Economics touches virtually every aspect of our lives on this side of eternity. Not surprisingly, the Bible has a great deal to say about economic life. How we think about economic life from a Christian worldview is a critical part of our engagement with our culture and helps us understand what it means to love our neighbors. Join Scott for this insightful discussion with economist Brian Fikkert about the intersection of economics and the image of God.

Dr. Brian Fikkert is Professor of Economics and Community Development and the Founder and President of the Chalmers Center for Economic Development at Covenant College. He is coauthor of the best-selling book When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself , and his newest book, Becoming Whole: Why the Opposite of Poverty is Not the American Dream.

Episode Transcript

Scott Rae: Welcome to Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith & Culture, a podcast from Talbot School of Theology here at Biola University. I'm your host, Scott Rae, dean of faculty and professor of Christian ethics. We're here with a special guest, Dr. Brian Fikkert, who is the founder and president of the Chalmers Center for Economic Development at Covenant College, and professor of economics and community development at the same Covenant College. You may not have connected the dots quite yet. You may be aware of Brian, but may not know why. And that's because of his best selling book that he co-authored entitled When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor, a truly game changing book in my view. We'll come to that here in a little bit.

Scott Rae: What I'm interested in talking to Brian about today is the subject of his discipline of economics and the connection between that and human beings made in the image of God. I think those aren't generally terms that people put together in the same sentence. We're going to talk, but not only do that, but talk about it in depth. So, Brian, welcome. Great to have you with us.

Brian Fikkert: It's great to be with you today, Scott.

Scott Rae: Now, just to set some context for our listeners, I don't use the term global capitalism because Mark's coined that term and it was intended pejoratively. So I use the term global markets, market-based systems. But I think it's almost without dispute that over the last 30 years or so maybe... I could extend it to maybe the last 200 actually, but global markets have done an incredible amount of things to lift the poor out of poverty. Tell us a little bit more about what those market systems have accomplished to do this.

Brian Fikkert: Yeah. If you view economic life in light of all human history, the reality of it is there wasn't a whole lot of progress until about 1820. And so, people were kind of plotting along and a significant number of people in the world were enmeshed in material poverty. And the industrial revolution hits and it takes off in the West and kind of leaves the rest behind. And so, markets and the institutions that support them blossom in the West, economic growth happens. And the West emerges as the winner in sort of this economic race, so to speak.

Brian Fikkert: And the process of globalization in the course, is a process of spreading many of the institutions that foster economic exchange from the West to the rest of the world. And what we're seeing is, is that as the rest of the world adopts Western style institutions, markets and the behaviors that go along with them... that in fact economic growth does happen there as well. And it lifts a very large number of people out of material poverty. If you look at the percentage of the world that is living below $1.90 per day, which is the global poverty line, that's plummeted. It's been reduced by about 50% over the past 30 years. And so quite frankly, it's one of the most remarkable achievements in all human history to see massive reductions material poverty in just three decades. It's crazy when you think about it.

Scott Rae: So something like... I've heard a billion to a billion and a half people have been lifted out of that grinding poverty.

Brian Fikkert: Yep. Absolutely amazing. Unfortunately it's not spread evenly. It's very much centered in India, but China in particular. An incredible story in those two places. And so, we want to say that markets work pretty well at lifting the vast majority of people out of poverty. There's still plenty of poor people around, but the story of the market, spreading growth, is a great story.

Scott Rae: I take it's not... Maybe we say two chairs for market, not three.

Brian Fikkert: That's right.

Scott Rae: It's because it's not all good news.

Brian Fikkert: That's right.

Scott Rae: So what do you mean you cite the term to paradox of unhappy growth? What do you mean by that? Because why would growth be unhappy?

Brian Fikkert: Yeah, it's a really crazy, but in the last 30 or 40 years, a number of economists have started to notice that while economic growth continues in the West, in United States in particular, we don't see the self-reported happiness of the average American going up. And so we've got this paradox of income per capita, average incomes going up and up and up, and yet the self-reported happiness of Americans hasn't gone up for a long period of time. If you look at about the last decade, it's actually declined. If you look at some similar measures like mental illness, anxiety, and depression, what we actually see is a steady increase in anxiety and depression in the United States from the 1930s to the present.

