Posted by: Yvonne | January 1, 2010

The Man-Centered Social Gospel

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,  for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
Romans 1:16

Some of our commentors have struggled with the fact that we have presented CCO/Jubilee as a ministry that promotes a social gospel.  May I suggest that what originally was know as the social gospel in the late 1800’s has morphed into a more subtle, post-modern version that is most commonly seen in mainline churches and parachurch ministries today.   Obviously, either movement is ‘a different gospel’ (Gal. 1:6) and not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

Glenn Chatfield of The Watchman’s Bagpipes says it quite plainly:

“…the “social gospel” has long been used beyond the original use of the term from a century ago, …“cultural mandate” teaching is very much a social gospel type of teaching. This is usually part and parcel of the reconstructionist or dominion theology which says we have to “Christianize” the world for Christ to return. Of course covenant theology also is problematic in that, like Rome, it confuses Israel and the Church. The “Social Gospel” is still very much focused on trying to eradicate poverty (although Jesus said the poor would always be with us) and very socialist worldview. We will never “redeem” the culture because the culture is based on sinful people. All we can do is spread the true Gospel so people are changed. Only by changing hearts can we affect cultural change, but too many “social gospel” advocates today forget about salvation and that Christ is the only way, rather we are to just follow his teachings about helping the poor and needy, the widows, orphans, etc. But if you don’t have the gospel all you have are well-fed, well-clothed hell-bound sinners.”

One example of this new, post-modern version would be Rick Warren’s PEACE plan.  Another would be Rob Bell and Doug Pagitt’s support of the Dalai Lama’s Seed’s of Compassion event last year.  Examples closer to home might include my own Christian homeschooling group gleening broccoli for a local food bank without any mention of Christ or the need for salvation.  Not any of these well-intentioned projects will save one single soul.  If the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not at the center of a ministry or project then it is man-centered and dishonoring to God.

Here is what T.A. McMahon from The Berean Call’s  has to say about ‘The Shameful Social Gospel’,


“Although the social gospel is common to many new movements among evangelicals, it is not new to Christendom. It had its modern beginning in the late 1800s, when it developed as a way to address the various conditions in society that caused suffering among the populace. The belief was, and is, that Christianity will attract followers when it demonstrates its love for mankind. This could be best accomplished by helping to alleviate the suffering of humanity caused by poverty, disease, oppressive work conditions, society’s injustices, civil rights abuses, etc. Those who fostered this movement also believed that relief from their conditions of misery would improve the moral nature of those so deprived.

Another driving force behind the introduction of the social gospel was the eschatological, or end times, views of those involved. Nearly all were amillennialists or post-millennialists. The former believed that they were living in a (symbolic thousand-year) time period in which Christ was ruling from heaven, Satan was bound, and they were God’s workers appointed to bring about a kingdom on earth worthy of Christ. Post-millennialists also believed they were in the Millennium, and their goal was to restore the earth to its Eden-like state in order for Christ to return from Heaven to rule over His earthly kingdom.”  

“The history of the social gospel is, in nearly every case, a sincere attempt by Christians to do those things that they believe will honor God and benefit humanity. In every case, however, the practical working out of “benefiting humanity” has compromised biblical faith and dishonored God. Why is that? God’s Word gives no commission to the church to fix the problems of the world. Those who attempt to do so are starting out under a false premise, “…a way which seemeth right unto a man,” not God’s way. So where can it go from there? “The end thereof are the ways of death,” i.e., destruction (Proverbs 14:12). Furthermore, the problems of the world are all symptoms. The root cause is sin.”   {emphasis added}

Read entire article here.

Considering the fact that many of today’s ‘leaders’, such as Rick Warren, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell and many of Jubilee’s speakers teach some version of the social gospel, it’s no wonder that many youth cannot discern the difference and fall in line.

Parents–teach your children that no matter how popular or well-respected a teacher or conference speaker is, we are commanded by God to compare all teaching to Scripture.  (Acts 17:11)



  1. All of what you are saying here is absolute truth, but I am confused about the controversy on the other thread. The social gospel can be cleverly cloaked and Christians duped. For instance, the Manhattan Declaration craftily drafted by Chuck Colson and friends is an instrument of the social gospel. This has been hotly debated in Christian circles, but the fact remains it elevates moral issues over biblical truth.

    • Welcome, Burning Lamp!

      Thanks for stopping by and offering your support!

      Clearly, their is deception at CCO/Jubilee concerning the ‘social gospel’ and the emergent theology being presented by some of their speakers.

      We are endeavoring to stand for Biblical Truth!

  2. Well done, Yvonne! Maybe those who keep claiming the “social gospel” is only that early movement will finally have their eyes opened to the truth. (Thanks for the plug!)

    • Thanks, Glenn!

      That means a great deal!

  3. Yvonne,

    Thanks for the invite.

    My take on the current Christian climate, which includes the CCO/Jubilee conference, is really very simple; we are presently in the end days and every man is doing what is right in his own eyes. The Book of Judges is the saddest book of the Bible, and today we are living in the saddest period of time in the history of the world. Men do not believe Scriptures and set out to spiritualize every verse, and just plain refuse to obey what is written. Men do not know the difference between the holy and the profane, clean and unclean, good and evil, or black and white.

    Hag 2:12-14

    “If one carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and with the edge he touches bread or stew, wine or oil, or any food, will it become holy?”‘” Then the priests answered and said, “No.” And Haggai said, “If one who is unclean because of a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean?” So the priests answered and said, “It shall be unclean.” Then Haggai answered and said, “‘So is this people, and so is this nation before Me,’ says the Lord , ‘and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean.”

    Mt 16:6,11-12

    “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees…. How is it that ye do not understand that I spake not to you concerning bread…? Then understood they how that he bade [them] not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.”

    1 Corinthians 5:6

    “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?”

