Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 4, 1962
NUMBER 22, PAGE 4,13b

Those New Tracts


We are getting very favorable comments on our "Tract-Of-The-Month" service. The first tract, "The Bible — Of Human or Divine Origin?" appeared first on these pages three weeks ago. It is now in print, and is being distributed to all the churches which have subscribed to our "one new tract each month" service. We urge you to go back and read that tract In the Gospel Guardian of September 13, and bring it to the attention of the congregation where you worship. We believe many congregations might be interested in it, even if they do not wish to try the continuing service of a new tract each month.

In our next issue (October 11) we will carry a tract by brother Robert Welch, entitled "You CAN Understand the Bible"; and in November we will carry brother Roy E. Cogdill's tract, "The Bible — A Complete Guide From Earth To Heaven." These tracts, and others to follow, are designed to give a new and fresh impetus to the distribution of such gospel literature. Carefully written, and attractively and permanently bound, these tracts can serve a highly useful purpose in every congregation. They are economical in cost, uniform in size, and easy of distribution. Above all, they are completely true to the Book! We urge you to give consideration to their use.

— F. Y. T.

The Social Gospel"

Many brethren seem to be under the impression that "the social gospel" has some implication of church parties "socials," and various banquets, festivals, and entertainments. This is not its true connotation; but it is understandable how the mistaken idea might be held. Actually, the "social gospel" is a term used to describe a movement in religion which developed largely in the last forty years of the nineteenth century.

When Charles Darwin published his "Origin of Species" in 1859, he inaugurated a wave of skepticism, doubt, and uncertainty in the religious world which persists even to this present day. Prior to Darwin's day every religious person had simply taken it for granted that it was the mission of religion to prepare men for eternity; this was uniformly held to be the mission and function of the church, whether Catholic or Protestant or other.

But with the tremendous impact of the evolutionary hypothesis, multiplied, thousands of religious people found their faith being weakened, their hope for eternity uncertain, and the "mission of the church" taking on a hazy, indefinite, and confused sort of outline. Among the multitude of people thus disturbed were a considerable number of clergymen — men of high standing in their communities, respected and beloved. They found themselves increasingly unable and unwilling to preach their old sermons on "heaven," "hell," "the judgment," "sin," etc. If they did not actually disbelieve the things they had formerly preached, they at least were wholly unable to preach with the conviction and fervor they had formerly put into their messages. These men turned rapidly toward a preaching which gave emphasis to this present life. They began to stress the "social" function. They sought to move their churches more and more into a "social" gospel — i.e., a gospel which sought to relieve the hungry and the distressed, to provide hospitals, youth centers, orphan homes, homes for the aged, and a great variety of "social" services, rather than putting chief emphasis on heaven and the future.

This is the true origin and the true significance of "the social gospel." It is not primarily concerned with parties and entertainments, but these are only a by-product of its preoccupation with this present world rather than with the world to come. Our own brethren, in recent years going to such extremes in emphasizing orphan homes, homes for the aged, youth centers, etc., are probably generally not aware that they are simply yielding to the back-wash of a powerful current in modern American religious life. But to students of history it is quite obvious. The "social gospel" finally caught up with the Churches of Christ, and whereas they had NO "orphan homes" prior to 1900, and only six or eight prior to 1940, they have started some THIRTY such institutions within the last two decades!

We think it might be well for sincere brethren to pause long enough to recognize that such proliferation of institutions of this sort does not necessarily mark a sudden new surge of "spirituality," but quite the contrary, probably indicates a declining interest in, and conviction of, heaven and the life to come, and an increasing interest in this present world. The plea that these institutions are being built to fulfill Christian obligation in caring for the needy is pure ratiocination. For it is a recognized fact that in most cases the very existence of such institutions, while helping some children, means that many, many others (of their inmates) will be cruelly denied the Christian homes which would otherwise be their lot.

But the "Institutions" give a "reason for existence" to churches and individuals who have weakened or abandoned their faith in heaven and the future. Having no "future" life to work for, they throw themselves into a tremendous program of trying to improve life "in this present world." Their gospel is "social" rather than "spiritual"; it has to do with this life rather than with the life to come.

— F. Y. T.