WHEN BEDBUGS BITE: THE UNEASY MARRIAGE OF
EVANGELICALISM AND WESTERN INDIVIDUALISM
2. Modern Attempts
3. Hollinger's Typology
a. Individualism as Metaphysic
b. Individualism as Value System and as Social Philosophy
B. Historical Development
1. Medieval Society
2. The Renaissance
3. The Reformation
4. The Enlightenment
III. Evangelical Individualism
B. Social Ethics
2. Modern Trends
a. A Cursory Glance
b. An Indepth Look
c. The Two Kingdoms
The concept of contextualization has, in recent years, gained such
widespread acceptance among missionaries and missiologists that today in many
circles to speak of a contextualized Christianity is to be guilty of a
tautology. That an evangelist or a church planter in Africa is aiding in the
building of an _African_ church, that a theologian in an Asian seminary is
striving to help his Asian students develop an Asian theology free from all
Western influence, has become axiomatic. The gospel of Christ, it is said
repeatedly, is not the property of any one culture, but is above all culture,
and therefore it is the missionary's sacred duty in the presentation of the
gospel to divorce himself from all Western ways and to address his audience
not with Western jargon but in terms congruent with the receptor's culture.
Thus it is encumbent on the cross-cultural worker, before all work begins, to
learn not simply the native language, but much of the native culture as well.
However, as Friederich Dierks points out, it is not sufficient to
understand the ways of the receptor culture. The missionary must first come
to a understanding of his own culture and all the ways in which his own
understanding of Christianity has been shaped by it. The missionary task
begins not with the contextualization of the gospel but its
_de_contextualization, and it is this step perhaps even more than
recontextualization in concepts familiar to the receptor which is the most
difficult the missionary will ever take, for, in the words of an old Tswana
proverb, _Tshwene ga e ipone mariba_ -- a baboon can never see how ugly his
sunken eyes are.
Yet for all its importance, little has been done to aid the missionary in
understanding his own culture explicitly. He is left on his own to discover
-- or not -- his cultural preconceptions. All too often the missionary never
realizes that his failures are due to his continued use of Western
methodologies and Western patterns, opting instead to blame the receptor
people. Moffat probably never came to understand that the observed lack of
altars and other concrete signs of worship among the Tswana people was due
not, as he thought, to a lack of religion, but rather to the fact that the
African, for whom the whole of his environment and the whole of time is
permeated with religious meaning, does not feel the cumpulsion which the
Westerner, with his Western tendency toward separation of things sacred and
profane, feels to set aside and invest with special religious meaning places
such as a church building or an altar or times such as Sunday or Easter or
Christmas. Anecdotes without end could be told of similar incidents, many or
most of which would be quite humorous were it not for the damage which such
misunderstandings have caused. As Dierks asserts, "Dualism in missionary
communication was therefore directly responsible for the formation of a
syncretistic Christianity in Africa. Christianity in Africa could have been
different if the message had been embedded in the holistic world-view of
Thus it becomes imperative for a missionary to learn along with his or
her studies in methodologies of contextualization and biculturalism and
training for cross-cultural experience something of just how it is that
Western (and in particular American) society has contextualized and adapted
(and distorted) the gospel. This paper is an attempt to foster dialogue to
that end. It is not within the scope of this paper (or for that matter the
competency of its writer) to discuss all aspects of the problem. Indeed, to
do so properly would demand a concerted effort by scholars from many fields --
theology, sociology, anthropology, psychology and history for starters.
Rather, I wish to discuss one aspect of Western society which has contributed
greatly to the modern Western interpretation of the message of Christ. It is
at this point that I wish to acknowledge Dierks's analysis of Western society
in highlighting its four main features. It is not my intent to critique or
defend the adequacy of his analysis but simply to discuss more in depth one of
the four features. The features which Dierks sees in Western culture are
dualism, spiritualism, intellectualism and individualism. It is to the
last of these -- individualism -- that I wish to speak. Specifically, I wish
to address American individualism and its formative influence on evangelical
ecclesiology and social ethics.
Before we can undertake our primary task it will be necessary to define
what is meant by individualism. The term, as applied to America and
Americans, dates back to Alexis de Tocqueville's analysis of American culture
of the 1830's, _Democracy in America_. In his now-classic work, Tocqueville
defined individualism as
a mature and calm feeling, which disposes each member of the community to
sever himself from the mass of his fellows, and to draw apart with his
family and his friends; so that after he has thus formed a little circle
of his own, he willingly leaves society at large to itself.
Tocqueville said of Americans
They owe nothing to any man, they expect nothing from any man; they
acquire the habit of always considering themselves standing alone, and
they are apt to imagine that their whole destiny is in their own hands.