    Read more:

    The Old Testament and the New Testament speak plainly about the absolute need of the believer to separate themselves from the world, on every level. Haggai, in the verses above does not speak in coded words, but relates the effect of openly mingling with the world. Churches have opened their doors wide to the world and the world has accommodated them, and now the world owns the church. It is no surprise that churches offer a social gospel, they’re running the organization. Nowhere in the bible does it advise us to mingle with the world; the Bible calls it fornication and disobedience, and we are commanded to come out from among them and be separate. Jesus commands the Churches to return (repent) and do their first works all over again (trust and faith). The “broadway” that leads to damnation travels right through the church where the social gospel preaches “peace, peace,” but there is no peace.

    You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that the church has failed: divorce, pornography, drugs, teen pregnancy, abortion, homosexuality, and all the other evils of the world are alive and well inside the church. Jesus’ statement that the “gate of Hell will not prevail against it (the Church) should alert true Christians that the institutional church is not what Jesus was talking about. There is a real Church that is separated and is even now purifying itself for its Lord’s return.

    What I am saying here is not popular and gets very little air time, because it doesn’t fit the mold of the institutional church that has to have the last word in everything the church does. Men have since the days of Constantine taken control of the Church. The organized church has morphed and divided so many times that even a blind man ought to be able to see that there is a major problem. Blindness is epidemic because the Lord Himself said that He would send a strong delusion that they would believe the lie, and they have; well the Lord is right again. The social gospel? It is the work of the Lord. The church has become a prostitute and all her children are prostitutes, and the Lord says come out of her unless you also share in her plague.

    All of this is plain enough in the very Bible that these prostitutes use to claim that God has O.K.’ed their illicit good deeds to save the whole world themselves, without the need of Jesus.

    God said in the Old Testament “unless He (God) builds the House it is built in vain by him that builds it.” And, the New Testament says that “He (Jesus) added the Church daily those who were being saved.” So, where did all these great churchmen get their orders to build all these “tower(s) of Babel”? It wasn’t God, so it must have been someone else, like maybe the Devil? Isn’t the fact that the “gates of Hell” are prevailing some indication of a major failure at some point?

    Well, there is my two cents worth. I know that there are some who will read this and see that there is a problem, I did.


    Steve Blackwell

  4. Wow, Steve! Very good summation of the problem!

  5. Yvonne, Glen:

    I still think I was correct in insisting that the CCO was not nor never was influenced by the liberal theological tradition of the historic social gospel. I am glad if you have nuanced that a little bit—it would have been helpful to hear you say “no, no, we know it isn’t “that” kind of humanistic, Christ-denying” social gospel, we didn’t mean to suggest that CCO was that bad.” But you are somewhat re-shaping your accusations. You show no regret, and that is sad, but you have been a bit more judicious. Thanks.

    When a blogger doing expose work and diagnoses a problem and accuses people of something and uses a loaded word like that, it is just sloppy and untruthful. To conflate liberal social gospel teaching, emergent folks, and the conservative reformational worldview of the CCO is just shoddy. You may see certain similar behaviors–working to help the needy, say—but it should be evident that each of those three “groups” are different. The social gospel tradition minimized the cross and blood of Christ. Some (some, but not all) emergent folks talk about Christ’s cross but perhaps in different ways that standard orthodoxy. (I think there is a large difference between what I’ve read of Doug P and what I’ve read of Chris S for instance, although I’m no expert on them.) And the CCO has most typically exalted Christ, preached His cross, done effective evangelism, and would never minimize the gospel to or do mere social concern devoid of the proclamation of the Word. Any insinuation that they routinely do that is just hogwash.

    Like Chuck Colson, doing vibrant and traditional soul-saving preaching in prisons and wanting to also do prison reform. His love for the lost compels him to preach the good news and yet he also attends to the physical situation. If you say that isn’t in the Bible, you must be skipping verses. If you say he is theologically liberal, you are hugely misinformed and slandering him.

    If you say you disagree with this emphasis, that is your right. If you say it has gone sour for some, like the social gospel movement, and evangelicals like him who preach the fundamentals should be careful, good. say that. Disagreeing with him would be fine, as long as you don’t treat him like a straw man, caricature his ministry, and then knock him down. That is unfair and sloppy.

    But to just conflate all this stuff–liberalism/emergent/reformational worldview/cultural engagement and blast everybody is, I still maintain, dishonest and unacceptable. It just does not match the truth on the ground, and is an example of lazy scholarship or a bad attitude towards others. Call people to repentance, through tears, if you must. Don’t be overly self-confident and don’t be wrong about what you accuse. And if you are, be nice about it and apologize.

    Why do I have to keep asking this?

    And now you affirm a guy who implies (I think) that he doesn’t belong to a real church, and who calls me a prostitute? Wow.

    I was around in the earliest days of the CCO and have followed them–and pushed them towards–a God-centered, Biblically-based, social and cultural engagement. I and others have done so based on more Bible verses than I could list. Open nearly any book of the Bible and the demand for social justice appears and addressing physical needs is commonplace. That you seem to suggest otherwise is very unusual, I must say.

    Walk around in any hard place of ministry–inner city schools, Haitian orphanages, African refuge camps, Southeast Asian sweatshops–and the hurting of other humans is powerfully evident and those who have hearts of compassion are inevitably moved to care. The history of evangelical missions is intertwined with Biblically-faithful, gospel-preaching, wholistic ministry which cares for the needy and insists on repentance and invites obedience to Christ all the while showing love and care by helping others with deeds of charity and justice. I assume you’ve read old missionary stories, and their suffering love for others–in order that they could show love and preach truth–is exemplary. Do you disagree? Have you ever walked in any of those places? I think it is a fair question, but for somebody who spends times condemning those who hold up these problems, I’d hope you had some first-hand experience. I know that the friend of Lazarus wished he had a chance to re-think that, right?

