The Reception of Rauschenbusch

The Responses to His Earliest Readers

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William L. Pitts, Jr.
  • Macon, GA: 
    Mercer University Press
    , October
     440 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by Janine Giordano Drake forthcoming.


The focus of this study of Walter Rauschenbusch is the reception of his ideas by his earliest readers. Rauschenbusch published Christianity and the Social Crisis in 1907, and returning from his sabbatical in Germany, found himself famous. What were the dynamics that catapulted his rise to fame? The study provides descriptions of his major works and the circumstances surrounding their writing, followed by accounts of reception based on scores of unpublished letters as well as published reviews. Rauschenbusch’s reputation rests chiefly on his writings on social ethics. However, he also contributed significantly to understanding spirituality, theology, and a Christian view of history. Depending on the reader, books treating each of these topics have all been declared his best. Moreover, Rauschenbusch’s thoughts on Protestantism, Baptist identity, and teaching church history all found favorable responses. In addition, during his years as a minister he personally displayed a model as a scholar pastor, and as a professor he won undying appreciation from his students. A concluding chapter surveys Rauschenbusch’s influence in each decade in the century since his death in 1918. His books have been published in almost every decade, and PhD students still choose him as a subject for analysis. Rauschenbusch’s work was original, opening to readers a new way to understand Christianity. His first readers grasped that notion, and readers today still resonate with the power of his ideas and the force of his writing.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

William L. Pitts, Jr. is Professor of Religion at Baylor University where he teaches the History of Christianity. He has served as Executive Secretary of the Southwest Commission on Religious Studies and as president of The Baptist History and Heritage Society. He currently edits the journal Baptist History and Heritage.


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