Friday, June 27, 2014

"The Social Principles of Jesus" by Walter Rauschenbusch: A Review

The Social Principles of JesusWhile working on a paper in seminary on Walter Rauschenbusch I came across his book The Social Principles of Jesus. This book is quit different from his rest.  It is written primarily to college students and includes daily reading primarily from the Gospels with comments from Rauschenbusch seeking to prove that Jesus was a social gospel leader before the social gospel was trendy and cool. Each chapter ends with a series of questions, similar to a study guide, for the reader to reflect on the content of the chapter.

The book puts forth standard social gospel texts but like all of the other such social gospel and liberation theology efforts, the exegesis, hermenteutics, interpretations, applications, and theology simply fail. There is little said about the atonement (apart from his chapter on vicarious suffering). Many of his interpretations (particularly of some of Jesus' parables) are problematic and some are simply wrong. Furthermore, Rauschenbusch puts forward passages that fit his agenda (like Luke 4 and Matthew 25) but fail to put forward passages that run against his whole social gospel agenda.

In the end, if one wants to understand Rauschenbusch's theology, though this isn't the best book for that (I would recommend A Theology for the Social Gospel for that) there is a lot of great insight here. His excursions on the Kingdom of God and his definition of it as the reign of God are great.  This text gives brevity to what he expounds on in more detail elsewhere.

This is a fairly brief book that can be downloaded for free on your Kindle. I recommend it to those who want to know more about Rauschenbusch and the social gospel. Beyond that, like everything else from him, there are better things to read.

But I will say that another great insight in this book is how at times I couldn't tell if I was reading Rauschenbusch of the early 20th Century or various liberal leaders of the early 21st Century.

For more:
"The Kingdom is Always But Coming" by Christopher Evans: A Review

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