    Some relief and development agencies may get things backwards, and do good deeds without much reference to Christ and His saving power. I don’t know if that means they have become “man-centered” (it might, but we’d have to know the details of their situation and the big picture of their whole work.) But for those that have forsaken the gospel, it would be understandable for you to critique them. But you cannot say that all such groups do that, as some of those who posted comments do, with the same overstating disregard for facts that I realize now is common on this site. To say that all who work in social ministry, rescue missions, pro-life work or whatever are necessarily forsaking the gospel, or putting “moral” concerns over the gospel, is just inaccurate. To make such an audacious claim one would have to–to be fair–name names and cite sources, kindly and fairly. And not just “guilt by association” stuff, but really prove that your terrible claim is true.

    So standing in several streams of great heroes of faith–including many esteemed old-school missionaries, and solid evangelical thinkers—CCO has developed this way of doing campus outreach that preaches Jesus and sovereign grace and Biblically-defined salvation. Many of those in many other campus ministries are similar–I watched York Moore’s evangelistic altar call at Urbana the other day on line and it was beautiful to see this missions conference proclaim a saving Christ. They are socially active and hope for the betterment of our neighbors. But they clearly preach the gospel, and preach it in standard, solid, Biblical fashion. Doesn’t that thrill you, to know the gospel IS being preached in simple clarity, and that Godly obedience is being nurtured so the new converts hear they are to do more than just evangelism, but be Biblically faithful in all areas of life, including our service to needy neighbors and in their studies as students? This is not controversial, or odd, or anything other than solid Biblical Christianity.

    Glenn: in the piece that you wrote that was cited you said “all we can do” is evangelism. I suspect you don’t really believe that. Don’t you do other things, other than evangelism? (And if you do, I wonder what you think of James, where it says that if you send a hungry person away with a mere verbal blessing that is wrong!) I don’t think you really mean that odd assertion, and I doubt you only do evangelism. Don’t you do any service to anybody? I’m sure you’ve given money to charity (I John 3:16-17 isn’t hard to understand, after all, and I’m sure you have done it at some point.) Hasn’t your church ever sponsored a (God-centered) marriage enrichment class? (If so, is that wrong, thinking we can strengthen marriages?) Haven’t you ever tutored a child? Of course that doesn’t save the child, but don’t you want children to learn? Of course you do! Haven’t you ever been glad to sponsor a missionary doctor, that does Christ-exalting, overtly Christian work, including what they are trained to do–medicine.? I have friends who are teaching in countries where they are unwelcome, hoping to share the good news of Jesus with Muslims, so they might be saved. They do humanitarian work in that hard place, and they may die for it. Do you really think they are risking their lives in vain, or sinfully so?

    I know there are those who have done this out of a “social gospel” view, and there is unusual stuff like whatever Yvonne said about the Dali Lama. But I’m not talk about that, not at all. I’m asking about solid, Bible believing serious Christians doing what the Bible says.

    Yvonne cheerfully accepts the praise of these comments, and says that the “social gospel can be cloaked.” The question is, IS it in this instance; I think that if somebody says that about Jubilee they are just aren’t being honest about what goes on there.

    And I am astonished that there is just so little regret in any of these posts that she has perhaps overstated her allegations.

    It seems to me that if more careful language of what is and isn’t said at Jubilee, what CCO does and doesn’t stand for, who their training leaders have been, what the messages at Jubilee have been, etc, some of this large argument might have been avoided.

    I’ve not tried hard to get her or anyone to agree with all the CCO does, or suggest that Jubilee is faultless. All I’ve tried to ask for is respect for the facts. For an honest portrayal of what is and isn’t said.

    Your insistence that those who talk about the “cultural mandate” are liberal/social gospel-influenced is just nonsense. I have noted before that the theologians who coined that term—Calvinists in Europe, I believe–didn’t even have anything to do with the social gospel.

    Yes, they think that the gospel includes interacting with society. That is a given, since we live in a real world. People are citizens and family members, live in households and speak certain languages, maybe they can read the Bible or maybe they can’t read. They may or may not hungry, maybe they have been molested as a child–etc etc– and they all are made in God’s image, no matter how far they have fallen in their idolatry. Just like the Bible was written in human language, and the second person of the Trinity became incarnate in the real world, so our message is always and everywhere a spiritual message proclaimed to real people who are, inevietably, social, living in a culture that has influenced them. They have problems and addictions and families and bodies, hopes and dreams, fears and joys. And the pure gospel of God’s Kingdom and the atonement accomplished on the cross must be spoken into the real setting of real people. IN THAT SENSE, of course the gospel is social/cultural. It is true and it is true for real people in time and place. That is just obvious, right? But just because some ministry or speaker affirms that “this is our Father’s world” or reminds us that God has called humans to “tend and keep the garden” or that the Bible often speaks of politics (woe to those who pass “iniquitious decress” says Isaiah 1:10; “give the King thy justice” says Psalm 72; Romans 13 assures us that the idea of government is a good gift from God) is necessarily a liberal social gospel type. That just doesn’t follow. I just don’t think it is fair to make that accusation without some qualification.

    (Hey, you know–I say this with a smile, hoping it connects with you—some bagpipe players are drunken slobs. I know that, I’ve seen it. Some are celtic mystics that seem nearly pantheist. Are therefore ALL bagpipe players that way? I saw a bagpipe band once. Would it be fair for me to tar them all with the same bad brush. Of course not. This is pretty elementary logic and illustrates pretty basic human decency, don’t you agree?)

    Blast away where you must, but just be sure to tell the truth. Get your facts right. The indie watcher seems to take pride that his view isn’t heard much these days. And he has this easy “out” maybe even making him feel good because anybody who disagrees is just “deceived.’ How convenient. If, as in the posts that have appeared in the past weeks, you can’t get your facts straight, if you malign people falsely, if you spread rumors about stuff you obviously haven’t researched fairly, and anybody protests, you just say they are deceived (by God.) It is a standard posture of cults, groups like the Mormons and such–you can’t have meaningful debates because they just say if you don’t agree with me you are deceived.