Thus, not only does democracy make every man forget his ancestors,
but it hides his descendents, and separates his contemporaries from him;
it throws him back upon himself alone.
Tocqueville did not invent the term individualism, but borrowed it from
post-Revolution France, where it was coined to describe the anti-social
motivation of self-interest. Tocqueville borrowed the term, but sought to
divorce from it the negative idea of a force which brought uprootedness,
social fragmentation, ruthless competition, and lack of ideals and common
2. Modern Attempts
Though this is the starting point for developing a definition of
individualism, it is by no means the end. Many studies have attempted
analyses of the term, and yet it has consistently proven ambiguous and
elusive. Space does not permit a recounting of the history of the study of
the concept, therefore it must suffice to mention a few of the more notable
Perhaps the most interesting definitions have centered around attempts to
develop general typologies. A.D. Lindsay has described individualism as
having three meanings: a state of mind in which one thinks for himself, a
theory of the proper relation of the individual to the state, and the doctrine
of the individual as a self-determined whole with any large whole being merely
an aggregate of individuals. Konraad Swart, in an article entitled
"Individualism in the Mid-Nineteenth Century", offered a discussion of three
"ideas" central to an individualistic world view: 1) the rights of man
(political liberalism), 2) a tendency toward anti-statism (laissez-faire
economics), and 3) individuality (what Swart calls romantic individualism).
Steven Lukes, in what is perhaps one of the most comprehensive analyses
of individualism, has offered a list of eleven "Basic Ideas" inherent in
individualism: dignity of man, autonomy, privacy, self-development, abstract
individualism, political individualism, economic individualism, religious
individualism, ethical individualism, epistemological individualism, and
methodological individualism. Lukes' analysis, though insightful, is too
narrow, however, for our purposes here.
3. Hollinger's Typology
Dennis Hollinger offers a new analysis, centered around a typology
consisting of three types: individualism as metaphysic, as value system and as
social philosophy. I will be using Hollinger's analysis heavily
throughout this paper. Though this paper will be most concerned with
individualism as metaphysic, it will be necessary to understand indiviualism
as social philosophy and as value system as well.
a. Individualism as Metaphysic
Individualism as a metaphysic is, according to Hollinger,
a view of reality in which the individual is the most basic entity and
the defining principle of all existence. It is an atomistic conception
of reality in which a collection has no existence apart from its
constituent parts....Such a metaphysic regards social and political rules
and institutions as artifices and modifiable means of fulfilling
individual objectives. Individual needs, rights and instincts are viewed
independently of a social context.
Thus metaphysical individualism sees society as simply the sum of its parts.
To understand social phenomena one need only understand individual actions.
Society as a living, breathing community is a myth. The Greek philosopher
Epicurus, caught up in the atomistic world-view of his day, intended exactly
this in his statement "there is no such thing as society." All organismic
aspects of society are denied in favor of an atomistic reductionism. This
view comes complete with an implicit methodology for the analysis of society.
b. Individualism as Value System and as Social Philosophy
In addition to metaphysical individualism, Hollinger sees
individualism as a social philosophy and a value system. As a social
philosophy, individualism moves beyond mere description of reality as it is
and offers a normative evaluation of what society should be, in terms of
society's relationship to the individual and the individual's relationship to
society. Individualism as a social philosophy "sets forth political, economic
and social maxims which reflect the centrality of the atomistic individual
over every collective."
On the other hand, individualism as a value system offers a set of
values in which the individual's primacy over the group is asserted.
Individualism as a value system again moves beyond description into
proscription, proscribing a set of "oughts", in this case what ought to be a
part of the individual's existence. Individualism as a value system differs
from individualism as a social philosophy in that it defines those parts of an
individual's existence which are valuable and to be preserved and defended,
whereas individualism as a social philosophy attempts to set forth rules and
regulations governing individual-societal relations. Probably the most famous
example of individualism as a value system comes from the preamble to the
Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,
that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
and conclusively demonstrates that individualism as a value system is to be
found at the very heart of American culture.
B. Historical Development
As should be apparent by now, it is the thesis of this paper that
American Evangelicalism has imbibed, usually unconciously, many of the values
of Western individualism, and that these values have played a key formative
role in the development of much of evangelical theology, including (and, for
the purposes of this paper, especially) doctrines of the church and social
Actually, it is not quite fair to say that evagelicalism borrowed its
individualism wholesale from Western society. Both evangelical and Western
individualism find common roots as far back as the Renaissance and the
Reformation, though each has encouraged and influenced the other over the
course of the following centuries.
1. Medieval Society
The central tenets of medieval society were hierarchy and
subordination, tenets which dictated that every member of society has his own
niche and his own role to fill, and thus maintained and fostered order.
