Sixth in the Series “Evangelicals In Search of Identity”

Despite renewed awareness that the Christian Gospel has indispensable social implications, evangelicals seem to divide increasingly over the relation between social concern and evangelism and over what program Christian social ethics implies.

At the far right are fundamentalists who consider evangelism the Church’s only proper task in the world and justify social effort—like rescue missions and relief for the poor—only as a means of converting people to personal faith. Evangelist Billy Graham is not so extreme; while he distinguishes evangelism as the primary mission of the Church, he also recognizes the propriety of an evangelical response to human need generally, and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association recently established a framework for evangelical social response. The National Association of Evangelicals, which links a vast network of theologically conservative churches, has more fully channeled the gospel dynamic to such human needs as post-war relief in Europe and South Korea, and by means of its World Relief Commission it has ministered even more widely through socio-spiritual programs administered by evangelicals in disaster and poverty-stricken areas.

The demand of Third World evangelicals that the Christian Gospel not be limited to personal conversion but incorporate also a vigorous demand for social justice that indicts oppressive politico-economic forces has shaken up the World Evangelical Fellowship, whose American supporters concentrate on personal regeneration. Leighton Ford, John Stott, Bishop Jack Dain, and many WEF participants view the restriction to personal conversion as a limitation of the Gospel.

A number of evangelical agencies are responding ...

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