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Becoming Whole: Why the Opposite of Poverty Isn't the American Dream

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  127 ratings  ·  28 reviews

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.


Kindle Edition, 300 pages
Published March 5th 2019 by Moody Publishers
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Matt Sones
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A must-read for anyone in or supporting poverty alleviation efforts.
Jan 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Pretty close to a must-read not just for Christians in the vocation of non-profits or social entrepreneurship, but for any Christian to understand some themes that I've learned from others (particularly N.T. Wright) that influence how we treat people today. Stepping out of the worldview that we're on a doomed planet that we're waiting to escape, and instead understanding how to join into new creation with God today to begin to bring the kingdom has real ramifications for how we treat the poor. T ...more
Christian Neufeld
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I‘ve read this year!
It is hard to confine all the things I have taken from this book into a few lines.
It encourages wholistic spirituality and a criticism of the gnostic evangelicalism of our day that divides the sacred and the secular as well as the body and soul. Our focus should be much more wholistic in helping people and not trying to get away from this earth into heaven.
The authors do a great job showing what the bible teaches about the kingdom of heaven and how ev
Holly Buxton
Sep 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Becoming Whole is a book I have will continue to recommend to people who want to grow in their understanding of how to best help and give to materially poor people.

The author threads sound theology into practical application giving the reader clear action steps. Fikkert’s uses terms like “Western Naturalism” and “Christian Gnosticism” to address the accepted way that we as American Christians have historically helped the poor. Using bait and switch tactics to “save” people, we then pat ourselves
Jono Lane
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
See review of “When Helping Hurts”. Can’t say enough about how great and necessary these books are. I’m eternally grateful for the Chalmers center and the like. Wish there was more of a helpful premise in constructing activism for those who aren’t working in social entrepreneurship and such full-time. That could be remedied with a simple Q&A, so it makes sense that Brian Fikkert is a teacher! If a Q&A is required, you must be doing something right ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. On a more subjective, nit-picky note, ...more
Jane Burkett
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic explanation of Christian anthropology and the Gospel, and how they should inform poverty alleviation efforts.
Andrew Wolgemuth
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faith, nonfiction, culture
As you would expect from Brian Fikkert and the Chalmers Center, Becoming Whole is packed with wisdom for ministries, churches, and individuals who work on and think about poverty alleviation. Less expected, however, is it's deep wisdom on the nature of the Kingdom of God and the Christian life—wisdom that's needed whatever your association (or lack thereof) with poverty alleviation.

As the book's subtitle states, "the opposite of poverty isn't the American dream" what is it? What is at the
Ginger Hudock
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had previously read When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert at the recommendation of an acquaintance who is a long-time missionary. Becoming Whole is a great followup to that book and gives more details about what poverty alleviation programs can do to either help or hurt the people that they serve. I highly recommend this book for church leaders, including Missions Committee members as well as leaders and board members of ministry organizations that serve the poor. This book will help churches an ...more
Brian Heckber
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was ok

I was expecting more from this follow-up book to When Helping Hurts. This is a book on the theology and philosophy of man overlayed with poverty alleviation. It all started to run together after awhile. I was looking for more practical help....guess that comes in the guidebook to this book.
James Calvin
Full disclosure: my mother taught Brian Fikkert to play piano. What's more, I remember his mom as being a terrific teacher, his father as a beloved pastor with deadpan humor he loved to wield. What’s more, the writer himself was once a student of mine—in one class, a writing class. He's a graduate of the institution I was a part of for more than forty years.

And one of its stars, one of our stars, I should add. When he got into Yale to do graduate work, no one was surprised, so decidedly had he s
Michael Philliber
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Every Friday morning I dedicate about two hours of my time picking up nearly-expired produce, breads and meats from grocery stores to take to a local Christian food bank. Our church is invested with this service organization doing various drives through the year (collecting toiletries, toilet paper, etc.) and lending a hand at the facility on occasion. What draws us to sink our time and resources into this ministry's work is that they have a bigger aim than just feeding the bellies of their low- ...more
When I was a student at Covenant College, Brian Fikkert was one of the teachers. I never got to take one of his classes, but I heard good things about his teachings from fellow students. When I saw his name on the cover of this book, I was drawn to read it. I’m so glad I did. The quality of this book is excellent, just like the curriculum I took at Covenant. While this book is well-researched, it is not purely academic. Every thoughtful Christian can gain something new from this book, whether ap ...more
Christopher Gow
Dec 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ethics
Really good. Probably a little bit too broad; I would love to see the church adopt this theology of poverty alleviation. Though it seems we need to read the handbook that accompanies this volume to get more practical steps toward implementing their ideas.

