Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: social gospel

Have we misdiagnosed the problem?

It is at least 50 years since C.S. Lewis wrote: “The greatest barrier I have met is the almost total absence from the minds of my audience of any sense of sin . . . We have to convince our hearers of the unwelcome diagnosis before we can expect then to welcome the news of the remedy.” (from God in the Dock, published by Eerdmans.)

The evangelism methods of 100 years ago still work quite well in many places in third world countries. Not so well in North America and Europe. In fact, hardly at all. Why, they don’t even seem to have a lot of impact on children raised in Christian homes.

Evangelicals have responded in various ways: We have to try harder; We have to make our approach more seeker-friendly; We have to avoid those parts of the gospel message that people find offensive.

Have we misdiagnosed the problem? People have been told for the last 100 years, by people calling themselves Christian, that it is the society around us that needs fixing; people aren’t sinners, the world we live in is sinful. Fix the world and we can all live like Christ wants us to live.

There is now a continual hubbub around us of people trying to save the world. And it seems that they are in a constant state of outrage towards those who don’t wholeheartedly endorse their project for fixing the world. If one steps back a moment to observe, it all goes to prove that people are indeed sinners. The anger, hatred, harassment and violence that comes forth from attempts to save the world actually prove the need for the message of the gospel.

Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.  But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. (James 3:13-18)

Cultural amnesia

One hundred years ago, when the Social Gospel was well on the way to infiltrating and taking control of many of the major Christian denominations of North America, my father was already 24 years old. It has lately dawned on me that because I was born when he was 50 I have a window on that long-ago era that most people today know nothing about.

My father was a Methodist, but the social gospel changed that denomination into something he no longer recognized. He told of visiting Edmonton in 1925, and attending a Methodist church there. The minister had much to say about the social responsibility of Christians, but it became evident as he spoke that the Bible’s accounts of creation, the miracles, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus were just mythology, allegories meant to teach moral lessons. My father walked out into the street after the service and wept.

A few years later the Methodists, Congregationalists and half the Presbyterians merged to form the United Church of Canada. This was by far the largest protestant denomination in Canada and it was dedicated to ministering to the social and materiel needs of all those oppressed by the evils of our society. The belief that the greatest need of each person was to find forgiveness of sins and peace with God was dismissed as a childish amusement that diverted people’s attention from more important concerns.

In subsequent years, the Anglican Church of Canada and some Baptist, Mennonite and Lutheran churches have also embraced the Social Gospel. It is worthy of note that the social gospel churches have all experienced precipitous declines in membership. People are either turned off by the social gospel or decide that the battles can be more effectively fought outside the churches.

The social gospel movement was the main impetus behind the co-operative movement. People were taught that the private ownership of business was a great injustice that deprived them of the fruits of their labour. They formed co-operatives to buy grain from farmers and to provide the supplies they needed, co-operative retail stores and co-operative banks (credit unions).

For many years the grain co-ops were the dominant agricultural businesses in Western Canada. They calculated patronage dividends for their farmer-owners, based on the amount of business they did with them, but retained the money to provide working capital. Farmers were able to withdraw their patronage dividends upon retirement. Then difficult times came and the co-ops suffered financial reverses. All the prairies grain co-ops merged into one, reorganized as a shareholder owned corporation, then sold out to a Swiss investment company. In the process, the patronage dividends evaporated into thin air. There is no evidence that farmers have suffered from losing the opportunity to sell to the co-operatives.

The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) was a political party born of the social gospel. It promised to bring about a more just society by limiting the depredations of privately owned businesses, so that resources were more evenly shared between all people. This party (now known as the NDP) formed the government of my home province for the best part of 60 years. They did many good things, but the social gospel ideals of economic equality created an atmospherics of suspicion of anyone who appeared to prosper more than the average. The result was economic stagnation, leading to an increase in unemployment and poverty – very much the opposite of the promised result.

My father saw the fatal flaw in the social gospel long before I was born. Time has proved him right – in church, in business and in politics.  But the social gospel message still has power to seduce well-meaning people into expending great efforts on activities that will not produce the promised results.