Brian Fikkert: And so, it's sort of like we've got this increased material prosperity, but there's something in us that's screaming out and saying, "I'm not made for this. I'm made for something more, I'm made for something different." And so, I think we got to pay attention to those other voices. Those other signals coming from ourselves saying, "Not all is well here."

Scott Rae: Now, is this happening primarily in the West, or is this also taking place in the developing world as they experience lifting a good number of their folks out of poverty?

Brian Fikkert: Yeah. So certainly we have less data from the majority, the world of Africa, Asia and Latin America. But some of the data that is coming out suggests a somewhat similar story, rising material prosperity but also increased anxiety, increased depression, increased loneliness and not great increases in self report happiness. So for example, there's one study of China that suggests that the Chinese are actually on average less happy today than they were before the explosion of economic growth.

Brian Fikkert: So, it's a mixed bag. I don't want to take it too... Folks, the data is complicated, questions about subjective wellbeing are very imprecise. It's a complicated set of issues. But what we are seeing I think is a fairly consistent story. And the story is this. Markets foster economic growth, but there's other things that seem to get lost in the process of economic growth that we don't want to lose. And that has to do with the wiring of human beings for relationship.

Scott Rae: Okay. Let's be a little more specific about that. Because these are some of the clearly unintended and also unanticipated side effects of an otherwise really good thing.

Brian Fikkert: Yeah. That's it.

Scott Rae: So let's spell that out in a little bit more detail.

Brian Fikkert: So the way that mainstream economics thinks is as follows. Mainstream economics, also called neoclassical economics, believes that human beings can be described as homo economicus. And the conception of the human being is as a purely material creature, we're just physical bodies. We are considered to be highly individualistic and completely self-centered. So if your individualistic self-centered and materialistic in that story, happiness comes from more consumption. More consumption of material things. So the way to achieve that, is economic growth. Economic growth raises our incomes. With higher income we can buy more stuff. As you buy more stuff, we're happier.

Brian Fikkert: Well, what if the human being isn't fundamentally just a material creature? And so, this gets into how you started our discussion today. This idea of image bearing. What does it mean to be an image bearer? And there's so many debates about what the scriptures mean by that and different facets of that. But one way that seems to be consistent with the biblical narrative is that as creatures made in the image of God, we are relational creatures from all eternity. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost exist in relationship with one another. And as beings made in the image of God, we are also relational creatures. We're not just bodies, we're bodies with highly integrated souls. And then on top of that, we're relational beings. So we're not bodies, we're bodies... So relational things.

Brian Fikkert: And once you start to conceive of the human being that way, it changes our ideas of what human flourishing could look like or should look like, and it starts to suggest why the market forces alone might not be all they're hoping for. Because it seems like that story of homo economicus, that highly individualistic story, that materialistic story start to take over. And we start to become more materialistic. We start to become less relational. And our person would screamed out against that and say, "I'm not made for this." And so, that's what we think is going on in the data and the story.

Scott Rae: And I hope... Our listeners, I want to encourage you. You might want to play back that last minute or two. Because you just heard a superb biblical, theological integration with economics. You heard Brian critique his own discipline of economics, saying that the fundamental way they look at a human being maybe it's not incorrect, but at best it's incomplete.

Brian Fikkert: Certainly incomplete. Scott, this is an area where... I really think it's a good example of how we need theologians, biblical scholars to interact with those of us in other disciplines. Because the truth of the matter is I've had to undo a lot of the fundamental teaching that I... I have a PhD in stuff that I think is wrong. But I didn't have the tools to be able to interpret why it was wrong. And so, God has brought into my life a number of theologians who've walked with me and helped me to see some things that I was missing. And so, we need to get out of our silos, our disciplinary silos a bit and interact with one another because we need each other.

Scott Rae: Right. And those conversations are incredibly rich.

