Walter Rauschenbusch: Selected Writings. Edited by Winthrop S. Hudson. Sources of American Spirituality. New York: Paulist Press, 1984. v + 252 pp. $14.95

Jacob H. Dorn
1985 Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture  
The centrality of personal religious experience and its increasing inseparability from social concerns in the thought and career of Walter Rauschenbusch permeate this volume, part of a series on the history of American spirituality. These themes will not surprise those who have read much of Rauschenbusch or are acquainted with Robert T. Handy's The Social Gospel in America, 1870-1920 (1966). Nevertheless, they merit reemphasis and the kind of elaboration provided in Winthrop S. Hudson's
more » ... tory chapter and well-chosen portions of Rauschenbusch's own letters, addresses, prayers, and books. The selections begin with a letter written shortly before Rauschenbusch's death, in which he stated: "My life would seem an empty shell if my personal religion were left out of it" (p. 46). From his youthful conversion to those penultimate words, he maintained an evangelical emphasis on individual regeneration and piety. As a pastor in the 1880s and 1890s, he wished to bring people into personal relations with Christ. Writing about missions in 1892, he defined their primary purpose as "the extension of faith in the crucified and risen Christ"-this was "first in the order of importance, first in the order of time" (p. 67). As his commitment to social reform intensified, he insisted on its linkage with personal religion. His writings are full of pithy statements uniting the two. He declared the gospel to be "one and immutable," called for "a revolution both inside and outside," and criticized "one-sidedness" in either the personal or social direction. In his later writings he probed the meaning of the Social Gospel as a "distinct type of religious experience" (p. 202). Given Hudson's past interest in transatlantic relationships, it may be surprising that he focuses principally on the American evangelical rootage of Rauschenbusch's spirituality. There are occasional references to European figures, especially William Arthur's The Tongue of Fire (1856), a holiness work, but no systematic discussion of English and German influences. The influence of the family of Leighton Williams during Rauschenbusch's early years in New York City looms larger in importance than any other particular "source." In addition, there is little explicit analysis of shifts in Rauschenbusch's understanding of personal religious experience in relation to changes in his understanding of society, though the raw materials for it are here. fine accomplishment, C. C. Goen for his work as editor, and the Seven Locks Press for a handsome book.
doi:10.2307/3166548 fatcat:6hspi2kxg5es5hjntc2rx62ara