The Social Gospel is Still With Us – Part I

Liberal theology, in the early part of the 20th century, promised peace on earth, harmony with all, and a united world.  Liberal theologians believed in the basic goodness of man, his high intellectual capability, and man’s ability to love one another into utopia.  Reality set in when World War’s I & II were fought.  The wars destroyed the love, peace, and harmony tenants of liberal theology.[1] 

A new group of theologians individually developed  strategies (wittingly or unwittingly) to make the unbelief they shared with liberal theology heard and accepted.  The common ground shared with the liberal camp is higher criticism which regards the written Word as the fallible product of man.[2]  These theologians clothed their new ideas in the language of Scripture thus making them acceptable to the professing populace of the church.[3]  The result was the theology of neo-orthodoxy which means new right thinking.  

Neo-orthodox theologians declared a return to the Word of God, but they did not mean to the written Word.[4]  Neo-orthodoxy embraces higher criticism which treats the written Word as a fallible product of man.[5]  In the neo-orthodox view none of the events of Scripture need to be true historical events.[6]  “Science, the Barthians say, has delivered us from having to believe the Genesis stories…”[7]

The Word they reference is a revelation of Jesus, but without the written record to hold their teaching accountable and in check.[8] Original sin changes from the depravity of man to man’s awareness that he is not what he should be.[9]  God’s justice takes priority over His love. The resurrection becomes renewal, manifesting itself in the cause of righting the wrongs of social injustice.[10]  The cross involves the dying of self but without the blood of redemption.[11]

When neo-orthodoxy issues a call to the Word of God, it is not concerned about the historical events of Scripture or even a literal historical resurrected Christ.  Neo-orthodoxy identifies Jesus as the Word or Logos, but any connection of Him to the written Word is unnecessary for them.[12]  Neo-orthodoxy’s Jesus exists in a spiritual fog bank divorced from the Christ of Scripture.  

One of the three main voices of neo-orthodoxy was Reinhold Niebuhr who, by the way, is credited with writing the ”Serenity Prayer” which is held in high regard by most of Christendom.

Niebuhr was a Lutheran minister, who became heavily involved in the politics of his day. He was a social activist.  His activism involved championing the cause of oppressed workers before unionization.  He was also a political activist.   Early on he ran for office as a Socialist, but later moved on because of disagreement with their pacifist policies.  He was a founder of the Americans for Democratic Action and held office in the Liberal Party of the State of NY.[13]

The basic goals of Niebuhr’s neo-orthodoxy were giving  individuals a better quality of life, righting social wrongs and leveling the playing field both socially and economically or in short, social justice.  “The thing that keeps love and power in balance is justice, which is the way love is translated into social action.”[14] 

Neo-orthodoxy has permeated the theological thought of America’s seminaries.  As go the seminaries, so go the churches. The appeal of an “intellectual” approach to Christianity has enabled professing Christendom to remain religious and at the same time deny the written Word that is the very basis of all we know and believe concerning God and His Son, Jesus Christ.[15]

The Lord said concerning the Scriptures; “…and they are they which testify of me.  And ye will not come to me that ye might have life” (John 5:39 & 40).


  • A few years back, IPTV ran a special on the life of Jimmy Carter.  In that special it was stated that one of Jimmy Carter’s favorite theologians is Reinhold Niebuhr.[16] 
  • In an interview with the journalist David Brooks, prior to his election to his first term as president, Mr. Obama stated that one of his favorite philosophers is Reinhold Niebuhr.[17]

[1] (Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. “Chapter 4.” Neoorthodoxy – Chicago: Moody, 1956. 15 & 16. Print.)

[2] Hordern, William E. “Chapter 5.” A Layman’s Guide to Protestant Theology. New York: MacMillan, 1955. 112. Print.

[3] (Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. “Chapter 6.” Neoorthodoxy – Chicago: Moody, 1956. 24. Print.)

[4] (Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. “Chapter 1.” Neoorthodoxy – Chicago: Moody, 1956. 5 & 6. Print.)

[5] (Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. “Chapter 12.” Neoorthodoxy – Chicago: Moody, 1956. 45. Print.)

[6] & [8] (Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. “Chapter 6.” Neoorthodoxy – Chicago: Moody, 1956. 23. Print.)

[7] (Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. “Chapter 13.” Neoorthodoxy – Chicago: Moody, 1956. 51. Print.)

[9] (Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. “Chapter 8.” Neoorthodoxy – Chicago: Moody, 1956. 31. Print.)

[10] & [14] (Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. “Chapter 8.” Neoorthodoxy – Chicago: Moody, 1956. 32. Print.)

[11] (Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. “Chapter 10.” Neoorthodoxy – Chicago: Moody, 1956. 40. Print.)

[12] (Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. “Chapter 6.” Neoorthodoxy – Chicago: Moody, 1956. 22-25. Print.)

[13] Bennett, Rev. John C. “Reinhold Niebuhr.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. N.p.: n.p., 2014. Print.

[15] (Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. “Chapter 4.” Neoorthodoxy – Chicago: Moody, 1956. 17. Print.)