    I know there are huge problems in the church today. I am part of those problems, no doubt. But it is wrong to speak untruthfully about others. For most of us it is a lesson we learned as children, from our mothers. Good manners included telling the truth, and owning up when you don’t. What happened along the way?

  6. PS: By the way, this is just a little pet peeve of mine, but Glen cited Jesus saying “the poor you will have with you always.” Of course the Lord was playing a “gotcha” game with his accusers. He was quoting Deuteronomy 15, and didn’t need to finish the sentence which reminds us that because the need is there, we dare not close our hand or harden our hearts against them.

    Anybody who uses that text to disregard social responsibility is playing fast and loose with the Word of God.

    And it seems to be that “straw man” argument again. I do not know any anti-hunger worker who thinks they will in any way fully eradicate poverty. That is just a silly accusation to make, a caricature, and nobody I’ve ever meet thinks that. Most think it is just a way of loving our neighbors, doing what those who love others do, trying to help out, in Jesus name. You make them sound like utopian ideologues. Do you know evangelical Christians who have that view? I don’t. Staw man, my friend.

    If you don’t like the emphasis with feeding the starving, go ahead and say so, but don’t misquote the Bible for your own purposes and don’t distort the perspective of those you are critiquing.

    Do God’s work in God’s way. Your ministry will not be blessed as long as you do this untruthful, unfair writing.

  7. Byron,

    YOU are the one who wanted to define what we called the social gospel as something from a century ago; we have nothing to recant. And the newer version certainly is very humanistic because it is still focused on Christianizing the world, trying to fix the culture by humanitarian actions instead of preaching the gospel. The current social gospel is all about joining forces with other like-minded organizations and false religions in order to foster humanitarian action.

    Judy and Yvonne’s complaint, as I understand it, is that these organizations – CCO, Jubilee – are bringing in people who are part and parcel of that sort of movement in order to “learn” from them. Since when do we need that sort of education from those who are of the world? The Bible tells all we need to know about humanitarian duties.

    Your complaint about associating the current social gospel idea with that of the movement of over a century ago is the first time I have ever heard the two confused. This is not “sloppy wording,” rather it is using a phrase with its current contextual meaning. Somehow I think you are being less than honest about knowing this. I find it hard to believe that someone as educated as you claim to be, as theologically astute as you claim to be, somehow has never seen the use of the term “social gospel” other than in reference to the century-old movement.

    The emergent movement has very little orthodoxy coming from the leaders and teachers. If you think differently, then you are the one in error. Virtually every apologetics ministry I am aware of has been exposing over and over again the deep errors of the emergent movement. There is no excuse for any Christian organization to allow any emergent teacher to participate in any teaching whatsoever.

    IF CCO and Jubilee are permitting these false teachers to have any participation at all, then they are participating in their false teachings. It is unconscionable to allow false teachers an open venue at any Christian event. Or do you think it was okay for our “seeker-sensitive” churches to allow Muslim Imams to address their congregations?

    Chuck Colson is indeed “theologically liberal” in one regard: he has participated in ECT, and there is not excuse for Christians to join hands with Roman Catholicism in that sort of thing. It makes it appear we all agree on doctrine, when the RCC is aberrational and heretical in much of their doctrine and dogma.

    By the way, to conflate liberalism and emergent is indeed a right and proper thing to do – Emergent is indeed liberal in their theology and very often in their sociology (including lots of support for the homosexual agenda).

    I affirmed Steve’s comment not because he called you a prostitute (he didn’t – you inferred something I don’t see) but because his assessment of the institutional church is right on target. And if you don’t see that, then you are blind and lacking discernment. And just because someone doesn’t belong to an institutional church, it doesn’t then follow that he doesn’t belong to a “real church.” Just what makes a church real to you- being a part of some denomination? Having all the whistles and bells in their building? What about the house church movement – are they not a “real church”?

    I see no one claiming there is not a need for the church to engage the culture, seeking social justice, feeding the poor, etc. What I see are people who say this should not be the primary focus of the church. First and foremost, the primary purpose of the church is spreading the gospel message. If you are spending all your time fighting for social justice and trying to solve every problem in the world, just when do you find time to preach the Word? And, secondarily, once we have people accepting the Lord, our next mission is to disciple them. It is a matter of priorities and who one joins with in order to work for social issues. If the priority is not first and foremost reaching the lost with the Word, and then discipling them in the Word, then your priorities are off. If you join with non-believers in order to effect social justice, then whose version wins?

    Those who prioritize the social justice side of the equation and join with anyone who has similar goals (e.g. Warren’s PEACE Plan) are practicing the social gospel.

    Have I ever walked in those places? Brother, I lived in the Federal Housing projects in Denver, CO for five years – I know what that is like. My wife and I have a weekly ministry from spring through late fall in Iowa City among homeless, drunks, addicts, panhandlers and every derelict of society. It is a very dark place spiritually. We have provided much in the way of needs for food, clothing, and shelter, BUT always as part of our gospel message. We point them to a way out of their predicament rather than just give them temporary succor. Whether they follow the message we can’t always tell; some accept it pretty readily and want more “meat,” while others just want the handouts. But we provide nevertheless so that they will continue to hear the message over and over and over. We don’t go down there to help the poor and needy, we go down there to preach the gospel and the rest takes care of itself. Priorities. Oh, and by the way, I’ve never felt called to Haiti or Mexico or India or other places of abject poverty, but I do feel called to help support missionaries in those places. And we get plenty of reports from the field so we do indeed understand what it is like. So don’t go off with your assumptions that we have no idea what social justice work is really like.

