Heresies: Rauschenbuschism (Social Gospel)

Rauschenbuschism is one of the five heresies coined by Polemics Report or its sister ministry, Pulpit & Pen (along with Vinism , Haginism, Osteensim and Theoerosism). Rauschenbuschism is so named in the tradition of naming heresies for their founders or most prominent proponents. In this case, Rauschenbuschism is named after Walter Rauschenbusch, who wrote “A Theology for the Social Gospel.” Pertinently, the more popular term for Rauschenbusch is, in fact, the Social Gospel. 

Rauschenbuschism teaches that the Gospel’s primary consequence on Earth is not the forgiveness of sins, but the solution to racism, social or economic inequality, poverty, crime, environmental problems or other social ills. The roots of Rauschenbuschism is post-millennial theologically (although not by necessity), but it has come to widespread acceptance in all eschatological views. Rauschenbuschism came to prominence in the 20th Century by men like Walter Rauschenbusch and Josiah Strong.

In “A Theology for the Social Gospel” (which itself denotes that it is an ideology in pursuit of a theology), Rauschenbusch explained that the goals of social improvement could be reached and enthusiasm for its completion intensified if only a theology could be created that was designed to promote those goals. In his opinion, the “regular Gospel” made clear the sinfulness of individuals, but did not make clear the “sinfulness of institutions.”

Rauschenbuschism teaches that institutions that are inherently wicked can be redeemed through the right theological focus, and even be brought to repentance in the same way that individuals can be brought to repentance. Rauschenbuschism can be discerned by common use and misuse of the word “Kingdom,” as taken from Matthew 6:10.

Rauschenbuschism became a highly favored tool of social progressives in the 20th Century, as well as Communists and Marxists propagating their views in the United States, although conservatives also utilized the ideology in prohibition and other social movements.

Modern proponents of Rauschenbuschism include certain segments of Christian Reconstruction, adherents to Black Liberation theology, and Jim Wallis. There is growing concern that Rauschenbuschism is becoming slowly accepted by modern evangelicals like Russell Moore, Thabiti Anyabwile and the organizations, the Gospel Coalition and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Time will tell if Rauschenbuschism truly takes hold in traditionally more conservative evangelicalism.


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