Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 5, 1959
NUMBER 43, PAGE 4-5b

"Gardening Rewards"


For quite a while now informed Christians have been increasingly conscious of the growing liberalism among the churches, particularly as it finds expression in the "social gospel" emphasis. As we have pointed out a number of times on this page the "social gospel" is a general term used to describe the attitude and philosophy of many professed Christians who conceive that the major significance of Christianity is related to this present world; and the real emphasis in "gospel" preaching should be toward correcting the ills of this present life, with only a passing reference to the life to come — if there be any such life.

This "social gospel" idea has permeated the denominational world. It has weakened and emasculated the message of historic denominational pulpits, and is without any question the major factor behind the phenomenal growth of the great body of fundamentalist sects in the land — the extremists with their tongue-speaking, faith-healing, emotion-packed caricature of Christians faith. Churches of Christ have until recent years been able to remain relatively unaffected by these clashing concepts. They have not been crippled by the modernistic "social gospel" virus which so radically changed the face of Protestantism; and consequently have not experienced the sharp reaction to that teaching which spawned the family of the cults of fanaticism.

Since World War II, however, there are unmistakable evidences of an insidious advance of modernism among the churches of Christ. It is not, save in a few notable cases, the blatant, arrogant, defiant modernism of the German theologians of a past generation; but rather it is the creeping paralysis of a gradually widening acceptance of the "social gospel" ideals and aims, with a corresponding decline in emphasis of those things which have hitherto been considered the fundamentals of our faith. As a case in point, consider the following:

Attention All Women 0f Your Congregation Please announce the following at this coming Lord's Day services:

The Associated Women For Pepperdine of District Number 1 are having a meeting at the Broadway and Walnut Church this next Monday evening, January 26, at 7:30.

We are fortunate to have Mrs. Weston Walker as our guest speaker. She shall lecture on "Gardening Rewards."

Plan to be with us and bring a friend.

Very truly yours Mrs. Charlene Osborne Publicity Chairman

This notice went out recently to a large number of congregations in the Los Angeles area. We believe it is typical of the kind of thing to be expected among the "social gospel" brethren, not only in California but in other states (Texas particularly) as well. The Broadway and Walnut Church is in Santa Ana, California, and provides the "sponsoring eldership" for the Ontario Children's Home. They have for some years now been bombarding the California churches with incessant pleas for more money, more money, more money, more money, more money, more money, (the machine is not stuck; but congregations are) for enlarging and expanding their facilities for caring for their needy.

And now, quite in keeping with their emphasis on this world rather than the world to come, this "social gospel" congregation joins with Pepperdine College in presenting a woman lecturer to speak on "Gardening Rewards". And, furthermore, appeals are sent out to neighboring congregations requesting that announcement of this lecture be made in each of them at the Lord's Day services!

We are sure there are many "gardening rewards" to be had by those who love to plant things and watch them grow. Tomatoes, onions, spinach, and cabbages are highly satisfying "rewards", particularly when properly prepared and served on the dining table. The pleasure to be derived from gardening, whether in growing the plants or in eating them, are considerable. And if one goes is for commercial "gardening" the possibilities are almost unlimited.

But are these things the concern of the church? Is this what the church is for? Is a woman's lecture on how to grow spinach a proper item for announcement at a Lord's day service when the congregation has assembled to worship God?

Our brethren who are emphasizing the "social" aspects of Christianity, with fellowship halls, garden clubs, boy scout camps, Christian recreation centers, and such like are simply victims of the back-lash of modernism. They are belated casualties of a war which was fought in denominational churches (and lost by the conservatives) more than fifty years ago — and which is now invading the Churches of Christ. We can see no way by which the Lord's church can now escape this battle. The gathering storm grows more ominous with every passing month. Let no person be so naive as to suppose that present rumblings over orphan homes, the Herald of Truth, and church support of colleges and recreation centers are isolated and unrelated factors. All of them fit into the pattern; they are bound together in an indissoluble union. All of them (and many, many others which will appear in the months to come) are but facets and off-shoots of the under-lying stream of modernism which is invading the churches. The "social gospel" craze, with its emphasis on this present world rather than that world to come, will certainly take its terrible toll among churches and Christians.

But there is a hopeful note here, too. For as the swift rush toward liberalism accelerates more and more, the faithful ones, the spiritually minded are certain to be awakened to what is happening in ever growing numbers. And these people will seek those congregations which stand firmly for the truth, while the "social gospellers" go on their wild and unrestrained way into, total apostasy. Many will be lost; but probably the majority will be saved. And the church of our Lord, refined and purified by the ordeal, will come forth much smaller in numbers than she now is, but also much holier and more consecrated in life, and more aggressive and determined than ever to press onward in her great task of evangelizing the world for Christ.

Let those congregations which so desire have their women lecturers to give speeches on "Gardening Rewards". Faithful churches will still insist on hearing the ancient gospel with its emphasis not on "gardening" rewards but on eternal rewards.