A Field Guide to Becoming Whole Review

Book Review: 

In "A Field Guide to Becoming Whole," Brian Fikkert and Kelly Kapic illustrate how to enact the ideas presented in the two previous books When Helping Hurts and Becoming Whole. Specifically, the authors focus on five causes of poverty and how Christians in the Western world can change how its ministries approach poverty alleviation. The premise is that poverty alleviation is the process by which individuals are moving towards becoming priest-kings that are in a right relationship with God, self, others, and creation. The authors describe the two chief mindsets that plague Western Christianity as being Western Naturalism and Evangelical Gnosticism. The former refers to those who suppress the belief in the supernatural and spiritual aspects while the latter are people who view the body and soul as being separate from each other. For those that adhere to Western Naturalism, the solution to helping is to provide material goods, resources, and skills. On the other hand, those in the Evangelical Gnosticism camp focuses completely on saving the soul to the neglect of the real, tangible needs of the poor. Of course, the majority of Western Christians would be on the spectrum between these two opposites, but the key point is that both views are faulty. The authors then systematically describe the complex issues associated with each cause of poverty and provide keen observations along with practical suggestions and actionable steps for implementation. Throughout the book, the authors provide case studies in both western and non-western settings to illustrate innovative approaches that are flexible and applicable to a wide variety of contexts. In addition, there are many descriptive diagrams and charts that helpfully guide readers in digesting the material presented.
I heartily recommend this book to all believers and especially Western Christians as the principles that are discussed are both thought-provoking and challenging. Despite not having read the former two books, I find the authors were able to condense core concepts in an easily understandable manner without oversimplifying complexities of the theory involved. Indeed, it is tempting for many Western Christians to offer materialistic responses to poverty alleviation as it seems to be the most direct, tangible method to help those in dire need. Nevertheless, Fikkert and Kapic reminds us that the journey of helping others is not one-way but ought to allow both the helper and the one being helped in becoming more whole spiritually, emotionally, and physically. When we engage in helping others, we are not dispensing goods or services as kind-hearted philanthropists but as those who, by the transforming power of God, aim to bring others and ourselves to greater wholeness of our mind, affections, will and body.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I received a review copy from Moody Press in exchange for a book review.