The social gospel: Coveting disguised as religion

Update: Be sure to read Bubba’s comment below, which, as usual, is better written than my post.  Lots of great points, including this one:


As free human beings, we can certainly choose to emphasize temporary bread over the Bread of Life, but we have no business doing so in Jesus’ name.



circle-slash.jpgThe social gospel is just coveting disguised as religion — taking away from those who have “too much” and giving to those who have too little.

Taking other people’s money at the point of a gun (i.e., taxes) to fund your pet projects or what you think is “fair” is not charity.  You might try to argue that it is good public policy, but to consider yourself generous for holding those views is mistaken.  You won’t find support for that in the Bible, though you will find calls to give your own time and money.

The social gospel is poison.  It doesn’t just crowd out the real Gospel, it is used as a substitute for it.

And it isn’t even effective at what it purports to do!  It keeps people in bondage instead of really helping them.

Of course good deeds are important.  But if you spread the real Gospel they come with the package.  If you only spread the social gospel then you don’t have saved people or transformed lives.  And in my experience and as validated by studies, the orthodox Christians do as much or more to help the poor than the liberals do.  They just don’t talk about it as much and they do it with their own time and money.

The real Gospel is Christ crucified for our sins.  If you want to improve  the world then the best way is to share the real Gospel.  That will transform people’s hearts, minds and behavior — for eternity.

0 thoughts on “The social gospel: Coveting disguised as religion”

  1. I strongly disagree with the political positions that are usually advanced through the so-called “social gospel,” but my biggest problem is NOT that the agenda is on shaky ground in terms of morality and prudence.

    It’s that it’s a dishonest co-opting of the Christian Gospel.

    It is, I think, to our credit that ideological libertarians or political conservative Christians don’t generally do this — in fact, I’ve never seen it done — but I can imagine how one could selectively invoke Scripture to promote a false gospel that focuses on individual economic freedom. The parable of the talents shows us the value of private investment (or so the argument would go), and the parable of the laborers in Matthew 20 shows us the immorality of second-guessing the decisions of private employers, so long as they do not defraud their employees: how much more immoral would it be for the disgruntled laborers to use the coercive force of government to require the householder to pay wages that they consider fair?

    (I know a guy online, a Social Gospel advocate, who frequently blogs about, as he puts it, “the Bible and economics.” It’s a way to make it appear that the Bible supports his collectivism, but, funny enough, I’ve never seen him address these two parables.)

    But, though I am myself a small-l libertarian, an effort to distort Scripture to advance a libertarian agenda is just as disgusting as the current efforts to distort Scripture to advance a collectivist agenda.

    The point isn’t whether you can pick-and-choose a couple passages to make it look like the Bible supports your cause, it’s whether you accept the entire Bible and adjust — and subordinate — your beliefs to what it teaches.

    Jesus was quite clear that His kingdom is not of this world, and even his enemies didn’t find Him to be the political revolutionary that “social gospel” advocates pretend Him to be: hence, His Jewish enemies produced false witnesses against Him, and Pilate still found no guilt in Him and (tried to) wash his hands of Jesus’ blood.

    Jesus is the Messiah, but He’s not a political Messiah, and the twentieth- and twenty-first-century progressives who try to pretend otherwise are making the same mistake as the first-century Zealots who expected a military liberation from Rome. The only difference is the particulars of the agenda being advanced.

    That, and the fact that our contemporaries have full access to a completed canon, and so they cannot be ignorant of the truth.

    Indeed, there may be political implications of what the Bible teaches. At the bare minimum, the Bible encourages prudence in worldly affairs so we should eschew any scheme (political or otherwise) that is imprudent.

    I would go further, actually. I think Romans is clear that the government has the authority to wield violent force, at least in certain, limited circumstances, and — much more broadly — the Bible is clear that the human problems of sin, poverty, and war will not be resolved until Christ’s return, so the utopian mindset that seeks final, permanent solutions to these problems is, I believe, a case of hubris that Christianity forbids.

    Nevertheless, all the political stuff is secondary or even tertiary.

    The essential and main content of the good news of the Christian church is the provision of the forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    We should certainly embody the gospel by being a conduit of God’s love to others, and that includes meeting our neighbors’ physical and emotional needs when possible. But Glenn here is right: a well-fed sinner who is still mired in his sins is far below what Christ actually came to accomplish.

    I think the entire argument comes down to what Jesus taught in John 6.

    …when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”

    Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”

    Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”

    Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

    So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ”

    Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

    They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

    Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”

    Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

    Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

    The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

    So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

    He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. – John 6:24-59, NRSV, emphasis mine

    To reiterate:

    “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

    Jesus taught that those who ate the manna that God provided in the wilderness still died. We are not God, and so we must recognize that bread that we could provide through any system of wealth redistribution in the name of “justice” — or any bread that could be produced through a free market — STILL cannot address the most pressing problem facing humanity: death.

    Without Jesus, people die in their sins, and manna from Heaven or a welfare agency doesn’t change that.

    It is only through Jesus that people can enjoy eternal life.

    As free human beings, we can certainly choose to emphasize temporary bread over the Bread of Life, but we have no business doing so in Jesus’ name.

    Indeed, the parable of the sheep and the goats teaches that we are judged by whether we clothed the poor and fed the hungry, but being clothed in the righteousness of Christ is far more important than any earthly coat, and feeding on the Bread of Life is more important than any evening in a soup kitchen. Meeting others’ earthly needs is important, but it should never, ever subordinate our work telling others about Who can meet their eternal needs.

    As servants of the Great Physician, our daily priorities are, collectively, an act of triage. Worrying about so-called “social justice” to the degree that one deemphasizes the salvation of sinners is like treating hangnails and ignoring bullet wounds.


  2. Thanks a million, guys. I’m sincerely flattered.

    I’m actually trying to figure out the best platform for my occasional ranting; in the meantime, Neil’s blog is an excellent forum for discussions about faith.


  3. Thanks, Marshall. You have to work a lot harder than that to make me feel slighted. I am always thrilled when people on the side of truth articulate their views well, and that includes you.


  4. If I’m not mistaken, the New Testament says that God likes those who give with open hearts – those who give because they want to, not because they have to.

    Taxation “for the social good” actually prevents people from acting in the way that God says he wants people to act – giving voluntarily and with joy.


  5. Hi ER – hope you are doing well! I was pulling for the Sooners and was sorry to see them lose (or are you an OSU-only fan?).

    I am eternally grateful (literally) that all my sins, including selfishness, are covered by grace (for those saved, of course).

    To your point, though, I’m not sure how any of the post or comments above qualifies as selfishness. Have you been auditing my checkbook and calendar? 😉 I’ll try to do better.


  6. Black, orange and white, actually.

    Oklahoma A&M’s (now Oklahoma State) first mascot, way back in the day, was the Tigers. Like Princeton. Because they wanted Oklahoma A&M to be seen and known as “the Princeton of the Prairie.” Princeton. Tigers. Orange and Black! Now you know!


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