[16] (American Experience – Jimmy Carter. Iowa Public Television. 24 Feb. 2011. Television.)

[17] Brooks, David. “Obama, Gospel & Verse.” NY Times 26 Apr. 2007: n. pag. Print.

Ramm, Bernard  L.  “Neo-orthodoxy” A Handbook of Contemporary Theology – Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966. Print.





Big God/Little God

How big or little is our God?

Is He limited to what you or I can understand?  Is He limited by our ability to comprehend?  Is He limited by our bias?  Is He limited by our experience?  Is He limited by our culture?  Is He limited by what others think?

Is He limited by our finances?  Is He limited by our family?  Is  He limited by our friends?  Is He limited by our ability to love?  Is He limited by our ability to forgive?  Is He limited by our capacity to hate?

Is He limited by the bias of our world?  Is He limited by our condition? Is He limited by our inability to see?

He should be nothing less than what His Word proclaims Him to be.

Salvation and Works

The Apostle Paul, writing in I Corinthians 15:1-4 says; “I declare unto you the gospel which I preached to you, which ye also received and in which ye stand, by which also ye are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures”.

The gospel is the message that God has provided for our salvation by sending His Son Jesus Christ to die in our place for our sins and after He was buried, Christ rose from the dead.  All those who believe on Him or accept God’s payment of our sin debt through Christ’s death, burial and resurrection are forgiven their sins and are saved to eternal life.  Those who do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will not be forgiven and shall perish under God’s judgment.

Our individual salvation is based upon our acceptance of God’s provision for our sin.  Our efforts at goodness, our attempts at merit and our works of righteousness have nothing to do with experiencing God’s forgiveness and receiving eternal life.  Forgiveness and eternal life are His gifts to us when we believe on His Son.  (See John 3:16-21 & 36; Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:3-8; Romans 4:1-8).

The song writer put it this way; “Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou biddest me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come! I come!”  Another wrote, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name.  On Christ the solid rock, I stand!  All other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand!”

Works are an outward sign of an inward condition.  Works are symptoms that characterize our lives as believers or unbelievers. Works are the fruit of righteousness in the life of a believer or they are the fruit of unrighteousness in the life of an unbeliever.

A tree can be identified by the fruit that is hanging on it.  What kind of fruit characterizes our lives?  What do we practice in our life and in our thought life?  That is who we are.  Is it the fruit of salvation that results in obedience to Christ and His Word or is it the fruit of sin which results in disobedience to Christ and His Word?

Whether we go to heaven or hell is based upon belief or unbelief in God’s provision for our sin.  The believer after arriving in heaven is judged by Christ and rewarded according to his works as a believer.  The unbeliever will be judged by Christ at the great white throne judgment (Revelation 20:10-15) according to his works as an unbeliever, and he will be cast into the lake of fire which is the second death.

In the sermon on the mount, Christ warned, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

The important thing to remember is that salvation comes first, and then works or walking according to His will, comes after.  If you are doing works or even righteous works, in the hope of gaining salvation……stop it!  You have the cart before the horse.

Repent (change your mind) and accept God’s provision for your sin. Establish a relationship with God by receiving Jesus Christ as your only hope of salvation.  The fruit of righteousness out of a heart of thanksgiving will follow.

“But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” John 1:12.

The Words of My Mouth

“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain (empty)” (James 1:26).

Plumbing question………can you get drinking water and sewage out of the same pipe?  The Scripture asks this question in regards to speech, “Can a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?” (James 3:11).

The answer is an understood “No!”  What we get from the pipe is determined by the source.  If the source is fresh clean spring water, we get fresh clean spring water.  If the source is contaminated, contaminated water will come out.  According to the source we receive one or the other, but not both.

James is dealing with the tongue.  In chapter three he calls the tongue a fire, a world of iniquity.  He goes on to say that every kind of beast, bird, reptile and sea creature has been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue.  He calls it an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless God and with it we curse men who are made in the image of God.  In verse 10 of chapter three, James says “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought not so to be.”

Consider the source of our words.  Christ said, “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (Matthew 15:11).  He continues in verse 18, “those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile the man.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”  Christ is speaking again in Matthew 12:34b where he says, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh”. 

Let’s be honest with ourselves.  What characterizes our speech? The character of our speech and the content of our thoughts reveal the condition of our heart.  Do we find ourselves in a bad way?  

Reforming our speech is not the answer.  That would be like the doctor giving an aspirin and a band aid for a ruptured appendix.  We would die.  If we just reform our speech, we would still die and go to hell.  The answer is a new source, a new man.  “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:17).  A new creature is born when we accept God’s provision for our sin by inviting Christ into our heart to be our personal Saviour.

The remedy for a Christian who is having trouble controlling his tongue is a renewed mind and no unconfessed sin.  “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).  

The word for transformed is the same as for metamorphosis.  This is referring not to an external change (conformation), but rather a complete change (transformation) from the inside out.  It starts at salvation and continues as we read, study and meditate on God’s Word which is the sword of the Spirit.  “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11).  

Believers should read the Scriptures, meditate on what they mean and how they apply to our lives, allowing God’s truth and the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out.

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).