Society as a whole was conceived to be a large organism and each member of
society a component part with his own set of functions. Thus social
philosophy operated under a strongly collectivistic metaphysic, seeing society
as organismic and hierarchical. Society as a whole was central; the
individual mattered only as a part of that whole.
The conscience of the medieval individual, according to David Miller,
"lacked the subjective component; it was, rather, the internalization of an
The individual did not exist for his own sake but for the sake of the
whole society. This organological thesis was to lead in time to the
full-fledged integration theory of the corporate body politic, in which
the individual is wholly submerged in society for the sake of the well-
being of society itself.
2. The Renaissance
It wasn't until the period of the Renaissance in the 12th and 13th
centuries that medieval humanists, though primarily interested in a rebirth of
classical learning and arts, began to alter the perceptions of the
relationship of the individual to society by elevating the individual above
society. Their work, however, wasn't to bloom into anything like modern
individualism for at least another three and a half centuries.
3. The Reformation
In the Reformation of the 16th century we find one of the primary roots
of modern Western individualism. It was during this period that medieval
hierarchical and organismic concepts were further undermined and seeds of
further individualistic philosophies were planted. Though certainly
unintended by its leaders, Protestantism of the 16th century greatly impacted
philosophical concepts of the relationship of the individual to society.
Roman Catholicism throughout the Middle Ages had been an institution
largely built on concepts of hierarchy, sacrement and organism. The context
and the agent of one's salvation, and the source of one's relationship to God,
was the mediation of the church. It was Martin Luther and his disciples who
rebelled against these Catholic doctrines, teaching instead concepts such as
justification by faith, the priesthood of all believers, and the doctrine of
vocation, all of which were, relative at least to pre-Reformation thought,
highly individualistic, containing within them a new conception of individual
conscience and responsibility before God.
[It was] the great work and divine mission of Protestantism to place each
individual soul in immediate union with Christ and his Word; to complete
in each one the work of redemption, to build in each one a temple of God,
a spiritual church; and to unfold and sanctify all the energies of the
4. The Enlightenment
It was during the Enlightenment that individualism really came into its
own. The Enlightenment was, as much as anything, a rejection of medieval
values. This can be seen perhaps most graphically in the rise of modern
science which took as its foundation the philosophies of British philosopher
John Locke and his concept of the complex idea. Locke declared that any
complex idea was nothing but a collection of particular ideas which were, in
turn, further reduceable to particular sensations dependent for their
existence on the individual. It must be noted that in large part Locke's
philosophy was simply a harkening back to ancient Greek atomistic notions.
Locke, in turn, was highly influential in the development early in the
18th century of the philosophies of Voltaire and Rousseau. Voltaire and
Rousseau both came to reject all claims for an independent status for
universals, denied the existence of abstracts, and declared that societies
existed merely for the convenience of the individual. It was Rousseau's
theory of the social compact -- that society is merely a contractual form
agreed to by individuals -- which was most influential during the French
Revolution. General societal will, Rousseau declared, was nothing more than a
collection of individual wills. Freedom, autonomy, privacy, dignity, self-
determination -- these were the new values of the Enlightenment. They were
also among the biggest influences on 18th century American thought. The
Declaration of Independence could almost have been pulled direct from the
pages of Locke's _Two Treatises on Government_. Though the Enlightenment was
spawned in Europe, it only really took root when it was transplanted to
Puritanism played a key role in the development of American life and
thought. The concept of the Protestant Ethic, most closely associated with
the work of Max Weber, saw the Puritans as the epitome and paradigm of
individual hard work, discipline and thrift. It was in Puritan thought that
individualistic motifs were most fully developed. This is amply illustrated
by John Bunyan's classic work, _Pilgrim's Progress_. In it the call to begin
the Christian pilgrimage came to Christian alone and, though greeted from time
to time by other travelers, it was above all Christian's own isolated,
Louis Hartz has dubbed individualism the great gift of Puritanism to
Western society. Mecklin maintains that for Puritanism deepest community
was found not in groups or in institutions but in the secrets of the solitary
heart. And church historian John Mulder states that Puritanism "tended to
be highly individualistic, emphasizing the necessity of strenuous, solitary
effort to tame the wilderness and eventually one's competitors."
