Whole and Reconciled | Book Review

One of the central debates among evangelical missiologists in the past century concerned the relationship between evangelism and social concern. In the mid- to late-twentieth century, many evangelical missiologists prioritized the former to the later, primarily in the West. In the last quarter of that century, however, prioritism gave ground to holism, especially among the Rest, who viewed evangelism and social concern as equally indispensable aspects of the Church’s mission.

In Whole and Reconciled, Al Tizon outlines a holistic missiology. Rather than rehearse the arguments for holism, however, he assumes their conclusions. What is unique to his articulation of holistic mission is the use of the concept of reconciliation to clarify what holistic mission requires. As he puts it in the Introduction, “We engage in holistic mission when we participate with God in putting the world back together in Jesus Christ: reconciliation as mission” (xii). Or as he states in the Conclusion, “This book has sought to reshape our understanding of the church’s holistic mission in the world by seeing it through the lens of biblical reconciliation” (212).

Tizon divides the book into four parts.

In Part 1, “Whole World,” he outlines “major global shifts that have massive implications for the church in mission” (3). These include globalization (6–20), post-Christendom (21–36), and postcolonialism (37–55). He severely critiques the first (i.e., capitalism) but embraces the other two.

In Part 2, “Whole Gospel,” Tizon critiques “false gospels” and “half gospels” (pp. 63–76). The former includes gospels of hate, prosperity, comfort, and empire. The latter includes the gospels of (merely) personal salvation and of (merely) social liberation, the characteristic understandings of the gospel on the Right and Left, respectively. Turning from critique to affirmation, he defines the gospel in terms of the kingdom of God. Trying together the concepts of kingdom and reconciliation, he writes: “To the extent that God reigns over existence, reconciliation between God and people, between people and people, and between God, people, and creation happens” (85).

In part 3, “Whole Church,” Tizon turns to the nature of the Church, believing that “the impact of the whole and reconciled gospel on the world depends on the wholeness of the bold and humble church” (96). Such a church requires “whole persons” (97–109); a diverse, reconciled, and reconciling community modeled on the relationships of the Persons of the Trinity (111–128); and “the spirituality and worship practices of the people of God” (129–144, cf. 130).

In Part 4, “Wholeness as Mission,” Tizon narrates the history of the theology and practice holistic mission (155–170). He writes about three dimensions of reconciliation (171–181). These dimensions describe “the ministries of (1) evangelism, facilitating reconciliation between God and people; (2) peacemaking, between people and people; and (3) stewardship, between God, people, and creation” (174). Finally, he asks, “What principles must be operative for genuine peace [among people] to manifest itself” (183–210, cf. 184).

While I agree with the general framework of holistic mission and am sympathetic to Tizon’s use of reconciliation as an organizing principle for it, I don’t agree with everything in the book. I struggled especially with Tizon’s critique of capitalism and embrace of a post-Christendom and postcolonial perspective in Part 1. Other readers may find different points of disagreement. Regardless, Whole and Reconciled is a worthy contribution to the theological and practice of holistic mission.

Book Reviewed
Al Tizon, Whole and Reconciled: Gospel, Church, and Mission in a Fractured World (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2018).

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