Here we go again with the Blah Blah Blah Blah series that hardly anyone reads. This is the fifth post in the series scattered throughout the last ten or so. If you have an interest in When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert, please give me a hearing. I think you will find that book (and the general philosphy and attitude it promotes) does the very damage (or more) that it claims your almsgiving for the last 6000 years has been doing.
I am open to debate, if you like. But I don’t really expect you to read this. And in the final analysis, my reason for producing all of the chicken-scratch notes has more to do with helping me process the thoughts I want to include in the chapter I plan to devote to Corbett and Fikkert (AND FRIENDS) in my upcoming project on Heaven’s Hospitality. In part, I have a LOT of thoughts here that I plan to leave on the editing room floor, but MAYBE, MAYBE, MAYBE someone will read them and find them useful HERE. Yet, as I say, in the big picture, I am using this blog to help me process my first round of editing for THAT project.
So, jumping back in where we left off…. (In case you feel like you joined a conversation midway at this point, go back to the start because you have.) Here we go…
BACK TO WHEN HELPING HURTS
I have now spent the last 14 pages [in the original handwritten] chicken-scratch looking into the Bible for answers to how to engage the poor according to God. The thing is… we are now FAR AFIELD from When Helping Hurts, the book to which all this chicken-scratch reaction is devoted.
Well, I reckon we need to back up and find Corbett and Fikkert back there in their introduction to When Helping Hurts. They still haven’t got out of the intro before totally bankrupting their thesis!
Ahhh… yes. Here is another quote that provides a fine example of why we don’t find them in our little tour of Scripture we just took. Listen to this:
“… we do not pretend that the material in this book [When Helping Hurts] is unique to us. Rather, the following pages are simply a way of synthesizing and organizing the ideas of many others…. We are deeply indebted to the many authors, researchers, and practitioners who have produced a vast range of principles, resources, and tools for us to draw upon.” (page 27 -bold print added by me)
Here’s a deadly question:
Does Jesus get even honorable mention on this list?
Am I being overly nit picky now?
I am sure Corbett and Fikkert don’t mean to slight Jesus, but they do, AND the fact that they rely on SO MANY authors and researchers and practitioners who PRODUCE a VAST RANGE of PRINCIPLES, RESOURCES and so on strongly suggests that even IF they value what Jesus says, they think he is lacking.
I fear at this point based on my own words/wording in that last statement that I may sound like I have no use for authors and researchers etc.. but that is not the case. Yet, as stated there above, the distinction is not made. So allow me to do that now.
If Corbett and Fikkert were actually basing their theories/theses on Scripture, they very well might rely on a host of Bible scholars to help them discern the Bible text. As it is, and I think I have already demonstrated this, they are looking for… well, let’s call it WORLDLY WISDOM.
How many of these authors, researchers, and practitioners come from the disciplines of FINCANCE, of POLITICS, ECONOMICS, SOCIAL WORK, PSYCHOLOGY/SOCIOLOGY or ADDICTION TREATMENT? And how much of this VAST RANGE of PRINCIPLES, RESOURCES, and TOOLS come from those “secular” disciplines, and then displace the teachings of Jesus such as we find in Luke 6:30 or Mark 10:21?
And “displaced” would be a good description for this since Corbett and Fikkert, no where in their presentation, make any allowance for those teachings, address them at all, or show any sign there might be a word from God there for this issue at all. Jesus is ignored at just those points!
See the distinction?
****END SIDE NOTE****
Okay… now for another quote:
“While materialism, self-centeredness, and complacency continue to plague all of us….” (page 27)
I find it curious that Corbett and Fikkert see “materialism, self-centeredness, and complacency” as a “plague” we all suffer, are willing to give the nod to these matters in the intro, but then spend the rest of When Helping Hurts outlining how our care – selfless care at that – does harm to the poor. Will there be a chapter devoted to these plagues?
And so this may be the last mention of 3 plagues that make life hard for the poor.
Where is the volume on materialism and its impact on the poor? Isaiah 5:8???
Where is the volume on self-centeredness?
Where is the volume on complacency?
Why do we get a volume on When Helping Hurts, but not these plagues??? Why start HERE (assuming it’s even legit)?
On page 28, Corbett and Fikkert tell us they write with TWO CONVICTIONS:
“First, North American Christians are simply not doing enough. We are the richest people ever to walk the face of the earth. Period. Yet most of us live as though there is nothing terribly wrong in the world.”
Insert the parable of the RICH MAN and LAZARUS HERE! Insert Mark 10:23-25 HERE!!! It’s EASIER FOR A CAMEL TO PASS THROUGH THE EYE OF A NEEDLE THAn FOR NORTH AMERICANS TO ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD!
This is some of the best and most profound words to come from the pen(s) of Corbett and Fikkert! They are so true, so powerful, and so disturbing that they DESERVE 230 pages of analysis. They really SHOULD have written their whole book with just that one conviction in mind! But, I think they forgot this conviction for the next 200 pages instead.
