Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Simple Gospel or Social Gospel?

John Day Thompson had to answer a heresy charge in 1896. He preached the Social Gospel. The Bible "is a record of man’s discovery of spiritual truth; it is to be treated as ‘any serious human book’ should be treated." It was not, therefore, divinely inspired, or God-breathed.

Which gospel would be proclaimed? Would it be the Simple Gospel of the Ranter missionary pioneers or the Social Gospel of the liberal theologians?

Kenneth Lysons comments that "In 1896, the Primitive Methodist Conference meeting at Burnley was asked to adjudicate on the matter as the final Connexional Court of Appeal where, by an overwhelming majority, it was resolved that no action be taken on the matter."

"It was a landmark decision, and it represented a watershed in the transition from the early Primitive Methodist evangelism based on the inerrancy of the Scriptures."

It would have deep and lasting consequences for the Primitive Methodist movement in the twentieth century.

Quotations from "A Little Primitive", Kenneth Lysons, p140-141


  1. Dave, it seems to me that the inerrancy debate was damaging to the gospel in that there was so much effort put to defending the Bible from any kind of error. If only there had been more honesty and less panic over trying to prove the Bible as rational and scientific as well as the orthodox claim to its inspiration, wouldn't we have had a better balance in understanding that inspiration and revelation doesn't have to be dropped from the sky in scrolls? Hasn't fundamentalism (in the sense of word-for-word interpretation, disregarding historical and literary context and author intent) got a lot to answer for?

    Also, I saw your citing of Thompson that there can be 'no final or absolute theology'. Do you think that there must in fact be new 'theologies', since theology ought to be firmly incarnated in the culture?


  2. The author of the comment [JN]notes that the phrase "inspiration and revelation doesn't have to be dropped from the sky in scrolls" should read "inspiration and revelation don't mean scrolls dropped from the sky"

  3. Thanks for your comment. The difficulty with the adoption of liberal theology and the Social gospel is that it is not a "micro" debate over whether a particular word or full stop is the inerrant word of God; rather it is a philosophical view that says the Bible is only a human book and that we humans are free to ignore what it says or choose "new theologies" that reinterpret what it says. The problem is apparent in the phrase "the dead hand of Paul" whereby the letters of Paul could be ignored or dismissed. Another example is the repudiation of the substitutionary atonement - the doctrine that Jesus died in our place as a substitute for our sin.

  4. Hi Dave, somehow the first comment, to which you refer, has gone missing...? JN