Posts Tagged ‘How Christianity Changed the World’

Question: Where would society be if Christians stopped practicing charity and compassion outside the church walls?

Professor Alvin Schmidt has the answer.  His entire book, How Christianity Changed the World (Zondervan, 2001, 2004) is worthy of your read.  For now, I would like to provide you with excerpts from my friend’s book most appropriate for this discussion of the health care mandate.  Alvin is a very respected acquaintance of mine who has, over the years, been a popular pro-life workshop and keynote presenter.  He has been kind to encourage my speaking and writing.  Alvin is a retired professor of sociology, faithful Biblical Christian, and involved U.S. citizen.  Considering the times in which we find ourselves, I highly recommend your read of Professor Schmidt’s meticulous documentation of Christianity’s influence on the world.

From the earliest years of Christianity to the ninth century, charity needs in the West were regularly provided for by the church.  Church-dispensed charity declined sharply after the death of Charlemagne in 814.  Feudal lords were to take care of the poor on their lands, but they did so inadequately.  By the sixteenth century, charity had become largely secularized.  By the twentieth century, state welfare payments replaced much of the churches’ charity.  Today, millions who receive state welfare payments in the Western world probably know little or nothing about the fact that the payments they receive are largely the result of Christianity’s influence.

Modern state welfare grew out of the Christian practice of charity, but it’s important to note that government programs, welfare, and even health care cannot be equated with Christian charity.  State programs operate on the basis of coercion; funds are involuntarily gathered by means of enforced taxation.  This violates the spirit and method of true Christian charity.  Christian-based charities and organizations serve others by using funds that are donated or freely given as love-offerings.

Government welfare programs are at odds with Christian charity because they often produce unintended harmful effects by unintentionally encouraging the loss of individual responsibility and even rewarding it.  One such effect has been the continued rise in the rates of children born out of wedlock, a trend that has steadily increased from the mid-1960s to present day.  In 1960 the out-of-wedlock birth rate was 5.3 percent of all births in the U.S., while in 1998 it was 33 percent (an increase of nearly 600 percent).  Another consequence of government welfare has been the rewarding of the indolent, which nullifies the Christian admonition: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10).  Imprudent charity is not a good thing.  Another effect of government welfare programs at odds with Christian charity is that they often foster political demagoguery by pandering to the voters who are recipients of social welfare.  Political demagoguery, or appealing to the emotions of a certain group of people, clearly violates Christian charity, not only because it uses deception, but also because it benefits the selfish interests of the demagogues or leaders who reap political gain by presenting themselves as advocates of welfare.  This is Roman liberalitis, not Christian caritas.

Christian charity fosters freedom from all forms of slavery.  Government welfare tends to create a permanently dependent class.  The essence of slavery is being dependent on someone or some entity for one’s livelihood.  This demoralizes human beings.

Government welfare induces many people to think that government should pay for their needs that they feel they cannot afford.  Apparently when the government pays for people’s needs, it does not appear as though others are paying for them. Such thinking forgets that the government has no funds except those taken by means of compulsory taxation.  And that is what distinguishes state welfare programs from Christian charity.  Remember Christ’s example of the Good Samaritan?  He gave, not because he was coerced, but because he had a heartfelt, voluntary desire to help someone in need.

Finally, government programs are different from Christian charity because Christ said that His followers were to give “a cup of water in My name” (Mark 9:41.  Government welfare is not offered in the name of Jesus Christ.

Note: The second printing of How Christianity Changed the World
includes a Bible study for personal or group use.


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