Now we hear people who once were evangelical Christians proclaiming that our highest duty is to reach out to the suffering members of society. There is an element of truth in this, but if one listens closely it becomes evident that the social, emotional and economic needs are their sole concern and the spiritual needs of people are forgotten. This is simply the social gospel warmed over for a new generation who are not aware of history and are not aware that the promises of the social gospel are doomed to fail.

I am not trying to say that we need to forget everything else and just preach the gospel. After all, James said “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” If we are blind to the material, emotional and social needs of others, we are not going to present a complete gospel. But the spiritual distress of people around us cannot be relieved by only ministering to their outward needs.

My concern is that if we trim our sails to catch the latest wind of doctrine and ride the wave of what is highly thought of in the world, we will end up far from where we thought we were going.

The Welfare Trap

Welfare systems began with the noble intent of helping those unable to help themselves. Well, actually those noble intentions were somewhat tainted from the beginning. Christians had long felt a need to help those most in need. Governments, motivated by the social gospel, decided people needed something better than to rely on charity.  Thus a bureaucracy was built step by step, and the bureaucracy needs clients to justify its existence. Therefore, it has become increasingly difficult for welfare clients to escape the system.

Whatever the faults of Christian charity, it did not encroach on people’s dignity nearly as much as organized welfare systems. These systems are structured so that there are penalties for every effort a person makes to become self supporting. Income from a part time job is deducted from welfare payments. Find full time employment and you lose your rent subsidy and many other benefits. Enrol in a government sponsored training program and you likewise lose all your benefits. Whether such disincentives are deliberate or not, the fact is that the system is rigged to keep people on welfare. After a while many people give up hope of finding a way out.

Then there are the child welfare services. One lady went from foster home to foster home during her growing up years and was left feeling that she must have been a difficult child. In her adult years she approached the welfare agency and was given a report of the times she had been moved. In every case there there had been some misconduct by the foster parents — she had never been the problem.

Here in Saskatchewan, many First Nations reserves have their own child welfare agencies. They try to provide some continuity in the life of a child that is at risk in the home of his parents by placing him with relatives. That seems like a sensible solution. The problem is that many families live off reserve and when problems arise they fall under the jurisdiction of the provincial social services agency. Children are placed in foster homes that may not have any understanding of their cultural background. At the first sign of trouble the child is moved to a new home. And on and on. What they most need is stability and only a few find it.

Some foster parents are able to manoeuvre through the bureaucratic jungle of social services and provide a secure and stable home for children in their care. They do a wonderful job, But they are not produced by the system The good that they do is the result of their personal convictions and principles.

The idea that governments can create a better world, where everyone is valued, everyone’s needs are met and everyone’s dignity is respected, has not worked out in practice. This is the social gospel, and it is a false gospel. Yet people are still looking to governments to fix what they have broken.

Business and Church

I grew up in a small Saskatchewan town with four grocery stores and three churches. One store was owned by a cousin and another by an old friend of the family. Another was owned by a Catholic family and the fourth was the local Co-op.

The three churches were the United Church of Canada, the Roman Catholic and the Anglican. The United Church was the largest and the Anglican the smallest. My family was Anglican. Sixty years ago there were enough mouths to feed in the town and the surrounding farms to support all four stores. Cut-throat competition was unheard of.

As the years went by things began to change. Gravel highways were paved, and travel to the city became more common. Young people went to the cities to further their education and stayed to work. Small farmers sold out to their neighbours and moved to the cities. Families had fewer children. As the population of the town and the surrounding countryside slowly shrank, the owners of the grocery stores began to feel pressure on their profit margins.

One day a fire started at one store. The bell on the town hall was rung, the town’s fire engine and water wagon rushed to the scene, and in true small town neighbourliness every able bodied man and youth converged on the scene to fight the fire. In their zeal to help, they got the fire hoses tangled up. By the time they got them straightened out and were able to pour water on the fire the store was past saving. It was not rebuilt.

The other stores could breathe easier for a time, but the trend toward a shrinking local market continued. One day a lady came to my cousin’s store to ask him to buy an ad in a Catholic periodical. He was not interested. She told him that if he did not buy an ad the Catholic people would be told to stop buying at his store. He didn’t take it very seriously, but one by one his Catholic customers stopped coming into his store. Some of them were among his best friends, and they remained friends, but the priest had told them they should support the business owned by a Catholic and they felt pressed to do so.

