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Christianity and the Social Crisis in the 21st Century: The Classic That Woke Up the Church [Hardcover]

By Walter Rauschenbusch (Author)
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Item Number 96420  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   400
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.26" Width: 6.34" Height: 1.25"
Weight:   1.38 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Aug 31, 2007
Publisher   HarperOne
ISBN  0060890274  
EAN  9780060890278  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
First published in 1907, this book outsold every other religious volume for three years and became a mainstay for Christians and other religious people seriously interested in social justice, inspiring leaders such as Reinhold and Richard Niebuhr, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Ghandi, and Bishop Desmond Tutu. Each chapter includes a response by a well-known contemporary author such as Jim Wallis, Cornel West, Richard Rorty, and Stanley Hauerwas.

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More About Walter Rauschenbusch

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Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918) was the major exponent of the Social Gospel movement of the early twentieth century. A pastor to a Baptist congregation of impoverished German immigrants in New York City, he also taught at Rochester Theological Seminary (now Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School).

Christopher H. Evans is Professor of History of Christianity and Methodist Studies in the School of Theology, Boston University. He is the author and editor of several books, including, "The Faith of Fifty Million" (2002), "The Social Gospel Today "(2001), and "Histories of American Christianity" (2013). In 2005, "The Kingdom is Always but Coming" won the "Award of Merit" for outstanding title in history/biography in "Christianity Today" magazine.

Walter Rauschenbusch was born in 1861 and died in 1918.

Walter Rauschenbusch has published or released items in the following series...

  1. Library of Theological Ethics

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Be not afraid  Dec 17, 2007
As an progressive Rauschenbusch does the unusual service of taking the time to describe how the past of Christianity, even though often sordid in the details, has set the stage for meeting the needs of the present. Such generous clarity does not appear to have won him much credit.

It would seem from some of the contemporary reflections that accompany each chapter that being "soft on sin" (i.e. the centrality of personal redemption) remains the mote in the eye of several commentators. For myself I observe that Rauschenbusch is very hard on the forms of sin that each of us encounters every day. There are no free passes in this book. I find no sense of instant liberation from the nasty inheritence of past shortcomings nor from the moral consequences if we shy from the magnitude of the work undone. I'm dumbfounded that anyone could read Rauschenbusch's critique of greedy capital accumulation as anything other than a description of evil incarnate.

Ultimately the power of this book for me is that page after page, in stunning elegence, it challenges the status quo from every angle I can imagine and then some. Time and again I am brought to chuckle at the incisiveness of his metaphors and their aptness at age 100 for our present day. If you believe that Christianity is an inescapably social enterprise, grounded in the world as we experience it directly, this is a highly recommended read.

Bill Mullins
Reawakening the church  Dec 9, 2007
Over the years, Walter Rauschenbusch has been a compelling voice, inspiring and motivating me, as a young pastor, to see Christianity as "a great revolutionary movement, pledged to change the world-as-it-is into the world-as-it-ought-to-be."

And now, Paul Raushenbush has imparted a precious gift to a new generation of ministers and Christians. He invited some of the most compelling voices of Christian thought--pastors, theologians, scholars, and activists--into the pages to discuss this classic text. With careful reflection and necessary correction, they give the words of Rauschenbusch new life, at just the right moment. It was wonderful to read this rich prose again, and to hear how they echo through the generations, renewing our purpose and hope.

Carol Howard Merritt
author of Tribal Church: Ministering to the Missing Generation
Reveals social revolution concern, weakly links its spiritual basis  Sep 28, 2007
This book presents the Social Gospel, which is similar to Richard Horsley (the Context Group), N.T. Wright's recent book Paul: In Fresh Perspective, and Liberation Theology. The Social Gospel is that Jesus' plan and gospel wasn't about individuals going to heaven rather than hell after they die, by individual belief and individual moral conduct, nor about theology and religious ritual practice, but rather, about social revolution to bring the kingdom of God into being on earth.

The first half of the book covers the original meaning of the Jewish Bible, particularly the prophets, and the New Testament. The second half applies that driving Biblical principle -- religion as moral social revolution toward egalitarianism -- to modern social problems (of 1907). Similarly, books using the Context Group or Liberation Theology approach sometimes explain the New Testament as social revolution in the context of the Roman Imperial system and then apply the same type of critique to Global Empire today. Some recent books using this layout are Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now, by Wes Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther; and Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder, by Richard Horsley.

Per Rauschenbusch, mystical conceptions of Christianity, and purely religious doctrines of personal salvation, err in putting all attention on spiritual regeneration of the individual, and being blind to the social-political revolution that's the major concern of New Testament Christianity. A recent example of this partial view is Timothy Freke's book Jesus and the Goddess.

