Liberal theology teaches that the Bible (especially Genesis) is fallible—it’s got human mistakes in it. The trouble is, that leaves fallible humans to decide which parts (if any) are true and authoritative. So not surprisingly, those parts which put restraints on sexual morality are most frequently labeled as mistaken or ‘outmoded’. Instead, ‘liberal’ churches and ministers prefer to major on the ‘social gospel’—those aspects of Christ’s teaching which concern helping the poor and disadvantaged.
The caricature so often projected from such quarters is that Bible-believers (sometimes given epithets such as ‘Bible-bashing fundamentalists’) are, by contrast, so fixated on issues like sexual morality, abortion, family values, etc.—and, yes, evangelizing and defending the faith—that they neglect their duties to the poor.
But is it true, as most would assume, that conservative Christians are so busy donating to their favourite gospel-spreading-and-defending ministries that there is precious little left to fight poverty? Is it true, as most would also assume, that liberal believers tend to back up their vocal preachiness about charity with solid support out of their own pockets?
A recent book1 by Professor Arthur Brooks challenges those comfortable assumptions, with research findings that seem to have stunned even the author. It turns out that US conservatives tend to dramatically outgive their liberal counterparts, whether in terms of money, their own time, or even their blood.2 And this is despite the fact that their average incomes are lower.
Of course, Brooks is using the words ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ in a primarily political sense. But Brooks actually investigated the ‘religious participation’ factor in his study. He found not only that conservatives were more likely to give, but also that ‘religious people’ were far more likely to give to charity, and when they did so, they gave more money—some four times as much. Given the sheer statistical weight of the massive Christian population in the US, this means that Christians, and conservative Christians in particular, are overwhelmingly more generous to charity. Brooks also found that this was not just giving to Christian causes. He says, ‘Religious Americans are more likely to give to every kind of cause and charity, including explicitly nonreligious charities. Religious people give more blood; religious people give more to homeless people on the street.’3
I recall when years ago, a worker with the Christian charity World Vision (well known for work among the disadvantaged in developing countries) told me that in her experience, churches with a conservative (i.e. Bible-believing) disposition were much more generous to her organization than the ‘social gospel’ ones. That made sense to me at the time, and still does. If you believe that the Bible is really, truly true, then you will realize that this life is not the end, that you need to lay up treasures in heaven, rather than Earth. Whereas if it is not trustworthy, then everything is up for grabs; where then is the motivation to sacrifice one’s own interests for those of others?4
Ironically, then, the sort of ministry CMI engages in ends up helping the poor, too. Because by strengthening the faith of believers, and by arming and equipping them as they reach out to others, the numbers of Bible-believing Christians, motivated by the Gospel, increase.
And as we’ve seen, that can only be good news for the world’s less fortunate, too.
by the work of Creation Ministries?
Perhaps you have, but have not given before. Maybe this is because you think that the little bit you would be able to contribute would not mean much to us. Nothing could be further from the truth. It all adds up tremendously; if everyone who has been touched in some way by our materials were to donate just, say, $5-10 per month (e.g. by automatic debit from account or card), the difference to what we could do and achieve would be astronomical.
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