The United Church and the Co-op were both products of the social gospel movement, resulting in a similar commitment from the United Church people to support the Co-op. That left my cousin with the Anglicans and the people who were of other religious persuasions, or none at all. He began to reduce the shelf space devoted to groceries and to stock clothing and dry goods, items where he had no competition from the Catholic or social gospel people. This provided a livelihood for a number of years. I believe the town is now down to two churches and one store, the Co-op.

Thinking over this little bit of history has raised a question in my mind. When I go into business, should I feel that my brethren are obligated to do business with me? Should I expect the deacons to drop a few gentle hints that brethren should support my business rather than a “worldly” competitor?

Having a captive market may sound like a sure road to success in business. But does it work that way in real life? I think I know myself well enough to admit that the quality of service to my customers would tend to go downhill if I could take it for granted that most of them would deal with me even if I made no special effort to see that their needs were being met. A captive market begets mediocrity.

We operate a business to earn a livelihood for our family. In most cases, we could not make a living by serving only the members of our own church community. This is a good thing. Our neighbours are predisposed to see us as closed, inward-looking people. Operating a business in the community can give people a better picture of what we are like. Our business is not a mission, but the way we run it shows what is important to us. When we are open, honest, friendly and fair to all, that is a witness of what our faith is. When we and our employees work together harmoniously, when there is no foul language, and no racy pictures on the walls, that is a witness. When we patiently and kindly attempt to meet the needs of customers who are old, frail and a little confused, and customers who are angry and demanding, that is a witness. When we show no evidence of prejudice or favouritism, that is a witness. Honesty in our dealings with governments is also a witness.

The purpose of a business is to serve our customers and support our families, not to bring salvation to our neighbours. Yet we should remember that as these neighbours observe us, they will form impressions about the church to which we belong, the faith we profess and the God we serve.

The empty pew — why?

Fifty years ago the Anglican Church of Canada asked well known author Pierre Berton to write a book on the state of the church and how to rejuvenate it. The book was called The Comfortable Pew, and it created a sensation when it was published. Here is a one sentence summary of the book that I found on the net: “He said the church had failed as an instrument of social justice and no longer served as a conscience for the nation holding people accountable to a high ethical standard.”

Ten years ago the church hired a consulting firm to advise them on demographic trends and the future of the church. As I recall the report stated that if present trends continued, in 75 years there would be two members left in the Anglican Church of Canada.

Pierre Berton’s talents in writing and historical research enabled him to write a number of best-selling books about important events in Canadian history. The Comfortable Pew was a good read too, but I fear that his vision of what people need from a church was distorted.

He wasn’t alone in that. Many church leaders have tried a variety of approaches and tactics to make their churches more attractive and relevant. Most of them have bombed.

The social gospel has been tried, especially here in Saskatchewan, and hasn’t created a more Christ-like society. Prophecy has enriched a few writers, but it doesn’t fill many churches anymore. Mussolini wasn’t the Antichrist after all; most of the generation alive in 1946 is no longer alive and Jesus has not returned. Christian rock music isn’t enough to fill churches Sunday after Sunday. If pop psychology is your interest, there are many other places to find it. None of these things are relevant to the real needs of mankind.

Unfortunately, far too many churches are focussing far too much of their energy and attention on things that have nothing to do with meeting the real needs of the people sitting in the pews. And little by little the pews are becoming empty.

Strange Gospel

Approximately 300 years ago there arose a line of thought in pietistic Protestantism that God’s reign would progressively manifest itself through human action cooperating with God’s action. The belief that the gospel will gradually Christianize the world, bringing a reign of peace and harmony preceding the return of Christ, is known as postmillenialism.

In 19th century Germany, theologians Friedrich Schleiermacher, Albrecht Ritschl and Adolf Harnack concluded that most of the Scriptures were simply mythology or allegory used to convey spiritual teachings. This was called higher criticism of the Bible. Although they did not believe the Bible to be literally true, they taught that the life and teachings of Jesus carried a message of hope for the poor and oppressed. Rejecting the historical truth of the Bible, they also rejected the thought that evil was the product of the sinful nature of the heart of man. They rather taught that it is the evil in the social environment which prevents men and women from living as Jesus taught. This teaching infiltrated most of the major protestant denominations, and was called “modernism.”

