FRUITS OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL article from Destiny magazine 1938-1967 by CR Dickey
During the momentous years between 1920 and 1940 that strange phenomenon known as the Social Gospel reached the apex of its popularity. Many church conferences of that era were built largely around the Social Gospel as the main triumphant theme. Church dignitaries vied with one another in extolling its glories, all of them confident that its application would bring harmony and peace to the whole world within a few short years. The old Gospel of salvation by repentance, by faith in the efficacy of Christ’s death and resurrection, was laid aside like a worn-out garment. At last society had found a way to save itself.
A few of us detected sour notes in the theme. At that time we knew nothing about the background of the Social Gospel, or its ultimate intent, but instinctively we didn’t like its overtones and undertones. It just didn’t seem to ring true; consequently, it made us vaguely uneasy and left us cold. Soon we were seared by the withering scorn of seminary professors and leading pulpiteers for refusing to accept the teachings and aims of the Social Gospel as the highest expression of the will of Christ. So completely did our colleagues go all out for the newfangled salvation, that we sometimes wondered if novices like ourselves could possibly be right.
So, as pariahs, we sat apart and watched our church and other leading denominations organize various councils and committees to promote the Social Gospel. Queer revolutionary doctrines, alien alike to the spirit of the churches and to the spirit of America, were openly presented in ecclesiastical assemblies. A steady stream of mail began to flow from these councils and committees to the churches across the nation. Bulletins, newsletters, plebiscites, program suggestions, et cetera, deluged the churches; they were designed for the church school, and for every department including men, women and children. No group was neglected in this program of indoctrination. Speakers were sent out from the headquarters of these various Social Action councils, and churches were urged to use them when available.
Before considering the results of the Social Gospel, let us examine briefly its beginning and how it was handed down to us. In an excellent summary of this development under the title, “The Origins of the Social Gospel,” Irving E. Howard, minister of the Hope Congregational Church, Worcester, Massachusetts, writes:
“The Social Gospel was born in the optimistic atmosphere of the nineteenth century conquest of the vast American continent and its abundant natural resources. Man was rapidly becoming the master of nature, aided by the new mechanical inventions which were creating both an industrial and an intellectual revolution. Men everywhere were embracing two new congenial dogmas, that progress was inevitable and that man was essentially good.
“These two doctrines became the fundamentals of the Social Gospel and the impetus to a shift in faith from God to man, from eternity to time, from the individual to the group, individual conversions to social coercion, and from the church to the state. The main inspiration of the new movement was non-Christian, and from the beginning it drifted readily into doctrines increasingly removed from biblical faith.
“Both Unitarianism and Transcendentalism were a part of the blooming of this spirit. Ralph Waldo Emerson became a patron saint of the liberal Protestant, and Emerson’s dogma of an immanent God inherent in nature, and of man who partakes of God to the extent that he himself is divine, became an important dogma to the new movement.
“The pagan origin of the Social Gospel was from the beginning apparent in its readiness to sacrifice Christian faith to the new order. As early as 1873, for example, the Unitarian, Octavius Brooks Frothingham, published The Religion of Humanity, dismissing altogether any faith in God in favor of the new god, man. His challenge, although premature, revealed clearly that the drift was from God to man, and that the new dogma would be preserved through sacrifices in theological faith. Collective man and his society were the new god and the new Jerusalem.” (Faith and Freedom, May 1852.)
From these facts one can readily see how the pagan rationalistic philosophy, which flourished in European universities and theological schools in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, paved the way for the so-called Social Gospel. German historical criticism undermined belief in the authority of the Bible and opened the door to humanistic interpretations of religion and life. Prominent clergymen lost the biblical concept of individual responsibility and began to apply the collectivist idea to the interpretation of Christian teachings. Horace Bushnell, in 1847, published his book Christian Nurture, in which he applied John Locke’s theory of environmentalism to religious experience.
