Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 18, 1959

The Social Gospel Among Churches Of Christ - (IV.)

Robert Atkinson, Miami, Florida

Hear the approval by Shailer Matthews, dean of the Social Gospel in America, of some of the things which have lately begun to be practiced among us by some Churches of Christ:

"It is easier to transfer denominational enthusiasm to nonchalant lands than to rectify the conditions of life among coal-miners and steel-workers. It is easier to promise heaven to dissatisfied wage-earners than it is to raise wages.

"It is therefore only what might have been expected that, over against the inherited view of the function of the churches, we would find a rapidly growing appreciation of their social obligations. The development of social work has reacted upon them, and to a considerable degree churches have begun to represent new social interests. The conception of religious education has materially broadened. It is no longer a mere teaching of the Bible, the catechism, and the "lesson helps," but a seeking to develop moral attitudes within the spheres of life. If the nineteenth-century church discovered the needs of childhood, the 20th century has discovered the needs of children. Kindergartens, nurseries, parents' classes, are growing common. Many churches have a complete outfit for community centers with necessary apparatus for athletics, sociability, dramatics, and of course, for dining; for if the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, the modern church has learned to line the road to it with opportunities for the saints to refresh themselves. Quite as striking is the widespread avowal of loyalty to the Christ-spirit in wider social and economic fields. Denomination after denomination has adopted or enlarged the social creed drawn up by the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America. Although reactionaries may protest, and the elder statesmen of Christendom may warn, the generation now coming on to the stage of church life is full of social spirit. (Emphasis mine, RA) 16

In Much The Same Vein, Another Liberal Asserts:

The present generation under the leadership of Jesus has rediscovered the child and youth. The church thru its church schools and clubs, and society thru multiple organizations for boys and girls are seeking by action as well as by precept to instill into the minds of childhood and youth the great ethical and social ideals of the prophets and Jesus and to develop well rounded Christian manhood and womanhood. Powerful nation-wide campaigns against alcohol and vice are creating the necessary environment in which to rear the type of Christian citizen that must be bred if the social ideals of the Second Isaiah and Jerusalem Prophet are ever to be realized. If these many powerful organizations which express the awakened social consciousness of the modern age be reinforced by the loyal devotion and unfaltering self-sacrifice of each individual, the complete inauguration of the kingdom of God is not far distant. 17

Those among us who are still searching in the Bible for authority to back up their programs of social welfare to which they have already committed many local congregations will please take note. The authority is not in the Bible. The infidels who promote the Social Gospel are the sole source of authority for many of their practices. The infidel gloats that they may pacify their consciences by asserting that the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but as a "modern church," they have at least learned to line the road to it with opportunities for refreshment. It is the infidel who gives the authority for and approval to those churches that are building gymnasiums, hobby shops, recreational centers and so-called fellowship halls. There is no New Testament authority for committing the churches of Christ to such works. Those churches of Christ that are engaging in these things are truly becoming "modern" churches who are discovering not only "youth" but many other sectarian and modernistic ideas and practices for which there is not one verse of Bible authority.

One modern church in Jackson, Mississippi, has announced that it will have a kindergarten school in the "fellowship hall." An information sheet sent out by one of the elders listed the following facts about the school: (1) The purpose of the kindergarten is to expand the services of the church. (2) Tuition will be charged for these services. (3) Food and playground facilities are provided. (4) Language arts, social manners, health, culture and music will be stressed to the students. (5) No religious doctrine will be taught. (6) The birth and resurrection of Christ will be taught at Christmas time and at Easter. So now, along with some of "our" colleges that are "accepting but not soliciting" money from churches, thereby putting the church in the secular education business on the college level, the churches in some areas are responding to the example of denominations and the encouragement of infidels and are financing secular education on the kindergarten level. I appeal to the reader to refer to quotation sixteen where the Dean of the Social Gospel rejoices that the "conception of religious education has materially broadened" so that it "is no longer a mere (emphasis mine, RA) teaching of the Bible" but a "seeking to develop moral attitudes within all spheres of life." Dr. Matthews would be pleased to note that "we're" coming along now that children are being taught social manners and culture without being subjected to Bible Doctrine, with the exception of "at Christmas time and at Easter," of course. He would be happy indeed to note that among many churches of Christ, the social spirit has replaced the spirit of Christ and has done so over the protests of many faithful brethren whom he would call "reactionaries" and "elder statesmen" (a nice term for old fogeys).