Meanwhile, the success of the abolition movement in the USA led to a belief that it would be possible to cure all the ills of society. In His Steps, published in 1897, became the second-best selling book in the USA (after the Bible) for the next 60 years. This was the account by Charles Sheldon of the transformation of the fictional town of Raymond when people began to ask “What would Jesus do?” It seems an inspiring story, the Bible is read, powerful prayers are offered up, good things happen.

But when answers come to the question “What would Jesus do?” they do not come from Scripture or from the leading of the Holy Spirit, but rather from the intellect and imagination of the persons asking the question.

The theme of the book is that the liquor business and big business in general have created a social environment where people cannot live a Christian life. There is no hint that the great need of rich and poor alike is to repent of the evil in their own heart. The sin of society must first be addressed. This book played a large part in creating the Social Gospel movement.

Walter Rauschenbusch was the principal theologian of the movement. He was a Baptist minister of German descent, who had studied the writings of Schleiermacher, Ritschl and Harnack. His work as a pastor in one of the worst slums of New York City led him to develop a theology to impel Christians to work towards the immediate correction of the evils in society.

His best known book, A Theology for the Social Gospel, appeared in 1917. Rauschenbusch quotes Scripture and uses the language of evangelical Christianity. But he does not believe in the divine inspiration of the whole Bible, leaving him free to select certain Scriptures as authoritative, and to reject others. The Scriptures he does use are interpreted according to social gospel theology.

According to Rauschenbusch, the kingdom of God includes all of humanity. Men are not inherently sinful, but live in a sinful environment which hinders them from living as God wants them to live. Sin is not committed against God alone, but since God resides in every human being, every sin against our fellow man is a sin against God. There is no thought of Jesus being the incarnate Son of God. He was simply a man who attained to a new level of understanding and living the kingdom of God.

Rauschenbusch names six sins which caused the death of Jesus: religious bigotry; graft and political power; corruption of justice; mob spirit and mob action; militarism; and class contempt. There is no mention of a resurrection. The devil, hell and heaven exist only in a figurative sense. All people are somewhere in the unending process of growing closer to God and becoming more like him.

Rauschenbusch considered the production and marketing of alcoholic beverages to be a great evil. Even worse was the oppression of mankind by privately owned businesses operated for the profit of the owners. He called these businesses unsaved organizations. Collectively owned businesses, such as co-operatives and government owned businesses, are saved organizations. This is the Social Gospel and it is indeed a strange gospel.

Doctrines of the humanist religion

1.  Nothing is real that cannot be understood by the human mind.

People choose to believe in spirits, magic, witchcraft, astrology, scientific theories or various “holy books.” These are merely attempts to fit all things seen and experienced into a framework that appears to give a logical explanation for every detail and event. I may call myself a lover of the truth, when in reality I am unwilling to believe anything unless I can explain it to suit my own intellect.

But the God who is really there does not fit man’s measure, He is a revelation, not an explanation.

2. Man is inherently good – all his failures are due to a lack of knowledge. He will make better decisions if he is better informed.

We may think we need a better understanding of how to appease the pagan gods or spirits, psychological counselling in order to understand the root causes of our emotions, or a university education to give us advanced mental tools to cope with the world we live in. How often have we said “If I had known then what I know now, I would never have done what I did,” when the real problem was not a lack of understanding, but the real problem was that we found the temptation overwhelmingly attractive?

 

Knowledge cannot give us the strength to withstand the seductive power of sin. A true knowledge of God will both open our eyes to the danger and give us the spiritual fortitude to choose not to yield.

3. It is a great evil for a man to be deprived of the things that bring him pleasure.

The things might be material goods, recognition, pride, bodily comforts, the right kind of work, or the right amount of leisure time. Is not the good life a sign of the favour of the gods, or of God’s blessing? Why can’t I have work that is ideally suited to my nature and expectations? Why can’t my wife, husband, parents, friends or boss treat me better? If only I had a little more money, a better job, or if only I lived somewhere else, things would go better.

