Will you join us for the inaugural Honor-Shame Conference?

emqonline-banner-ad


Registration is open!

You can now register for “Honor, Shame, & the Gospel“—the Honor-Shame Network Conference at Wheaton College, June 2017! The price of $309 is all-inclusive—the conference, lodging, meals and snacks. Register soon because the price increases every 50 registrants!

Workshops

We recently finalized the conference workshops. Along with 6 plenary sessions (David deSilva, Jayson Georges, Bobby Gupta, Jackson Wu, Steven Hawthorne, and Brent Sandy) there will be over 20 outstanding workshops from professors and practitioners from around the world! (Note: workshop list below is subject to change.)

  1. DJ Chuang: “Towards Erasing the Shame of Mental Illness”
  2. Rico Cortez: “The Function of the Day of Atonement in the Letter to the Hebrews”
  3. Sam Heldenbrand: “Honor, Shame, and the Gospel: Reframing the Messenger”
  4. Steve Hong: “Unlocking Evangelism in our Cities with an Honor-Shame Framework”
  5. Jeff Jackson: “Honor-Shame as a Crucial Component of a Local Church’s Ministry to Current or Former US military Members and their Families”
  6. Joyce Jow: “From Purity to Pollution: The Restoration of the Hemorrhaging Woman”
  7. Dr. Mark Kreitzer: “The Underlying Nakedness-Shame Motif in Scripture: Implications for Cross-Cultural Proclamation of the Gospel”
  8. Arley Loewen: ““Must Honor Clash With Humility?”
  9. Werner Mischke: “The Gospel of the Kingdom for a World of Violence”
  10. Martin Munyao, David Tarus: “Tribalism and Identity: Tracing ‘From Shame to Honor’ Theme in Africa’s Identity Theology to Reframe the Gospel for Kenya”
  11. Dr. Larry Persons: “Clothing the Gospel in the Language of ‘Face’”
  12. Dr. Wilson Phang: “The Other 2/3rds of the Gospel: Good News for All People”
  13. Dr. Katie Rawson: “A Gospel that Reconciles: Teaching About Honor-Shame to Advance Racial and Ethnic Reconciliation”
  14. Dr. E. Randolph Richards: “Honor-Shame in the Gospel of John”
  15. Nolan Sharp: “Samuel as a Narrative Resource for National Reconciliation in Honor-Shame Cultures”
  16. Dr. Sheryl Takagi Silzer: “How the Honor-Shame Dynamic Works in East Asian Cultures”
  17. Randall Spacht, Lacides Hernandez; Juan Guillermo Cardona: “The 3D Gospel in Latin America”
  18. Randall Spacht, Lacides Hernandez; Juan Guillermo Cardona: “Honoring Students of Honor-Shame Workshops through Empowerment”
  19. Dr. Tom Steffen: “A Clothesline Theology for the World: How A Value Driven Metanarrative of Scripture Can Frame the Gospel”
  20. Lynn Thigpen: “Redeeming the Poverty-Shame Limited Education Cycle through Gracing”
  21. Russell Thorp: “Filling Gaps in Ministry in Melanesia through Understanding Honor and Shame”
  22. Dr. Patty Toland: “Redeeming and Strengthening Honor and Shame Practices in Church Relationships”
  23. Dr. Steve Tracy: “Abuse and Shame: How the Cross Transforms Shame”
  24. Robert Walter: “Grace in the Face of God”
  25. Robert Walter: “Four Dynamics for a Harvest in Honor-Shame Societies”
  26. Jerry Wiles: “Honor, Shame and the Gospel in the Orality Movement”
  27. Dr. Dan Wu: “Wrestling with Honour: Clarifying What Honour Is through the Concept of the Public Court of Reputation”
  28. Richard Yaqoub: “The Good Shepherd and Arab Patronage: Using the Biblical Motif of God as Shepherd to Help Form a Christology in the Language of 21st Century Arab Patron-Client Relationships”

Please join us for the inaugural Honor-Shame Conference––a community to learn and work together for the sake of the gospel.

Honor and shame in the book of Genesis––#3: The honor of woman

This is the third in a series about honor and shame in the book of Genesis. You’ll benefit from reading this in your browser. 

honor and shame in the book of genesis3


“One of the greatest causes of poverty in the world is based on a lie—the lie that men are superior to women.” [1] –Darrow Miller

Other than the serpent’s original deception (Gen 3:1–5) that led to the Fall of humanity, what lie has caused more oppression and trauma in the world?

