Shailer Mathews's Lives of Jesus

The Search for a Theological Foundation for the Social Gospel

By William D. Lindsey

Subjects: American Religion
Paperback : 9780791435083, 307 pages, November 1997
Hardcover : 9780791435076, 307 pages, November 1997

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Table of contents


Introduction: Taking a New Look at the Social Gospel

The Received Tradition About the Social Gospel

Critical Questions About the Received Tradition: The Case of Shailer Mathews

Retrieving the History of the Social Gospel

Shailer Mathews's Lives of Jesus: An Outline of the Argument

1. Shailer Mathews: Life and Significance

Mathews's Early Years

The Educational Years

The Call to Chicago

The Prewar Period: Mathews and the Real World

World War I

The Postwar Years

2. The Social Teaching of Jesus: A Foundation for Social Gospel Theology

The Milieu of Concern from Which STJ Emerged

STJ: Mathews's Foundation for Christian Sociology

3. The Eschatological Turn and the Foundation of Social Gospel Theology: From STJ to JSI

Revision of the Biblical Foundation: The Turn to Eschatological Realism, 1897–1905

From MHNT to JSI: Eschatological Realism, the Social Process, and a New Foundation for Social Gospel Theology

4. Jesus on Social Institutions : A Revised Foundation for Social Gospel Theology

STJ and JSI: A Textual Comparison

The Biblical Foundation: Jesus and the Kingdom

The Theological Foundation: Social Process

JSI as a Social Gospel Foundational Statement: An Assessment


The Social Gospel's Continuing Pertinence

Assessing Mathews's Kingdom Theology in Light of Political and Liberation Theology


A Comprehensive Bibliography of Mathews's Works


Reappraises the work of Shailer Mathews, a leading but long-neglected theologian of the social gospel movement whose work prefigures contemporary liberation theologies.


This book focuses on a significant, but neglected, leader of the social gospel movement, University of Chicago theologian Shailer Mathews (1863-1941). In two widely read lives of Jesus--The Social Teaching of Jesus (1897) and Jesus on Social Institutions (1928)--Mathews laid a foundation for social gospel theology that dealt carefully and creatively with the charge that the social gospel enculturates Christian faith. Lindsey's book engages in a close reading of the two Mathews books, and concludes that Mathews's foundation for social gospel theology prefigures political and liberation theologies in important respects, and thus deserves reappraisal.

William D. Lindsey is author of Ethics and Morality and Singing in a Strange Land, and an adjunct faculty member at the Loyola Institute for Ministry, New Orleans.


"An altogether brilliant book, a major scholarly and literary achievement, a study in the history of ideas that illuminates their contemporary relevance. "--Gregory Baum, Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University

"Throughout this book Lindsey demonstrates a good sense for the historical embeddedness of social arguments. That sense of history--in combination with his broad familiarity with various academic disciplines--results in a rich exposition of Mathews's thought in terms both of its inner logic and of the public give and take that was peculiar to Mathews's own times. Mathews emerges as a historical actor at the very time that he himself was discovering that Christian faith is primarily a field of reasoned and engaged interaction between actual humans, not merely a realm for the applying pre-established truths. Both Lindsey's own analytic methods and his presentation of Mathews are nuanced blends of medium and message. Lindsey reads well what was going forward with Mathews because Lindsey himself is a master of the cognitional and ethical dimensions of human discourse. "--Leon Hooper, Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University