How happy are the people who have the things that we think we need?

There is a widespread belief in our day that we have a right to physical health. We may base this belief on our faith in modern medical research, in the idea that physical healing was provided for in Christ’s atonement on the cross, or in natural healing, herbs, psychic healing, or in some form of shamanism. In each case, when one who holds to such a belief is faced with an incurable sickness it brings about a crisis of faith. Some believe that admitting they are sick would be a lack of faith, thus they resolutely refuse to face reality, living and dying in unreasonable fear. Others spend all their substance in search of healing, travelling over land and sea in search of a doctor or healer that has the secret to make them well. Then they die, leaving their families destitute.

4. The evil that men do is produced by their natural instinct for survival in a faulty environment. Man will only be truly happy and good when all sources of trouble and worry are removed.

Life insurance, property insurance, health insurance, unemployment insurance, social welfare programs, labour movements, peace movements, liberation movements, revolutionary movements, eternal security, reincarnation, the millennium, the social gospel – all have their origin in the premise that the basic goodness of man will show itself once all the external hindrances are removed. Some of the things mentioned have worked for the material betterment of people, but is there any evidence that they have helped produce happier, kinder, better people?

All of these thing are only vain attempts to hack away at the branches of sin, none of them attack the root of sin.

All four of these doctrines come into play in our society’s ideas about child-rearing. We are told that a child can only develop her true potential for good if she is given maximum access to information and allowed freedom to choose what she shall believe and do. Is it any wonder that many parents speak of their children as a burden? Is it any wonder that when parents grow old and come to their declining years, their children consider them a burden?

(to be continued)

 

Relevant to what?

Relevant to what?

Everybody talking about the decline of Christianity in the Western world says that it is because the faith preached over the pulpit is no longer relevant to our society.  What they cannot agree on is in what way it is no longer relevant.

For over a century now, many churches have struggled to become more relevant by espousing the social gospel, incorporating psychological insights, adopting a contemporary style of music, applying marketing techniques to evangelism,  becoming more seeker friendly and so on.  You name it; someone has tried it.  And people keep dropping out of the churches.

The social gospel is godless socialism wearing the clothes and using the language of Christianity.  Psychology says our problems are found in the subconscious, not the heart.  All the new styles and techniques miss the mark by thinking the old-fashioned gospel is, well, too old-fashioned for a modern society.

The problem is that churches are trying to make the gospel relevant to the zeitgeist, rather than to the real needs of mankind.  What they are doing is exactly what the Apostle Paul tells us not to do in Romans 10:2: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”  “This world” translates the Greek word “aion,” which does not refer to the physical world or the things of the world.  It rather refers to the way of thinking of the time in which we live.  In French it is translated by words meaning “this present age.”  Nowadays a better word would be zeitgeist, meaning the pattern of thought or feeling characteristic of a period of time.

Can we see the problem here?  In trying to be relevant to the zeitgeist the churches have been trying to conform themselves to a moving target.  The defining characteristic of the zeitgeist is that it is ever changing.  That which seemed totally modern and “with it” twenty-five years ago is passé today.  All attempts to be relevant by conforming to the zeitgeist are doomed to failure.

The Word of God needs no adaptation to make it relevant to our needs.  However, we may need to learn how to apply it in ways that people of today will understand.  If our mind set and our methods are still geared to the1950’s we need not expect a lot of success in 2013.  In fact, the use of pat answers and Christian clichés is always apt to arouse resistance to the message.

We do not need a new translation of the Bible.  The constant churning out of new translations creates the impression that the old is not reliable.  This comes across as another attempt to conform to the zeitgeist.  Let us make ourselves thoroughly familiar with the Bible we use and put it into practice.  Let us show the world by our lives that we find the teachings of the Bible to be totally relevant to our own innermost needs.  Then we will be more convincing when we tell them that the gospel is relevant to them, too.

Good people don’t go to church

It was different when I was a boy; then all the good people went to church.  We didn’t come right out and say that those who didn’t go to church were bad people, but they were considered rather disreputable.

