The thanksgiving/73 “Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern” was significant for numerous reasons, some of which I shall indicate below.
Its importance for the future doubtless depends upon whether evangelical Christians can marshall cooperation for certain social objectives even as they do for evangelistic goals, whether some independent spirits make it an occasion of provocatory reaction, or whether others unilaterally exploit the statement for partisan purposes. No single evangelical enterprise or leader—whether CHRISTIANITY TODAY or evangelist Billy Graham or whatever and whoever—today speaks definitively for evangelical social concern. Reasons for this are not hard to give, but no profitable purpose would be served by listing them here.
There is no doubt that the American evangelical outlook today is more disposed to social involvement than it has been for two generations. Yet those who have direct access to evangelical masses have not been providing principial leadership for authentic courses of action. This accommodates a great deal of confusion, the more so since ecumenical spokesmen, Carl McIntire, and others have successfully exploited mass-media coverage for conflicting positions that often have more support in emotion than in sound reason.
Whatever disposition some interpreters may have to shrug off the Chicago Declaration as saying nothing that had not already been said by denominational or ecumenical commissions on social action, negatively at least it avoided several mistakes to which contemporary religious activism has been highly prone. For some denominational spokesmen, changing social structures constitutes the Church’s evangelistic mission in the modern world; the call to ...1
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