Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Awaiting A Savior by Aaron Armstrong

Whenever someone brings up the issue of social justice or poverty in a room full of Christians, the room usually splits into one of two camps. One side of the room would support what has become known as a social gospel. They would say our only purpose is to feed someone who is starving, to clothe someone who is freezing, or to provide for someone who is less fortunate. After all, isn't this what Jesus did? I would argue that this is futile living.

The other side of the room would be shaking their heads in disagreement (if not disgust). And because they are so scared of being labeled part of the social gospel, they swing the pendulum so far that they never consider the implications of social ministry upon the Christian. I doubt they would actually say that taking care of the poor has nothing to do with Christianity, they just live like they believe that. I would argue this is Christ-less Christianity.

I have often longed for a balanced voice in the middle of this issue. I think we now have one. Awaiting A Savior by Aaron Armstrong is a new book published by Cruciform Press that deals with the real issues of poverty, but doesn't shy away from calling Christians to do their part. He doesn't waste any time dealing with real issues when he says "the root cause of poverty is sin" (9). That might sound shocking, but he does a great job of explaining what he means by that.  
"The basic premise of this book is that our good faith efforts to address legitimate questions of poverty and injustice must never lose sight of the fact that poverty will persist as long as the heart of man is ruled by sin . . . I hope to show that the best way to help the poor is to minister to them as the Church, in both word and deed, to the glory of God" (9-10)
I think he does adequately address these issues in the book. He does it by taking us back to the beginning before sin when Adam and Eve lived perfectly without any thought of poverty. It was only after the fall into sin that poverty even became a possibility. He says,
"Everything about Adam and Eve's fall makes economic prosperity difficult and elusive. In fact, the fall has made poverty the default setting, an ever-present gravitational pull intent on dragging us down. This is true not only because it is now harder to produce material wealth but also because the fall triggered an ongoing cascade of relational challenges characterized by blame-shifting and excuses about our sin, as well as an ongoing desire in each of us to play God over one another. Hardly a recipe for success." (20)
Tracing the flow of the Scriptures from creation to fall to tower of Babel to the prophets--Armstrong does a wonderful job of showing how God's heart has always been to take care of those that cannot take care of themselves. The only problem is that our heart of sin tends to make the poverty issue worse. Even when people do seek to help those in impoverished situations, many attempt to build their own kingdom, not God's. And we know that God will not share His glory with anyone. The solution of course is the gospel in our lives. It is fully understanding the truth of God invading and changing us. He says,
"Those whose hearts are inclined to the Lord will seek true justice on earth as it is in heaven. Covenant faithfulness always leads to ethical faithfulness . . . We dare not turn a blind eye. We dare not think, 'They're somebody else's problem.' If we really mean that, our hearts are as dead as those of the unfaithful Israelites of Isaiah's day." (56-7).
In the end, I would highly recommend this book to all Christians. Specifically if God has placed on your heart a burden for the impoverished. One particularly helpful aspect of this book is the study guide questions at the end of each chapter. This would make this book very easy to be read in a group of people as they seek to learn a balanced view of poverty together.

He has also produced a video trailer for the book. If my review doesn't convince you to purchase it, maybe this will.

I received a free electronic copy of Awaiting A Savior by Aaron Armstrong for review.

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