The head of the world's largest Christian university hailed U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as a "generous Christian," repeating the praise he lavished during his introduction of Trump during the university's convocation earlier on Monday.
Speaking to Fox News, Jerry Falwell, Jr., the president of Virginia's Liberty University, said Trump has been demonstrating his Christianity through his generosity, Christian News reported.
Citing examples of Trump's generosity, Falwell said the Republican presidential hopeful donated money to help keep the Harlem Hoops tournament operating after its leader died in the 9/11 attacks. Trump also paid off a family's mortgage after they gave roadside assistance when his limousine broke down. Trump likewise donated $100,000 to a Christian ministry that was struggling financially, Falwell said.
"Those are just things that I think the world needed to know about Donald Trump because the Bible says that by your fruits you shall know them," he told the host of the Fox News programme Hannity.
"He may not be a theological expert and he might say two Corinthians instead of second Corinthians, but when you look at the fruits of his life and all the people he's provided jobs, I think that's the true test of somebody's Christianity not whether or not they use the right theological terms," he said.
Falwell made similar praises of Trump when he introduced the latter to Liberty students who attended the mandatory convocation on Monday.
"Matthew 7:16 tells us that 'By your fruits you shall know them.' Donald Trump's life has borne fruit," he said. "Fruit that has provided jobs to multitudes of people, in addition to the many he has helped with his generosity."
"In my opinion, Mr. Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the Great Commandment," Falwell pointed out.
However, other Christian leaders do not share Falwell's ideas about Trump. They say simply performing good deeds doesn't necessarily make someone a born-again Christian.
"I would disagree with Jerry Falwell because although, yes, Trump has done many generous and good deeds, if he doesn't have true living faith in Jesus Christ as his saviour in understanding that he's a sinner in need of salvation, then the many good deeds do not equate to the fruit that Jesus is talking about," Pastor David Whitney of Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church and the Institute on the Constitution in Pasadena, Maryland, told Christian News Network.
"After all," Whitney said, "the prophet Isaiah said that all our righteousness is as filthy rags. Until we come to faith in Jesus Christ, any good things that we do are not seen in God's eyes as truly acts that are good. The only good that a person can do is after they come to faith in Jesus Christ, and I think that that is the measure of the fruit that Jesus is referring to."
Whitney then pointed at Trump's demeaning attacks on fellow candidates, his casino empire, his support for eminent domain (government seizure of private property), and his statements denying his need for repentance and forgiveness.
"Why do I have to repent, why do I have to ask for forgiveness, if you are not making mistakes?" Trump asked CNN's Anderson Cooper in July. "I work hard. I'm an honourable person. I have thousands of people who work for me. I have employed tens of thousands of people over the years."
"I don't know anyone who's truly a Christian who would make such a statement," Whitney said. "[W]e're told to confess our sins and to repent of those sins. So someone who would say, 'I don't ever see anything that I need to ask God forgiveness for,' would not have a biblical understanding of their status before God and their need for Christ to be their saviour."