    By the way, I have yet to see Judy or Yvonne say that ALL social ministries are man-centered. The comments have been about those that either are or are heading that way because of associations.

    When I said all we can do is evangelism, it is indeed with the context of giving aid in the process. BUT our job is not to change the culture by trying every method of social justice, and joining with any group to help us toward that goal. IT can’t happen. I wasn’t taking the passage about the poor always being with us out of context; the point is that the poor always will be with us and even Christ made that point. Therefore, any organization who has as their stated goal the eradication of poverty (which I have seen repeatedly over the years) is spitting against the wind. We will never eradicate it. And that was my point. The ONLY way we can affect the culture is through the hearts of man, which means evangelism – teaching the Gospel. Aid and comfort accompanies the gospel – it doesn’t replace it.

    From what I’ve read, the complaint about CCO and Jubilee is about who they are inviting as speakers, and again, if you permit false teachers then you partake in their false teachings.

  8. Glen,

    Thanks for this very good reply. I am glad for the clarifications, and your work sounds solid. Thanks for taking the time to explain. (I had a hunch you were mission minded and care about the poor–it is why I asked.)

    I wonder, though, how you would feel if somebody that doesn’t know you said you are liberal because you have shown social concern, or that because you have shared compassion with the hurting that you therefore must not be truly preaching the gospel?

    I know it isn’t all sophisticated and all, but that golden rule principle seems helpful here: have you “done unto others” as you’d want to be done to? Would you think it was fair to have somebody describe YOU as liberal because you’ve shown concern for the poor? Wrote a report about you and your wife saying you are trying to make the world a better place without Christ? That would not be fair; it would be ridiculous. (It would also be unfair if somebody called you a homosexual cross dresser if you wore a kilt, too, but I suppose that is a different matter. But it isn’t: people say the dumbest things that they cannot substantiate, don’t they? How unfair it would be if some website started saying that about you, and even quoted you saying bagpipers where kilts, thereby “proving” that you were weird.)

    That accusation of being social gospel has been said about me and some of my best friends and mentors and I am surprised to hear that you think it odd that I wanted the phrase to be used as it is commonly used. I assumed you and Judy and Yvonne know the “social gospel” is an insulting accusation often (unfairly) hurled to dismiss those who emphasize the need to do that kind of multi-faceted ministry. I was once told it was better to let starving children die since when the world gets bad enough Jesus would then return. Isn’t that sick?

    Perhaps it is the polemical style of this website, and the firmness of my harsh rebukes, but it seems that Y & J and you have dismissed any and everyone doing this kind of social outreach–you have said as much about anybody that talks about the cultural mandate–as humanistic and man-centered. That is so, so wrong (even if SOME are that way.) I’ve not seen (until your moving report here) anyone admit that some might do social outreach without being a liberal. (I only have my tongue a little in cheek, Glen, when I warn you: Yvonne might start to turn on you now, given the stuff she has written about the Bible never telling us to do that kind of work. She has repeatedly wrote some things of that nature, so I wonder if she can celebrate your good work or not? Fair question, isn’t it?)

    I have said in earlier posts that SOME are liberal, some do “social concerns” in ways that do not honor the gospel and some that want to do humanitarian work devoid of preaching the Cross. I know that some need to be exposed for faulty theology and some social activists have devolved into folk that don’t even preach the gospel. I realize that and have never suggested otherwise.

    Yet, in my request for you to admit that not everybody who believes in social action is theologically suspect, you revert back to straw man arguments against the obvious candidates, which failed to answer my questions. I didn’t ask why there is concern about the emergent folks–I understand that. I didn’t ask why you’d be against the social gospel: I am too! I was hoping you’d agree forthrightly that not everybody should be tarred with the same bad brush. There ARE some who are honorable and faithful and trying to be obedient to the many, many Bible verses that show that God desires justice on His earth, and that we are to live in ways that are consistent with Christian convictions in every aspect of our human lives, temporal as they may be.

    You have spent some time explaining in your reply why you and others have concerns about the emergent folks. I haven’t defended them here in any way, you will note. I just don’t think they should be conflated with classic liberalism. I know liberals and my heart breaks for how historic mainline churches have been swayed by those who deny the reliability of the Bible and are, in fact, knowingly committed to a mere “social gospel.” Some liberal seminaries have teachers who deny the resurrection of Christ! Liberalism is real and it is around. While there may be theological problems in SOME participants of the emergent conversation(s), it is inaccurate to say they are the same as liberals, though. They may or may not erode historic and classic views, but in the name of fairness and accuracy and proper diagnosis, I do not think it will do to just lump them in with 19th century liberals or 20th century social gospel types. I do not say they don’t have problems, but to be accurate, you must diagnose them well if you are going to do so at all.

    So I have tried to stick to just a few key points. mostly protesting claims that I think are unfair and inaccurate and get those making assertions to prove their accusations with meaningful evidence of their claims. Not ALL of those who do social justice work or stand to try to help their neighbors are doing so out of a motivation that is social gospel. And it is just wrong–despicable, I’d say–to say that all of those who do so, do so by not preaching the gospel. That is a mean-spirited and inaccurate and unsustainable accusation; your own ministry and life is a living example, apparently, proving that your own overblown rhetoric and ham-fisted accusations aren’t correct. SOME are that way. SOME are not. To not say that in a discussion of this sort is just wrong. Can’t you agree that SOME who lead rescue missions or fight abortion or whatnot ALSO do share the gospel in doctrinal purity? Why can’t you just admit that, and say you are sorry for speaking untruthfully about some good folks?