III. Evangelical Individualism
Modern evangelicalism claims to be the successor to and the preserver of
16th century Reformation thought. If this is true, and I believe it to be in
large part accurate, it is also true that 20th century evangelicalism owes
many of its distinctives to the Puritanism of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Therefore it must be asked To what extent has modern evangelicalism inherited
the latent individualism of the Reformation and Puritan movements? Thus falls
to us next the task of analyzing the extent to which the individual ethic has
shaped modern evangelical ecclesiology and social ethics. We will begin with
ecclesiology and conclude with an analysis of the ways in which it has
influenced evangelical social ethics. It must be noted, however, that due to
the interrelatedness of the themes, there will be a great deal of overlap in
What, according to evangelicals, is the mission of the church? Has the
evangelical conception of the church's mission been individualistically
conceived? Does evangelical ecclesiology relate to the social order? How?
It is the thesis of this paper that evangelical ecclesiology has failed to
incorporate evangelicalism's stated concern for social issues.
The church's primary task as evangelicals see it is evangelism, but it is
evangelism as proclaimed to individuals. Addison Leitch, in commenting on the
role of the church in society, said, "there is no salvation by way of the
social gospel, but only in the individual's call to Christ. But there is no
such thing as an asocial Christian." Evangelism, Leitch declares, will
result in social action on the part of the individual Christian. Thus the
church's primary task is the evangelization of individuals who will, as a by-
product of their salvation, then demonstrate social concern.
Billy Graham, critiquing the 1967 NCC Conference on Church and Society in
Detroit, argued that the mission of the church is to change individuals, not
The government may try to legislate Christian behavior, but it soon finds
that man remains unchanged. The changing of men's hearts is the primary
mission of the church. The only way to change men is to get them
converted to Jesus Christ. Then they will have the capacity to live up
to the Christian command to "love thy neighbor".
Thus the primary task remains individual redemption. One cannot change
society without first changing the individual, for you "cannot carve rotten
wood". The church is called primarily to the task of redemption not
Again, it is the church's task to prepare men for the next world, not
this one. The church, it is claimed, is to minister to the soul, not the body
(though the body is acknowledged to be important, it is not considered the
primary need of the individual). L. Nelson Bell, in an early article, states
explicitly that "the church exist[s] primarily to prepare men for...the next
world, for no man is fit to live in this world until he is prepared to live in
the next." He then continues on to say that "the church's primary task has to
do with redemption, the world to come, the making of new men in Christ, the
ultimate destiny of the soul, the proclamation of truth...." Thus it is
apparent that for the evangelical the church's primary task is redemption, but
not redemption of society but of individuals. It is an individualistic task.
This individualism is clearly reflected in that unique phenomenon of the
19th century, revivalistic religion. The Second Great Awakening of the early
19th century stressed renewal of the individual, not the church or the
community. One was called to find God alone, without mediation, without
hierarchies, without liturgies. Each individual had direct access to God, and
even the church became non-essential in his search for salvation. This became
perhaps most apparent not only in the growing popularity during the 19th
century of congregational church piety but also in the shift from Calvinism to
Arminianism, or at least to a modified version of Calvinism, and was
exemplified by the great revival preacher Charles G. Finney with his emphasis
on the immanence of God and the personal free choice of man, and consequent
de-emphasis on God's sovereignty and transcendence. This new revivalistic
theology declared that
man was active not passive in his salvation, that grace was not
arbitrarily or capriciously dispersed like the royal prerogative of a
sovereign, but offered freely to all men as the gift of a loving father
to his children; that God wants men to help themselves, not to wait on
Him, and that He is a God of love not a God to be feared.
It is to be remarked that the spread of congregational polity, and the
emphasis on the individual as his own master fit in well with the Jacksonian
Democracy of the day.
In addition, revivalism tended to stress an individualistic piety.
Though there were exceptions -- most notably the issue of slavery --
revivalistic religion emphasized issues such as temperance, card-playing,
dancing, gambling and the like. Social ethics for revivalists was not a major
Because of its origins in frontier religion American Protestantism was
almost from the beginning geared to individualistic piety, in which right
living by the individual was stressed, with the expectation that social
justice would follow.
What then does evangelicalism have to say about church mission and social
and political involvement? Howard Kershner, in response to the liberal call
for the church to take positions on issues of social and political importance,
wrote that "Jesus commanded us to go into all the world and preach the gospel
to every creature. He did not command us to go into the world and organize a
peace corps or civil-disobedience demonstration." For evangelicalism (and
here I am painting with a broad brush) the church has no mandate to engage in
socio-political affairs; to do so damages historic Christianity's witness.
The task of the church lies in the spiritual not the secular domain.
Evangelicals developed four basic arguments for the church's non-involvement
in social and political affairs: there is no Biblical mandate; the church will
pervert and lose the gospel message; it will split the church over divisive
issues; and the church lacks the competence to speak to many of these areas.
The conclusion is that the church can speak to the issues in general terms,
but it must not be allowed to develop political or economic platforms, or to
dictate public policy. However, evangelicals have been unable to agree on
where the former leaves off and the latter begins.
