Marry Billy Graham And Martin Luther King

I was impressed with an article  on today. It is called, “Evangelical Social Gospel” by Tim Suttle.

Suttle says the Christian message is divided into the personal gospel and the social gospel.  Billy Graham has personified the personal gospel.  That is where one worries about sin, accepts Jesus as God and goes to heaven.  This approach is mostly about “me”.

The social gospel is about how people in society can live together.  It was personified by Martin Luther King.  While Graham talked about the need to heal the person, King talked about the need to heal society.

In Suttle’s view, the personal gospel has crowded out the social gospel in today’s Christian message.  That’s the impression I get as well.  It could be this is the central reason young people are not as interested in the faith.  They might be looking for something bigger than themselves to reach for, but they find church limited to the self.

Suttle, a minister, believes both halves are part of  Christianity’s history and the Bible.  He wishes for new leader and a movement that personifies both gospels and the approaches of both King and Graham.

The “New Atheists” and their powerful pens have taken aim at the personal gospel.  They lob morter shells and hit their target often enough.

I think if the personal and social gospels were combined, there would be much less of a target for the new atheists.  I wish it would happen.

8 Responses

  1. Paul Overby

    Thanks for the post, Jon. Suttle is on the right track. The specific New Testament reference is “Savior and Lord” where the two parts come together. However, some groups have focused so much on the social part they forgot the gospel. And that’s not so good either. Jesus call was for much more than “getting a ticket to heaven” and it sad that so many stop with the call at that point. They are missing out.

    1. Certainly, Christianity is much more than ethical egoism. I have to admit, though, that I am uncomfortable with the clear dichotomy between the “two halves” in the first place. If one is truly repentant, one lives a different life and that affects others directly. I think the critique against Christians who do desire to part and divide what is to be a simple calling for one’s whole life is fair though. Happens way too often.

          1. Thank you, Jon. You’re kind. I was hoping this post would have received more comments, but one can never predict exactly what people will find to be of interest, I suppose.

          2. Jon and Fr. Herbel,

            I suppose the lack of comments is due to a gross over-simplification of the premise and issues at hand, and as a consequence the proposed solution, that the two gospels should join, just has no legs.

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