Brian Fikkert: Oh, it's been... Sorry for interrupting. I've been so excited. It's been intellectually enriching, but also just personally enriching. Because, you see part of me is becoming like home economicus. When you study something for so long and you think it's true, that starts to affect you and starts to deformed you. And so, I have had brothers and sisters come alongside of me and help me grow spiritually as well as intellectually through this interchange.

Scott Rae: Well, and I suspect for many of our listeners, they would think about economics like I think most of the culture does because economics is just about facts.

Brian Fikkert: Totally.

Scott Rae: And it's worldview neutral, it's value neutral, it's prices and supplying demand. It's just the way it is. But you're saying that's not true?

Brian Fikkert: Scott, what you're describing is actually in the first pages of every introductory textbook in economics. Still...

Scott Rae: [crosstalk 00:11:11].

Brian Fikkert: Oh yeah. So the first chapter of every economics textbooks talks about the positive-normative distinction. Economists like to say that there is positive statements, there are statements of fact. Everybody can agree on the sky is blue, the ocean is wet. And so, statements [inaudible 00:11:30] just facts. And then there's other statements that are normative. Statements that describe the way things should be or the way things ought to be. And those involve value judgements. Presuppositions, if you will. Religious convictions.

Brian Fikkert: And the economist when they're being consistent with their own discipline will say that the economist only engages in positive statements. We're simply describing the way things really are. And so, "People from all religious backgrounds, people from different genders, different cultures can all agree on certain things," says the economist. Well, one of those things that we're supposed to agree on is that human beings are highly individualistic self-centered materialistic creatures. That's just the way it is. Well, that's not what the Bible says.

Scott Rae: If I could paraphrase in other words, they don't have souls.

Brian Fikkert: No souls.

Scott Rae: They don't have communities.

Brian Fikkert: No communities.

Scott Rae: And they don't have relationships.

Brian Fikkert: That's it.

Scott Rae: And don't need them.

Brian Fikkert: That's it. And that's just the way it is. Well, a funny thing happens. When you say to students over and over again, "This is just the way it is," research shows that the students actually start to become more like that. Because they think that's how they're supposed to be. And so, if you study my discipline, it's actually deforming. It actually starts to turn you into homo economicus.

Scott Rae: It's so interesting that the facts themselves end up having a normative significance in the lives of students.

Brian Fikkert: So the entire paradigm doesn't work. Another fact that we're all supposed to agree upon is that we're supposed to serve homo economicus. That the goal of life is to make homo economicus happy. Well, I'm a pastor's kid. And every night I had to go through this ritual called the catechism. And dad would say, "Brian, what is humanity's chief and or chief purpose?" And if I'd said, "To serve my own material self-interests," that wouldn't have been a good day for me at the dinner table. I was supposed to say, "To glorify God and to enjoy him forever." Right?

Scott Rae: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brian Fikkert: And so, the discipline is founded on presuppositions that are simply unbiblical. It's not a neutral ground. And the economy is not neutral ground. It's a place in which the basic struggle between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness is taking place just like it is in every other dimension of the creative order.

Scott Rae: Now listen Brian, this is so helpful to think integratively like this. So let's spell that a little more with the implications of human beings being made in the image of God. What does that mean for a person made in God's image to flourish?

Brian Fikkert: Oh, what does it mean? So, I believe that the Bible teaches that human beings are made, again, as highly integrated body-soul relational creatures who are hardwired, if you will, to live in deep communion with God, with ourselves, our self image, with others and with the rest of creation. That last one, I'll talk about it more in a second. But there's been some recent theological work by a scholar named Greg Beale, who's argued that the biblical imagery is that the Garden of Eden was actually a temple, a place where God and human beings dwelt together in community. It's actually the holy of holies, if you will, is the garden of Eden.

Brian Fikkert: And so, we're hardwired to dwell in God's presence and to dwell in deep community with other human beings, Adam and Eve together, right? And then God gives us a task. And the task is to act as priest rulers, who extend the reign and worship of God from the garden temple through all of creation.

Brian Fikkert: And so, flourishing is to be what we're created to be. It's to be a priest ruler who lives in right relationship with God, self, others and the rest of creation. That's a different notion of flourishing than home economicus, "Just get more stuff."