Let the church speak with authority about the gospel committed to it.
Let it denounce evils that the light of revealed truth exposes. Let it
cry out for economic justice, racial good will, social order and decency,
and a dozen more ends to be desired by the Christian man. But let it
refrain from attempting to legislate these issues; from assuming a pose
of worldly wisdom in order to dictate terms to which government must
capitulate; from concerning itself so directly with the kingdoms of men
that the cause of the kingdom of God is neglected.
The Christian individual, on the other hand, is encouraged to involve
himself in social and political affairs, but _only_ as an individual, _not_ as
a member of the church. Thus a distinction is made between the actions of the
church and of its individual members, and evangelicalism is again maintaining
an implicit dualism, with the individual being viewed as an autonomous unit of
action and no continuity seen between personal and corporate activity.
This position was summed up in a Christianity Today editorial:
No responsible Christian citizen can remain oblivious to social and
political problems. He must actively work to solve them. Yet he must
not make the organized church the political instrument for solution of
And J. Howard Pew explains
No one would seriously deny that the individual Christian must relate his
Christian convictions to the society of which he is a part in the
economic, social, and political life about him. He must live out his
Christianity in every phase of life, showing that he is salt and light in
an unbelieving world.
Pew then goes on to argue that a clear distinction must be made between
temporal and spiritual kingdoms. It is only in the latter, he says, that the
church has the right to engage itself directly.
B. Social Ethics
What implications, then, does this evangelical view of church mission
have for an evangelical social ethic? How accurate are the critics of modern
evangelicalism in their attempts to portray the movement as being overly
concerned with personal piety -- issues such as card-playing, dancing, sexual
morality, and stewardship -- to the detriment of social issues such as
economic justice or labor? What issues _are_ evangelicals most concerned
Hollinger, in his analysis of the content of evangelicalism's most
influential mouthpiece, _Christianity Today_, has convincingly refuted this
notion of evangelical pietistic overkill, demonstrating in an analysis of the
periodical's first twenty years that treatment within its pages of social
issues has outweighed personal issues by a ratio of almost six to one.
Thus it can be seen that, at least in the pages of _Christianity Today_,
evangelicals have paid far greater attention to social issues than to personal
As the self-professed inheritors of such men as Calvin, William
Wilberforce, and R.A. Torrey, evangelicals are quick to point to the records
of history to demonstrate their long heritge of social involvement. F. Leahy
highlighted John Calvin's social conscience, noting that he continually
addressed the issue of the role of civil government in his _Institutes_, and
holding up for inspection his reformative work in the city of Geneva, to show
that Calvin and his fellow Reformers were intensely concerned to respond to
the social disintegration of their day. Others mention the social reform
impact of the 18th century evangelical revivals, or the success of the British
Clapham Sect and its leaders William Wilberforce and John Venn in ending
British involvement in the slave trade, shortening the work week, and
establishing child labor laws, or 19th century American evangelicalism's
battle for prison reform and the abolition of slavery. Still others have
pointed to the work of the International Christian Workers Association and its
leaders -- men such as R.A. Torrey, A.J. Gordon and James Gray -- in targeting
urban poverty and social outcasts in the late 1800s.
In addition, the history of Christian missions shows a strong social
conscience among evangelicals. Many missionaries "stood for social justice,
fought against inhuman practices in traditional societies, and resisted the
worst features of advancing European imperialism".
2. Modern Trends
a. A Cursory Glance
Writers in _Christianity Today_ have, in fact, since early in the history
of the periodical, warned against a perceived trend of evangelical neglect of
personal morality. Complained one editorial, "Raise in a church council a
question on Christian race relations and an almost unanimous response is
assured. Raise the question of moral conduct, and often there is little
effective reaction". A false public/private dichotomy was perceived in
which public behavior was more strongly stressed than private morals, and
consequently a call was sounded for a greater evangelical personal ethical
This must be seen, however, in light of the fact that a significant block
of evangelicals saw the source of all societal ills in the decline of personal
ethics. Frank Coloquhoun pointed to the decline of British society and blamed
it on the erosion of personal values -- sexual immorality, juvenile
delinquency, prostitution and the like. In fact, the only overtly social
factor targeted by Caloquhoun was the growth of the welfare state, a trend
which directly challenged one of the pillars of an individualistic social
philosophy, laissez-faire economics. Other writers targeted neglect of
Sabbath observance as a major factor in societal decline. All these
writers, however, placed the blame for Western society's moral decline
squarely on the shoulders of the personal morality of the individual.
