I’ve been working all night on a lecture and presentation for the Human Rights class I co-teach tomorrow.
It is a talk on the history, development and theology of the Social Gospel movement, which began in the late 1800’s and blossomed in the early 1900’s.
I don’t think there are many topics in the church today that are as misunderstood. My own position is that of “Social Action” rather than “Social Gospel,” but it is hard to get to a balanced view without unpacking the relevant issues. I had the thought tonight that we understand the cultural conditions of the early 1900’s about as well as we understand what it is like to live in a slum outside Johannesburg today.
That is partly why orthodox churches and conservative theologians only pick at the theology of the social gospel, but fail to recognize the social implications of following Christ and the obligations that love requires – they don’t fully sense the presence of injustice and the urgency of poverty in everyday life.
Anyway, I could type about ten pages on what is wrong with the social gospel as well as what is wrong with our reaction to it. All this is why I get so excited about Kilns College. At the end of the day, there aren’t too many Christians who have the ability to talk deeply about these things in a formal classroom setting. I believe the college serves a vital role in providing this community with opportunities to learn.
Also, if you didn’t get the chance to take the History and Philosophy of Human Rights class this fall – it’s being offered again next fall!!