I am convinced that the social gospel promoted today as the path to better Christian living is not THE GOSPEL of our Lord Jesus Christ. This social gospel is preached in almost every Christian church in America and is popular, elevated, and venerated. It certainly seems holy, but what are the tenets of this social gospel?
The book “7” by Jen Hatmaker is subtitled, “an experimental mutiny against excess.” Within its pages Jen declares that as a Christian her life is now all about “justice” and battling “inequality”. She says, “It’s too soon to declare the Bride [the American Christian church] hopelessly selfish or irrelevant.” Her belief is that if we choose to battle inequality then “our generation could turn this ship around.” I suppose by that she means that we could see justice and equality come to town and fix all the problems with our society. She certainly lays on the guilt about how much we all have and waste and disregard the poor and needy both here and abroad. She comments that the church has good intentions but misguided theology and spends way too much time building expensive churches and too much energy on Bible studies, conferences, sermons, and resources on itself. Lastly, she uses the term “deconstruction” to describe what she thinks needs to happen to Christianity’s paradigm before it can become the right one.
Hatmaker’s orientation on “justice and inequality” seem good, but my concern is that this is NOT what THE GOSPEL really is. The social gospel has been around for a long time. Wikipedia’s article on the social gospel’s origins and history reveals that the goal of this movement was designed to make Christian churches more aware, motivated and responsive to the social problems of a generation. An early proponent and spokesman for the movement was against the selfishness of capitalism and made social reform the primary focus of Jesus’ teaching. Dwight Moody countered this by claiming that concentrating on social aid and reform kept people from hearing about the good news of salvation through Christ. I find it interesting that the article mentions that the supporters of the social gospel were connected to the liberal wing of the Progressive movement and were liberal theologically but conservative when it came to social ills.
Fast forward to today. On Michele Malkin’s website (accessed 10/8/13) she addresses the foundation of the Common Core curriculum as derived from “progressive” reformers who operate in the name of “fairness, diversity, and social justice.” Malkin also mentions that a key word for these reformers is “deconstruction” which in the reformers’ ideology means moral relativism. And these are the same words that author Jen Hatmaker uses in “7”. Can this be a coincidence?
Jen also reveals that while she is all about justice and promoting this social gospel, her children are sent to public school where they can be conveniently exposed to anti-God indoctrination for 6-8 hours per day. She mentions that she had spent her time in “baby prison”. Really? How can any of us justify “saving the world” when we are not sacrificing to save our own children? As a teen in the 1970’s I heard way too many incidents of missionary and pastor’s families that had “done the Lord’s work” while their own children grew up and left the faith. The social gospel takes the Christian’s focus off of the primary duties. We are to love God with all our hearts and love our neighbors as ourselves. As Christian women, our husbands and children are our nearest neighbors. If we labor at fulfilling that priority well, then God may grant us faithful children and faithful generations to come. Our society needs faithful husbands and wives, faithful children, faithful families that will in turn build faith filled churches and communities. But first things first: if we bring social justice and equality to the whole world but we lose our souls or the souls of our children, what have we gained for Christ and His kingdom in the end?
“7” is about the social gospel. Jen Hatmaker uses all the same terminology as the social gospel and liberal progressive reformers both from the past and from today. She lives what she believes and focuses on getting the church to “wake up” and get to work fixing all the problems with society. This is not all bad. After all, there are many problems with our culture and society at present. The social gospel is being preached in almost every church in modern evangelicalism. Christians are told to go and do good works, get busy in an outreach ministry. While many of those activities and works are good, they can come at the expense of what God says in His Word are our priorities. Those God ordained duties may not seem glamorous, but faithful living in our most intimate relationships is the gritty training ground for more public ministry.