Instead of taking us to these Scriptures that very obviously address the first of their two convictions, they end the paragraph I just cited on page 28 lamenting that, “there is simply not enough yearning and striving going on.”
NOT ENOUGH YEARNING AND STRIVING???
That’s what they said.
BUT THEN Corbett and Fikkert drop their real conviction on us – the one they actually write the whole book about:
“Second, many observers, including Steve and I, believe that when North American Christians DO attempt to alleviate poverty, the methods used often do considerable harm to both the materially poor and the materially non-poor. Our concern is not just that these methods are wasting human, spiritual, financial, and organizational resources, but that these methods are actually exacerbating the very problems they are trying to solve.” (page 28 of When Helping Hurts)
Oh man! Where do I start?
Okay, Why is this the “second conviction” and not the only one? Did Corbett and Fikkert write a two part book here and feature their conviction that North American Christians simply are not doing enough yearning and striving and then offer a second part featuring their conviction that when North American Christians actually do (though with inadequate yearning and striving) attempt to alleviate poverty, they botch it all with jacked up methods like “giving to all who ask” (see Luke 6:30) or “selling everything they own and giving it all to the poor” (see Mark 10:21) or selling it all and giving it to the church who then shares it all with the poor (see Acts 2 and 4)???
Yeah. Did they incorporate the first part with the first conviction, or just blow a little smoke up our skirt by mentioning it when really they wrote a book only about the “second conviction” which actually is their only conviction?
Next, I’m wondering about the term “materially poor” and its partner the “materially non-poor.”
Yeah. Why the fancy terms for what the rest of us in the English-speaking world just call “the poor” and “the rich” – much like the Bible?
Well, we are not to that redefinition part of the book yet, BUT IT’S COMING, and this phraseology is a foretaste of it. SPOILER ALERT!!! According to Corbett and Fikkert, there are different kinds of poverty. If you jump ahead briefly to page 61 in Chapter 2, you will find a diagram there that outlines the different poverties: Poverty of Spiritual Intimacy, Poverty of Being, Poverty of Community, and Poverty of Stewardship. None of this terminology appears in the Bible, but Corbett and Fikkert will have you (the Christian book buying public) chasing all manner of diversionary bunnies soon, and will need the rhetorical force of redefining terms, prying up matters previously nailed down, blowing smoke and dirt up in the air to obscure your views. It’s smoke-n-mirrors,
When it’s done you can look a homeless beggar in the eye and refuse to give him a solitary dime AND consider it your Christian duty rather than just your selfish apathy! (Two plagues lamented back on page 27, by the way!) And that’s got to be worth the price of the book!
So, yeah, instead of referring to “the poor” or “the rich,” we are treated to “the materially poor” and “the materially non-poor.” We are greasing the gears already, right here in the introduction.
Next the quote says:
“Our concern is not just… wasting…resources….”
Yeah. There is the stewardship angle here, and it gets the nod too.
By the way, I am filling another of these chicken-scratch composition books with BIBLICAL research into the word “STEWARD” and “STEWARDSHIP” particularly as used by Jesus, and I am finding it has a lot to do with FEEDING THE UNDERLINGS what the Master provides for them, rather than efficient, non-wasteful use of resources. But more on that at the other end of this project.
Then FINALLY, we come to the last part of the quote we have been looking at from page 28. Here it is:
“…these methods are actually exacerbating the very problems they are trying to solve.”
AGAIN, I should reiterate that I do not deny that the phenom we call “enabling” exists. Call it the “rescuer triangle” or the “law of unintended consequences” and you quickly realize the phenom is broader than just helping the poor. My expectation is that the phenom can not entirely be avoided or even managed. When we relate in caring ways with other people, it always involves risk and requires patience. Thus, I don’t think I would write a book that seeks to avoid or manage it; I think that is naïve at best.
But again, my real beef is that the Bible does not warn against this nor have very much to say which can even be construed as advice about it. On the contrary, Jesus does considerable harm to himself in his offer of salvation which he makes and then he honors the decision of those he makes it to as they either accept or reject his offer of Salvation…
accept and stumble along the way while he patently leads them (us) or even carries them (or us) back to the fold like a lamb on his shoulders!
Thus, even the idea that we are going to “solve” these problems is not so well established – certainly not in the kinds of terms Corbett and Fikkert present them. As Jesus says, “The poor you always have with you…. and you can do good to them whenever you want” (Mark14:7)
If I actually alleviated all the poverty in the world, I would prove Jesus wrong in that statement.
As it is, I am going to have to let go of this fine tooth comb in the rest of the book and just pick out one or two features of each chapter to rebut. We are now thoroughly introduced to When Helping Hurts, but we have yet to deal with even a word from Chapter 1.