Perspectives on Social Ethics Part I: Theological Perspectives on Social Ethics -- By: Charles C. Ryrie
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Perspectives on Social Ethics
Theological Perspectives on Social Ethics
[Charles C. Ryrie, Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary.]
[EDITOR’,S NOTE: This is the first in a series of four articles, first delivered by the author as the Louis S. Bauman Memorial Lectures at Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Indiana, February 10–13, 1976.]
Many evangelicals trace the emergence of modern thought about the social implications of the gospel to Carl Henry’s book, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundalmentalisim, which first appeared in 1947. From that same author have also come such works is Christian Personal Ethics (1957), Aspects of Christian Social Ethics (1964), and A Plea for Evangelical Demonstration (1971). Sociologist David Moberg wrote The Church as a Social Institution in 1962 and Inasmuch in 1965. The subtitle of the latter was “Christian Social Responsibility in the Twentieth Century.” Sherwood Wirt, former editor of Decision magazine, wrote The Social Conscience of the Evangelical ( 1968), which is a strong call to action rather than a detailed discussion of the issues per se. A professor at Philadelphia College of Bible, Charles Y. Furness, produced in 1972 the book The Christian and Social Action, which gives blueprints for implementing social concern. In addition, there have been countless articles, seminars, and consultations on the subject.
When new evangelicalism set forth its manifesto, one of its main concerns was to do something about the social implications of the gospel which, in the opinion of the new evangelicals, fundamentalists had abandoned. Now a generation later, there has appeared the unbelievable spectacle of another group pushing aside the new evangelicals (actually the old new evangelicals) and insisting that
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they are the true new evangelicals. And so, what was new evangelicalism from the late 1940s through the 1960s is now being called in the 1970s the “establishment evangelicalism”; it has been supplanted by the self-proclaimed young evangelicals who, according to their own publicity, are the only ones who have a genuine social concern. Richard Quebedeaux, their spokesman, charges:
We have found social concern among Establishment Evangelicals to be often merely an offering of pious words rather than a demonstration of prophetic action. Hence, if we are looking for a powerful expression of spiritual renewal in Orthodox Christianity—one genuinely committed to reconciliation and active faith in a secular society—we shall have to search elsewhere.
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