These writers, however, were in the minority. The majority of
evangelical writers were calling for an evangelical social ethic. Does this
contradict the thesis of this paper? Before we answer that question, let's
take a closer look at what they were calling for.
b. An Indepth Look
Though these writers were calling for an increased social ethic, their
distinction between the personal and social dimensions of this ethic was fuzzy
and blurred. For the most part they continued to view social problems as
merely magnified personal problems. This is in keeping with their continued
subscription, often stated explicitly, to an individualistic metphysic. For
example, Richard Bodey, in commenting on the problem of gambling, stated that
Although its greatest temptations are introduced through society,
gambling is, oddly enough, undeniably anti-social. This, of course,
follows naturally upon its corruption of individuals, for society is but
the sum of individual human beings.
Bodey's comments are typical of the way evangelicals often approach
social problems. Evangelicals emphasize non-political, non-social approaches
to social problems since social problems at their root are seen to be only
personal problems. L. Nelson Bell, in a discussion of race relations during
the heyday of the civil rights movement, claimed that the proper solution to
the problem was not through public policy change but by changing individuals'
attitudes. "The church", said Bell, "should concentrate greater energy on
condemning those sinful attitudes of mind where hate, prejudice and
indifference continue to foster injustice and discrimination."
c. The Two Kingdoms
The concept of the two kingdoms -- temporal kingdoms versus the kingdom
of heaven, with the church's activities confined to the latter -- exemplifies
much of evangelicalism's approach to social ethics. This two-kingdoms
approach actually finds its roots in the writings of Martin Luther, who said
that human governments were ordained by God to rule the socio-political realm
with the sword, coercion and law, while the kingdom of God ruled the spiritual
realm through the administration of the Word of God. Modern evangelicals,
carrying on in the tradition of Luther, insist that the two kingdoms must not
be confused; it is the kingdom of the world which is political, not the
kingdom of heaven. Though the presence of the kingdom of heaven is to be felt
in the kingdom of the world, it is _not_ to be politicized. In a critique of
the NCC's call for increased involvement of the church in political affairs,
Edmund Clowney stated that
life in the state -- indeed, in all the world -- is permeated by the
leaven of the kingdom; but no political ruler has the right to raise the
banner of Christ's name over his armies. Neither has the church the
right to reorganize itself in the secular pattern of this worldly power.
The church cannot redeem society by political action; when evangelicalism
becomes politics, it is no longer the gospel of Christ's kingdom.
The Christian's duty, then, is to be a dynamic link between the two, involving
himself in the state and bringing his Christian values to bear on the state,
but _only_ as an individual, _not_ as a member of the church.
In this two kingdoms approach, then, personal ethics become the exclusive
domain of the kingdom of God. Social ethics are placed under the domain of
the kingdom of the world, and thus, being subject to law, escape the scrutiny
of Christian standards which is reserved for the realm of personal morality.
Thus it can be seen that what appears at first glance to be a consistent
call for a modern evangelical social ethic turns out upon closer examination
to be simply a disguised form of individualism-as-social-policy.
Modern evangelical ecclesiology and social ethics are infused with a
strong implicit individualism -- as metaphysic, as social philosophy and as
value system. This latent individualism greatly affects not only evangelical
ecclesiology -- in its views not only of the nature and mission of the church
but also in its conceptions of the nature and methods of evangelism -- but
evangelicalism's approach to social ethics as well. An implicit
individualistic social philosophy, coupled with the two-kingdoms concept, has
effectively limited evangelicalism's field of activity to the spiritual realm
and Christian critique of society to personal morality.
A proper understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of modern
evangelicalism vis-a-vis its social philosophy and metaphysic has tremendous
implications for many areas of evangelical thought -- areas such as the nature
and mission of the church, an understanding of church-state relations,
concepts of the nature and methodologies of evangelistic activity, and
Christian critiques of societal problems and systemic sins, to mention but a
few. It was the original intent of the author to discuss briefly some of
these areas, but constraints of time and space have made that impossible for
the time being. It is hoped, however, that the foregoing discussion will have
stimulated in the reader ideas of his own with respect to some of these areas.
For those who have an interest in further exploration of this topic, or are
interested in the response of a growing minority of evangelicalism to the
issues-at-hand which incorporates a society-as-community metaphysic and
recognizes a need for an involvement of the church in political and societal
activities, a bibliography has been included.
Frederich Dierks, "Communication and World View", _Missionalia_, Vol. 11,
No. 2, Aug. 1983, pp. 43-56
Alexis de Tocqueville, _Democracy in America_, 2 vols., ed. Phillips
Bradley, trans. Henry Reeve (New York:Alfred Knopf Inc, 1945), 2:98.
