The Great Reversal

The Great Reversal was coined by historian Timothy L. Smith. This term identified the shift of many evangelicals away from social concern to individual concern. Put another way, the emphasis of Christianity for the majority of those in the United States and the United Kingdom during the early part of the 20th century shifted. One hundred years ago, Christians en mass abandoned their passions for social concern and works to individual concern and grace.

I believe in sola gratia and most followers of the faith overwhelmingly agree that justification comes through grace alone. However, the very example of Christ’s love, compassion and evangelism, is depicted by a Christ who bore man’s physical burdens as well as spiritual pain.

Many Christians I know dislike the welfare system; I would list toward counting myself among them. The problem is that my spiritual forefathers created the need for the system by abandoning their social concern in favor of pursuing individual spiritual concerns. The Great Reversal preceded, and I believe paved the way, for the modern Government-run/taxpayer funded system of socialist care we provide in the United States. Our current bother was birthed by the impotence of the churches of yesteryear.

C.S. Lewis noted that we don’t have a soul, we are a soul. We have a body. The problem with an over-emphasis on souls is that we forget that the quickest way to a soul is through the body. Prayer changes things in the spirit, but so does a much-needed bandage to the flesh change things in the spirit.

This is not a political, psychological or sociological problem. This is a theological issue. Does the church have, and more importantly, do Christians have a primary charge to provide relief to the poor?

Matthew 19:21

Luke 11:41

Acts 4:34

Our responsibility is not social justice debate. We are in a prolonged exegetical and theological affront to our stewardship theology, primarily as it relates to our personal comfort. Can we domesticate Jesus to the point that we no longer try to look like him, but mold him into our image? We don’t need social justice, we need Jesus justice. The kind that would bring a grown man to his knees, willing to give his shirt, his job and his life for the kingdom. The kind of reckless abandon to the faith that makes it really difficult for people in need to not believe in God.

Watch how one man take on Nike Slave labor

Currently Reading:

When Helping Hurts

Domesticated Jesus

The Christian Atheist

4 thoughts on “The Great Reversal

  1. I his book, God’s Politics, Jim Wallis posits that God is neither a Republican nor a Democrat. We have made this a political issue. It is a faith issue and is fundamentally about who believe ourselves to be “In Christ”. Christ’s prayer to his father is that we who believe in his name will be a reflection of the love found in the Trinity. Thought provoking post Shawn.

  2. “C.S. Lewis noted that we don’t have a soul, we are a soul. We have a body.”
    C.S. Lewis was so smart. I bet he ate all his carrots and broccoli as a kid….

  3. so the church 100 years ago abandoned the poor for the soul so now we abandon the soul for the poor, the foundation of the gospel that has spread over the whole world the past hundred years was done by people who abandon the poor, what rubbish, if they did not preach the word there would be no church now you want to become political in the social gospel and trough out the past foundation, what then will you reap

    • I think we can do both. Care for the poor, preach the good news. The term social gospel carries a strong stigma, and often makes the assumption that those doing the social work are more concerned with justice over the gospel. I’m continually encouraged by Christians who are striking a balance between care for the flesh and care for the soul.

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