Concerning his work, Irving E. Howard says:
“Instead of converting the individual by evangelism, Bushnell argued, children should be molded by a religious environment. Apart from the obvious fact that children should be taught religion, this was the beginning of an idea that formed the core of the Social Gospel. Instead of the converted individual changing his environment, a changed environment was supposed to convert the individual. It is not difficult to conclude from this, the Social Gospel viewpoint, that the environment, not the individual, is responsible for human behavior.”
Twelve years later Darwin’s Origin of Species appeared and, it was thought by some theologians, put a prop under man’s revolt against the authority of the Scriptures. “The Puritan tradition leaned toward science,” comments the Reverend Howard on this point, “and by the 1880’s the majority of the clergy in this tradition had adjusted their thinking to Darwinism. They drew from the Darwinian theory the optimistic conclusion that an immanent God was at work in history evolving by slow process the Kingdom of God on earth. This furnished the Social Gospel with its philosophy of history.”
Next in the development of the Social Gospel was the idea of using the force of the state to bring about social righteousness. This idea was introduced at a conference at Saratoga, New York, in 1885, attended by such notables as Washington Gladden, Simon Patten, Edwin F. A. Seligman, Edmund J. James, John Bates Clark, Richard T. Ely, Andrew D. White and Woodrow Wilson. Some of these men “were fresh from graduate studies in Germany where they had become enamored with Bismarck’s use of the state in the area of human welfare.”
In 1889, Gladden spoke on “Christian Socialism” at the National Council of Congregational Churches. At that time he said:
“It begins to be clear that Christianity is not individualism. The Christian has encountered no deadlier foe during the last century than that individualistic philosophy which underlies the competitive system.”
Josiah Strong was another exponent of this “nameless drift away from individualism”, yet he said in Our Country, published in 1885, “Socialism attempts to solve the problem of suffering without eliminating the factor of sin.”
Thus we see how Socialism occupied the minds of men almost an hundred years ago. In 1889, an Episcopal minister, William Dwight Porter Bliss, was so influenced by Henry George’s Progress and Poverty and Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward that he organized the Society of Christian Socialists consisting of about twenty ministers representing the Episcopalian, Congregational, Unitarian, Universalist, Baptist, Methodist and other denominations. A monthly journal published by the Reverend Bliss declared its purpose in the first issue as follows:
“Business itself today is wrong…it is based on competitive strife for profits….But this is the exact opposite of Christianity….We must change the system.”
Under the influence of the Baptist, Walter Rauschenbusch, and other intellectual lights at the dawn of the twentieth century, the Social Gospel began to take firm root in most of the large Protestant denominations. Official organizations were set up in the churches to advance the Social Gospel. One of the first was the Presbyterian Department of Church and Labor of the Board of Home Missions. In 1901, the National Council of the Congregational Church founded a Labor Committee. The Federation for Social Service was organized by the Methodist Episcopal Church (North) in 1907. The next year thirty-three denominations organized The Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America and adopted a Social Creed much like that of the Methodists. 1912 saw the beginning of the interdenominational “Men and Religion Forward Movement,” which advocated government ownership of land, mines, water and other resources.
During the early 1920’s, there was a temporary reaction against socialism which led the “social gospelers ” to shift their emphasis from class conflict to international and interracial affairs. This was a period marked by countless peace organizations and spurious racial propaganda. The ineffective League of Nations was hailed by the Federal Council of Churches as “an international manifestation of the Kingdom of God.”
Then came the economic crash of 1929. It provided a most favorable opportunity for the spread of socialism. As Irving E. Howard aptly says, “During the depression, a reawakened Social Gospel found the time ripe for its message of sanctified covetousness.”
In 1934, delegates to the National Council of Congregational-Christian Churches established a Council for Social Action to carry out the program set forth in the following resolutions:
Therefore be it resolved: That we set ourselves to work toward:
1) The abolition of the profit system, the elimination of its incentives and habits, the legal forms by which it supports, and the moral ideas by which it justifies itself.