What lie has caused more tears?

What lie has led to more pain than this? …

“Men are superior to women.”

This was not God’s intent when he created humanity. Observe Genesis 1:26–28:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

From this text we will examine three truths: 1) Humanity is made in God’s regal image. 2) The regal image of God is both male and female. 3) The Cultural Mandate (Gen 1:28) is a regal function fulfilled by man and woman together.

1) Humanity is made in God’s regal image

First, humanity was made in God’s image—the Latin phrase is imago Dei. This speaks of the inherent regal dignity—the supreme value and honor—of all humanity. Like animals, humans are created by God. But unlike animals, humans bear God’s “image” in ways that mere animals do not—possessing a combination of qualities such as as morality, glory, spirituality, personality, and creativity—in conjunction with an eternal soul.

Keep in mind, God is not merely an impersonal Creator—an abstract “force”. God is the Almighty King of Creation (Ps 93:1; Ps 95:3, 6; Ps 96:10–13; Ps 97:1).

Therefore, to be made in God’s image implies that all humanity is imbued with regal honor. According to the Bible, we all possess royal blood—regardless of our wealth or poverty, family name, social status, racial heritage, ethnic or national origin, level of education, or position in society. But due to the Fall and the effects of sin, we have lost and defiled our original regal identity.

This regal dimension of the image of God—imago Dei—is made even more clear when we consider the context of the Ancient Near East. John Walton writes:

The image of God as an Old Testament concept can be be understood in four categories. It pertains to the role and function that God has given humanity (found for example in “subdue” and “rule,” (Gen 1:28), to the identity that he has bequeathed on us (i.e., it is by definition, who we are as human beings), and to the way that we serve as his substitute. When Assyrian kings made images of themselves to be placed in conquered cities or at important borders, they were communicating that they were, in effect, continually present in that place. Finally, it is indicative of the relationship that God intends to have with us.[2] (bold emphasis mine)

The meaning of humans made in “the image of God”, in its social context, is powerful: Humans are vice-regents with God; we are God’s regal stewards and representatives. “As God’s stewards, we are tasked to do his work in the world; we are to be his assistants in the order-bringing process that has begun.”[3]

2) God’s regal image is male and female

Darrow Miller’s Figure 14 in Nurturing the Nations
Darrow Miller’s Figure 14 in Nurturing the Nations, page 130.

Second, humanity made in God’s image comprises both male and female. We find here the essential equality-in-being of male and female—man and woman. This means that humanity’s image of God is incomplete if it is only male or only female. The Godhead comprises both masculine and feminine qualities. Miller writes: “The masculine and feminine polarities are complementary in marriage and reflect something of the mystery of the eternal unity and diversity in the Trinity.”[4] This is borne out in the Scriptures:

  • Masculine attributes are conveyed in the common use “Father” and “Son” to describe God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son. Moreover, God is “husband” to his people Israel in the Old Testament (Ez 16:32; Hosea 9:1), and Christ is the bridegroom of the church in the New Testament (Eph 5:31–32; Rev 19:7).
  • God’s feminine attributes are conveyed in the Bible’s use of feminine terminology describing God. Whereas the Bible says God is Father, we observe that the Bible says God is like a mother. Miller points out, “The Bible uses simile to state that God is like a mother, but never that God is a mother. God is like … a woman giving birth (Is 42: 14; 46:3) … a nursing mother (Is 49: 13– 15; 66:10–13) … a mother hen (Mat 23: 37; Luke 13:34) … a mother eagle (Ex 19: 4; Deut 32:10–12)”[5]

This takes us back to Genesis 1:27—the image of God is both male and female, masculine and feminine. The origin story of the Bible clearly reveals the essential equality of being—the same regal honor!—of man and woman, husband and wife.

3) The Cultural Mandate is a regal responsibility fulfilled by man and woman together

The message of Genesis 1:28 is often referred to as the Cultural Mandate. It is also known as the Creation Mandate or the Dominion Mandate.

Notice the first two phrases of verse 28: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply …’”. The blessing is given to them. And the command is given to them—male and female, man and woman. The implication is that God’s purpose and plan cannot be carried out by just men alone or by just women alone.

