Contributions to the Social Gospel Movement

A detailed and thorough analysis of the effects of the Social Gospel on American society is beyond the scope of the present project, but some simple conclusions can be made about the importance of Walter Rauschenbusch himself. Though Rauschenbusch became very unpopular before his death due to his opposition to American involvement in the First World War, he was highly acclaimed after he died. The 20 July 1918 issue of The Nation called him "the one man who had done more than any other to change [the Church’s] thought in the present generation." In 1919 the Northern Baptist Convention called him "the most potent personality in America in the modern revival of the idea of the Kingdom of God."[1]  Ahlstrom agrees with these assessments, noting that he is remembered for his creative theology (which made him unique among others in the movement), and his practicality in examples.[2]  Aside from these things, Rauschenbusch was important because he was the strong voice that was needed to place the "social problem foremost in the minds of men and women of the early twentieth century. Without his writings and speeches, the movement may have remained an isolated splinter group within Christianity rather than helping to transform the way Christians and secular persons alike conceived of the Kingdom of God and the purposes of Government.

Kyle Potter, March 2001
Back to the Index

[1] Quoted from the Annual of the Northern Baptist Convention (1919), 169-71, in Gorrell, 323.

[2] Ahlstrom, 75.