What is the social gospel?

I’ve heard this term a lot. What is it and how does it line up with what the Bible says about the Gospel?

Hi Andrew,
I am not sure of the context in which the term ‘social gospel’ was used but this is my understanding.

The term ‘social gospel’ came about to emphasise the necessity for doing good deeds that benefit society - like serving the underprivileged, the hungry etc. as an expression of our faith in Christ. This came as a reaction to the ‘personal gospel’ which emphasised the personal salvation of a single person through faith in Christ. There were some who felt that the gospel of personal salvation was selfishly focusing too much on personal salvation while neglecting the great needs of people around, thus giving rise to what is loosely termed the social gospel.

I have seen both kinds of groups - those who are personal salvation focused and those who are social action focused - and it is sometimes sad to see the animosity between both groups since both are sincere Christians, it is just that each one focuses on one aspect only.

The truth is that the message of Christ leads to both personal salvation and a person who is saved expresses this faith in good works. Both are aspects of the work of Christ and cannot be separated. Both the salvation of a soul and the feeding of a hungry stomach are expressions of the work of Christ. For example, when a man is hungry, you cannot give him the gospel of salvation until you first meet his need for food. At the same time, a person who is satisfied that his soul is ‘saved’ but shows no concern for his neighbour who is suffering or is in great need has a faith that is dead. Jesus taught both a) repentance leading to salvation and b) loving your neighbour like the good Samaritan.

The book of James brings both of these together in James 2:26 - As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

(I hope this answers your question - I say this because I am not sure if I misunderstood your question.)


@tonyabthomas Yeah, that’s just about it.

I agree. The concept of what the “social gospel” is, along with what @tonyabthomas stated, reminds me of when Jesus would be addressing those on Judgment day (Matthew 25:34-46). The heart and the external actions must be a woven tapestry; one being intertwined with the other, rather than one present without the other. I don’t know much about the “social gospel” movement or mindset; but based off of what I do know, it does cause me ponder that any healthy service or fruit must have a firm and healthy root system underneath. And I do see it seems many people in this world are lacking the underneath transforming gospel message rooted firmly within their personal heart to the Lord, that would cause one to yield vibrant fruit of service socially.