Scott Rae: But does that presume, sort of like Aristotle suggested, presume a certain level of prosperity?

Brian Fikkert: Oh, brother. They're not paying me enough to answer these questions. We're a wired-

Scott Rae: Because you know where I'm going with this?

Brian Fikkert: Well, keep going.

Scott Rae: Well, because we've had throughout most of the history of civilization until the last 200 years, the vast majority of people lived in grinding [crosstalk 00:16:01] poverty. I wouldn't want to say that most of the history of the church, they were not flourishing. And we're called to flourish under persecution...

Brian Fikkert: Totally. [crosstalk 00:16:12].

Scott Rae: As an economist, how does that fit?

Brian Fikkert: So there's all kinds of paradoxes here and things that quite frankly I don't know how to sort out. So there are some interesting things in scriptures. So, there's this idea in the beatitude that persecution is a blessing. That we should praise God when we're enduring hardship and trial. That's all true. But I don't think that the vision of the garden is a vision of suffering. I don't think it's a vision of persecution, it's a vision of wholeness, of shalom, of enjoyment. And the vision of the new Jerusalem is the restored garden temple. And so, the images of a great banquet feast, it's not an image of being chained to a prison guard in a Roman cell. And so, there's some paradox that I can't explain, but...

Scott Rae: Well, I got to tell you, I think our listeners are going to be very grateful to hear that. Otherwise, the the kingdom coming and its fullness got a lot less attractive.

Brian Fikkert: Yeah. Who wants to be in jail for all... So the images of a banquet feast of a great communion where there is plenty to eat and in joyful celebration in God's presence and the presence of other people. And so, there's a paradox that I'm not smart enough to sort out.

Scott Rae: Well, I think you... But you've helped us get a good bit of the way there, I think. I'm going to go back to Genesis 1 and 2, where the imperatives given to human beings right after they were created is to be fruitful. Which is fundamentally an economic term. To be fruitful and multiply are not supposed to go together. It's multiply and fill the earth that go together. Be fruitful stands on its own and is vocationally and economically fruitful. Right?

Brian Fikkert: And the idea that you would work and out of the work of your hands you would get to reap the benefits of it and enjoy it. And so, it wasn't work and starve, it was work and eat.

Scott Rae: And I think the fact that we have bodies suggest that there's a physical component to our flourishing. We're not souls on a stick [crosstalk 00:18:30] speak of. God promised the Israelites a land overflowing with milk and honey. And that certainly speaks of prosperity. Now I know you're sensitive to not buying to really bad theology that suggests that God owes us material prosperity as part of His covenant. That's the prosperity gospel which we don't want anything to do with.

Brian Fikkert: That's right.

Scott Rae: Which is where our theologians, I think can...

Brian Fikkert: Really help.

Scott Rae: [crosstalk 00:18:59]. I think the idea of shalom being... And I think you got that right, that wholeness. And it's a bodily wholeness too, that impacts us. So, you maintain that the way the discipline of economics looks at a human being actually has the potential not to form us, but to deform us. Spiritually speaking, how so?

Brian Fikkert: Yeah. So, you're an ethicist and so you can probably help me with this. But I have found some help in the field of virtue ethics, in this idea that we are shaped by stories. Stories that give us a goal and a way of achieving that goal are embodied in communities. And as the community lives into that story, as it engages in practices that sets up systems to achieve its goals, it shapes us. It makes us into different kind of creatures. I'd like to give an example of a basketball team. Well, this is a global audience. Let's talk about soccer or what they would call football around the world.

Brian Fikkert: And so, think about that. Think of the soccer team as a community. And that community has a goal, the goal is to win the game. And how are going to do it? By scoring the most points. So, that's the goal. And the team engages in practices. It practices dribbling, it practices passing, it practices shooting. And over time, those practices make the players better. Well, then the coach reinforces that story. He creates a system that rewards the players who do well and sort of humiliates the players who don't do as well. And so, the players that do well, get more playing time. They get the most valuable player trophy. The players that aren't so good end up at the end of the bench.