2) The inauguration of a thoroughly planned and organized social economy, which apply all our natural and human resources directly to the meeting of human needs, in pursuit of values, democratically chosen: which will,
a) Adjust production to measured consumption requirements, and maintain and extend social services --- health, education, recreation and insurance for all.
b) Eliminate private ownership in the means of production and distribution wherever such private ownership interferes with the success of a planned social economy, making profit unnecessary and impossible.
c) End unemployment, abolish poverty, enable maximum prevention of disease and crime, and stimulate the fullest development of the arts and sciences. Be it further resolved: That this Council urge that the members of our Fellowship increasingly seek to understand and cooperate with the forces and groups making for the above changes in our society.
The Council for Social Action was an extension of the functions of the Social Relations Commission. In “A Proposal for the General Council,” published in the Advance for May 10, 1934, Dr. Arthur E. Holt said:
“With these considerations in mind, it would seem appropriate that the Department of Social Relations be lifted to the rank of a major society in the denominational structure, taking rank alongside the societies which represent church establishment extension at home and abroad; that it be equipped with resources and personnel comparable to the magnitude of the demands upon it.”
Immediately the new Council for Social Action went into high gear, with the same personnel, organization and program as the old Social Relations Commission. Hubert C. Herring became director of the Council for Social Action; two of his assistants, Miss Helen G. Murray and Miss Katherine Terrill, were formerly coworkers in the Department of Social Relations.
It is important to know how these directors of the Council for Social Action propose to accomplish the ends outlined in the resolutions adopted by the General Council. Therefore, we shall let them speak for themselves on the subject. In a News Letter for April 1, 1934, put out by the Department of Social Relations, Miss Murray refers to a speech made by Mary Van Kleeck and discusses it in part as follows:
“In conclusion Miss Van Kleeck drew a picture of a classless society where there will be production for use instead of for profit, the only way out of our difficulties, using the Soviet Union as an example not only of how things must be managed, but also of how power is to be taken from the exploiting class. It is primarily a struggle of the workers against their exploiters, she maintained, and in this struggle Christian people should be on the side of the exploited --- not to give leadership which must be in the hands of the workers themselves, but to serve quite humbly under their direction.”
On June 23, 1934, Mr. Herring delivered an address to some nineteen hundred delegates to the General Council in Oberlin, Ohio, on this subject, “A Crusading Church in Days of Revolution.” His address was printed in full in the Advance for July 5th and 12th, 1934. It is so amazing, so revealing, that we quote at some length:
“It is revolution. The old patterns are torn up. Rugged individualism, the sacred right of capitalism, the vaunted right of a man to run his business as he sees fit without regard to the rights of society, are dead….
“I am not speaking as a protagonist of the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The New Deal represents a gallant and chivalrous effort to meet the challenge, and to save in orderly and peaceful fashion something out of the wreckage of our capitalistic order….
“I marvel at the logic of those who damn the New Deal….
“We cannot turn back. Roosevelt’s New Deal, halting and shifting as it may be, is a halfway house along the road which leads to a new ideal of the democratic state.
“Toward what are we to work? Is it the state in which a revived and controlled capitalism shall be enthroned? Is it the socialist state? I dislike labels, especially labels redolent of European conflict and experience. I am not afraid of the word socialism, nor are you. The ideas comprised by the word are the ideas which steadily push toward the fore….
“Assembled amid the ruins of a bankrupt society, we can be sure that the future holds a very different kind of state than any we have known. We may not like the idea of change. We may hanker for the old fireside and the old slippers, but the fireplace no longer draws, and the slippers are lost. Mr. Insull took them away from us.
“We can but conjecture as to the blueprint of the new society. It is dangerous to prophesy, but what, after all, are speeches for if not for conjecture and prophecy? Let me, then, suggest some of the directions in which we may be embarked.
“First, we are definitely headed toward the totalitarian state….The state will increasingly become supreme, and the rights of the individual will correspondingly decrease. In such a state, individual freedom will be disciplined and regimented. This may be distasteful, but it is inevitable….Social control of the means of production is a clear postulate of democracy….
“Second, we hope to move toward an increasingly democratic state….
