A Theology for the Social Gospel

By Walter Rauschenbusch | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIX
THE SOCIAL GOSPEL AND THE ATONEMENT

To countless Christian minds the doctrine of the atonement has been the marrow of theology. We have reserved it for the close of our discussion. Does the social gospel contain anything which would verify, interpret, quicken, or expand that doctrine? And what form of the doctrine would best express and support the social gospel?

The theological interpretation of the death of Christ has a long and varied history. It will aid us in estimating our modern needs if we pass it briefly in review.

To the first disciples the death of their Lord was an astonishing catastrophe, an unexpected, terrible, and apparently impossible outcome of the work of the Messiah. For that very reason they craved an explanation of the event which would interpret it as a fundamental part of God's plan. Their method was to prove that it had been foretold throughout the Scripture and foreshadowed by typology. Paul was the first to give the death of our Lord a really central position in a theological system.

But the early Church never appropriated or utilized more than a few leading ideas of Paul. The most popular and elaborate theological explanation was the theory that Christ's death was a ransom paid to Satan. By the fall the human race became subject to Satan, and he had

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