Summary: The past hundred years have brought many negatives including the social gospel movement. However, there have been movements to combat these with the truth. This lesson looks at both the good and bad of the past century.
Over the course of the past 14 weeks, we have examined some of the most important periods in Church History.
From the ancient creeds of the early church to the formal confessions of the protestant reformation, we have seen that throughout her existence the Church has always had people within who were willing to stand for - and sometimes even die for - the truth.
We truly do stand on the shoulders of giants; men like Augustine, Chrysostom, Boniface, Wycliffe, Huss, Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, Bunyan, Edwards & Spurgeon.
Some of these men we have not engaged, because of our limitation in time.
NOTE: I want to add that on our website, we have created a section for “Christian Education” and there will be short biographies on that page for you to go and read, which will introduce you to some of the folks we have not been able to study.
Tonight, we conclude this series with an examination of some of the recent developments which have arisen within the church.
Now, when we say “recent, we know this is a relative term.
We are defining that term by limiting ourselves primarily to those movements which have gained their momentum within the last century or shortly before.
In an attempt to simplify tonight’s lesson, we are going to break the movements down into two categories.
Negative Movements are those which we would say have been harmful to the cause of Christ and the promotion of the Gospel.
Positive Movements are those which we would say have been helpful to the cause of Christ and the promotion of the Gospel.
NOTE: It is important that I make the concession that these will be expressed from our perspective, and certainly would not be universally accepted by any means. When we - as conservative, bible-believing, reformed folks, look at recent history, this is how we would categorize these movements.
Negative Movements in Recent History
The Social Gospel Movement
This is a movement which arose in the latter part of the 19th Century and gained popularity in the 20th Century.
It is focused on seeking to correct social ills such as poverty, lack of education, crime and war.
The concern in this movement - according to its adherents - is promotion of justice and equality.
The social gospel movement is at the very heart of what we would call modern “liberalism”.
A few weeks ago, we discussed the mainline denominations and how they had all basically deviated into liberalism.
Some of them even go as far as to declare that “Jesus was a liberal”.
The adherents would argue that social justice was a concern for Jesus and should also be a concern for us.
They would point to Jesus ministering to the poor, the sick, the outcasts, and say that in working toward correcting social ills they are working most like Christ.
None of the things that those who promote the social gospel promote are necessarily bad, per se.
Giving aid to the hurting and the sick should be part of Christian charity.
We have a mandate to help widows and orphans and others who cannot help themselves.
But the problem is that this movement downplays the biblical teachings of sin, salvation in Christ, heaven and hell, judgment and the future kingdom.
Essentially, the social gospel movement makes the gospel about “social justice" rather than “cosmic justice”.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is about sinful man being divided from His Holy God; we have committed “cosmic treason” against our Creator and God’s justice demands that man be punished for his sin.
But God provided a substitutionary sacrifice so that man could be forgiven.
Ultimately, those who promote the social gospel at the expense of explaining the Biblical Gospel really are not promoting the Gospel at all.
Apart from the message of Sin and Salvation, no message can rightfully call itself the “Gospel”.
The Charismatic Movement
Most of us are familiar in some way with churches which identify themselves as Charismatic.
In fact, some might even challenge me for putting them on the list of “negative” movements in recent history.
They are - as has been pointed out - the fastest growing religious group in the world.
Yet, overwhelming numbers do not make a movement positive.
The Charismatic Movement was birthed out of a series of methodist-sponsored revivals which occurred at the Azusa Street Mission in California in 1906.
People claimed to be “baptized in the Holy Spirit” as in Acts 2 and receiving miraculous gifts such as healing and speaking in tongues.
This led to a tremendous enthusiasm which spread all over the United States.
The name Charismatic comes from the Greek word Charis, which means “gift”.
Sometimes they are called “Pentecostal” because of their claim to having the same gifts as those given at Pentecost.