as One in Christ through His Blood – His Holy Spirit. Even the God breathed Mosiac Law could not be kept, without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The law is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

…And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the Word of God with boldnessgreat grace was on them all. For neither was anyone needy among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and they laid them down at the apostles’ feet. And distribution was made to every man according as he had need.

Act 4:31-35

Finally the gospel of John is silent on this account. Yet we know that this gospel speaks as Jesus as the Son of God and as God. God is in heaven, where our reward is. This account in all 3 examples mentions how there is “treasure in heaven“. So too such reward awaits those who are sons of God, those whom are born of the Spirit. No religion can offer this. Those who treat Christianity as a religion of humanism and not a personal relationship with the Father as SONS, do not preceive this. Religion does follow Jesus our King, nor can they give what the soul needs, nor are their earthly schemes heard. This was not a call to spread a social gospel – providing material goods to the materially poor – but rather to the Spiritually poor. What value is there in material charity without the good news being spoken? There is certainly a time and a place to give materially, but it can never become the primary mandate of the Faithful Church who has been called to be fishers of men (Matt 4:18-19). Where we no longer beg for alms (Acts 3:2-10), but are taught how to fish (Luke 5:1-10), where to throw the net (John 21:6): how to evangelise, so that many can be saved. Furthermore, what about those materially rich who do not know Jesus? We cannot write a cheque to make our guilty concience go away. No we must follow Jesus, and sell all that we have in exchange for His grace, so that we might give to those truely poor a word of hope for their hearts.

who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

Matt 13:46

Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. You have received freely, freely give.

Matt 10:8

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
1 Cor 15:19

Now, in reading that, I felt that the author had many solid points. However, I think it’d IMPORTANT to note that the social gospel is an inextricable component of the Gospel, as proclaimed by the Prophets, Christ, John the Baptist, Paul, James the brother of Jesus, and John. Just look up verses about giving to the poor, and the like, and you will find an inordinate amount. It IS good news (i.e. the Gospel) to be freed from the bonds of Poverty, here and now. Christ did not JUST bring eternal life, but the Way, the Truth, and the Life to change the World.

When Christians only look at the eternal, post-mortem aspect of the Gospel, they commit an ancient heresy: Gnosticism. They deny the world and live only for the Future life.  The Gnostic worldview claims that the material is inherently, and completely corrupt, created by a lesser, evil god. The Spiritual realm is perfect and complete. Gnosticism has its roots in both Manicheanism and Zoroastrianism, both of which have anti-material and pro-spiritual views.  The Gnostic Heresy as it relates to Christ is that he was not really a man, but just the Perfect God of the Spiritual Realm. He never really died (as that would require a physical body) and he never rose in a physical body (as that would “taint” him). Clearly this is not scriptural, but it is not the whole of Gnosticism; it is merely an element.

Thus, I was saying that the “asocial” Gospel has elements (quite strong) of Gnosticism. Yes, we need to be concerned about the afterlife, but not at the expense of this life. “All of Creation groans for redemption…” “Be stewards of this earth” and the Prophets all support this view.
Please understand that I am not exclusively supporting the “social gospel”, but I just don’t see how you can separate the asocial gospel from the social gospel. It is impossible and heretical whichever you separate (Gnosticism vs. Humanism).

Most of society has a concept of ‘Christians’ from the media that is all talk and negative social action, that when we, as “Authentic Christians” (to use William Wilberforce’s words) live a true Christ-like life and say we are Christian’s, people notice and listen. But if we go out and say we are Christian’s first, they turn a deaf ear because of the ‘reputation’ Christian’s have.

Did not Jesus heal as well as tell the masses about the Kingdom of God? Did not Jesus feed 5,000 as well as teach? Are we not called to be the same? The point is that sometimes it is necessary to use the ‘social’ gospel along with the authentic gospel.

Evangelism without good works often turns people off. There’s a lot of people who are closed to the Gospel, because of the way Christians have presented the Gospel……without love. A lot of non-Christians see hypocracy in Christians who preach the Gospel without living it. Presenting the Gospel in a ‘social’ manner or through good works can dispell the assumption self-righteousness that non-Christian’s have of Christians.


One Response to “Socialist Savior: TRUE or FALSE?”

  1. Kyle said

    The Social gospel is espoused by people like Jimmy Carter and his ilk. It is people like this that are flaming liberals in every sense you can imagine. When you look deeper into the social gospel you find that these people are heavily tied to the ecumenical movement, anti Israel, and hard core socialist. They in essence become god trying to solve the worlds crisis.


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