If you have ever been on a mission trip and come home feeling uncomfortable about the whole experience, you might soon after have found yourself reading When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett. That feeling of unsettling discomfort is what the authors knew you would feel and desired for you. They were also hoping the feeling would lead to some change.
Well, it seems Fikkert himself realized after writing When Helping Hurts, they had just scratched the surface themselves and needed to do something about building a theologically sound framework for their earlier book. That framework is what Becoming Wholeis all about.
Fikkert teams up with colleague and theologian Kelly Kapic in order to get it right. This new book sets out to ask what it means to be a human being, what is God’s intention in and for His world, its people and their relationships. In a nutshell, the answer given is human flourishing, or to use the old Hebrew word, shalom. Every human being is meant to live in healthy relationship with herself, with the created world, with each other and with God. When the authors explore the roots of poverty, inevitably we see those relationships have gone awry.
The authors suggest Christianity’s answers for global poverty have fallen far short, and they explore the reasons why. They contend Evangelical Gnosticism and Western Naturalism are ways of thinking that ultimately lead to expecting those in poverty to pursue the American Dream, a failed pursuit at best and most damaging at its core. That dream leads to unhappiness and away from flourishing. Only a gospel understanding of who we are as God’s creatures, endowed with dignity, creativity, the ability to work hard, solve problems and together find solutions grounded in right relationships, will lead to a life of joy and fulfilment.
The authors lean on the well-respected likes of J.I. Packer, N.T. Wright, James K.A. Smith and others to support a robust theological foundation. Human beings are not just souls to be saved, but have bodies, minds, wills, and affections. A poverty-relieving strategy must deal with the whole person living with hope in God’s new kingdom-coming economy.
A storyteller at heart, Fikkert again co-writes with the ease with which he speaks. Included are stories, diagrams, questions for reflection and discussion, and excellent endnotes. This post-written prequel is accessible and worthy of the widespread readership that When Helping Hurts received. (Moody)