Again, Darrow Miller:

… it is worth reiterating that the Genesis 1: 26–28 creation mandate to procreate and exercise dominion … is given to the imago Dei: male and female. Note that a single human being, or a group of males, or a group of females cannot fulfill either part. It takes a team effort of male and female. The woman is not an object. She is not the property of man. She is equally the imago Dei. In God’s design, the responsibilities of pro-creation and dominion are shared. The mandate is for all.[6]

Equality of being for women across the entire biblical narrative

Much more can be said, of course, about the essential equality of being for women as revealed in the Bible. Scripture gives us the foundational belief in the God-created, regal honor of woman shared with the man. Here are some highlights:

  • God created woman as an egalitarian companion for man—“flesh of my flesh, bone of my bones” (Gen 2:18, 20–23)—someone equal in being and complimentarian in function or role.
  • Wisdom is portrayed as a queen—a woman of regal stature in Proverbs (Pr 3:13–18; cf. Pr 8:1; 9:1–4)
  • Proverbs 31:10–31 describes a godly wife fully engaged in family life (Pr 31:10–12, 15, 27–28), fitness (Pr 31:17), marketing and commerce (Pr 31:13–14, 24), helping the poor (Pr 31:20), teaching kindness and wisdom to others (Pr 31:26)—all rooted in healthy fear of God (Pr 31:30). This portrayal describes a woman who is neither hidden at home, nor cowering in weakness, nor stifled to be quiet. She is strong, dignified, confident (Pr 31:25–26).
  • The Song of Solomon speaks of the pleasures of the sexual relationship in the loving union between a husband and wife. It takes place in the social setting of Solomon’s Israel around 950 B.C. One of the primary meanings of this tantalizing book is stunning—in light of the traditional honor-shame standards and patriarchal values of the Ancient Near East. The stunning principle (Song 2:16) is this: The woman is equally entitled as the man to sexual pleasure and fulfillment.[7] 
  • In the Gospels, Jesus is famously egalitarian in his treatment of women. In all of his interactions with women, the woman is dignified and honored in the process. Perhaps the most famous is the account of his counter-cultural interactions with the Samaritan woman (John 4:4–42). Jesus treats women in such a radically honorific manner—while never minimizing their sin—that Miller says, “Jesus was the first feminist”.[8]
  • Apostle Paul writes to the Galatians that in Christ there is no distinction—that is, no inequality of being—between male and female. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).
  • The fact that the narrative of Scripture begins and ends with “the nuptial”[9]—that is, ceremonial wedding language (Gen 2:23–24; Rev 19:7–9)—speaks of the incredibly high view of marriage, of woman, of male and female, husband and wife.

Men are not superior to women

The Bible teaches that in God’s design, men are not superior to women! The woman is straightforwardly equal—equal in being—to the man. The regal honor of man—and likewise, the regal honor of woman—is plain in numerous Scripture passages from Genesis to Revelation. How vital this is to counter the horrible lie: “Men are superior to women.”

Satan’s lies and humanity’s sin have corrupted God’s glorious design and intentions. Sin is universal. So the Bible’s high, honorific—indeed, regal—view of woman is in glaring contrast to the oppression and shame suffered by women and girls in varying degrees all around the world. This has mammoth implications for family life, for church life, for politics, for education, for believers everywhere.

What are some implications for mission? We will consider this in our next post.


FOOTNOTES

1. Darrow L. Miller: Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women in Building Healthy Cultures (p. 2). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

2. John H. Walton: The Lost World of Adam and Eve, (InterVarsity Press, 2015), p. 42.  

3. Ibid., p. 43.  

4. Miller., p. 130.

5. Ibid., p. 142.

6. Ibid., p. 174.

7. See Diane Bergant: “My Beloved is Mine and I am His” (Song 2:16): The Song of Songs and Honor and Shame” in Semeia 68: Honor and Shame in the World of the Bible (The Society of Biblical Literature, 1996), p. 23–35.

8. Miller., p. 3. Comparing the role of the man to that of the woman in family and society, Miller argues throughout his book for equality in being and hierarchy in roles. He bases this on trinitarian theology. The Bible speaks of the Godhead—Father, Son, Holy Spirit—having equality in being and hierarchy in roles. Just as there is loving leadership and submission in the Trinity, there ought also to be loving leadership and submission in the family.

9. Miller., p. 235.

Honor and shame in the book of Genesis––#2: The honor of work

honor and shame in the book of genesis2

This is the second in a series about honor and shame in the book of Genesis. You’ll benefit from reading this in your browser. I encourage you to read all the way to the bottom—where you will be rewarded with a video and movie trailer.