“Third, we will move toward new motives. The profit motive rules supreme in the industrial era. The profit motive stands bankrupt, shivering and shaking as the chill winds of economic revolution bear down upon it. The day of profit is done, in any such sense as the word has been used during the past one hundred years. The assumption by the state of the principle of responsibility for the welfare of all its citizens carries the corollary of increased taxation. The makers of profit, on the one hand, create a national economic situation in which from ten to fifty million do not share in the profits. The state turns upon the profit-makers and cuts ten percent, twenty percent, seventy-five percent from their profits in order to equalize the load. This happens today. The next step is already apparent. That state says to the steel master, You must use more men, each man will work less hours, each man will receive more pay. The state goes on to say, You must cut your executive salaries, you must limit dividends, you must coordinate your production with your competitors. If this does not work --- this controlled and regimented capitalism --- the time will soon come when the state will say to the steel master, Your business is no longer yours; you will move out and the state will move in. You do not like the picture? It does not matter. The logic of events will transcend our likings.”
It must have been in the autumn of that same fateful year that the Mid-West Regional Meeting of Congregational Churches convened in Grinnell, Iowa. Mr. Herring arrived from the meeting somewhat travel-stained, having come directly from Mexico City, and was received with the acclaim of a warrior returning from a victorious and decisive battle. Shortly before this, newspapers had carried reports of Leon Trotsky’s flight to Mexico. We learned later that Hubert Herring, along with Nathan Straus of New York and a few more radical Protestants and Jews, whose names do not come to mind at this time, had been on a pilgrimage to the Mexican retreat of the late Jewish Communist Trotsky (real name Bronstein).
The enigmatic Dr. Edward A. Steiner then held a professorship in Grinnell College and was one of the principal speakers at the conference. Just what common purpose created a bond of fellowship between Straus, Herring, Steiner, Trotsky and company may very well be known by scrutinizing the points quoted from Herring’s speech. The air at Grinnell was charged with something indefinable and evil; with whisperings and sly meetings of small groups; with strange sayings from the lecture platform which had no place in the thinking of loyal Christian citizens of the United States.
It is significant that one of the main plebiscites sent out by the Council for Social Action for the signature of all pastors and church members was a pledge that they would never take up arms in defense of the United States, even in the case of attack by foreign country. So, the Council for Social Action “was lifted to the rank of a major society” for the purpose of selling a program of revolution to the churches. It is almost unbelievable that American Christians would give their approval to such treasonable acts against God and country.
Let no one think, however, that the Congregational-Christian Church is alone in permitting such treachery. We merely use it as an example of what has happened in many denominations, both large and small. At the recent Quadrennial Conference of Methodist Churches, the delegates demanded that the Methodist Federation for Social Action (or Service) drop the word “Methodist” and move out of the Methodist headquarters building. If memory serves us rightly, a similar move was attempted years ago, yet apparently no change was made to the organization’s policy. Many Methodist pastors and laymen are rising up against the Federation but, unless certain Marxist bishops are removed from seats of authority, there will probably be little change in the status of the offending organization.
As a matter of fact, the Federal Council of Churches --- now the National Council of the Churches of Christ --- has been dominated from its beginning by a strong, aggressive left-wing group that advocates the complete program of radical socialism. This minority presumes to speak for 320,000 Protestants, who have never authorized it to speak for them on any subject whatever. Nevertheless, this element always manages to take over the educational work of the churches and the publicity for everything concerning them. Consequently, a whole generation of Christian youth has been brought up under the baneful influence of socialism, internationalism, and poppycock racialism, disguised as social aspects of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By such means the secret plotters provide a religious background to conceal their real goal of world government or, more accurately, international dictatorship.
Congregationalists too are now rising up to protest the trends and coercion of the Social Gospel, but, like Rip Van Winkle, they are twenty years behind the march of events. Twenty years for the sowing of tares; twenty years for them to blossom and bear their evil fruit --- and what will the harvest be?