John W. Ward, "The Ideal of Individualism and the Reality of Organization",
_Business Establishment_, ed. Earl F. Cheit (New York: John Wiley and
sons, 1964), p. 42
_Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences_, 1932 ed., s.v."Individualism", by
Konraad Swart, "Individualism in the Mid-Nineteenth Century (1826-1860),
_Journal of the History of Ideas_ 23 (January-March 1962):77.
Stephen Lukes, _Individualism_, (New York:Harper and Rowe, 1973), pp. 49-
Dennis P. Hollinger, "American Individual and Evangelical Social Ethics: A
Study of Christianity Today 1956-1976", Ph.D. Dissertation, Drew
University, 1981, p. 20.
Ibid., p. 21.
Ibid., p. 25
David Miller, _Individualism: Personal Achievement and the Open Society_
(Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967), p. 75.
Walter Ullmann, _The Individual and Society in the Middle Ages_
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1966), p. 17.
Phillip Schaff, _America, a Sketch of Its Political, Social, and Religious
Character_, ed. Perry Miller (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961),
Louis Hartz, "The Liberal Tradition", in _Failure of a Dream?_, ed. John
Laslett and Seymour Lipset (Garden City, New York: Anchor Press, 1974),
John Mecklin, _An Introduction to Social Ethics_, (New York: Harcourt,
Brace and Howe, 1920), p. 45.
John Mulder, "Pursuing the Puritan Ethic", _Theology Today_ 32 (January,
1976), p. 341
Addison Leitch, "The Primary Task of the Church", _Christianity Today_,
vol. 1, no. 1 (October 15, 1956), p. 19
Billy Graham, "False Prophets in the Church" _Christianity Today_, vol.
12, no. 8 (March 15, 1968), p. 4
L. Nelson Bell, "Lay Concern", _Christianity Today_, vol. 12, no. 12
(March 15, 1968), p. 19
Idem, "Reversing the Order", _Christianity Today_, vol. 8, no. 21 (July
17, 1964), p. 19
William Mcloughlin, _The American Evangelicals, 1800-1900_, (New York:
Harper and Row, 1968), p. 4
Will Herberg, _Protestant, Catholic, Jew_, (New York: Doubleday, 1955), p.
Howard Kershner, "The Church and Social Problems", _Christianity Today_,
vol. 10, no. 11 (March 14, 1966), p. 34
Thomas McDormand, "Church and Government", _Christianity Today_, vol. 9,
no. 15, (April 23, 1965), p. 15
Editorial, "The Church, Politics, and the NCC", _Christianity Today_, vol.
11, no. 1 (October 14, 1966), p. 36
J. Howard Pew, "The Mission of the Church", _Christianity Today_, vol. 8,
no. 20 (July 3, 1964), p. 14
Hollinger, "American Individualism", pp. 122-123. In his count, Hollinger
classified issues such as sex, alcohol, cheating, Sabbath observance,
gambling, citizenship and the like as personal ethical issues, while
issues like labor, economics, political affairs and general social
problems were labeled social issues. He noted however, that "such a
categorization cannot be absolutistic, for there are social ramifications
to all personal issues and personal ramifications to all social issues".
("American Individualism", p. 122)
Frederick Leahy, "John Calvin's Social Consciousness", _Christianity
Today_, vol. 3 no. 7 (January 5, 1959), pp. 7-9
See Earle Cairns, "Saints and the Social Order", _Christianity Today_,
vol. 3, no. 24 (September 14, 1959), pp. 9-10
George Marsden, "Evangelical Social Concern -- Dusting Off the Heritage",
_Christianity Today_, vol. 16, no. 16 (May 12, 1972), p. 8
Richard Pierard, "Social Concern in Christian Mission", _Christianity
Today_, vol. 20, no. 19 (June 18, 1976), p. 7
Editorial, "Is the Church Too Silent About Personal Morality?",
_Christianity Today_, vol. 1, no. 3 (November 12, 1956), p. 23
Frank Caloquhoun, "Great Britain: The Spiritual Situation Today",
_Christianity Today_, vol. 5, no. 22 (July 31, 1961), pp. 3-4
cf. Charles Koller, "Is Sunday Observance Obsolete?", _Christianity
Today_, vol. 7, no. 12 (March 15, 1963)
Richard Bodey, "A Bag with Holes", _Christianity Today_, vol. 2, no. 6
(December 23, 1957), pp. 17-18
L. Nelson Bell, "Christian Race Relations", _Christianity Today_, vol. 7,
no. 24 (July 19, 1963), p. 23
Edmund Clowney, "A Critique of the Political Gospel", _Christianity
Today_, vol. 11, no. 15 (April 28, 1967), p. 10
These books and articles are in addition to those cited in the text.