In our first post in this series, we examined Gen. 1:1—“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. We considered the honor of God as Creator, summarized below. This summary serves as an essential foundation for this second post concerning the honor of work.

God is Creator-King, and creation is his temple. We see this plainly in Psalms 96–100:

  • God is King—enthroned, majestic, glorious, infinitely honorable (Ps. 95:3–6; Ps. 96:6–10; Ps. 97:1–2; Ps. 98:6; Ps. 99:1–5; Ps. 100:4).
  • God is Creator of the earth—and thus deserving of worship from all the earth: (Ps. 95:4–5; Ps. 96:1, 9, 11–13; Ps. 97:1, 4–5, 9; Ps. 98:3–4, 7–9; Ps. 99:1; Ps. 100:1).
  • The heavens and the earth are a templesacred space in which all peoples, nations—even all nature—rejoice together in worship of the Creator-King (Ps. 95:1–7; Ps. 96:1–13; Ps. 97:1–9; Ps. 98:1–9; Ps. 99:1–5; Ps. 100:1–5)

It is unmistakable—the heavens and the earth do not comprise a “machine” devoid of sacred honor; no, the heavens and the earth comprise sacred space—an honorific temple of the Most High God, the Creator-King!

The author of Genesis and the Psalmist agree on ‘the nature of nature’—the essence of creation: There is no separation between natural and supernatural, or between secular and spiritual. There is a unity between matter and spirit. Why? Because it was all created by a glorious God for a glorious purpose (Rom. 11:36).

Darrow Miller LifeWorkIn his book LifeWork, Darrow Miller says it this way:

Scripture does not divide existence into separate natural and supernatural, or material and spiritual, realms. The separation that the modern world tends to make is utterly foreign to the biblical worldview. It is doubtful that the people of the Bible could even have wrapped their heads around the way we tend to see our lives and the world now. The Bible reveals that God is Creator of both the heavens and the earth.[1]

Work as sacred honor

Inside of this sacred, most honorable framework for all creation, let’s examine what Genesis 1–2 says about work. Below are five observations.

  1. When God created, God worked. Notice the description in Genesis 2:1–2. “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” God’s work in creation was to create highly ordered, “very good” (Gen 1:31), sacred space. We affirm that it’s not just the result of God’s work that is sacred (that is, creation); no, the work itself was sacred. God is holy; therefore, all of God’s work is holy—including the work of creation. Moreover, we see God pictured both as a craftsman (Gen. 2:7; 22) and gardener (Gen. 2:8). God himself is at work!
  2. God gave man work to do. Genesis 2:15 makes this plain: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” In the sacred garden of Eden, God gave man work to do. Since God made humankind in his own image (Gen. 1:27), it is a reflection of the honor of God that he gives man work to do in the garden—“to work it and keep it”. Man’s work is not the result of the Fall. Work is not a curse. No! For man to work is to live in the image of the Most High God! Of course, the Fall made work harder, more painful (Gen. 3:17–19), but in God’s original design, work is good, honorable, sacred.
  3. God gave regal responsibility to humanity through work. Notice the word dominion in Genesis 1:26; 28. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” The word dominion implies regal oversight and supremacy (Ps. 8:5–6, 145:13). Darrow Miller also says that dominion is tethered to stewardship:

    Because God is a working God, when he makes man in his image, part of what that means is that man is to work as well. We find in Genesis the first job description. The nature of man’s work is to have dominion (stewardship) over creation. This is not only the first job description but also the job description out of which all other legitimate job descriptions come.[2]

    Later in his book, Miller speaks of the link between a high view of humanity, a high view of work, and the unusual prosperity of nations influenced by a Christian worldview. Miller points to the scholarship of Jeremy Landes in The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor.

    So, the difference, according to Landes, was religious worldview: the dignity of labor, humankind having dominion over creation, history that is going somewhere, and a free market. Landes got the first three right but, in my opinion, got the fourth point backward. The high view of man was not a result of enterprise; it was the biblical concept of a high view of man—the image of God—which led to enterprise. Man is the secondary creator, innovator, inventor, and artist. It is these worldview elements and others that raised nations out of poverty.[3]

    Humanity is made by God in the image of God. And since God works, God also gives humanity work to do. It is not meaningless, dishonorable work. No, it is the grand work of having dominion with and under God’s kingly rule over all the earth (Gen. 1:26; 28).

