Previous Social justice in the church?

Discussion in 'Church History' started by arapahoepark, May 23, 2019.

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  1. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Graduate

    Are there any resources, books, etc. that document the decline of mainline denominations? I recently heard some where that the same arguments that are being heard today at denominational gatherings, synods, etc. are the as those that where taking place 50+ years ago. I am not sure where to start since modern church history is elusive to me right now.
  2. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    "The American missions movement has experienced two distinct waves. A first wave of effort originated in the early nineteenth century during the Second Great Awakening and largely collapsed amid theological controversy after World War I; a second wave began after World War II and continues to this day.[1] This article examines the role played by World War I in the demise of the first wave.

    The foundation of the earlier mission efforts was a consensus on the twin goals of “civilizing” and “Christianizing.” Missionaries wanted others to adopt their religious beliefs and practices and, at the same time, to embrace Western political, educational, and societal systems. The latter desires were born out of earlier attempts to convert American Indians. Puritan missionaries to the Indians strongly emphasized evangelism, yet they found that conversions seemed to require that they first “civilize” the Indians—that is, teach them colonial arts, sciences, and culture.[2] The missionaries thus considered education, democracy, health care, and economic growth to be complementing and tightly interwoven goals of missionary work.[3]

    Driving the movement were millennial expectations about the return of Jesus Christ. Postmillennial interpretations heavily influenced the early missionaries, as many foresaw a coming epoch of reason, peace, and godliness that would pervade the earth and lead to Christ’s return. In this view, mission work would inevitably succeed because the Bible had declared Christianity would reign supreme during the millennium. The millennium was within grasp if the missionaries would but reach for it. Significantly, the rallying cry and goal of the Student Volunteer Movement (SVM)—a major source of American missionary recruits between 1891 and 1920—was “The evangelization of the world in this generation.”[4]

    Crumbling Foundations

    By the eve of World War I, however, the theological and strategic foundation for American mission work was under substantial pressure. Two of its key pillars, postmillennialism and the civilizing/Christianizing consensus, were crumbling. Mainline missionaries began discarding beliefs in divine intervention, spiritual salvation, and a literal millennial kingdom. Hope for societal progress remained, but it was centered on human efforts rather than divine will. “Belief in Christ’s return on the cloud was superseded by the idea of God’s kingdom in this world, which would be introduced step by step through successful labors in missionary endeavor abroad and through creating an egalitarian society at home.”[5] The prevailing millennialism within the mainline churches, in other words, had removed any supernatural feature that stressed the workings of the Spirit in favor of the more secular civilizing advancements of education, health, technology, and democracy.

    Writing in 1915, James Barton, the foreign secretary of the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions (ABCFM)—one of America’s largest mission boards—publically voiced views that would have been unthinkable thirty years earlier. He asserted that missionaries no longer believed unequivocally that all non-Christian religions were false. “The modern missionary goes out with the purpose of conserving all true values in the religious thought, life, and practices of the people whom he approaches. . . . The missionary today is consciously face to face with the great national, social problems of the countries in which he is located. . . . The successful solution of these problems will produce a religious as well as a social revolution for the non-Christian world.”[6]

    The deepest and most dramatic change he noted was a secularized reinterpretation of Christian “salvation”"

    So, liberalism lead to a Social Gospel without the evangelismn component and many liberal denominations shrunk.
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  3. hammondjones

    hammondjones Puritan Board Sophomore

    Try: A Theology for the Social Gospel, Rauschenbusch, 1917

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  4. Johnathan Lee Allen

    Johnathan Lee Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    Presbycast is doing an audiobook in three parts that touches on the topic a bit so far (I’m still in part one).
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  5. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Junior

    To support the good the church has done in this area, I remember the David Brainard documentary talking about being a blessing to the native Americans. Also, the God in America series PBS did I believe addresses how the church worked against slavery.
  6. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Graduate

    I suppose I should clarify. My intent was to ask about sources regarding the parallels of what is being argued today (I.e. white privilege, socialism, etc.) and what was argued yester year that led to the down fall of the mainline denominations.
  7. Wayne

    Wayne Tempus faciendi, Domine.

    From a liberal perspective, you might look at The Broadening Church, by Lefferts Loetscher.
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  8. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Graduate

    As historian of the PCA and its antecedents, have you run across specific debates at GA, or elsewhere regarding those parallels?
  9. Jo_Was

    Jo_Was Puritan Board Freshman

    I would recommend the book "Fundamentalism in American Culture" by George M. Marsden. My husband and I have been going through it (so this is a recommendation of not having finished it yet) and it has already been helpful both in understanding some of the threads that made way for modern evangelicalism and fundamentalism, as well as contextualizing how the mainline churches got the way they are. In many ways, you do not have the mainline church without fundamentalism, or fundamentalism without the mainline church; their histories are so intertwined. Very fascinating.
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  10. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    Published while the Great War was still raging.
  11. A.Joseph

    A.Joseph Puritan Board Sophomore

    I believe it’s tied to the social gospel, often referred to as the 3rd great awakening prevalent in urban areas with an emphasis on economic and political/social issues.

    I hate to say it, but if things have not gotten better yet, maybe they are searching for the wrong Go...
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