Arieli, Yehoshua. _Individualism and Nationalism in American Ideology_.
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1964.
Bettelheim, Bruno. _The Informed Heart: Autonomy in a Mass Age_. Glencoe,
Ill.: Free Press, 1960.
Brunner, Emil. _The Divine Imperative_. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1947.
________. _Justice and the Social Order_. New York: Harper and Brothers,
Burkhardt, Jacob. _The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy_. New York:
Dewey, John. _Individualism, Old and New_. New York: Capricorn Books, 1924.
Friedman, Milton. _Capitalism and Freedom_. Chicago: University of Chicago
Gross, Ronald and Osterman, Paul, eds. _Individualism: Man in Modern Society_.
New York: Dell Co., 1971.
Hoover, Herbert. _American Individualism_. New York: Doubleday, Page and Co.,
Hsu, Francis. _Clan, Caste and Club_. Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Co., 1963.
Johnson, Ellwood. "Individualism and the Puritan Imagination". _American
Quarterly_ 22 (Summer, 1970), pp. 230-237.
Moulin, L. "On the Evolution of the Meaning of the Word 'Individualism'".
_International Social Science Bulletin_ 7 (1955), pp. 181-185.
Robertson, H.M. _Aspects of the Rise of Economic Individualism: A Critique of
Max Weber and His School_. New York: Kelley and Millman, 1959.
Rousseau, Jean Jacques. _The Social Contract_. New York: E.P. Dutton and Co.,
Smith, Adam. _The Wealth of Nations_. New York: Random House, 1937.
Stroik, Raymond. "Ideas of Individualism: A Twentieth Century Social
Critique". Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1968.
Tawney, R.H. _Religion and the Rise of Capitalism_. New York: Mentor, 1926.
Varenne, Herve. _Americans Together: Structural Diversity in a Midwestern
Town_. New York: Teacher's College Press, 1977.
Ward, John W. "Individualism Today". _Yale Review_ 49 (Spring 1960), pp. 380-
Bloesch, Donald G. _The Evangelical Renaissance_. Grand Rapids, Mich.:
Ezell, Marcell. "The Evangelical Protestant Defense of Americanism 1945-1960".
Ph.D. Dissertation, Texas Christian University, 1969.
Henry. Carl F.H. _Aspects of Christian Social Ethics_. Grand Rapids, Mich.:
Baker Book House, 1971.
________. _The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism_. Grand Rapids,
Mich.: Eerdmans, 1947.
McLoughlin, William. _Modern Revivalism: Charles Grandison Finney to Billy
Graham_. New York: Ronald Press, 1959.
Magnuson, Norris. _Salvation in the Slums: Evangelical Social Work: 1865-
1920_. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1977.
Moberg, David. _The Great Reversal: Evangelicalism Versus Social Concern_.
Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1972.
Mott, Stephen C. "Socially Active Evangelicals and Fundamentalism". _Metanoia_
7-4 (December 1975), pp. 3-9.
Pierard, Richard V. _The Unequal Yoke: Evangelical Christianity and Political
Conservatism_. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1970.
Smith, Timothy L. Revivalism and Social Reform in Mid-Nineteenth Century
America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980.
III. Evangelicalism and Society-as-Community
Eels, Robert. "Mark O. Hatfield and the Search for an Evangelical Politics".
Ph.D. Dissertation, University of New Mexico, 1976.
Erickson, Millard. _The New Evangelical Theology_. Old Tappon, N.J.: Fleming
Henry, Paul B. _Politics for Evangelicals_. Valley Forge, PA.: Judson Press,
Kraus, Norman C., ed. _Evangelicalism and Anabaptism_. Scottdale, PA.: Herald
Leightner, R.R. _Neo-Evangelicalism_. Findley, Ohio: Dunham, 1961.
Mouw, Richard J. _Political Evangelism_. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1976.
Nash, Ronald. _The New Evangelicalism_. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1963.
Nisbett, Robert. _The Quest for Community_. New York: Oxford University Press,
Padilla, C. Rene. _The New Face of Evangelicalism_. London: Hadder and
Pierard, Richard V. "Needed: An Evangelical Social Ethic". _Evangelical
Quarterly_ 44-2 (April-June 1972), pp. 84-90.
Quebedeaux, Richard. _The Young Evangelicals_. New York: Harper And Rowe,
Riesman, David. _Individualism Reconsidered_. New York: Doubleday, 1954.
Sellers, James. _Warming Fires: The Quest for Community in America_. New York:
Seabury Press, 1975.
Sider, Ronald J. _Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: A Biblical Study_.
Downer Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 1977.
C. Thomas Culver
Index of Articles of Interest Home
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