Rauschenbusch, Walter. A Theology for the Social Gospel. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1917. 279 pp.
Culturally speaking, Walter Rauschenbusch may have been years ahead of his time. From the very first chapter of his most famous work, Rauschenbusch’s passion for social justice is quite evident. He certainly had his finger on the pulse of his current generation, noting the compelling movement of the college students of his day to social service (3). It could be argued that the current generation shares this passion and perhaps even his theology. Unfortunately, while as believers we are called to “act justly and love mercy” (Micah 6:8), Rauschenbusch’s system of theology to uphold this love for social justice begins with his own values making it a shaky theology at best.
Rauschenbusch begins his book with his main proposition: “to show that a readjustment and expansion of theology… is necessary” and to give “concrete suggestions how some of the most important sections of doctrinal theology may be expanded and readjusted to make room for the religious convictions summed up in ‘the social gospel’” (1). Even at the outset of the book, he intends to adjust theology to “make room” for his own convictions.
The first three chapters are dedicated to demonstrate the need for a new theology. In chapter one, he throws down the gauntlet in front of the so-called dead and ineffective systems of theology that have been followed traditionally (1). His appeal specifically revolves around the college men and women of his day. He argues that “if our theology is silent on social salvation, we compel college men and women, working men and theological students to choose between an unsocial system of theology and an irreligious system of social salvation” (7). In chapter two, he discusses the challenges that arise in changing systems of theology. He calls theology “esoteric” and argues that the gospel was given by and to laymen (15).... [continues]
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