The Nature and Destiny of Man

by Reinhold Niebuhr

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How did Reinhold Niebuhr's vision differ from social gospel thinkers?

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While Reinhold Niebuhr was a proponent of mainstream Christian theology in which the Church played a central role as both (1) the embodiment of the collective group of Christians and the (2) authority of the Christian gospel with power to discipline and to govern theological and doctrinal precepts, the Social Gospel, particularly as outlined by Rev. Watler Rauschenbusch, claimed that the ideology of "the Church" had usurped the doctrine of the Kingdom of God as espoused by Jesus to his disciples.

The principle conflict between the two concepts is that whereas the Church might do good, the Kingdom of God centered upon establishing righteousness along the same lines as Jesus did through directly addressing social situations, whether by challenging complacent religious leaders, i.e., the Pharisees and the Sadducee's, or by requiring spirituality and justice as when violently chasing money changers from the Temple.

[For more detail, see "The Coming Rebirth of the Social Gospel" by Dr. Jan Garrett and the ENotes links below.]

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