In a recent brochure, “Congregationalism and the Social Gospel,” Howard Conn, Minister of Plymouth Congregational Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota, writes:
“There is moral objection to the use of denominational funds for propaganda purposes. Such monies are raised from the membership-at-large, and ought not to be appropriated by any group to be used as propaganda in opposition to the convictions of many of the donors….
“The Council for Social Action should be prohibited from all lobbying activity, from testifying before Congressional subcommittees, and from attempting to speak in behalf of the Congregational Churches. Any such activities as these are a violation of our principle of the autonomy and independence of the local parishes. No person or group can speak responsibly or authoritatively for us….
“Therefore it is organically wrong for the CSA to speak in behalf of the Congregational Churches. It is wrong even when the Council tries to make clear that it speaks only for itself because the impression given is that this agency is in some way spokesman for a great body of one million Congregationalists. The distinctive genius of Congregationalists is that they will have such spokesman.”
In Matthew it states:
”Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” (Matt. 7:15-16.)
At last the fruits of the Social Gospel are revealing the nature of its promoters. They stand exposed as wolves in sheep’s clothing. Their evil deeds are finally catching up with them. Irving E. Howard puts it this way: “The Social Gospel has been challenged to produce its intellectual and ethical credentials --- and it has none.”
Socialism never could have taken root in Christian society if it had not been propagated by the clergy. If church leaders had stood firmly on biblical principles and denounced the Social Gospel for the false teaching that it is, no other influence within or without could have induced Christian citizens to accept the doctrines and policies that threaten our nation today.
Some people, for instance, have been led to believe that the social aspect of Christ’s Gospel require the elimination of nationalism. But nothing could be farther from the truth. What, indeed, would be the consequences to the Gospel itself if national entity should be destroyed? One can find the answer to that question by noting what is happening to the churches in countries which have already lost their national character. A whole nation pays the price when its church leaders are sold a false bill of goods.
Walter R. Courtenay, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Tennessee, said in one of his sermons:
“I have a feeling that, if Jackson and Jefferson should visit the Democrats in Washington today, they would challenge about 85 percent of them to duels in the cherry orchards within the next twenty –four hours. I cannot imagine these true Americans feeling at home with the present administration or feeling that the wise men who are leading us to Statism and a ‘planned’ (Socialist) economy are Americans save by birth.”
We heartily agree with this statement. However, the picture is incomplete. If preachers like John Wesley, Whitefield, and Charles G. Finney should visit our churches today, they would challenge them to unfrock all socialistic clerics and boot them out of Christian pulpits. This would give our elected representatives in Washington the moral support they need to deal with the nation’s enemies. Too often they have felt the pressure of the church against them in their battle to hold the line for constitutional government and national sovereignty.
It is interesting to observe that the social gospelers --- those who graft the branch of rational theology on the vine of Marxism and loudly decry the evils of the profit motive --- are most eager to hold positions which make them the recipients of other people’s tainted profits. What will they do when the tithers and taxpayers no longer have any profits with which to support the parasite?
Articles from Biblical Treasures (Volume I) – C. R. Dickey
The Staff at Destiny Publishers, having read all the articles written by the late C. R. Dickey (Christina R. Dickey) found in DESTINY Magazines from July 1938 to October 1967, received such a blessing from her writings that we wanted to share the information with all who are seeking God’s wonderful truths. We are hereby publishing all her articles in two volumes, which we believe you will find most inspiring and of genuine interest and value.
Her knowledge of the Scriptures was unbelievable so she must have had a very close association with her Lord, as she certainly became a champion for His cause.
Our late beloved editor, Howard B. Rand, realized her talent as he published many of articles in booklet form.
The reader should take into account the time element when each article was written, which was from the late thirties to the middle sixties. We found her articles to be up to the minute as though she had written them yesterday. Her writings on various subjects are backed up with Scripture verses, as well as with quotes from reliable sources, when making a point. From her writings, the Lord surely made use of her God-given talents.
Although we do not have any knowledge of her background, we do know that she was a Congregational minister. Her sermons given must have been of interest and value to her congregation. We are sure her articles contained in this book will do the same.