  4. God gave humanity the honor of providing for oneself through work. In Genesis 1:29, God speaks to humanity, “…‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” God does not say, “I will feed you.” Rather, God says in effect, I am providing plants, fruit and seeds by which you can make gardens and develop agriculture—and out of your work you will have the food to sustain you. God provides the resources for humanity to provide for themselves. This is nothing less than the honor of providing for oneself through work under the kingship of Creator God.
  5. God gave creative work to humanity. In Genesis 2:19–20 God gave man the distinction of language—distinguishing man from the rest of the animals. And with that language came the responsibility of creative work: “… And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. …” Darrow Miller calls this “making man a word maker” and a culture-maker.

God established man’s dominion over nature by making man a word maker. Part of the image of God in us is our ability to reason, make words, and understand created distinctions. As man follows God in using language, he is separated from the rest of creation as the maker of culture.[4]

I asked my wife Daphne, how does honor overlap with the truth of God as creator? Daphne is a piano teacher and a great cook. She said something like this: Whenever you create something you just feel good. Whether it’s a work of art or a piece of music or a meal—creating is inherently honorable. And the honor one feels is even greater when people you love also enjoy what you have created.

The point is simple: God gave work to humanity—work that was regal, honorable, expansive, enjoyable—inside of God’s sacred creation. This is an incredibly high view of work. Work is about more than surviving. Work is about more than productivity. Work is about fulfilling God’s good purposes on the earth.

What does this mean for the mission of the church?

Here are a few principles that can be applied to the work of international missions—locally and globally. These principles have been stated by many others. I want to specifically connect these principles to the honor of work.

  • All work done to the glory and honor of God is spiritual work and sacred work.
  • Full-time ministers and missionaries are not more honorable—spiritually speaking—than any worker or professional who also does their work with all their might to the glory of God (Eccl. 9:10; Col. 3:23). We all stand equal at the cross, and we all have honor in our respective vocational callings.
  • Believers of virtually every vocation—and in their vocation!—are needed in God’s honor-sharing story of blessing the nations (Gen. 12:3, Acts 1:8) through Jesus Christ.
  • Providing good jobs to the poor and facilitating the honor of work can be integral to—and highly strategic for—making “disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19).

Five suggestions for resources concerning work, honor, mission

1) At Mission ONE, we’re engaging in a Missional Business vision with our international indigenous ministry partners. Learn more here, and watch a one-minute video.

2) Read a book on the theology of work. Darrow Millers’s LifeWorkmentioned above—is a comprehensive treatment on the subject. Two other books, much shorter, but compelling in how they tie together business and missions, are:

3) Attend a conference on Business As Mission. The BAM Conference is in Los Angeles, September 16–18.

4) Watch a video. The 5-minute video below by Skye Jethani is excellent—“Recapturing a Theology of Vocation”. Click here to see it in your browser.

5) Watch a movie: Poverty Inc. is on Netflix and Vimeo. It’s an amazing documentary—so worth watching! On the one hand, this film shows why traditional forms of charity often do more harm than good—while dishonoring the very people and communities who are being “served”. On the other hand, the film amplifies the honor of building businesses and providing good jobs through small to medium sized businesses. This is vital in fighting poverty and transforming communities around the world. Watch the trailer below (or in your browser):

Poverty, Inc. from Brainstorm Media on Vimeo.


1. Miller, Darrow; Newton, Marit. LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day (Kindle Locations 665-668). YWAM Publishing. Kindle Edition.

2. Ibid., Kindle Locations 3591-3593.

3. Ibid., Kindle Locations 5049-5053.

4. Ibid., Kindle Locations 2207-2209.

Save the date for the 2017 Honor-Shame Conference

Honor, Shame and the Gospel conference banner

Don’t miss the first Honor-Shame Conference!

Honor-shame networkYou are invited to the inaugural conference of the Honor-Shame Network—a community to learn and work together for the sake of the gospel. Professors and educators, pastors and thought leaders, cross-cultural workers and creatives, professional practitioners and others will gather at Wheaton College in June 2017.

Can the gospel of Jesus Christ better engage today’s world—from unreached people groups to secular postmoderns to global refugees? Could the gospel receive a better hearing with people caught in a world of sin and shame … cynicism and alienation … violence and displacement … defilement and exclusion … consumerism and emptiness … lostness in all its dimensions? 