    And that is what is so frustrating about the posts of the last weeks: you guys all have this habit of being dismissive about folks you just don’t care to understand, making claims you haven’t clearly documented that may be accurate against some people, and applying them without nuance or qualification to all sorts of other undeserving folks. OR, you find something else debatable about a ministry and then imply that because of that (CCO inviting someone you don’t find trustworthy to speak at Jubilee) then they are truly man-centered or teach an anti-Christian ideology. That leap from one (perhaps fair concern) to a vast accusation is illogical and unfair. When I ask for clarification–to not say CCO is liberal or Jubilee is about the social gospel, we don’t get greater, humble desire to “get it right” but more bombast and continued passing of unsubstantiated rumors.

    And you conflate things like that over and over.

    For instance: you spent time in your post insisting that CCO is wrong to bring in speakers that are perhaps less than orthodox. That may or may not be true–I know you think it is, but I’ve seen debates with atheists that have been very clarifying and moving for Christians and lost ones as well. (And Y & J have insisted that Chris Saay is a heretic because he did a Bible paraphrase, a pretty specious accusation, I’d say.) Regardless, let us assume you are correct, that this is unwise and dangerous of the Jubilee planners.

    But THAT wasn’t what I was posting about, or what we were discussing, so it isn’t particularly relevant to this thread between you and I. I was asking you to admit that there IS some proper basis for doing kind and just and “social” service things for our neighbors. You swerved off to lambaste the CCO and the emergent folks over bringing in these bad speakers. But that isn’t what we were talking about! I was saying that I bet you have helped your neighbors, given to charity, picked up a drunk neighbor, coached a little league team or expressed some kind of social concern act of kindness. What Christian hasn’t? And I sense you are a good man, and suppose you do that stuff, in Jesus name. I was betting you have done these things and I was betting you don’t really think that stuff is all wrong.
    I invited you to admit that we can and should to “more than evangelism.” Saying Jubilee is wrong to host a panel debating an atheist or bringing in Chris Saay to talk about Lost isn’t a response to my question. (Your great testimony of you and your wife’s good work–to the glory of God, I’m sure–WAS helpful!)

    So why-oh-why lambaste others who teach about the relative merit of doing this stuff that you yourself do? Why suppose that anybody who talks about justice is therefore preaching a liberal social gospel? If ANYONE says justice advocacy can save the world, if anybody says it trumps preaching the gospel, if anyone does only cool cultural deeds but does not preach the gospel, they are wrong. But we BOTH agree on that, so it is a straw man argument and a waste of both of our time. Nearly everyone reading this site, I surmise, agrees that Jesus Christ and Him crucified is the message that we must proclaim, and that that leads to the reality Jesus Himself called the Kingdom of God. Yes, yes, yes. We both agree: humanistic social concern devoid of the gospel isn’t the gospel. The “social gospel” isn’t any kind of gospel, it is a non-gospel. We agree!

    So I have requested you to use more fine-tuned terminology and accurate descriptions when you critique others. esp my friends at the Jubilee conference, which is the only reason I really am involved in this on-going discusion. I think that is part of truth telling and a mark of Godly character, telling the truth. I’m sure you agree.

    Another for instance: you can disagree with Colson’s willingness to find common ground with Roman Catholics in that document (I have friends on both sides of that debate) but to say that Colson is “liberal” because of that is using the term in such a broad way that it is nearly meaningless. Colson simply is not a liberal, theologically or ethically or culturally. Liberals hate him, actually. That is just a ludicrous description. He may be wrong about his view of some ethical common ground with Catholics, but it sure isn’t liberalism. Unless you just call anybody that you disagree with a liberal, which isn’t very useful.

    That, maybe is my point: I think you guys play fast and loose with the facts. You mean well, you are sometimes right, but the lack of clarity and the odd overstatements on this site makes it a dishonor to the gospel.

    You say, above, Glen, that Y & J haven’t said “all” who do social concern are off. I certainly think they DID say, suggest, imply, insinuate that. I over and over asked them to clarify. They have NOT DONE SO (that I have seen.) They could have very easily said “oh no, I never meant to say that, sorry for the misunderstanding” but they did not. They write these peculiar assertions that the Bible never tells us to try to improve the world (Hasn’t she read Matthew 25 or the Good Samaratan story, or seen Matthew 23:23 or read James or Romans 12…but I disgress.) I think my hope that they’d have a moderate position, and they regretted speaking falsely of others, has long faded as they consistently refuse to qualify or back off the harsh, large, accusations.

    I think you are being way too generous in your reading of them on this matter: they have said unsubstantiated things about my friends at Jubilee, gone way beyond saying that it is wrong to have Chris Saay speak, to saying they teach humanistic and man-made ideologies. They’ve repeatedly failed to say anything that would lead a reader to believe they think any cultural, social, or human betterment is anything other than a false gospel–black and white, period.

    (While I agree that the Bible says to give a cup of cold water “in Jesus name” it was interesting to me that one who posted was frustrated that some home school group gave some broccoli to a food bank. They did not say that said home school group implied that that is all we ever have to do, or that that is the full gospel or that such a simple deed would “redeem” the world. If they said that, they’d be fools. But it seemed from the post that she thought it was just wrong to give anything to a food pantry. Maybe I mis-understood, but it sure sounded pretty harshly committed to lambasting anybody that does anything good for anybody other than to do evangelism. (Any yet, when I asked about how glad they’d be if one of their opponents actually lead an atheist student to genuine faith in Christ, they didn’t reply. I can’t read too much into that, but if somebody ever wrote and asked me what I felt about a lost sinner getting saved, I wouldn’t hesitate! Would you? I would want all reading to know that THAT is my heart’s passion, that I would be thrilled. Haven’t heard that yet from J or Y that I’ve seen. Odd.)

    So, thanks for writing, thanks for clarifying that you didn’t intend to judge everyone that does any social service work. I think you should apologize for saying it the way you did as you needlessly brought dishonor to those who do not deserve it. In your zeal to critique the liberals, you aimed your guns at some without guile who preach, teach, and live for Jesus Christ, doing some deeds of social betterment and service even as they lift up the saving power of Christ.


