Western Civilization is wealthier, but it isn’t happier.
We are the richest people ever to walk the face of the earth, but according to research, we aren’t becoming happier. Families and communities are increasingly fragmented, loneliness is skyrocketing, and physical and mental health are on the decline. Our unprecedented wealth doesn’t seem to be doing us much good.
Yet, when we try to help poor people at home or abroad, our implicit assumption is that the goal is to help them to become like us. "If they would just do things our way, they’d be fine!"
But even when they seem to pursue our path, they too find that the American Dream doesn’t work for them. What if we have the wrong idea altogether? What if the molds we are using to help poor people don’t actually fit any of us? What if the goal isn’t to turn other countries into the United States or to turn America’s impoverished communities into its affluent suburbs?
In Becoming Whole (building on the best-selling When Helping Hurts), Brian Fikkert and Kelly M. Kapic look at the true sources of brokenness and poverty and uncover the surprising pathways to human flourishing, for poor and non-poor alike. Exposing the misconceptions of both Western Civilization and the Western church about the nature of God, human beings, and the world, they redefine success and offer new ways of achieving that success. Through biblical insights, scientific research, and practical experience, they show you how the good news of the kingdom of God reshapes our lives and our poverty alleviation ministries, moving everybody involved towards wholeness.
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About the Author
DR. KELLY M. KAPIC (PhD King's College, University of London) is professor of theological studies at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, where he has taught since 2001. He has written and edited numerous books, including Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering, which won the Book of the Year Award from Christianity Today in the category of Theology and Ethics.
BRIAN FIKKERT is an Associate Professor of Economics at Covenant College and the Founder and Executive Director of the Chalmers Center for Economic Development at Covenant College. Brian received a Ph.D. in Economics with highest honors from Yale University, and a B.A. in Mathematics from Dordt College.
Table of Contents
Opening Exercise 9
Part 1 The Shaping Power of Stories
Introduction: We Need a New Story 25
1 Love Really Does Make the World Go 'Round 37
2 How Do Human Beings and Cultures Change? 51
Part 2 When False Stories Make Helping Hurt
3 You Can Become a Consuming Robot 71
4 You Can Be a Harp-Playing Ghost Forever 91
Part 3 God's Story of Change
5 Escaping Flatland 119
6 Reconsidering Creation: The Key to Understanding Human Flourishing 137
7 Reconsidering the Fall: More Than Just a Legal Problem 161
8 Reconsidering Redemption: Fully Embodied Hope 193
9 The New Creation Dawns 219
10 Living Into the Story 249
What People are Saying About This
Praise for Becoming Whole
“Becoming Whole is a hard-hitting, transparent read that will force you to think and act differently as you are confronted with poverty at home and abroad. It will help you understand the root of poverty, whether the unhappiness of the affluent West or the material poverty in the global South. This book will introduce you to an alternative universe, one in which human flourishing, born inside of man through a change in the heart and mind, bears external fruit in the present reality of the coming of the City of God. Metaphysical capital is more important than physical capital in the path to human flourishing.” –DARROW MILLERAuthor of Discipling NationsCofounder of Disciple Nations Alliance
“In Becoming Whole, Fikkert and Kapic build upon the watershed legacy of When Helping Hurts by challenging latent assumptions and awakening essential truth. Becoming Whole is a torch of wisdom to lift high, a beacon to help us to exemplify God’s love in cultures across the world and also our own backyards. Read at your own risk, however: these words will transform!”–STEPHAN BAUMANCoauthor of Seeking Refuge Former President and CEO of World Relief
“Thanks to the principles of love and leadership as articulated in this book, as well as in the related work, When Helping Hurts, the church I serve has been able to come alongside disadvantaged, vulnerable, oppressed, and marginalized communities in more informed, life-giving, and sustainable ways. Backed with sound biblical theology and practical guidance and stories, Becoming Whole is a must for any Christian community aiming to make a difference. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.”–SCOTT SAULSSenior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee Author of Befriend and Irresistible Faith.
“The kingdom of God is about life as God intends. In Becoming Whole, Brian Fikkert and Kelly Kapic help us understand the robust narrative that the kingdom creates and supports. Unfortunately we have settled for puny competing storylines that make people poor—in every way. The Spirit is shouting to the Western church to abandon the worldviews and idols that are keeping us from becoming whole. This book serves as a gracious but prophetic invitation to partner with God in his mission to enable us to become fully human.”–REGGIE MCNEALAuthor of Kingdom Come and Kingdom Collaborators
“Becoming Whole is about the rest of the story, our story and how having it right can help in dealing with poverty and the real needs of people. It examines cultures and religions, even religions that claim they have nothing to do with religion. It is revealing and will cause people to reflect in fresh ways on how they see the world and our role in it.” –DARRELL L. BOCKExecutive Director for Cultural Engagement, Howard G. Hendricks Center for Christian Leadership and Cultural Engagement; Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary
“The big story (or the metanarrative) that one lives by is not benign; rather, it really, really matters. Our brothers Fikkert and Kapic show us how to identify and jettison false metanarratives, like the American Dream, expressive individualism, and consumerism; so that, we can wisely appropriate and live by the True Big Story found in Scripture for the sake of escorting the poor from their impoverishment to a flourishing position, for the sake of our flourishing and personal wholeness, and for the sake of the flourishing of our communities and cities.” –LUKE BOBODirector of Curriculum and Resources, Made to Flourish
“Why aren’t Christians making more progress at becoming whole? The economic systems that shape our daily lives have been warped to keep us broken, so the world can exploit our brokenness. No one has done more to open our eyes to this, and show us what we can do about it, than Brian Fikkert . This book is a perfect way to start—or continue—the eye-opening process that we all so desperately need if we want to become whole.”–GREGORY L. FORSTERDirector of the Oikonomia Network, Trinity International University
“This is a book about transformation. I’m grateful that it’s not just about how American Christians can help transform the poor, although that is a worthy topic. No, as surrendered people, we need to constantly yield to the Holy Spirit for our own transformation—to become more and more like Jesus Christ. And we are not truly whole until we give and serve and love like Jesus. There is no more urgent, inspiring, and satisfying mission than bringing God’s vision of fullness of life to the ends of the earth. Thank you, Brian Fikkert and Kelly Kapic, for this helpful resource for our journey!”–EDGAR SANDOVAL SR.President, World Vision U.S.
“Those of us who have tasted the American Dream know that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. And when you understand what’s happening in the rest of the world, you realize that pursuing it keeps you on the sidelines of God’s great mission. You miss the most exciting adventure there is in life: demonstrating the love of Christ to the “least of these” in ways that draw people to the cross of Christ. Becoming Whole is a remarkable sequel to When Helping Hurts, and it should be required reading for ministry workers, church leaders, donors, laypeople—everyone responding to God’s call to change the world.”–RICHARD STEARNSPresident Emeritus, World Vision U.S.Author of The Hole in Our Gospel and Unfinished
“Becoming Whole challenges the basis for our best intentions toward the poor, which are often consciously or subconsciously founded on American materialism rather than a holistic Christian view of transformation. Although it is a fitting prequel and sequel to When Helping Hurts, it is more than this. It lays an engaging, yet theologically comprehensive guide to the foundations of human flourishing.”–BRUCE WYDICKProfessor of Economics, University of San FranciscoDistinguished Research Affiliate, University of Notre Dame