Sin, Satan, and the Social Gospel -- By: Joseph Edwin Harris

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 091:364 (Oct 1934)
Article: Sin, Satan, and the Social Gospel
Author: Joseph Edwin Harris


Sin, Satan, and the Social Gospel

Joseph Edwin Harris

“Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” So runs the apostolic stricture against a different gospel, and in the light of it an instructed believer cannot but view with misgivings arising from its very name a teaching that can style itself the “social” gospel. Such a doctrine is widely proclaimed in our day, however, and this article is an enquiry into its content and a criticism of its weaknesses.

Not every one who uses the term and manifests an interest in what he may call the social gospel is necessarily a purveyor of “another gospel.” For there are those who are true to the one and only Gospel, who, indiscriminatingly perhaps, but guiltlessly use the term “social gospel” to mean simply the social bearings and fruitage of the New Testament Gospel. And that that Gospel has its social implications and effects is abundantly evident from the New Testament itself.

It was under the preaching of Paul himself at Ephesus that idolatry was so widely undermined as to touch a section of the industrial and commercial world of that pagan society and to arouse the outcry of the, “vested

interests” represented by Demetrius and his fellow-craftsmen. Here were repercussions of Gospel preaching in pagan society due to its influence upon popular thought to an extent that seems to have reached far beyond the circle of the truly regenerate.

Their recognition of the social implications of the Gospel necessitated the refusal of early Christians to participate in certain essentially pagan aspects of Gentile social life. This brought ostracism and persecution, but in time the Christian refusal to compromise brought it about that great evils of pagan society eventually died out. In modern times the antislavery movement, the temperance and Red Cross movements, and much propaganda that has produced an amelioration of social and industrial evils are directly or indirectly traceable to the Gospel of Christ.

Such social outworkings of Christianity cannot be limited to the regenerate element in society. It is said that as a result of six months of D. L. Moody’s preaching in Baltimore State prison the moral tone of the institution so improved that where, six months before he came, ninety per cent of the prisoners were guilty of infractions of prison discipline, after six months of Gospel preaching only ten per cent violated the rules. Not all those criminals whose conduct was thus improved, nor even the majority of them, were converted under that preaching, but nevertheless a certain measure of moral reform was...

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