In the Preface of their book, The New Evangelical Social Gospel, Roger and Diane Smalling assert that "a version of the social gospel is being revived under the guise of a new emphasis on mercy ministry and social justice. This is a new form that far transcends a call to more involvement with the needs of society. It is a theological system of its own, a worldview that redefines the mission of the church, the kingdom of God, Christian living and even the content of the word `gospel' itself." Indeed, the title of this book seems a bit oxymoronic. How in the world can the social gospel be considered evangelical? That's what this book is all about.
Whether or not you have noticed this theological trend among evangelicalism and the Reformed tradition, the Smallings have done a great service to the church. Pastors and lay people alike will benefit from this book, which is probably best described as a timely primer and critical analysis of a theological drift that is affecting the church today, particularly in America. Actually, `theological drift' is probably too weak of a descriptor. The Smallings use stronger language: "A brush fire is sweeping through evangelical circles, scorching the fine edges of the words `gospel' and `gospel ministry.' Couched in appealing language and ambiguous slogans, it finds kindling in a new generation steeped in a popular liberal mindset, ungrounded in sound New Testament theology. It is gathering droves of Christians who see it as a balanced approach to ministry" (also from the Preface).
The New Evangelical Social Gospel is comprised of 18 chapters; however, each chapter is less than five pages making it very readable and to the point. I was able to read it in one evening; I couldn't put it down - or turn it off, as the case may be with an ebook. Also, each chapter concludes with a helpful bullet-point summary, appropriately labeled, "From this chapter we learn..."
The main point of this book is summarized in the conclusion of the book: "Mercy ministry is plainly taught in the Bible as a gift of the Spirit and a necessary outworking of local church life. Zealous efforts to help the poor are wonderful. When such enthusiasm impinges on the meaning of the gospel or the mission of the church, we have an obligation to become alarmed. Imposing mandates Christ never decreed, grieves the Spirit, diverts the church from its calling and extinguishes the power of the gospel...It [the gospel] is sufficient in itself to advance the kingdom of God, for it alone is `the power of God for salvation.'"
[This is the introduction to a more lengthy review which may be read online here: [...]]