The Kingdom Is Always but Coming: A Life of Walter Rauschenbusch

Article excerpt

The Kingdom Is Always but Coming: A Life of Walter Rauschenbusch. By Christopher H. Evans. Library of Religious Biography. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2004. xxx + 348 pp. $25.00 (paper).

The Kingdom Is Always but Coming is an accessible and informative biography of Walter Rauschenbusch by Christopher Evans, associate professor of church history at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. It portrays Rauschenbusch as the foremost theologian of the social gospel movement in America, showing why his name became synonymous with socially engaged Christian faith and how his thought remains a benchmark for socially critical theologies today.

Evans begins his book with an overview of the main themes and contributions of Rauschenbusch as a theologian. Next he recounts the influences Rauschenbusch was exposed to in his early years and traces his formation, arguing that by the time he graduated from Rochester Theological Seminary in May of 1886, the central convictions of his mature thought were already present as a nascent liberalism that troubled his professors.

Evans recounts how Rauschenbusch s awakening to the evils of modern industrial society resulted from his experiences as pastor of second German Baptist Church in New York's Bowery district. Rauschenbusch s exposure here to the sufferings of the poor, and in particular to the preventable deaths of many young children, moved him from being a pietistic liberal towards becoming a prophetic voice intent upon mobilizing the church to effect social change. Evans maps this transformation against the backdrop of the developing social gospel movement as a whole. He also describes Rauschenbuschs courtship with and eventual marriage to Pauline Rother, which took place at this time.

Evans next chronicles Rauschenbusch s career as a faculty member of Rochester Theological Seminary, to which he moved in 1897. He describes how the publication of Christianity and the Social Crisis rocketed Rauschenbusch to prominence as an intellectual leader of the social gospel movement in America and made him a much sought-after public speaker. …