Brian Fikkert: So, over time as the team lives into that story, engages in those practices under that system, the team members change. They become the kinds of creatures that help this football team to win the game. And so when there's 20 seconds left and the ball is passed to the forward on the right, the four doesn't have to think. He drives to the goal and he shoots on the goal because he's been conditioned in a certain way. And it's kind of like that. When we live into the story of homo economicus, we live into the story of more is better... And I'm going to-

Scott Rae: Consumerism.

Brian Fikkert: Consumerism. We live the story of consumerism, we practice consumerism in our households. We practice consumerism in our workplaces. When the institutions, the systems, the society are set up to foster consumerism, it starts to make us into that kind of creature. We start to become like homo economicus. And there's explosion of research that says the following. If you are an individualist and you are a consumeristic materialist, you're going to be miserable. These are not conditions that are conducive to human happiness and flourishing.There's a whole field called the science of happiness right now that's exploded. And the bottom line of that literature is individualistic materialism is bad. Relationships with God, self, others in creation are good.

Scott Rae: So Brian, are there other economists who are seeing this?

Brian Fikkert: Oh yeah. Yeah. So there's sort of a-

Scott Rae: What happens to their "Hold on the orthodoxy of the discipline?"

Brian Fikkert: Yeah. They're all unemployed right now. So I'm teaching at a Christian college for a reason brother. I think the field is facing a crisis. Because there's a growing amount of empirical evidence that in fact human beings aren't fundamentally solely physical creatures. The foundations of the discipline are being shaken a bit. There's [inaudible 00:22:49]-

Scott Rae: And that's becoming more and more recognized.

Brian Fikkert: Yeah. But you can't quite say it publicly yet, but it's what's going on. So for example, there's several Nobel laureates in economics in the past number of years are actually psychologists. Which is really irritating.

Scott Rae: That's very interesting.

Brian Fikkert: Really irritating to us as economists. These are psychologists who have worked at the intersection of psychology and economic behavior and their research is showing that the homo economicus story isn't accurate and it's not true. And that's opening the door for a whole bunch of research in a field that's now called behavioral economics, which is more like psychology. Instead of assuming rational highly individualistic materialistic behavior, it's more of an inductive approach that says, "Well, let's just do experiments and look at how people behave and try to figure out what's going on here." And so it's more inductive and less deductive. It's opening the door to more relational understandings of the human being, more relational approaches to economic life.

Brian Fikkert: There's actually a very well known economist named Jeffrey Sachs who was promoting prosperity and growth. He wrote a book called The End of Poverty at one point. And he is now the architect of something called The World Happiness Report. And instead of thinking of the primary measure of wellbeing being gross national product, they're now looking at something called gross national happiness. It's actually a set of holistic measures, all of them have brown relationships in saying, "This is what flourishing looks like."

Scott Rae: And you can actually measure some of this.

Brian Fikkert: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. In fact, listeners today could all just go, just Google. Just go in a search engine and just type in "gross national happiness." There's a annual report that they can download from free. They could see it.

Scott Rae: Very interesting.

Brian Fikkert: The country of Bhutan, a Buddhist country has really pioneered this idea that flourishing is this kind of holistic relational thing. As a matter of their public policy, they no longer calculate just gross national product. They have a very sophisticated system for measuring wholeness in all of life. And the United nations has actually recently adopted some of this. It's starting to grow.

Scott Rae: Yeah. It makes me wish that the intersection of psychology and economics, we'd have theological...

Brian Fikkert: We need it.

Scott Rae: ... economics. Because I think theologians have just as much to say as psychologists-

Brian Fikkert: Oh, my word. Yeah.

Scott Rae: ... on this.

Brian Fikkert: Totally. You know, the history, Scott, of economists and theologians talking together hasn't been all together positive. There's been a lot of conflict. The two groups kind of talk past each other. We've got to grow out of that. We need each other.

Scott Rae: Now my observation has been that we're just speaking two different languages.

Brian Fikkert: Completely different.

Scott Rae: That there's misunderstandings of economics on the part of theologians and misreading of the Bible on behalf economists.

