An Anchor Is Out Against The Social Gospel
"Social gospel sympathies have become widespread in the churches of Christ. They are currently manifest in some congregations. If brethren continue to be swept along by current denominational thought and by the blandishments of news media that continually emphasize and popularize this particular strain of socialism, there will be a further loss of the scriptural concept of the mission of the church."
The paragraph above introduces Anchor,2 Volume 1 Number 3. The summer 1969 edition of Anchor is given entirely to a expose of the social gospel. It is a most excellent presentation.
Anchor is a publication of brethren we call "liberal." The men on the editorial board are known to be defenders of church-support-of-institutions and sponsoring church projects.3 But they are not modernists, and they are engaged in a worthy battle against ultra-liberalism. These men are talking like "antis" in their upholding of fundamental biblical principles and in their opposition to certain "projects." Indeed, they sound like Gospel Guardian writers. Anchor is waging a good battle on behalf of truth and right. In a time when many congregations "find themselves thrashing about in the sucking whirlpool of unscriptural projects of every kind,"4 Anchor's editorial observes, "Our emphasis must continue to be upon the work God has given the church to do: saving souls. This is precisely the emphasis we lose when we turn to the social gospel, for it is not concerned with man's soul or the world to come, but with man's physical self and with this world."5 It is observed, "When brethren become involved in social action, they will often neglect, if not deny, the spiritual mission of the church ... a failure to hold to the all-sufficiency of the New Testament as the infallible authority in every matter of Christian faith and practice will lead to self-deception and dishonesty in teaching."6 One writer asks, "Is the church to become and be a pressure group, to work for change in social, economic, and political realms? Or is the mission of the church to preach the gospel that saves all men?"7 He concludes his article with an appeal, "Let Christians devote themselves to the mission of the church — preaching of the gospel that saves every creature. Let true Christians exercise themselves in New Testament benevolence as they give themselves fully to the great task of spreading the gospel throughout the world."8
The Anchor brethren are seeking to hold the ship against the dangerous social gospel currents. We wonder if they are beginning to realize that it is in the institutional and sponsoring church seas that these dangerous currents flow? Modernism and the social gospel have plagued the denominations for an hundred years. After organizational departures captivated the liberal wing of the Restoration Movement (the "Christian Church") modernism and the social gospel worked doctrinal corruption and sectarian division in its ranks.
It was only after church support of the institutions and sponsoring church centralization became widespread among churches of Christ that modernism and the social gospel began to make significant inroads into church of Christ circles. The men who carry the disease find their way to influential positions provided by the church and institution combines and by the centralization of the sponsoring church projects. Further, it is in the publications, some of them, which endorse and promote institutionalism and sponsoring church projects that the modernists are spreading their poison.
Of course the so called "antis" have their problems with modernism too. It comes from students who get it in the colleges and universities across the land. It crops out in discussions in Bible classes and in critical attitudes toward preaching the old time gospel of Christ. So we will continue to have the problem, but it will not likely reach the proportions in conservative ranks as it will among the liberals — we do not have the kind of centralizations and projects which offer modernists the greater opportunities. But we have the problem and it needs to be met.
It is hoped that our "liberal" brethren, many of them, will begin to realize that institutional and sponsoring church projects have served as the means or opportunity for modernists to become influential among churches of Christ. This writer believes that if "liberals" had a more accurate picture of the status and nature of those they call "antis", they would begin to realize that they have more in common with us than they do with those modernists which plague them.
2 Jim Dobbs, Anchor Vol. 1, No. 3, Summer, 1969, pg. 1.
3 Published by Memorial Church of Christ, Houston, Texas.
4 H. A. (Buster) Dobbs, Leonard Mullins, Delmar Owens, Eugene Smith, Jr.
5 Jim Dobbs, op. cit.
7 Frank J. Dunn, Anchor Vol. 1, No. 3 Summer, 1969 pg. 25.
8 Leonard Mullins, Anchor Vol. 1, No. 3 Summer. 1969, pg. 34.
9 op. cit. pages 35, 36.