Book Review: Christianity & The Social Crisis In The 21st Century

Recently I read through Walter Rauschenbusch’s 1907 critique, Christianity and the Social Crisis in the 21st century, a book said to be “the classic that woke up the Church”.

To be honest, the book was hard to read as I felt the same point was reiterated again and again, however there were some rather poignant things found throughout the book that do mark out problems and solutions all found within the contemporary Body of Christ. Therefore, this review will seek to highlight various quotes and portions from the book for our edification.



“…the essential purpose of Christianity was to transform human society into the Kingdom of God by regenerating human relationships and reconstituting them in accordance with the will of God”.

“Instead of a society resting on coercion, exploitation, and inequality, Jesus desired to found a society resting on love, service, and equality (not a postponed Kingdom but rather one in our midst, here and now – my insert)”.

“Whatever argument one would use to demand the postponement of social regeneration to a future era  will equally demand the postponement of personal holiness to a future life”.



“…a study of the prophets is not only an interesting part of the story of social movements but is indispensable for any comprehension of the social influence exerted by historical Christianity and for any true comprehension of the mind of Jesus Christ”.

“The prophets were the heralds of the fundamental truth that religion and ethics are inseparable and that ethical conduct is the supreme and sufficient religious act”.
– “They said less about the pure heart for the individual than of just institutions of the nation”.
–  “The prophets were not radical individualists. During the classic times of prophetism they always dealt with Israel and Judah as organic totalities”.
–  “When speaking of their nation as a virgin, as a city, as a vine, they are attempting by these figures of speech to express this organic and corporate Spiritual life”.

“Our philosophical and economic individualism has affected our religious thought so deeply that we hardly comprehend the prophetic views of an organic national life and of national sin and salvation”.
–  “…distorts the utterances of the prophets as soon as we handle them”.

“When religion was driven from national interests into the refuge of private life, it lost its grasp of larger affairs and the old clear outlook  into contemporary history gave way to an artificial scheme. Instead of reading present facts to discern God’s purposes, men began to pore over the sacred books and piece together unfilled prophecies of the dead prophets into a mosaic picture of the future”.
–  “Yet the  unhistorical and artificial schemes of apocalypticism have been and are now more influential in shaping the imagination of Christian men about the future course of history than the inspired thoughts of the great prophets”.

Our desire should be “loyalty to facts and hostility to illusions”.



“The truth is that the idea in the sense in which Jesus and His audiences understood it almost completely passed out of Christian thought as soon as Christianity passed out of Christianity passed from the Jewish people and found its Spiritual home within the great Greco- Roman world”.
– “The Greek world cherished no such national religious hope as the prophets had ingrained in Jewish thought; on the other hand it was intensely focused on the future life of the individual, and the ascetic triumph over flesh and matter”.

“It takes more faith to see God in the little beginnings than in the completed results; more faith to say that God is now working than to say He will some day work”.

“In early Christianity we see a gradual change of Christianity from one hope to another, from its Hebrew origin…it accepted the intensification of the individual hope”.

Epistles of Barnabas: “There are 3 dogmas of the Lord: the hope of life…and righteousness and love”.



  • Gregory of Tours called Frankish kings “men of God”
  • Medieval clergy completely immoral
  • Look up major church splits and divisions

“Their eye for profit was keener than their ear for God and humanity. That is the great sin of modern humanity, and unless we repent, we shall perish by that sin”.

“The health of a society rests on the welfare of the home”.

“If the Church tries to confine itself to theology and the Bible and refuses its larger mission to humanity, its theology will eventually become mythology and its Bible a closed book”.



“One of the persistent mistakes of Christian men has been to postpone social regeneration  to a future era to be inaugurated by the return of Christ”.

“Let us run the race with assurance that our faith is strong enough to change the lives of individuals and also redeem the soul of our society”.

“It is true that any regeneration of society can come only through the act of God and the presence of Christ; but God is now acting and Christ is now here”.

“The greatest contribution which any man can make to a social movement is the contribution of a regenerated personality…”.

“If any new principle is to gain power in human history, it must take shape and life in the individuals who have faith in it”.

“Let others voice special interests; the minister of Jesus Christ must voice the mind of Jesus Christ”.

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