How might we reframe the gospel in a way that is both biblically faithful and culturally meaningfulThis is why our conference theme is, “Honor, Shame and the Gospel: Reframing Our Message for 21st Century Ministry”.

Mark your calendars: June 19–21, 2017

HS conference pageWhat are the aims of the conference?

  • Facilitate a networking and learning environment with leaders from a variety of disciplines and nations.
  • Seed new teams and projects around the world—to engage in research, experimentation and the development of new ministry resources.
  • Move toward normalizing honor-shame as an essential component of theological and missiological discourse—and gospel contextualization. 

Join us to reflect upon and explore what “honor-shame” means for a range of Christian disciplines—from theology to missiology, from pastoral ministry to orality, from counseling to the worship arts. The network conference will feature plenary sessions, round-table discussions, workshops, and collaborative learning experiences.

“In order to truly reflect the promises of Christ in a contextualized manner, we must use the keys to each culture in our gospel witness. Honor/Shame cultures are all around us. The more we understand those who embrace this worldview, the better we will become at engaging them with the hope of the gospel in ways they will most respond to. This conference is very timely as our world becomes more globalized and pained under the weight of sin.” –Laurie Nichols, managing editor, EMQ; communications director, Billy Graham Center for Evangelism

Learn more at the conference website:
» honorshame-conference.com »

Honor and shame in the book of Genesis––#1: The honor of God as Creator

honor and shame in the book of genesis1


With this blog post I begin a series on what I call the “top ten honor-shame dynamics in the book of Genesis”.

#1. The honor of God as Creator

We begin with the Bible’s first verse.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

What is the honor-shame dynamic contained in this verse? On the surface, there is nothing that seems honorific here.

So I will turn to one of the great evangelical scholars on Genesis—John Walton, Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate School. His book, The Lost World of Genesis One, offers a helpful beginning point. This beginning point is not about honor. This beginning point is about context, that is, the intent of the original author of Genesis to communicate in his context, with his audience.

Lost World of Genesis One John WaltonSome Christians approach the text of Genesis as if it has modern science embedded in it or it dictates what modern science should look like. This approach to the text of Genesis 1 is called “concordism,” as it seeks to give a modern scientific explanation for the details in the text. This represents one attempt to “translate” the culture and text for the modern reader. The problem is, we cannot translate their cosmology to our cosmology, nor should we. If we accept Genesis 1 as ancient cosmology, then we need to interpret it as ancient cosmology rather than translate it into modern cosmology. If we try to turn it into modern cosmology, we are making the text say something that it never said. It is not just a case of adding meaning (as more information has become available); it is a case of changing meaning. Since we view the text as authoritative, it is a dangerous thing to change the meaning of the text into something it never intended to say. …

We gain nothing by bringing God’s revelation into accordance with today’s science. In contrast, it makes perfect sense that God communicated his revelation to his immediate audience in terms they understood.[1]

Walton says much, much more about these context-based truths in his book. Walton argues for a literal interpretation of the Bible in such a way that it also frees us from having to retrofit modern ideas and beliefs—whether “Young Earth” or “Old Earth” science—into the ancient text of Genesis. Yes, we believe the book of Genesis was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; we equally affirm it was written to an ancient audience for whom science had not yet been invented. As Walton says, “We therefore recognize that although the Bible was written for us (indeed, for everyone), it is not written to us. In its context, it is not communicated in our language; it is not addressed to our culture; it does not anticipate the questions about the world and its operations that stem from our modern situations and issues.”[2]

The “cognitive environment” of the Ancient Near East

In Walton’s The Lost World of Adam and Eve, he comments on the “cognitive environment” of the Ancient Near East—and how radically different it was from that of our modern world.

Lost world of adam and eve john waltonAs an example of the foreign aspects of the cognitive environment, people in the ancient world had no category for what we call natural laws. When they thought of cause and effect … they were more inclined to see the world’s operations in terms of divine cause. Everything worked the way it worked because God set it up that way and God maintained the system. They would have viewed the cosmos not as a machine but as a kingdom, and God communicated to them about the world in those terms. His revelation to them was not focused on giving them a more sophisticated understanding of the mechanics of the world. (bold emphasis mine)[3]

Not a machine, but a kingdom and a temple

Here’s a key statement. “They would have viewed the cosmos not as a machine but as a kingdom.” Of course there is no kingdom without a king—the regal Person enthroned and ruling over that kingdom. And this is the beginning place for us to observe the regal honor of God as Creator.