  9. Byron,

    I really don’t have the time or inclination to respond to your lengthy post which mostly misrepresents a lot of the position we are holding. No one says EVERYONE who is concerned with social justice is therefore a liberal preaching the social gospel; what is said is that those whose PRIORITY is social justice are preaching the social gospel.

    You like to play word games. “Liberal” is not a word used nowadays to describe classic liberalism – I don’t remember it ever being used that way over the past decades. Think the Democratic party if you want liberal; think post-modern theology if you want liberal; think ecumenicism if you want liberal; think reinterpreting the Bible if you want liberal; think denying the Bible as the Word of God if you want liberal. Etc.

    Only one point I really want to clarify – I DID NOT say Chuck Colson was liberal in his theology in total; what I said was – and read my lips – “Chuck Colson is indeed “theologically liberal” in ONE regard: he has participated in ECT.” Notice I said in ONE instance – reference to one issue. Please don’t play eisegesis with what I say.

    • Glenn,

      Sorry I frustrate you. I’m not quite sure why. I didn’t understand your paragraph about thinking this or that is liberal, as if I disagree or was trying to parse things oddly. I thought I was pretty clear exactly what liberal means and examples of where we see it. I think the examples you gave ARE “liberal.” The question is whether the people that this website has accused of being liberal are! Dutch neo-Calvinists that emphasis the cultural mandate, Chuck Colson, the Jubilee conference: these groups do not fit the “liberal” or “social gospel” profile, and I maintain that folks on this site have spoken untruthfully about them on this matter.

      You may think my asking for redress is “word games.” It may seem that way for you and your pals out there, but it is NOT games for me. When somebody speaks falsely about you, do you not have some sense that there is an injustice going on?

      I asked you specifically how you’d feel if the shoe was on the other foot, somebody saying that your obviously good and hard work with the hurting and needy is “social gospel.” How convenient for you to say you don’t have the inclination to answer.

      I think it is obvious how you’d feel: you’d feel badly and want to correct the misunderstanding. You’d assure people that even as you have gone out of your way to help drunks and addicts and the mentally ill, you have shown God’s love in ways that are commanded and you’ve also preached the gospel, and tried to help folks come into a saving relationship with God through the atoning work of Christ. You’d say that stuff not to do a PR job, but because it is what you really believe, and you wouldn’t want anybody thinking wrongly that you were merely a social gospel humanitarian.

      And what if they’d not belief you, spouting off about liberalism and such, putting you in a “camp” that you don’t belong in.

      You know you’d feel badly and want that person to be clear.

      And if they continued to malign you, publically, you’d feel crummy, I’m sure. And, hopefully, you’d bear the fruits of the spirit and show them grace and kindness, but you still would want them to get it right as they describe you to others.

      Of course you would.

      You and the others here have said ugly, demeaning and ignorant things about people you do not know, people that I know who do not fit your description of who they are and what they believe and why they do what they do. You are passing rumors and mis-information: it is that simple.

      I’ve given many, many statements indicating that I agree with your general concern about Biblical orthodoxy and preaching the gospel and have assured you that the people whose reputation I care about are orthodox, Bible-preaching Christians who do evangelism with passion and fruitfulness. I doesn’t matter to me if you like them or agree with all of aspects of their ministry, but you simply dare not accuse them falsely.

      Inaccurate and unproven allegations have been made on this site and I have documented it. You say I am misrepresenting but I don’t think so. I invite any objective reader to go through these threads and see where I have done that.

      I have tried to be charitable and firm, affirming something about your work in most of my posts, but these are NOT word games. You and others have insulted and dishonored good people, made vastly overstated claims that are slanderous based on little or no direct evidence about the claims you make (regarding Jubilee being social gospel.)

      You, now, suggest that not EVERYBODY who does social outreach is liberal, and seem to fault me for thinking anybody ever implied that. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? That sure isn’t the tone of some of the articles you’ve cited, and the others here who have posted. You affirmed Steve in his vastly overstated blast against, well, against nearly everybody, it seems. Perhaps you have been less egregious than others; I have sensed that about you, a certain reasonableness. But you HAVE made terrible overstatements about people that you claim do justice work “instead of” preaching the gospel. How dare you make that claim about people you don’t know, who you have not walked alongside? We all know there are liberal pseudo-Christians out there, and we know the social gospel is prevalent in some places. We are talking about the Jubilee conference, and that accusation is simply not one that can be sustained by the facts.

      No one has issued any apologies or remorse or nuance of qualifying the terrible untruths spoken about Jubilee and the CCO. But nobody has proven me wrong either, proving clearly that CCO is “social gospel” or “liberal.” Rather than just owning up to it, and saying your sorry with some humility and good manners, you blame ME for caring about the implications of your damning accusations.

      I have repeated the nonsense over and over, maybe thinking somebody would post back saying “oh no, we didn’t mean to say that” but it hasn’t happened. Maybe you think I’m overstating the accusations, but that is absurd: go back and read them as I did. Never has anyone just out and out said: no, we don’t believe CCO teaches a social gospel. And, unless someone can document that they do, the CCO and Jubilee remain “innocent until proven guilty.”

      There are charges that we disagree about–the relative merit of doing cultural engagement ministries, teaching discernment skills about popular culture, working with others who may or may not be somewhat controversial. (Yes, Chris Seaay worked with Bible scholars, including a renowned conservative from Dallas Theo, to do a Bible paraphrase. That doesn’t prove anything about his theological stance, unless you equally right off half the workers for Wycliffe Bible…) So CCO is “guilty” of allowing Chris Seaay to speak. But that isn’t a matter I’ve debated with you: I am only interested in this claim about social concerns, the liberal influences supposedly behind the CCO and where the cultural mandate emphasis of the Christian worldview thinkers like Schaeffer that influenced Jubilee is “social gospel.”

