The Social Gospel Part 2 -- By: Alan H. Hamilton

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 108:429 (Jan 1951)
Article: The Social Gospel Part 2
Author: Alan H. Hamilton

The Social Gospel
Part 2

Alan H. Hamilton

(Continued from the April-June Number, 1950)

{Editor’s note: Footnotes in the original printed edition were numbered 22–43, but in this electronic edition are numbered 1–22 respectively.}

A Diversified Background

Socialism. The concept of socialism has historically gathered within its borders numerous elements which make it hard of definition. A date for the beginning of socialism will depend upon our definition of the movement. Oscar Jaszi outlines six characteristics which have been found common to all the varying ideologies in its history as well as to the more definitely organized developments of the post-Renaissance period. Says he “these are: first, a condemnation of the existing political and social order as unjust; second, an advocacy of a new order consistent with moral values; third, a belief that this ideal is realizable; fourth, a conviction that the immorality of the established order is traceable not to a fixed world-order or to the unchanging nature of man, but to corrupt institutions; fifth, a program of action leading to the ideal through a fundamental remolding of human nature or of institutions or both; and sixth, a revolutionary will to carry out this program.”1

The affinity of the social gospel movement for a program containing these principles is immediately evident. It is further substantiated by the fact that movements identified as socialistic prior to the 18th century were associated with religious, or at least strongly idealistic, concepts. As Bliss in 1897 undertook to outline in his Encyclopedia the history of socialism, he found elements of it traceable as

far back as to the beginning of human society and always as the expression of an altruistic impulse. In the Hebrew theocracy, in the primitive churches, in the monastic institutions of the Middle Ages, in projects undertaken by the Brethren of the Common Life, Anabaptists and others, Bliss could see the ideal of socialism being expressed.

Socialism of the modern type, however, is inextricably linked with the rise of the capitalistic system. Something of its rise has been noticed already. It may be helpful at this point to see the system through the eyes of a Socialist of the modern type. Sidney and Beatrice Webb describe it as “the particular stage in the development of industry and legal institutions in which the bulk of the workers find themselves divorced from the ownership of the instruments of production, in such a way as to pass into the position of wage-earners whose subsistence, security and personal freedom seem dependent on t...

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