Rauschenbusch's book was definitive in presenting the Social Gospel. It's interesting to see this early 20th Century theory that reads so similar to the recent Context Group and recent N.T. Wright. But like Horsley's Context Group or Liberation Theology, this version of the Social Gospel errs in putting all attention on the social-political revolution in New Testament Christianity, being blind to the regeneration of the person's self-concept and mental worldmodel in the intense mystic altered state that results from ingesting the Eucharist or Lord's Supper.

In the spirit of the overall New Testament, against Rauschenbusch, Campolo states (paraphrased): "What is needed is more than a noble ethic and Christ's teachings. We need a miraculous transformation of who we are, that comes as Christ invades our heart, mind, and soul -- as mystical as that sounds. Rauschenbusch's gospel has a God without wrath bringing men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through Christ without a cross." (p. 78, 2007 edition) But Rauschenbusch proves the complementary point as well: the overall New Testament is definitely focused on the objective of social revolution.

The two camps of book authors don't only need to be combined together, but rather, integrated: New Testament Christianity was about applying the altered state toward social revolution -- about drawing a parallel between what happens in the mind in the intense altered state, and what needs to happen to effect a social revolution from a hierarchical honor/shame exploitation system to an egalitarian social and political system.

Rauschenbusch provides a dismissive treatment of the Eucharist, as if it is irrelevant pagan superstitious magic ritual and empty Catholic pomp. He mistakenly dismissed the Eucharist as a mere empty ritual, alien, imported from heathen culture. In reductionist fashion, he considers the sacred agape meal of value merely because people eat what he assumes is a mundane meal, together. Rauschenbusch presents a reductionist treatment of the key topic of the "Lord's last meal" (pp. 5, 57, 103), and a dismissive discussion of ecstatic experiencing (p. 17).

Rauschenbusch rails against "religious ceremony" and "superstition", allowing only minor emphasis on individual spiritual regeneration. But considering the canon as a whole, New Testament Christianity was indeed seriously concerned with personal regeneration of the psyche in the intense mystic altered state, sometimes incorporating otherworldly themes of individual rescue, cleansing, and redemption, even if the ultimate (that is, subsequent) objective and programme of the New Testament was social revolution in the face of the Roman Imperial social-political system.

Individuals ingested the Eucharist together, had a collective unity experience as brothers under God's all-controlling power, and then after that, proceeded toward social revolution, against Caesar's system. First personal regeneration, and then, with that in hand, applying that personal regeneration to effect social change. Thus social change is ultimate in a sense, in the New Testament, but social change is based on, and considered an outcome of, personal regeneration.

The solution to the standoff between Rauschenbusch's Social Gospel and the conservative religious critics is clear: the New Testament is about transformation of the individual through the Eucharist, leading to transformation of society from the hierarchical empire of Caesar to the egalitarian kingdom of God.

Why do modern scholars of religion such as Rauschenbusch have such trouble linking-up the two main concerns of the Bible? New Testament Christianity had an easy, preliminary part (personal salvation and transformation) followed by a hard part (social revolution). Moderns have trouble perceiving this two-part focus of New Testament Christianity because they consider religious experiencing and religious personal transformation hard to come by, while for early Christians, the intense mystic altered state was readily present, routinely present, on-tap.

In the era of early Christianity, it was quick to induce the mystic state and effect mental regeneration at the Agape meal together -- personal salvation and regeneration was the easy part, though moderns assume it's the hard part, so they focused on that (prior to the Social Gospel, Liberation Theology, and the Context Group). Interpreting that transformative mystic-state experience and directing it to effect social transformation in the midst of the Roman Imperial system, that was actually the hard part for the early Christians, but moderns overlook that driving concern of the New Testament because that concern is not directly religious.

When scholars do discover the social-revolution concern, such as Rauschenbusch did, their unfamiliarity with the mystic state makes it difficult to relate mystic regeneration with social revolution, so they discard the "religious" perspective, in a reactionary move, to exclusively focus on social revolution as it is reflected directly in the New Testament. When the pendulum swings to the middle, the two complementary focuses will be integrated.

It's somewhat unfair to say that this book ignores or denies sin, judgment, wrath, and the cross. Rauschenbusch states that he's not covering the details of personal regeneration, but is choosing to focus on what's been left out: social revolutionary transformation in the midst of the Roman Imperial system of the day. He's not so completely unbalanced, though he ought to explain how salvation and cleansing of individuals through the Cross helped with the social revolution project. Rauschenbusch should have recognized and adequately spelled out this connection instead of presenting only the latter portion.

Omitting a chapter on the link between personal mystical regeneration and social revolutionary reconfiguration, Rauschenbusch left himself open to criticism from Christian theological conservatives. The closest he comes to affirming and linking personal spiritual regeneration in Christ and social revolution is the bulk of page 42 (2007 edition). This link is the missing topic of the book, deserving a chapter, which should explain, for example, how spiritual regeneration in Christ, and experiencing the power of God's throne, is like social revolution and provides a template for it; and how the overthrow of personal power ("expelling demons") in the Eucharist-induced mystic state is like the overthrow of demonic Roman Imperial rulers.

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