To give a feel for their argument, they say we need to fight all 5 causes of poverty:
1) false narratives of change
2) unhealthy individuals
3) deformative habitual practices
4) unhealthy/injust systems
5) demonic forces

So, if you’re into that ^ yo
Jenn Cavanaugh
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
Raises some good points worthy of discussion, but then doesn’t discuss them. I’ll admit I went into it blind to the WHH connection, but it often felt like the authors, too, vacillated between addressing the errors of peddling the gospel of American consumerism and having to churn out a sequel to WHH. Identifies the damage done by colonialism and the white man’s burden mentality, but rather than exploring how to repair that damage or correct our failings, redirects to how the demonically oppresse ...more
Elizabeth Garlick
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
At first I struggled to see the bigger picture that is described in this book, the bigger picture of wholistic healing. As the book carried on, it became obvious that poverty is so much more than material poverty and addressing just merely the material poverty and throwing Jesus in isn’t enough to provide lasting changes. Thankful for the vision this book gave me of the bigger picture of the Kingdom.
Elizabeth Stark
May 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed the insight that this book provides on our current culture & the way it significantly impacts our poverty alleviation efforts. As we participate in daily life, we have become numb to the brokenness that surrounds us & this is an excellent “removing of the blinders” that reminds us that we are created to be image-bearers of God in all aspects of our life. Wholeness can only be found in Him. ...more
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Before I'd finished the book, I was already recommending it. Although written later, this is the foundation for Fikkert's now classic, "When Helping Hurts". It looks deeply into God's Kingdom, the Kingdom Jesus came to inaugurate. For those of us who work among the disenfranchised to see His Kingdom come, Fikkert helps us focus on the wholeness to which Christ saved us; he helps us stay rooted while dreaming big. Highly recommended! Review based on an ARC received through NetGalley
Ben K
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is about more than poverty alleviation. It’s about how people change, and who God designed us to be as humans made in his image. Attention to cultural trends and worldview, combined with theological depth bring out important implications for poverty alleviation ministries. But more than that, it was a great summary of God’s plan for humanity and all of creation. There’s a lot to chew on here. Highly recommended!
Corey Burch Sr
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
God wants all of you

I really enjoyed this book, the authors did a brilliant job in presenting the case of the love of our Creator and His plan for not only the community of believers but the entire universe. Jesus’s arrival was the spark that ignited God’s move to restore all things - our relationships with; Him, ourselves, the people around us, and all creation. Thank you.
Gena Thomas
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-read
Becoming Whole is a lens with which to see much of what has felt invisible within Christianity. Understanding Western Naturalism & Evangelical Gnosticism as truncated worldviews that typically guide our American Christianity is necessary & crucial work for the American Church. I'm grateful for this book, and know it will reverberate throughout my life for years to come. ...more
Oct 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely foundational text for understanding the tendencies in the Western worldview. I didn't realize how thoroughly gnosticism was woven into my thinking until I read this. The focus is on poverty alleviation, but I think every follower of Jesus would benefit from this first principles approach to personhood and Biblical flourishing.
Kyla Alexander
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Good information that many in the church need to hear about poverty alleviation. I do think most people out doing it would have a grasp on it already, and field interviews and case study examination would yield more practical “how to” information for the book. The goal was not to show “one way” or the silver bullet though, which may be why that information was held back.
Paul Herriott
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a book that you read and then immediately know that you must read again. Fikkert following his classic ideas found within When Helping Hurts expounds on the complexity of the needs of humanity.
Caleb Blevins
Apr 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really good book that helped me grow and change my opinions about how poverty alleviation should operate. Believers act as priest-kings, reflecting Christ to those around us meaning we should seek them to flourish spiritually first and then physically.
Rennae de Freitas
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book so much. The content is my passion.
Using this book for teaching.
Rachel Kramer
Mar 26, 2020 rated it liked it
A holistic view of poverty alleviation. Quite evangelical.
Andrew Mulnix
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A good companion to "When Helping Hurts." This one is more theological.
Justin Lonas
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Full disclosure: I've been involved heavily with this project (having already read this one 4 times in various stages of editing), so my rating is not an unbiased take.

Fuller review to follow.
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Brian Fikkert is an 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. Specializing in Third World Development and International Economics, Brian has been a consultant to the W ...more

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“You see, the story of poverty alleviation shouldn’t be to turn Uganda into the United States or the inner cities into the suburbs, for all these places are fundamentally broken. Rather, the right story calls for all these places to become more like the New Jerusalem. That’s God’s story. It’s the only story that is actually true, the only story in which we can actually play the roles for which we’ve been created. It’s the only story that actually works.” 0 likes
“The goal is not to turn Zimbabwe into the United States or to turn decaying neighborhoods into wealthy suburbs. Nor is the goal to reshape the world into the image of Western Christianity. We are not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Rather, the goal is to seek to be as much like the New Jerusalem as possible. And to achieve that goal, we need a different story of change, one that is centered on the gospel, the good news that most of us don’t really understand.” 0 likes
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