Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Book Review - Awaiting A Savior

When confronted by some social justice issue, whether it be modern slavery or abortion or poverty, many people have one of two reactions. The first is to do something. Write a letter. Raise a sign. Join a march. Protest. There are many avenues for these 'doers', but upon hearing of injustice they immediately take action. That's not me. The other reaction that is common when the dreadful news of some tragic circumstance is revealed is to become overwhelmed and despair of being able to do anything about it. Hearing of starvation, or death due to 'acts of God', or piercing poverty can cause many to throw their arms up or to throw down their arms. That's me. When major suffering of other people is brought to my attention, my first reaction is often one of dejection and despondency thoroughly mingled with pessimism. Armstrong cautions against both these reactions and causes us to consider poverty in another light. Perhaps that is why Aaron Armstrong's book on poverty was a refreshing read for me.

Awaiting a Savior, to my knowledge Armstrong's first book, is an intelligent and penetrating look at poverty that is neither a knee-jerk reactionary call to action nor a curmudgeonly call to maintain the present state of affairs. Armstrong's approach does not accept my tendency to bury my head nor does it raise the alarm for radical protesters. It is a balanced approach to and discussion of an age-old problem; poverty.

The strength of this book is Armstrong's consistent perspective that is based on a theological and biblical approach to poverty. The author considers the problem of poverty by setting aside the symptoms, as well as the cures, and focuses mainly on the disease and its causes.

The ins and outs of poverty are explained as Armstrong traces the origins and early history of sin through the biblical narrative. Sin is the father of poverty and Armstrong reminds us of, or perhaps introduces us to, poverty's heinous legacy which was absent in the creation yet formed quickly after the fall. This is solid Bible-saturated teaching that gives one a foundation for understanding this social ill. This teaching dismisses any hope for a man-centered and man-created utopia. But, it does not leave us without hope.

Hope is found in Armstrong's analysis of poverty in light of the redemption that Christ's life, death, and resurrection provides. Aptly sub-titled The Gospel, The New Creation And The End Of Poverty, this book gives us a solid gospel-perspectives and some faith-engendering gospel remedies. Despite Armstrong maintaining that there will be no end to poverty in this life, he suggests how faith with works, grace-enabled service, gratitude-inspired generosity, and a heart postured to worship Jesus can have a profound effect on poverty and those who suffer from it.

Hope is further entrenched, despite dire statistics and ever present sin, as the author focuses on the restoration of all things which is, of course, the climactic “End of Poverty and an Eternity with Jesus” (93). In his own words, “We must bring immediate relief to those suffering from severe drought and famine, but we must also bring them the promise that there is one who will someday end their suffering” (98-9).

Throughout the book Armstrong encourages endeavours to bring help to those suffering under the weight of poverty. This is not just a book for the head and the heart; Armstrong believes the hands must be used to help those in need. The appendix, along with many appeals throughout the book, gives clear and concise suggestions for an actual response on our parts.

I found this book both encouraging and enlightening and eagerly endorse it!

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