Vol.XVI No.VI Pg.4
August 1979

The Social Gospel

Robert F. Turner

"The church grows in numbers when we keep the coffee hot, the sermons lukewarm, and cool off the occasional 'fanatic' who insists upon Bible authority for our practices.... We become more and more concerned about caring for physical needs, and the betterment of our community from a civil and social viewpoint. AND THUS WE BECOME CONVERTS OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL."

After reading the article from which this excerpt is taken, I was reminded of Solomon's words in Eccl.1:9 "That which hath been is that which shall be; and that which hath been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun." For you see, the article was written by Robert Turner in 1957 - twenty-two years ago.

The social gospel is not novel to brethren — it did not blossom overnight. Satan patiently developed it through almost imperceivable trends and tendencies, and that is why it is so dangerous. It seems that many today want to compare the church's present work with the accomplishments of past generations or the "restoration movement" — rather than starting afresh with God's word. The danger involved is the fact that to many of the "new generation", the church has "always" been involved with the social benefit of brethren and the world. Unless taught by God's word, not past traditions, many will continue to think that the social gospel is the gospel of Christ.

Paul, in writing to the Romans, exclaimed, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1:16 ). To the church in Corinth he wrote that the gospel would save them "if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you" (1 Cor. 15:2). It seems that the Galatians, like so many today, did not hold fast to the gospel of Christ. Paul warned them "I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel" (Gal. 1:6). He further warned "If any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be accursed" (verse 8).

That warning should motivate us to make sure that we indeed preach the gospel of Christ. Each generation, and more specifically, each individual must compare his teachings with the Bible's teachings. That is his only assurance against teaching a perverted gospel. When the social gospel is compared with Christ's gospel, its error is clearly seen.

The purpose of the social gospel is to improve social conditions here on earth. It deals in economics, politics, secular education and poverty. The gospel of Christ deals with the spiritual welfare of man — the salvation of man's soul. The emphasis of Christ's gospel has always been to save man and keep him saved. This is to be the emphasis of the church's work, but the social gospel would rather see the material welfare of man emphasized. The social gospel is a gospel of this world only — it ignores the eternal, the divine, the world to come. It is not the gospel of Christ! Kevan O'Banion