If the Church is to be adequate for today and tomorrow, she must, in St. Paul’s words, “declare the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27, RSV). She must proclaim to the world a balanced, full-orbed gospel.
We are caught just now in a tug-of-war between two groups of churchmen—those who champion individual salvation from the guilt and penalty of sin, and those who champion Christian social action. As a consequence, the “body of Christ” is afflicted with the disease of “either/or,” whereas what is needed is a fresh baptism of “both/and.”
A serious weakness of the Christian enterprise in our day is the way followers of Christ are breaking up into factions for the propagation of one feature of Christianity to the practical exclusion of all others. We hear a good deal from competing groups about “the personal gospel” and “the social gospel,” as if there were two gospels and one must choose between them. Well, I for one refuse to choose between doctrine and ethics, between Christianity as a creed and Christianity as a life, between the inner life of the soul and the outer life of conduct, between personal salvation and social crusading. Why not have both? Are not both in the New Testament? Why choose between them?
There must be no feud between private religion and public morals. Walter Rauschenbusch, the great champion of ethical Christianity, believed in and championed both. “Go at both simultaneously,” he pleaded. “Neither is possible without the other.”
Let the partisans of personal Christianity remember that a faith which does not issue in Christlike attitudes and acts—which does not work unceasingly for social righteousness and justice—is a counterfeit faith. A faith which does not make people care about “man’s inhumanity to man” ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more