Do We Believe the Whole Gospel?
Unbelief. This one word expresses the judgment Emil Brunner, the Swiss “crisis theologian,” used to describe nineteenth-century liberal theology. The rise of such liberalism was a conscious synthesis between naturalism in the world of philosophy and historic Christianity. Liberalism sought to de-supernaturalize the Christian faith and to restrict the modern significance of Jesus and the New Testament to ethical considerations, particularly with respect to the needs of human beings, and especially with respect to their material needs.
This provoked a significant dilemma for the organized church, first in Europe and then in America. If an institution repudiates the very foundation upon which it is built and for which it exists, what happens to the billions of dollars worth of church property and its numerous ordained professionals? The clergy were left with nothing to preach except social concerns. In order to maintain a reason for the continued existence of Christianity as an organized religion, nineteenth-century liberalism turned to a new gospel, dubbed the “social gospel.” This was a gospel that focused on considerations of humanitarianism and had at the core of its agenda a commitment to “social justice.”