      I know you cannot speak for Judy or Yvonne or the others who post. But I find it odd that you join in affirming them and saying odd stuff, and then back off a bit, and then yell at me for wanting you to be honorable and honest in what you say about others.

      PS: You fault me for disagreeing with your unusual accusation that Colson is “liberal.” And then you fault me–whose playing word games now?–for somehow misreading you (“read my lips” you write.) I DID NOT mis-understand or mis-read you. You said he was “liberal” in that one thing. And I (properly, I believe) said that was not a fair description of him, in that one thing. I admitted that I have friends on both sides of that debate [Colson signing a document inviting evangelicals and conservative Catholic to join together to fight against abortion, etc..] I understand that some think it is wrong to sign a statement with Catholics.

      I just think it is a foolish and inaccurate use of the word “liberal” in that one matter as a description of Colson’s motivation or intent or result, in that one thing we are talking about. (Why you accuse me of reading into your statement is beyond me: I specifically said that if you call him liberal for that one thing, something doctrinal you disagree with, then the word just comes to mean anything and nothing, really. I said it is an unfair and inadequate description of his decision to sign the ECT document. I’m not reading into what you said, I’m talking about the adequacy of your assesement of that one thing.) He wasn’t liberal in that decision, and can’t imagine why you’d say such an odd thing, even if you make a case that he is theologically mistaken or unwise in ECT.

      No, I’m not reading into your words. You said Colson “in that one thing” is liberal. I think that is just a wildly inaccurate accusation to make, as it was NOT motivated by any of what we both agree are liberal tendencies. He, with great commitment to the authority of the Bible and classic Baptist theology, with great personal piety and integrity, thinks that was the right thing to do. You think (apparently) he is not only Biblically and theologically wrong, but you think in that one thing he is “liberal.” He is not “liberal” on that, even if he is misguided: he didn’t make the decision the way liberals do, he didn’t disregard the Bible or the Truth (as he understood it.) A “liberal” motivation to do that might say “I don’t care what the Bible says” or “pragmatic political ends make this justifiable” or “it doesn’t matter what orthodox theology says.” Colson said none of those things: he made a decision guided by conscience in light of His high, conservative regard for the authority of the Bible believing before God in light of His conservative Biblical views, that he was in the right.

      Even somebody who disagrees with him on that choice (like, say, R.C. Sproul, or John MacArthur) wouldn’t say he was “liberal” in that, only wrong-headed.

      You see, again, words matter. If you can show that he had “liberal” tendencies in that, that his motivation was out of disregard for the Bible, a watering down of truth, etc etc, then it might make sense. I think it was intellectually lazy of you, because you should have picked a better word to describe his theological position on that. Liberal? It just doesn’t do justice to his position, not at all.

      So I think it is a mistake to malign him like that using a word that is hurtful and demeaning for a Bible-believing evangelical.

      I am NOT playing word games. You can’t slander people, and then when they say they you misunderstood, they are hurt or offended, laugh it off saying, “ooooh, you are just a stickler for words, how picky of you.” NO! Words matter in God’s world (and in His Word) and when you insult and degrade and demean and speak falsely of others, you must repent.

      Don’t blame the victim, Glen, or go after the messenger, and don’t say “I don’t want to talk anymore” after you’ve done real damage. That isn’t fair or right. Just own up to the mean-spirited nonsense that has been said and show some moderation about the overstated half-truths that you’ve validated and approved of, and admit that it could have been said better.

      I’ve asked Yvonne and Judy and you if you have had any conversations with the people you accuse of being liberal or Dominionist or social gospel–CCO, Jubilee, or, now, Chuck Colson?

      Have you or have you not?

      You folks have shown yourselves as people with great commitment and zeal for the honor of the Lord. You have not shown a similar commitment to humility, kindness, or a desire to get the truth properly stated.

  10. PS: Hey, Glenn,

    You suggested maybe that I really wasn’t all that surprised to have you imply that that liberal social justice activists are social gospel. You said that you haven’t heard anybody else complain about that use of the word, or something to that effect.

    I really, really am not being dishonest here or playing word-games about saying that the term social gospel means what I have always thought it meant, what everybody I know thinks it means, what any dictionary or church history text says it means. And you and Judy and Yvonne and others who have commented have all used it derisively, suggesting it is a term about those who allow social concerns to shadow or trump the preaching of the gospel. I don’t travel in the same circles of you, but in my experience “social gospel” = theological liberalism. That means guys that say the Bible is just a book, Christ’s death wasn’t atoning, we don’t need to convert others, just have “interfaith dialogue” and that we can re-design sexual ethics in any way we want, that we “build” the Kingdom on Earth by our own humanitarian efforts. It isn’t the same as liberation theology, but they are similar in their “horitzontal” “this wordly” focus, doing service for others out of some utopian ideal.

    John Perkins, John Stott, J. I, Packer, Francis Schaeffer, Marva Dawn, Gary Haugen, D. James Kennedy, Al Wolters, Tony Campolo, Chuck Colson, and most others who have been most significant in influencing the CCO have nothing to do with any of that and it is shocking to have anybody call them that or infer there is any connection to that bankrupt theological tradition when there just isn’t. I’m not saying I haven’t heard it, I’m saying it is dead wrong.

    And, in that paragraph, you say something “as educated, as astute, as well read…” as “I claim to be.” I never claimed any of those things. I will take it as a slight oversight on your part, putting those words in my mouth. I hope anybody reading in on this will know, though, I have never ever made claims to being that smart or educated. I do think I know hogwash when I see it, and I am hopeful enough to think that Christian people will apologize when an error they speak is pointed out. I know that some folks have made some really outlandish claims that have not been proven or documented, and that has been worse than unkind, it has been sinful. And they’ve had bad manners, too, in failing to admit their errors with any remorse. My momma taught me that much.


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