The Social Gospel demands material results that can be seen. "We" have responded with "our" schools, homes, youth groups, grand buildings, nationwide this 'n that's, internationally known preachers and lecturers, big sponsoring churches, "missions", etc. "We're" just getting started, but denominationalism is so far along that even some liberals are reacting against the mechanical and material emphasis of the Social Gospel. For example, note the following, given in answer to the question, "Christianity has been here for two thousand years, and what has it to show?":

Yet to put it that way seems to imply that the Christian religion is a machine, with an output that can be measured, and products to set out in neat array. That which most deeply concerns man can never be treated as mechanical, can seldom be measured and is hardly ever neat. 18

Brethren, let's put on the brakes! It's not enough to say, "Well, I don't go all the way with the Gospel Advocate." You don't need to go all the way! In Lexington, Kentucky, there are Christian Churches that use the instrument and bitterly oppose (or at least they did when I was there) the societies. And both of these opposing groups feud with those who "went all the way" and allow the infidels of The College of the Bible to fill their pulpits. But they are all part and parcel of a generally liberal attitude that divided the people of God and swept thousands of persons into apostasy from the truth.

Let the cry ring out with more and more emphasis, "Back to the Bible!" May our eyes be turned from the material glory of denominationalism and the heady but vain words of infidels and focus once again on the " . . . holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation thru faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (II Tim. 3:16,-17)

The battle is joined, and it must be fought. In some ways it will not be pleasant to fight on the side of truth.

But it is far better to acknowledge that God's ways are not our ways and God's thoughts are not our thoughts, thereby submitting ourselves to His will, than to gain the small comfort of being classified as one of many brethren of "mature" thinking by the editor of the Gospel Advocate, which has become The Social Gospel Advocate. Regarding those who have confessed their sins through the columns of that paper and have received Brother Goodpasture's editorial endorsement as "another brother of mature thought," we wonder how "mature" their thoughts will finally become. Since the infidel says that "The unlearned look upon the theory of evolution and historical criticism as products of the pit," does that not indicate that those among us who are obsessed with "mature thought" are themselves quite immature, even "unlearned," because they do not share the infidel's viewpoint on these things? Or do they share it? Or if they do not now share the infidel's "mature" thinking on evolution and historical criticism, how long will they have to think mature to agree on these things also, since they have so many other mature thoughts and practices in common? Present events indicate that it will not be as long as many expect. Brethren, have we learned nothing from the warnings of Scripture and the lessons of history? With the road to apostasy already well-worn, why can't we recognize it?

"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." (Gal. 6:8,9)


10. Rufus M. Jones, A Prefect To Christian Faith In A New Age (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1932), pp. 172,173.

11. Harris Franklin Rail, Christianity (Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1941), pp. 38,39.

12 Ibid., p. 39.

13 Ibid., p. 120.

14. Charles Foster Kent, The Social Teaching Of The Prophets And Jesus (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1928), p. V.

15. Ibid., p. VI.


16. Shailer Matthews, Jesus On Social Problems (New York: The Macmillan, 1928), p. 141 17. Charles Foster Kent, The Social Teaching Of The Prophets And Jesus (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1928), p. 339.

18. John Foster, "Achievements of Christianity in Twenty Centuries," The Coming Of Age Of Christianity, (Chicago, Henry Regnery Company, 1951), p. 1.