by Bill Nugent
The word ‘liberal‘ means ‘generous.’ Unfortunately, the word ‘liberal’ is now a very loaded term with all kinds of theological and political baggage. For our purposes in this article, we’ll define liberal as generosity to the poor and needy. By this definition of liberalism we can clearly see that the Bible is a very liberal book.
Those who are theologically conservative tend to be politically conservative. We’ve all heard of the religious right. In this article we’ll take a look at those who are theologically conservative yet are liberal on economic issues.
The Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, contains dozens, if not hundreds, of passages commanding people to be generous to the poor. One of the major differences between the Old Testament law and the ancient Babylonian Code of Hammurabi is that the Old Testament law defends the poor and weak much more than did the pagan Code of Hammurabi.
Theologically conservative Christians believe that the Bible is inspired by God, and we believe that Jesus died for our sins which means that Jesus took upon Himself the penalty we deserved for our sins. We are often called Fundamentalists because we believe in the fundamental truths of our faith. We who are theologically conservative tend to emphasize the vertical relationship between God and man.
Those who are theologically liberal overwhelmingly emphasize the horizontal relationship between human and human. Liberal commentators often chide conservatives over Sodom and Gomorrah and point out that the sins of Sodom were not limited to homosexual behavior, but as Ezekiel wrote: “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness . . . neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49). Sodom needed to do more poverty relief.
Conservatives point out that the passage in Ezekiel continues:“And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good” (Ezekiel 16:50). The word ‘abomination’ in the passage refers to the homosexuality of Sodom. The epistle of Jude, in verse seven, refers to Sodom as“giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh.” This also is a reference to the homosexuality of Sodom.
Let me be clear that when I speak of left wing Christians, I’m not talking about theologically liberal Christians who deny the deity of Christ and deny that Jesus died for our sins. Theological liberals have denied the faith. In this article we are looking at theological conservatives who are economically liberal.
There are many theologically conservative people, who emphasize the horizontal relationship of human to human. There are many conservative Evangelicals and Charismatics who are involved in relief work of all kinds whether it be relief work in the aftermath of natural disasters or the poverty relief efforts of groups like the Salvation Army and Samaritan’s Purse.
Many conservative evangelicals and Charismatics go on mission trips to poor countries such as Haiti, Bangladesh and countries in Africa to help the poor with free medical care and to build houses for them. These theological conservatives are genuinely liberal (in the sense of generous) in reaching out to people. We could call them left wing Christians. I know of many other theological conservatives, though concerned for the poor, are far more concerned about winning souls to Christ so that people are forgiven of sins and will enter heaven in the afterlife. They emphasize the vertical relationship of God to man and we could call them right wing Christians.
There always seems to be two ‘wings’ or two ways of connecting the dots in our understanding of God’s will as expressed in the Bible. Should we emphasize helping the poor with material sustenance or should we make our first priority to preach the Gospel to people to help them find God through Christ? We can say that feeding the poor is presenting the love of Christ in such a way that the Gospel is demonstrated to them and this will win the hearts of people to Christ.
In politics, in almost every country, there are two dominant parties, one left and the other right. Of course these parties call themselves ‘center-left’ or ‘center-right’ to try and claim the centrist vote. Even the ancient Romans had their two major factions, theOptimates and the Populares. The Optimates were the patricians and wealthy plebes who held conservative, regimented views on politics. The liberal Populares were more egalitarian and spoke for the common man.
Israel has many parties but the liberal Labor party and the conservative Likud Yisrael Beiteinu parties have been dominant. Nineteenth century England had the conservative Benjamin Disraeli who defended the empire while the evangelical Christian, William Gladstone advocated a liberal policy toward Ireland and other British holdings.
The US has the Republicans and the Democrats. Two generations ago the Republicans and Democrats enjoyed a peaceful, congenial rivalry. The Democrats urged higher wages and better conditions for the working man. The Republicans countered that management has rights too and you’ve got to have healthy businesses if you expect to have jobs for the workers.
Beginning about fifty years ago, in the 1960s, the friendly rivalry between Democrats and Republicans began to unravel when the Democrats began to take on liberal views not just on economics but also on social issues such as abortion and homosexuality. Now, when you vote for the Democratic candidate you’re voting not just for help to the poor but also for the mass murder of the unborn through abortion and you’re voting for the gay agenda. I’ve often said that once gay marriage becomes law in a state it’s extremely difficult to keep pro-homosexual teaching out of the public schools. Just ask anyone from Massachusetts. Gay marriage ultimately leads to promotion of the gay agenda, not only in the schools but in a wide variety of state institutions.
Theologically conservative Christians who are concerned for the poor, won’t vote for a candidate who favors the poor yet also favors abortion and gay marriage. This more than anything has caused theologically conservative people to embrace the Republicans.
The Bible, in Revelation 12:14, refers to “two wings of a great eagle” that will fly a woman into a wilderness to be nourished for a period of time. The woman in this passage is thought by many commentators to be the church or a part of the church. (In prophetic parlance it is common for the church to be referred to as a woman or bride of Christ.) I believe this passage could be a rare biblical prophetic reference to the United States. The United States’ symbol is the eagle and the US has a vast wilderness in its interior. The fact that the two wings of the eagle are mentioned could refer to a time when the left and right in the US will cooperate during the time of the great tribulation and will make the US a place of refuge for the church.
To conclude, I will say that the Bible is a book with many passages on the need for liberal compassion towards the poor. The Judeo-Christian ethic is, in my view, largely responsible for the egalitarianism and compassion towards the poor in western civilization. The fact that many of the poverty relief programs run by the government have been badly administered should not put us off of our biblical obligation to help the poor. In helping the poor we show the love of Christ to them and many of them will receive the revelation of their need to turn to Christ to receive forgiveness of sins.
Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah of Israel, came in fulfillment of over three hundred messianic prophecies written in the Old Testament hundreds of years before His birth. No other figure in all of world history can make this claim! The prophecies foretold that Christ would suffer and die, taking upon Himself the punishment we deserved because of our sins and that He would rise from the dead to offer forgiveness and eternal life to all who call upon Him. Turn to Christ today to receive forgiveness of sins!