Origins of Walter Rauschenbusch's Social Ethics

Origins of Walter Rauschenbusch's Social Ethics

Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 184
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    Origins of Walter Rauschenbusch's Social Ethics
    Book Description:

    In Rauschenbusch's work pietism, a religion of the heart, was purged of subjectivism while retaining inter-personal compassion; Anabaptist sectarianism provided a Kingdom of God love-ethic without passivity toward the culture; liberalism imparted an openness to the whole community and a powerful, realistic analytic; and the transformationist Christian socialists supplied a case for state intervention while rejecting public ownership as a first principle. Smucker reveals that while the roots of Rauschenbusch's new paradigm lay to some extent in his personal experiences his parents' rejection of the Lutheran perspective for that of the Baptists, his father's pietism, and his eleven-year pastorate in New York's Hell's Kitchen it was his exposure to the new politics of Henry George and Edward Bellamy, to the Christian socialism of England and Switzerland, and, aided by his knowledge of German and his experiences in Europe, to a wide range of scholarship sensitive to the main social currents of the day that deeply informed his ethic. Smucker also shows how Rauschenbusch drew upon the work of Christian ethicists, historians, and sociologists to support his new pluralistic synthesis.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6455-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 3-9)

    It was Walter Rauschenbusch’s destiny to be in places where vigorous historical forces had their origins. His family was sympathetic to the German liberal revolution of 1848. Walter and his father were the first American historians to encounter the left wing of the Reformation. The theological revolution led by Albrecht Ritschl in Europe and North America fuelled a rejection the School of traditional orthodoxy. In 1886, at the age of twenty-five, Walter felt ready for a pastorate in the tough immigrant working-class neighbourhood of NewYork City bearing the ominous name of Hell’s Kitchen. He was ready to face the acids...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Chronological Development
    (pp. 10-20)

    In order to understand the chronological development of Walter Rauschenbusch’s thought, one must keep in mind the four influences already defined: pietism, sectarianism, liberalism, and transformationism. All four were operative almost from the beginning of his life, however unevenly. Pietism and Anabaptism exerted a strong influence in the early days, while liberalism and transformationism gained later. All four influences were present also, in varying degrees, in the background of his father, August Rauschenbusch. The interaction of these factors is germane to the American careers of both father and son, for it played a vital role in each period of the...

  6. CHAPTER THREE The Influence of Pietism
    (pp. 21-29)

    The emphasis on Walter Rauschenbusch’s role as an evangelical has obscured the more clear-cut and identifiable influence of pietism upon his character and work. It was through his father that he was influenced by pietism, one of the most powerful post-Reformation Christian movements. In one way evangelicalism and pietism are synonymous: in both, the emphasis is on regeneration, devotional exercises, and evangelism. In a number of countries, however, term “evangelical” is used to distinguish Protestants from Catholics. In England it tends to be synonymous with Low Church. In North America, many fundamentalists use it as a less pejorative term for...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR The Influence of Anabaptist Sectarianism
    (pp. 30-73)

    The effort to discover how the sectarian motif moulded and shaped the ethics of Walter Rauschenbusch is divided here into two parts. The first part documents in great detail the indoctrination of both father and son in the literature and outlook of sixteenth-century sectarian thought. A number of Walter Rauschenbusch’s lectures, essays, and addresses reveal that sectarianism was one of the major influences that shaped his own thinking as well as his father’s.

    The second part, more complex and difficult to analyze, reveals that the son’s Kingdom of God ethics originated in a very free and original appropriation of sectarian...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE The Influence of Social and Religious Liberalism
    (pp. 74-120)

    Walter Rauschenbusch is widely known as a Christian social thinker whose origins were primarily in liberalism. H. Richard Niebuhr regards this as his weakness, since it was the Christ-of-culture type of idealism that lost its power of transcendence over culture. By contrast, Ralph Henry Gabriel considers this “social thinker” label a high compliment, since the Rochester prophet overcame the romanticism of Charles Sheldon and the dogmatism of George Herron to articulate the religious side of the American democratic faith.¹

    Niebuhr and Gabriel are representative interpreters of two conflicting schools of thought, both using liberalism as their key insight. Despite the...

  9. CHAPTER SIX The Influence of Christian Socialist Transformationism
    (pp. 121-137)

    Transformationists have a positive and hopeful attitude towards culture, based on the oneness of creation and redemption, incarnation and atonement. From this theological base they pioneered in the development of Christian socialism on the positive side and attacked mammonistic materialism on the other – both prominent factors in the teachings of Walter Rauschenbusch.

    The transformationists are difficult to classify. First, there is the basic division between the Catholics and Calvinists. The Catholics are not theological liberals; they are Anglican, trinitarian, and sacramentarian. Ethically they are anticapitalist, but monarchical and conservative in politics and aristocratic in their view of the stratification of...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Summary and Conclusion
    (pp. 138-144)

    This study has revealed the nature of Walter Rauschenbusch’s Kingdom of God ethics in terms of his unique appropriation and selection of materials from the basic motifs of pietism, Anabaptist sectarianism, liberalism, and Christian socialist transformationism. The grand theme of the Kingdom of God, constructed from the materials found in the four motifs, runs through the entire structure of his ethics. This contention is supported by evidence from Rauschenbusch’s family background in which pietism, sectarianism, and liberalism were all prominent; from theZeitgeist,where pietism and liberalism were given credence; from Rauschenbusch’s understanding of himself, first as a pietist and...

  11. APPENDIX: Rauschenbusch and Martin Luther King
    (pp. 145-146)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 147-158)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 159-170)
  14. Index
    (pp. 171-173)