Aaron Armstrong(6 posts)
I just picked up Cruciform Press‚Äôs October publication, Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, the New Creation, and the End of Poverty, today. It‚Äôs a title that makes me nervous. It could be excellent, applying the gospel and gospel priorities to Christian life, or it could go very badly, falling into popular philosophies of so-called ‚Äúsocial justice.‚Äù The introduction and table of contents suggests the former, so I am optimistic. In the few pages I read this morning, the author, Aaron Armstrong, describing the state of creation and life in Eden, wrote, ‚ÄúIt was a world in which poverty could not exist‚Äù [p. 15]. Poverty could not exist because poverty, like all miseries now in this fallen world, is a result of sin. In a sinless world, there is no poverty. Reading that, I was struck with an idea not (yet, anyway) stated explicitly: It is perhaps the first irony of all time that poverty began when the richest people who would ever live wanted more. Adam and Eve had everything they could ever need. They were given dominion over all of creation, and free use of all of it, save one thing: they could not eat the fruit of one tree. Of the abundance of the garden, only one tree was off-limits. And it took only a few words from the serpent to make them think ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs not enough; I want more.‚Äù Because Adam and Eve wanted more than God had given, we all have less. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.
Getting to the root of poverty: The first man and woman were created in the image and likeness of God and declared ‚Äúvery good‚Äù in his eyes. They were then given the task of serving as God‚Äôs representatives within creation. For a time, they lived in perfect harmony with God, each other, and the world around them. But when they chose to sin, everything changed. Their original identity was lost. Their relationships with God, with each other, and with the world were broken, devastated, ruined. This is poverty in its most true and ultimate sense. Incomparable riches‚Äîan unbroken relationship with God and a harmonious relationship with the rest of creation‚Äîhave been squandered. Everything about our existence has been impoverished as a result of sin. A fallen world inhabited exclusively by sinners: that is the essence of poverty. Sin, and the effects of sin throughout creation, is the Poverty from which all other poverty flows. ‚ÄîAaron Armstrong, Awaiting a Savior (Cruciform Press, 2011), 23. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.
Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, ‚ÄúCome, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.‚Äù And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, ‚ÄúCome, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.‚Äù The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The Lord said, ‚ÄúBehold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another‚Äôs speech.‚Äù So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth. Genesis 11:1‚Äì9 Aaron Armstrong compares current efforts to eliminate poverty to the building of the tower of Babel. The current discussion about poverty has a common theme: most people who think poverty can be eliminated also think humanity must be united to achieve it. If we are one in purpose, the thinking goes, nothing can stop us from achieving our goal: All 191 UN member states unanimously agreed to the Millennium Development Goals. The first of those goals is to eradicate extreme poverty. Jeffrey Sachs believes that if we are united in purpose and tactics, we can end extreme poverty by 2025. Paul Collier believes the eight richest nations of the world need to be united in creating new laws and charters designed to assist reformers within the 50 poorest countries in their quest to change their countries for the better, and that the rest of us need to unite in pressuring them to do so. There‚Äôs nothing inherently wrong with any of these options. Building a tower can be a morally neutral endeavor. But it comes back to the ‚Äúwhy.‚Äù Are we seeking somehow to make a name for ourselves, or are we seeking to make much of God‚Äôs name? ‚ÄîAaron Armstrong, Awaiting a Savior (Cruciform Press, 2011), 23. Armstrong wonders if ‚Äúthat ‚Äòconfusion of languages‚Äô dynamic is still not at work, a means by which God hinders our ongoing attempts at uniting this fallen race for the sake of our own glorification.‚Äù I think he‚Äôs onto something there. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.
When helping those in need, Christians need to be discerning in the way we help. In any situation, there may be factors that affect how we offer assistance. But one thing upon which the gospel forbids us to base our decisions is the worthiness of the recipient. The Israelites were freed from slavery because the Lord loved them and kept the oath that he swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When he gave them the promised Land, it was not because of their righteousness, for they were a stubborn people. In the wilderness, they provoked him to anger, worshiping the golden calf, grumbling and complaining endlessly. If a people were ever completely undeserving of God‚Äôs mercy, it was the Israelites! Yet, God still brought them to the land he had promised. Is this any less true of us? How can we, if we have been saved through Christ, say to anyone, ‚ÄúYou are not worthy of my help‚Äù? How we help may vary from situation to situation (something that we‚Äôll look at in later chapters), but no one should be considered unworthy of assistance. ‚ÄîAaron Armstrong, Awaiting a Savior (Cruciform Press, 2011), 44‚Äì45. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.
The following paragraph impressed me as one that could be slipped into any book on Christian living. In fact, any such book that doesn‚Äôt contain the principle of this paragraph is probably way off-track. We must recognize that before Jesus ever offers ethics, he offers grace. If we don‚Äôt see that . . . we will use the Sermon on the Mount as a hammer, a means of forcing ourselves or others to act in a way we never could act without the grace of the Holy Spirit. This legalism is the natural inclination of our hearts. We want law, not gospel. We want deeds, not creeds. We want the demands of the law‚Äîeven if it‚Äôs just so we can disobey them. But the good news of the gospel includes the fact that grace always comes before the demands of the kingdom. Jesus is not telling us what is required to earn blessing. He‚Äôs telling us what to do in light of the fact that we are already blessed! ‚ÄúThe gifts of love always precede the demands of love.‚Äù ‚ÄîAaron Armstrong, Awaiting a Savior (Cruciform Press, 2011), 65‚Äì66. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.
This is one of those uncomfortable days when I find myself disagreeing with my betters. Easing my discomfort somewhat is the fact that my betters are disagreeing with each other, and I, at least, get to side with one of them. Thabiti Anyabwile, with whom I seldom disagree, has written a fine piece on The Importance of Your Gag Reflex When Discussing Homosexuality and “Gay Marriage”. Carl Trueman, with whom I also seldom disagree, says Brother Anyabwile has it all wrong. I say Dr. Trueman is wrong. Trueman says, The normalisation of homosexuality is sad and thus I really do appreciate the Rev. Anyabwile’s desire to make sure that we understand its seriousness. The problem with doing that via aesthetics, however, is that aesthetic arguments are often highly subjective . . . [full post] Which is quite true, but I think a very important point is missed. For creatures created in the image of God, and especially those who have been recreated in Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, all that is subjective is not entirely subjective. That I, along with all men in general, find women attractive is not a matter of subjective aesthetics. It is my God-given nature. Likewise, that we are disgusted at the thought of doing with our own sex what we delight to do with the opposite sex is not a mere matter of taste, either. It is God’s design. He made us, like magnets, to be attracted and repelled. Of course, we are fallible, and the Imago Dei is corrupted by the Fall; therefore, we cannot merely trust our instincts and impulses without question. But neither should we toss them aside as uselessly subjective. Rather, we should test our reactions against God’s. That which pleases him should please us, and that which disgusts him should disgust us (see God’s Gag Reflex by Aaron Armstrong for more on that). The “yuck factor” is part of the image of God in us, and Anyabwile is right: it should never have been excluded from public debate. We need to bring it back, because every human being reflects God’s image and by nature knows homosexuality is against nature. When confronted with what it really is, human beings created in the image of God are disgusted, and that is as God intended. Update: Thabiti answers his critics.