Russell Moore took to his new YouTube channel, which up until now has been used to discuss aliens, evangelizing clones, and bizarre, technology-focused conspiracy theories, to discuss “Social Gospel.” In doing so, Moore spends eleven minutes saying very little, and what he does manage to say is historically and objectively wrong.
Social Gospel is a term that was first employed toward the Communitarianism of Henry George by Charles Oliver Brown. George had written the book Progress and Poverty, espousing Marxist notions of collective property ownership. Essentially, Henry George argued that it was morally unjust for the Industrial Revolution to benefit some people more than others, and argued subsequently that natural resources were really owned collectively. This sparked Georgism, also known as the Single Tax Movement, which asserted that anyone using natural resources to produce goods had to pay back society for using those resources. They would redistribute wealth, therefore, from manufacturers to the rest of society through taxation of wealth. Thus, the concept of income tax was born.
George, a Marxist, held to his belief that people could not own natural resources (like land or mineral rights) so fervently that Charles Oliver Brown said of him that it was like he held to a “Social Gospel.” Brown was not implying that George’s view had anything to do with Christianity; it was a term to convey only the religious fervor he held for the redistribution of wealth through taxation.
George’s book on wealth redistribution was written in 1879, but it wasn’t until 1910 that some Presbyterians adopted the Marxist view as somehow Christian. It was then that Washington Gladden adopted the Marxist views as an actual “Social Gospel” and used the principles of Communitarianism to promote unions in the workplace.
After Gladden took the sarcastic “Social Gospel” term and oriented it toward actual (or supposed) Christian belief, it was then popularized by Walter Rauschenbusch.
Rauschenbusch was a self-professed Socialist who admired Karl Marx. Rauschenbush’s chief ideological goal was to eliminate Christian individualism and promote Communitarianism, the idea that the good for the collective whole is more important than individual rights.
As Edgar Bundy explains in his book, Collectivism in the Churches:
Religion was only a means toward achieving socialism, and like all other false prophets who have infiltrated religion through the centuries, Rauschenbusch used a front or disguise. This disguise, as we have seen, was the kingdom of God. The kingdom was not pictured as a spiritual society into which men and women had to be born as individuals through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ his savior, but as a collectivist society which would be brought about by eradication of poverty, redistribution of wealth, and economic justice.
Rauschenbusch wanted to use religion to advance the cause of Karl Marx. Rauschenbusch himself said, “The only power that can make socialism succeed, if it is to be established, is religion. It cannot work in an irreligious country.”
Rauschenbusch went on with Harry F. Ward to found the National Council of Churches (and ultimately the World Council of Churches) and reshape or “remodel” Christianity into a Social Religion movement.
MOORE COMPLETELY BOTCHED HIS DESCRIPTION OF SOCIAL GOSPEL
Other than briefly referencing Walter Rauschenbusch, Moore did a disservice to all hundred or so people watching the YouTube video, by not explaining that Social Gospel started as a non-religious idea and a sacrilegious term.
Moore also left out the historic fact that Social Gospel was a term invented to describe a scheme by which wealth would be redistributed by taxation and one that denied the immutability of private property rights.
Moore explains that the problem with the Social Gospel isn’t that it’s a Marxist scheme, but because it has some distorted views of the Kingdom of God, before following with about seven minutes of what can best be described as tap-dancing gobbledegook.
MOORE AGREES WITH RAUSCHENBUSCH ON “SYSTEMIC AND SOCIETAL SIN”
It absolutely amazes me that this man still has a job, but I supposed in a world where Danny Akin and Albert Mohler both deny supporting Critical Race Theory while their institutions have whole courses and departments designed to teach it, it shouldn’t surprise me so much.
So, get this—after vaguely denouncing Social Gospel (for some nebulous reasons he doesn’t really explain), Moore goes on to agree with the major underlying assertion of the Social Gospel; that there is such a thing as “societal sin” and “systemic sin.”
The Bible, of course, does not teach that there is “societal sin,” and this is a construct entirely owed to the Social Gospel and (later) Social Justice movements.
Moore claims the Social Gospel movement is slightly askew for making sin all about collective societal ills, but agrees with Rauschenbusch explicitly that sin isn’t only personal offense against God, but includes transgressions of our culture.
This is not Biblical. This is Social Gospel. Listen for that at about the 6:30 minute-mark.
MOORE SAYS THAT RAUSCHENBUSCH’S [MARXIST] REFORMS WERE “RIGHT” and “NEEDED TO BE DONE”
Amazingly, Moore says (starting at the 7-minute-mark) that the reforms done by the early Social Gospel proponents “needed to be done” and were “rightful.”
The early Social Gospel proponents were Marxists—literal, actual, self-confessed Marxists. To Moore, however, their reforms were good and their only problem is that they de-emphasized personal religion.
MOORE DOESN’T ACKNOWLEDGE THAT SOCIAL GOSPEL IS SOCIAL JUSTICE
Of course, Social Justice was originally founded by Jesuit priests in South America and promoted by the World Council of Churches (which was founded out of the work of Social Gospel proponents a century prior) at the First International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Both Social Justice and the Social Gospel share the same foundational beliefs: Marxism is Christian, and a theology must be crafted that supports the redistribution of wealth and privilege.
In fact, the similarities between the Social Gospel and Social Justice are so strong, some have considered the two terms synonymous. And yet, Russell Moore is one of the chief proponents of Social Justice in American evangelicalism today.
You can watch the video below.
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