Before we turn back to Scripture, here is one more quote from Walton; this builds on the idea of creation as a kingdom, and elaborates on the sacred, honorific purpose of creation.

It would not have been difficult for a reader from anywhere in the ancient Near East to take one quick look at the seven-day account and draw the conclusion that it was a temple story. … the temple was the center of God’s rule. In the ancient world, the temple was the command center of the cosmos—it was the control room from where the god maintained order, made decrees and exercised sovereignty. Temple building accounts often accompanied cosmologies because after the god had established order (the focus of cosmologies in the ancient world), he took control of that ordered system. This is the element that we are sadly missing when we read the Genesis account. God has ordered the cosmos with the purpose of taking up his residence in it and ruling over it. (bold emphasis mine)[4]

This idea of all creation as a temple for God was a jolt to my thinking. I’m not used to thinking that all nature is sacred space. But this is the assumption often made by the authors of Scripture—as you will see below. The heavens and the earth are sacred space—a royal temple for the Creator-King who is dwelling in and ruling over all he has made.

The Psalms give witness

In particular, the Psalms give witness to this honorific nature of the LORD as Creator-King. In the selection of verses from the Psalms below, take note of two things. First, observe the frequent occurrence of the words earth and heavens—clearly echoing Gen. 1:1. Secondly, observe the frequent use of honorific words: glory, name, majesty, worship, praise, exalted, King, reign, throne, etc.

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. (Ps. 8:1)

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Ps. 19:1)

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. (Ps. 22:27)

The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. (Ps. 24:1–2)

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! (Ps. 46:10)

Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. (Ps. 47:6–8)

God has not merely created a material universe. No, God has created the heavens and the earth as sacred space—a temple for worship of the one true God, King of creation!

Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them. (Ps. 69:34)

Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen! (Ps. 72:19)

Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever; let them perish in disgrace, that they may know that you alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth. (Ps. 83:17–18)

Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.” Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy. (Ps. 96:10–12)

To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! (Ps. 123:1)

God is Creator-King, and creation is his temple

For a more extensive proof-text, consider Psalms 96–100. You’ll see for yourself a continuous revelation about the Creator-King.

  • God is King—enthroned, majestic, glorious, infinitely honorable (Ps. 95:3–6; Ps. 96:6–10; Ps. 97:1–2; Ps. 98:6; Ps. 99:1–5; Ps. 100:4).
  • God is Creator of the earth—and thus deserving of worship from all the earth: (Ps. 95:4–5; Ps. 96:1, 9, 11–13; Ps. 97:1, 4–5, 9; Ps. 98:3–4, 7–9; Ps. 99:1; Ps. 100:1).
  • The heavens and the earth are a templesacred space in which all peoples, nations—even all nature—rejoice together in worship of the Creator-King (Ps. 95:1–7; Ps. 96:1–13; Ps. 97:1–9; Ps. 98:1–9; Ps. 99:1–5; Ps. 100:1–5)

It is unmistakable—the heavens and the earth do not comprise a “machine” devoid of sacred honor; no, the heavens and the earth comprise an honorific temple of the Most High God, the Creator-King!

A prayer: Lord God Most High, we join the chorus of saints from across the earth and across the ages—“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” (Ps. 95:6) It is you who has made us and not we ourselves (Ps. 100:3). We submit ourselves to you in love and obedience—returning blessing, honor and praise to you—Creator-King of the heavens and the earth!


1. John H. Walton: The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (InterVarsity Press, 2010), p. 16–17. Kindle Edition.

2. John H. Walton: The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2–3 and the Human Origins Debate (InterVarsity Press, 2015), p. 19.

3. Ibid., p. 18.

4. Ibid., p. 49.

Jesus Makes Us Clean

I’ve just redesigned my blog. I wanted a new look, and also wanted it to be easier for readers using tablets and smartphones. Hope you like the new design. The banner photo comes from our trip to Spain in May; it was taken on a country road between Malaga and Ronda. Loved the ancient arches from the Roman Empire—and the symbolism of a modern road that leads you toward the ancient.    This post originally appeared at Gospel-Life.net. It has been slightly modified. —Werner


I had just preached a sermon on how God covers our shame and restores our honor based on the Prodigal Son story. Afterward, a smiling elderly Christian woman came to me and shared how the sermon had blessed her. Wonderful!