Somewhere along the line the churches got the notion that their calling was to make the world a better place.  At first blush, this seems a worthy and noble idea.  However, in their enthusiasm to right the wrongs of society as a whole, the churches forgot that their true calling was to proclaim the saving grace of Jesus Christ to individuals.

In my boyhood, every town in Saskatchewan had at least one church, usually United, Anglican or Catholic, larger towns would have all three.  The Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists and Orthodox were also present in some smaller communities and all the cities.  It was the United and Anglican churches in particular that set themselves the task of reforming society.  Their churches became centres for contemporary worship where the example of Jesus and the moral teachings of the Bible became the launching pads for all sorts of worthy endeavours.  There was seldom mention of a transcendent God, however.

This had the effect of reducing the need for many of the church buildings and ministers.  After all, if social good works are the raison d’être of the church, why can’t we do these things without suffering through those stuffy Sunday morning meetings?

The paradigm today is completely different from the time of my boyhood.  The good people are engaged in all kinds of good works, good causes, good protests, without the need of clergy or church.  Never mind that their causes are often conflicting and contradictory, they are all good people trying to do good.

Churchgoing people are sometimes identified as enemies of the good of society.  At best, we are regarded as misled and of not much use to society as a whole.

This should be cause for rejoicing.  “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).

We may find it a little uncomfortable in our day, when the society around us does not admire Christians, but this is a better place to be.  “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26).

There is no such thing as a good Christian.  A true Christian is a sinner who has been forgiven through the merits of the blood of Jesus Christ and who now lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Such a person experiences daily reminders that “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 7:18).  This realization is a salutary reminder that we are no better than any of the other sinners around us.

From this starting point, our lives should begin to be a testimony of the goodness and power of God.  Not our own goodness, remember, we don’t have any.  Nor do we have any strength of our own; we need a support group: other forgiven sinners who can help us when we slip and mess up.  That is the church.  It is not a place for us to congratulate ourselves on how we are wiser and more righteous than others.  It is a community where we are reminded continually of our fallibility and our sinful nature; where we remind one another of the good that God is doing in and through us.

It is a community where we gather frequently to thank God for His mercy and compassion, for His patience with us, where we can learn more of His goodness and His plan for our lives.  This is called worship.  It is good for worship to be a routine part of our week.  But the worship itself should not be simply a routine.  I do not mean to say that livelier music or more eloquent speakers will necessarily improve worship.  True worship does not depend on these things.

To worship in spirit and in truth is to open our hearts and allow God to speak in the quietness of our assembly to reveal to us a little more of His truth.

There oughta be a law

Every time there is some terrible crime committed or a horrific disaster, someone is sure to say “there oughta be a law” to prevent such mayhem from ever happening again.  Governments are happy to oblige, but is there any evidence the laws are helping?

A poem that was often recited in the Christian school which my daughter attended was about the choice between a fence at the top of the cliff and an ambulance down in the valley.  The following verse gives the essence of the moral taught by the poem.

Then an old man remarked, “it’s a marvel to me
that people give far more attention
to repairing results than to stopping the cause,
when they’d much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief,” cried he.
“Come neighbours and friends, let us rally:
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
with the ambulance down in the valley.”

– written by Joseph Malines, circa 1895

This all seemed to make sense at the time, but in later years I began to wonder what this poem was really teaching.  My suspicions proved correct, this is a poem inspired by the social gospel and the temperance movement.  The ambulance down in the valley is Christian rescue missions reaching out to the down and out, especially those brought low by alcohol abuse.  The fence on the cliff represents prohibition of the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages.

Well, prohibition was tried in the US.  It did nothing to reduce the need for rescue missions.  Legislators keep passing new laws every year to prevent people from falling off the cliff, yet somehow people still go tumbling down.  What has happened is that Christian missions have fallen into some disrepute and the ambulances are not always available for those who need them.

The social gospel taught that it was a mistake to think of people as sinful, the real sin was in society and a benevolent government would make laws to eliminate the sinful machinations of capitalists and other evil forces in society, so that everyone would be free to live as Jesus taught us to live.

It was all a fantasy dreamt up by folks living in cloud cuckoo land.  The Bible has man sized up as he really is: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”  (Jeremiah 17:9).  Forget the fences, the world is in desperate need of more ambulances and ambulance attendants.

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