What the “Social Gospel” & “Christian Nationalism” Both (Ironically) Have in Common

There’s an ironic similarity between (1) “the social gospel” — reducing the gospel and Christian mission to advancing social justice — and (2) “Christian nationalism” — hitching the Christian mission to the church having/maintaining cultural dominance.

Christian cultural and social impact, of course, I believe are good, and flow out of the Christian mission.

But interestingly/ironically, these two socially and politically polar opposite viewpoints — (1) “the social gospel” and (2) “Christian nationalism” — err seemingly in the same way: they misplace the center of the church’s mission with a usurping concern over their social presence.

To the “social gospel” we say, Yes, social justice is a biblical imperative, and its outworking is entailed in Christian mission. But social justice is not itself the gospel, nor should it be equated with biblical “salvation.”

To the “Christian nationalist” we say again, impact on society is admirable. But it’s not the end-all-be-all. Our witness comes first. Cultural domination is not our mission. And when we conceive of it as such, we can find ourselves pursuing it at the expense of our witness.

In short, both (again, ironically) make cultural and social impact paramount at the expense of the soteriological center of our mission.

And ironically both chastise the other for doing what they themselves do: equating their mission with the pursuit of a particular political vision, either the Left’s in the case of the “social gospel,” or the Right’s in the case of “Christian nationalism.”

They’re polar opposite on the political spectrum. But underneath, they share the same warp and woof.

Goodreads Reviews of Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism by R.C. Sproul

Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman CatholicismAre We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism by R.C. Sproul

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is written to those who are Protestant, in an effort to help them sense the theological chasm between Protestantism and Rome. As such, it is not written as much with an eye towards Catholics, to help them understand Protestant convictions or arguments.

Almost all attention is given to unpacking Catholic thought. Protestant views are only mentioned occasionally in so much as to provide a contrast. But they are not expanded upon.

The above is not a critique of the book, just a clarification that if you are looking for a book that contrasts Protestant and Catholic belief, simultaneously making a case for Protestantism, for example, this is not your book. Sproul, rather, is detailing Catholic thought with an aim of depressing inappropriate ecumenical tendencies (i.e., blowing off differences with Rome) among protestants.

As he proceeds towards this aim, Sproul does a fair job presenting Catholic views. He is charitable, and avoids caricatures, which are all too common among protestants. He gives the needed nuance to Catholic views. He wants to help protestants genuinely understand Catholic theology, and to see it’s rationale.

This book is to be recommended for those looking to understand Catholicism better, specifically on those key subjects where it differs most significantly from Protestant thought.

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A Final, Clarifying Remark About My Stance on Trump, Evangelicals, & the 2016 Election

Some evangelicals are saying, “The election is over. What’s done is done. There’s nothing we can do about it now. Besides, maybe he won’t be as bad as you thought. Let’s see what happens.”

If that’s you, I’m afraid you’ve misunderstood folks like myself from the very beginning.

Large swaths of evangelicals defended and/or excused Mr. Trump’s moral corruption and damaging rhetoric — his racism, misogyny, degradation of the handicap, dismissiveness of sexual assault, inciting hatred towards immigrants, prompting fear and callousness towards refugees, etc. Regardless of what type of president Mr. Trump turns out to be, that still happened. That can’t be undone.

You see, for some of us — at least as much as I can speak for myself — our outcry against evangelical support of Trump has never been centrally about the electoral contribution of your vote Tuesday, as if we had some political agenda that now becomes moot after the election (“What’s done is done”). Nor has it ever been about “providing a solution” to a dilemma we never claimed to be addressing in the first place — the nomination of two generally unlikeable candidates.

Our primary concern is and always has been the spiritual condition of evangelicalism, about the church’s witness, integrity, and faithfulness to truth. And that’s something that obviously transcends the election itself. The 2016 election didn’t create (and therefore conclude) the concerning state we now see; it merely exposed it.