I am in the middle of writing a paper on Walter Rauschenbusch and recently sat down to read his book The Social Principles of Jesus. This book is quit different from his rest. The book 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 Emergent leaders of the early 21st Century. I continue to believe that the Emergent movement is nothing more than a postmodern version of the 20th Century liberal social gospel. Rauschenbusch continues to prove my point.
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Review - "A Theology for the Social Gospel" - Part 1
Review - "A Theology for the Social Gospel" - Sin
Review - "A Theology for the Social Gospel" - Atonement
Theology - Orthodoxy vs. Unorthodoxy: A Look at Rauschenbush's "A Theology for the Social Gospel"
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Blogizomai - Have We Forgotten the Gospel? Glenn Beck, Social Justice, and the Gospel
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Blogizomai - Weekly Recommendation - "Generous Justice" by Timothy Keller
Review - "Jesus Wants to Save Christians"
Review - "UnChristian"
Reviews - "The Justice Project"
Review - "The Hole in Our Gospel" by Richard Stearns
Review - "The Gospel According to Jesus" by Chris Seay
Review - "Outlive Your Life" by Max Lucado
Review - "When Helping Hurts"
Review - "Everything Must Change"
Review - "The Great Awakening" Part 1
Review - "The Great Awakening" Part 2
Shortblog - Glenn Beck and Social Justice
Shortblog - The Power of the Gospel in Bringing Social Change: Perhaps We Need to Reconsider Our Efforts
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Theology - Repent for Health Care is At Hand: Did Obama Just Legislate the Gospel?
Theology - The Postmodern Social Gospel: Brian McLaren Proves My Point
Theology - The Bible and Poverty: The Gospel as the Remedy
Theology - What Does It Mean to be Christian?