Brian Fikkert: The economists are notorious for reading into scripture. Our model, our rule view, we can find home economicus on every page.

Scott Rae: Let me go back to some of the stuff about markets for a moment. I've taught my students for a long time that market marketplace activity both requires and nurtures at least a modicum of virtue just to be able to function. Like truth telling for example, and transparency. And I would much rather hire someone who's characterized by the fruit of the spirit than the deeds of the flesh. I don't think that's a tough call. What do you think of that notion?

Brian Fikkert: So, there's a bit of a gap between the theory of mainstream economics or neoclassical economics in the real world. So, the theory is centered on the idea, again, that everybody is self-serving, there's no virtue, there's no love, truth telling isn't inherently good thing. What's inherently good is getting more for yourself.

Brian Fikkert: Now, the reality of it is, in self-interested models, over time truth telling becomes important because you're going to lose customers if you don't tell the truth over time. But see, it's all from a perspective of self-interest. It's not truth, it's not honesty for its own virtuous sake, it's because I'm going to lose customers if they figure out eventually that I'm not telling the truth. And so, the whole paradigm is not truth. It's not virtue, it's self-centeredness.

Brian Fikkert: Now, in the real world the truth of the matter is if you don't have some degree of virtue, some degree of honesty, a whole lot goes wrong. I'm not very good at mechanics. And so I take my car to the auto mechanic. And the reality of it is, I don't know what's going on. Could he rip me off?

Scott Rae: You mean the video he shows you on your phone, that doesn't help you?

Brian Fikkert: I don't have a clue what's happening. Now, could he be discovered over time? He could be, but the reality of it is I choose to go to an auto mechanic who's a member of my church because I trust him. And I don't know what's going on, but I know he is not going to rip me off. And so that's an example of what you're talking about. That sort of a baseline of truth and honesty sort of puts oil on the gears, so to speak. And you have to have some of that, or it's very difficult for markets to work.

Scott Rae: Let me ask you a couple other questions here. I think both of us would recognize that Marxism is an economic system was sort of swept into the dust bin of history around... The final broom brushes came in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell. But why is it that so many today are embracing forms of socialism as a workable economic system? Is that a viable alternative? And if not, why not?

Brian Fikkert: Great question. So, you're hearing me in this podcast being both praising markets, but also being concerned about markets. I don't want anybody here to think that I'm arguing for some high degrees of centralized planning or government control. That's been a disaster. And so, that's not the solution. Why are some people attracted to that? Well, I think that's a complex story. But to be honest with you, I think we've gotten a little lazy in our culture. And I think a lot of us are looking for a free ride, to be honest with you. Scott, I don't know your story, but I had to work pretty hard to get where I am. And I worked in a factory. Worked night shift in a factory for pretty low wages. To be honest with you, most of my students who I think are great kids, not a single one of them ever worked in a factory in their life. They wouldn't. My view is there's a little bit of a presumption of things being a little easy, to be honest with you.

Scott Rae: My dad owned the company. I didn't have a choice.

Brian Fikkert: You didn't have a choice, right? So there's a little bit of entitlement going on across socioeconomic lines. Here, it's not one group or one... I think the whole... The culture right now is got a little sense of entitlement as part of it. The upside of it is I would say many of the younger generation are acting in far more relational ways than some of us baby boomers did. And so I think they're onto something. And they do have a sense of care, they do have a sense of community that I think is biblical. That I think I missed in my growing up years, to be honest with you. And so I think it's partly that. They're looking for a softer, gentler, so to speak, kind of culture and kind of economic life. And so, I think they tapped into some truth there as well.

Scott Rae: It's very encouraging to hear.

Brian Fikkert: Yeah, I think so.

Scott Rae: One last question, Brian. How do we resist, and I think you started to touch on it already, but how do we resist being transformed into economic man, homo economicus? What practices are involved?

