Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BSac 138:551 (Jul 81) p. 267
“Why People Are Poor,” Tom Hanks, Sojourners, January 1981, pp. 19-22.
“Oppressors on the Run,” Tom Hanks, The Other Side, February 1981, pp. 22-26, 28–32, 34–35.
These two articles by the same author, a professor of Old Testament at the Latin American Biblical Seminary in San Jose, Costa Rica, basically present the same ideas—oppression is the major biblical cause for poverty, and God is on the side of and takes up the cause of the oppressed poor. The articles are undoubtedly related to a forthcoming book by Hanks to be published by Orbis Books entitled Oppression, Poverty, and Liberation. The obvious purpose for the articles and the book is to marshall biblical support for liberation theology.
The articles provide a good illustration of a one-sided approach to the teachings of the Bible. It is not so much that the evidence Hanks marshalls to support his ideas is untrue or invalid; it is just that it is only one side of the picture. As a result the evidence is in effect misused and misleading with regard to the conclusions drawn from it.
For example, he uses the many occasions when ancient Israel was oppressed by foreign nations (the Philistines, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Syrians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians) as illustrations of God’s concern for the oppressed poor, and yet he fails to note that the subjugation and oppression of Israel by those nations was a specific chastisement from God on Israel for her rebellion and sin against God. Furthermore he says nothing about the times—especially during the reigns of David and Solomon—when Israel was the oppressor and her
BSac 138:551 (Jul 81) p. 268
neighbors were subject to her as a result of God’s help. Also other nations besides Israel were enslaved and oppressed by the ancient world empires of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon; and yet God apparently said and did nothing about them.
Hanks never sees that God’s promises and actions concerning Israel are because she is His chosen people, not simply because she is poor and oppressed. This universalizing to all humanity of God’s attitudes and words and actions toward Israel or toward believers as the church of Jesus Christ is a basic error of liberation theology.
A third emphasis in Hanks’s articles is the idea that accumulated wealth is wrong and sinful in and of itself. He says, “Jesus…condemns accumulated wealth in general” (The Other Side, p. 32). However, the rich young ruler and the rich farmer were condemned not for simply having wealth but for making their wealth their god. Money or wealth itself is not sinful and is not condemned either by Jesus or el...
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