Christian compassion demands that aid of some form be given to the truly poor in their time of need. A heart of compassion toward the needy is a basic theme of the NT. However, over the past one hundred years in America there has been a major shift away from understanding the church as the primary and front-line provider for the poor. The church has instead been replaced by government, and church ministries have been replaced by government programs to the extent that government is now accepted as being the primary aid provider. This dissertation will argue that Marvin Olasky's position related to aiding the economically deprived is biblical in theory and beginning, but breaks down and becomes biblically unfaithful when applied broadly in a governmental context.
Chapter one summarizes who Marvin Olasky is and how his writings have influenced U.S. public policy. This chapter also explains Olasky's major positions concerning aid for the poor through explaining his basic beliefs concerning aid for the poor, his seven marks of compassion, and his seven principles of compassionate conservatism.
Chapter two establishes a background for interpretation. The first section of this chapter summarizes Torah commands concerning aid for the poor and their first-century application. The second section examines evidence for Roman charitable structures that may have given aid to first-century Palestinian Jews. The third section establishes a basic hermeneutic for interpreting OT commands within the NT era. The fourth section establishes a means for bridging the gap of application from NT charitable commands to present economic situations.
Chapter three examines how Olasky compares to past Christian positions concerning aid for the poor. This chapter briefly summarizes the positions of Clement of Alexandria, Augustine of Hippo, Francis of Assisi, John Calvin, Richard Baxter, Walter Rauschenbusch, and Pacem in Terris with respect to aiding the poor. This brief survey of positions held through history is generally representative of the early church, reformation theologians, English puritans, social gospel theologians, and the contemporary Roman Catholic church.
Chapter four examines the teachings of Jesus concerning aid for the poor. This chapter begins with establishing a definition of poverty as understood in first-century Palestine. Subsequent sections examine the call of Christ to pursue heavenly treasure, the rich young man, the Good Samaritan, reversal passages, the rich man and Lazarus, and Zaccheus, with major themes established and conclusions drawn.
Chapter five examines the teachings of Paul concerning aid for the poor. This chapter focuses mainly on understanding the nature of Paul's collection for the poor in Judea from the Gentile churches which he planted. This section also examines the gift given to Paul from the Philippians and the establishing of guidelines for aiding poor widows.
Chapter six examines passages which speak to aiding the poor which are found in the later epistles. Passages from Hebrews, James, and 1 John are examined. The examination of these passages is followed by stating general themes on the subject of aiding the poor in light of all passages examined.
Chapter seven evaluates Olasky's concept of compassion in light of NT themes as stated in chapter six. Olasky's basic beliefs, marks of compassion, and principles of Compassionate conservatism are critiqued individually in light of conclusions drawn from chapters four through six.
Chapter eight examines Olasky's conclusions concerning compassion and aid for the poor in light of his critics. The positions of Ronald J. Sider and David P. Gushee are examined as those who differ from Olasky on central positions, but are similar in that they also consider themselves evangelical Christians, base their arguments upon the Bible, and are active in attempting to shape American public policy in this area. In closing, general conclusions are drawn as to how Olasky's positions align with and differ from the NT and how his positions differ from those of Sider and Gushee.