The verse the president quoted, in context, differs from the spin he placed on it. True charity has a purpose beyond the satisfaction of physical needs. Its objective is to change hearts so that whatever is making someone poor will help them become less so. Meeting physical needs is the primary work of the church and individuals, not government, which changes no heart and does a poor job of making people self-sustaining. Government should be a last resort, not a first resource.
The social gospel is not new to this president. It is largely a creation of 20th-century Protestants who believed in applying "Christian principles" to rectify society's problems. Deeds quickly supplanted faith, evolving into a "works salvation" theology, which says if you do enough good works, God will be pleased and let you into Heaven when you die. This contradicts biblical teaching that it is by faith and not works that one is saved from judgment (Ephesians 2:8-9). Some verses teach works as an extension of faith, revealing its depth and seriousness, but they equally teach that works without faith in Jesus is not enough. This is traditional Christian theology. Accept it, or not, but the president is mistaken when he interprets Scripture to achieve his political goals.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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