Evangelical Views Of The Poor And Social Ethics Today -- By: Chris Wigglesworth

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 35:1 (NA 1984)
Article: Evangelical Views Of The Poor And Social Ethics Today
Author: Chris Wigglesworth

Evangelical Views Of The Poor And Social Ethics Today

Chris Wigglesworth

I. Introduction

The crisis through which international relations and the world economy are now passing presents great dangers, and they appear to be growing more serious. We believe that the gap which separates rich and poor countries - a gap so wide that at the extremes people seem to live in different worlds - has not been sufficiently recognised as a major factor in this crisis. It is a great contradiction of our age that these disparities exist - and are in some respects widening - just when human society is beginning to have a clearer perception of how it is interrelated and of how North and South depend on each other in a single world economy.

These opening words of the 1979 Brandt Report1 would themselves be sufficient reason for taking ‘The Poor’ as the theme of this first Tyndale Lecture in Ethics. Add to that the growing interest shown in the Report since its publication and it becomes clear that world poverty is widely considered to be one of the major moral issues today. However, it is an issue on which there is a wide range of opinions. The first half of 1981 saw the publication of two significant books, both of which reject the Brandt Report and its programme to cope with world poverty, but for opposite reasons.

One book rejects the view that the West is helping the rest of the world to develop and blames capitalism for the creation of world poverty.2 The other describes the Brandt Report as ‘a signpost to political conflict and a recipe for economic waste’ and explains poverty largely through lack of contact with traditional Western

systems and values.3

At the risk of some oversimplification, it could be said that we have a North-South issue with Left, Centre and Right attitudes, and that when we look at views expressed in the Church, just as with many other ethical issues, we find a corresponding range of attitudes on poverty. A large proportion of the 10,000 people lobbying Parliament regarding the Brandt Report in May 1981 were apparently Christians, but it would be wrong to assume that all British Christians were equally in favour of that lobby. Certainly many people associated with evangelical relief agencies were not eager to be involved. This might be held to indicate that an evangelical view of poverty is more to the ‘right of centre’ and that this is explained by a better grasp of biblical teaching on the causes and cures of poverty. This lecture seeks to examine suc...

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