Brian Fikkert: Yeah, what practices? So, I think it starts with at the Sunday morning sermon. I think we need pastors who are consistently preaching about the dangers of greed. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, there's plenty of passages that talk about the dangers of consumerism. And so much of both the Old and New Testament narratives are about generosity, about avoiding covetousness, about giving to others, about the whole year of Jubilee notions of restart. There's a whole lot of biblical data here we don't seem to hear enough sermons about it. I think that the Lord's Supper is a leveling kind of story. The practice of the Lord's Supper is that richer or poor, white or black, whatever we are, we come to the same table together. There's an equalizing kind of story in the Lord supper.

Brian Fikkert: I believe in a graduated tithe. So that as our incomes go up, we have a higher and higher percentage.

Scott Rae: The more you make the more you [crosstalk 00:32:25].

Brian Fikkert: Yeah. Higher percentage. To give to. I don't consider myself to have achieved greatness here, Scott, by any stretch of the imagination, but the Lord has blessed my wife and I with resources and we have just set a cap and just said we're going to live within this amount and what we earn above that, the Lord blesses us with, is going to be given back to the Lord. And brother, I'm not here...

Scott Rae: That's great.

Brian Fikkert: I'm no mogul, please don't. I'm not. I'm trying to grow into this. I'm trying to grow in these kinds of practices to develop a greater sense of community and less self centeredness. Some crazy things... So I'm the kind of guy who when they tell you to recycle, I'm like, "Why bother? That's dumb." If I recycle, nobody else does, what good is it going to do? I was with some brothers and sisters over in Britain a while back. They were big on recycling. And I was like, "This is just a waste of my time." And they looked at me and they said, "Don't you want to live a faithful life?" And I thought, "Oh, it's not really about the impact, it's just about being faithful." And so now, I recycle. And do I think I'm changing the world? Probably not, but I'm changing me. Because every time I take the recycling out I remember, "Oh, I'm a steward. I'm a steward of the creation."

Brian Fikkert: Sabbath rest. I have all kinds of workaholic tendencies in me. And I was challenged by my sister when I was in college. And she said, "Set aside a day and just stick to it as a matter of faith." And I've done that and the Lord has blessed that in just crazy ways. But even if he hadn't, just stepping back, what that does for me is restorative. Those kinds of things.

Scott Rae: Yeah. I don't think you've been any less productive.

Brian Fikkert: Well, but you got to... If we had more time... The Lord's done miraculous things in my life. Things that shouldn't have gone well because I wasn't working that went better than they could have. Yeah.

Scott Rae: Yeah. Well, Brian, this has been a really rich conversation. Thank you so much.

Brian Fikkert: Thank you brother.

Scott Rae: Thanks for your good work on this, for your willingness to take a hard look at your discipline through the lenses of a Christian world view and to show us that we're more than just self-centered...

Brian Fikkert: Individualistic-

Scott Rae: ... non relational individuals. That's it. This is so helpful. We are body and soul. For a reason we need community, we need each other and the idea that we could flourish, I think there is an economic part to that-

Brian Fikkert: Totally.

Scott Rae: ... that's really significant as you've pointed out. But that's not all there is to it.

Brian Fikkert: That's it.

Scott Rae: It sounds like the empirical evidence is showing that you're right on target. [crosstalk 00:35:25].

Brian Fikkert: It's really been encouraging to see that data support what the is scripture saying. Not that we need that, but it is encouraging to see that happen. [inaudible 00:35:33] just mentioned for our listeners, we have a book called... I've written it with a Trinitarian theologian named Kelly Kapic. It's called Becoming Whole: Why the Opposite of Poverty. Isn't the American Dream. And it captures kind of all we've been talking about here today. So for our readers or listeners who are interested, they may learn more there.

Scott Rae: I think we might have to have a follow up on that one at some point.

Brian Fikkert: It'd be great.

Scott Rae: So thanks much for being with us, Brian.

Brian Fikkert: Thanks brother.

Scott Rae: This has been an episode of the podcast Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith & Culture. Think Biblically podcast's brought to you by Talbot School of Theology at Biola University offering programs in Southern California and online, including our masters in Christian apologetics now offered fully online. Visit in order to learn more. If you enjoyed today's conversation, give us a rating on your podcast app and please share it with a friend. Thanks so much for listening and remember, think biblically about everything.