Journal Article

Evangelical Christianity, Secular Humanism, and the Genesis of British Social Work


in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 28, issue 5, pages 675-693
Published in print October 1998 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online October 1998 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Evangelical Christianity, Secular Humanism, and the Genesis of British Social Work

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This paper is a reappraisal of the Christian origins of social work and, as such, is a contribution to writing the profession's history. It examines the competing ideological roots of the concept of ‘social work’ which emerged in late nineteenth-century Britain, and the extent to which they are derived from the Christian charitable tradition or its secular transformation. Two features of early social work are examined in particular depth: its moral purpose in relation to the Evangelical belief in charity as an instrument of spiritual revival; and its rational methods in relation to secular beliefs about the possibility of personal and social change.

Much of the paper focuses on the ideological and institutional relationship between the emerging activity of social work and Evangelical revivalism which formed the context for most late nineteenth-century philanthropy. The crisis of faith experienced by Victorian intellectuals is a significant motif throughout this period.

This is not an attempt to rewrite the history of social work, but to re-examine neglected features in its origins: Evangelical Christianity and its secular humanist transformation. In doing so, it is hoped to throw light on the recent revival of interest in the importance of religion to social work.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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