But I was especially startled when she said. “You know, when I was a little girl, something happened to me, and I’ve never been able to get rid of it. Until today.”

It seems she knew she was forgiven of her sins, but because of the sins of another against her, she had felt defiled—literally for decades.

Sexual abuse has always been with us, but it seems more rampant and ubiquitous today. In fact, one in four women and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old.

In May I had the privilege of speaking at an international Baptist church in Spain. My sermon was “Jesus Makes Us Clean.” At the end of the service, an individual was crying. Like me, she had grown up with a mentally-ill father. For years, she and her sister had been deeply embarrassed and ashamed. They felt defiled.

She was involuntarily stained by the effects of a sinful fallen humanity by a father who involuntarily suffered from schizophrenia.

Is relational pollution getting worse and worse? Maybe it’s just always been this way.

What is sin to a post-Christendom world?

Alan Mann Atonement for a Sinless SocietyIn our postmodern secular world many people no longer believe in the reality of sin. Alan Mann writes in his book, Atonement for a Sinless Society, that “geneticists, sociologists, and psychologists increasingly … allow us to live in the confidence that we do no wrong.”[1]

And as for the death of Christ, “To twenty-first-century sensibilities, the crucifixion of Jesus [is] nothing more than a primitive, barbaric, pointless death.”[2]

Part of Mann’s thesis is that the best way for secular peoples to come to terms with sin is to be presented with this: Sin is relational defilement, uncleanness, pollution.

Consider the relational defilement that most secular peoples readily acknowledge: poverty of all kinds … racism and bigotry … sexual trafficking … an epidemic of addictions … the persistence of slavery … institutional greed and corruption … violent nationalism … honor-killings … bloody culture clashes.

What does it all add up to? A dirty, traumatized, defiled, relationally polluted world!

In this world of sin, I am unclean. Isaiah observed: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips and dwell among a people of unclean lips …” (Isa. 6:5).

Sin is personal—for I am an agent of sin having fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).

And sin is social—for I am also a victim of the sins of others. I’m defiled by living in a world-nation-community-family of fallen humanity. Am I “playing the victim card”? No. I’m describing the complexity of the effects of sin. When it comes to sin, we are all both agents and victims.

Is Christ’s death sufficient to cleanse us from being both agents and victims of sin?

agent and victim of sinThe Psalmist David reveals this agent-and-victim duality about sin: “When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions” (Ps. 65:3).

On the one hand, I am the victim of the sins of others (“iniquities prevail against me”). On the other hand, we are all responsible agents of sin (“our transgressions”). But David’s song to God contains good news concerning his sinfulness both as an agent and victim of sin: “You atone for our transgressions” (Ps. 65:3). There is an atonement-remedy for both!

The writer of Hebrews said of the death and atonement of Christ: “So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order that he might sanctify the people through his own blood” (Heb. 13:12). In his death, Jesus became unclean—he “suffered outside the gate.” Why?  “…in order that he might sanctify the people”—in order to cleanse the people. Through His death, Jesus became unclean in order to make believers clean forever.

“When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions” (Ps. 65:3). When Jesus made “purification for sins” (Heb. 1:3), He made provision to cleanse us from sins committed by us—and from sins committed against us.

Hallelujah, what a gospel! Hallelujah, what a Savior!

For more about the power of the gospel to make us clean—and how this relates to ministry among Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim peoples, see my article, The Gospel of Purity for Oral Learners: Bible Dynamics for Blessing the Unreached. See other articles at my Resources page.


1.  Mann, Alan (2015-12-18). Atonement for a Sinless Society: Second Edition (Kindle Location 121–122). Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

2. Ibid., Kindle Location 94.

Quick video: Body language


right hand and feet

Here is a quick description of the honor-shame dynamic that I call “body language”.

In the world of the Ancient Near East and Roman Empire the most honorable parts of the body were considered to 
be the head, face and hands. One of the most shameful body 
parts was considered to be 
the feet.

One of the most significant theological expressions of this honor-shame dynamic relates to a psalm of David in which he prophesies of the future reign of Israel’s Messiah-King. .

The LORD says to my Lord: 
“Sit at my right hand, until 
 I make your enemies your 
 footstool” (Psalm 110:1).

This verse speaks of the supreme honor of Jesus Christ—and is referenced in the synoptic Gospels, in Acts, in four of Paul’s letters, four times in the book of Hebrews, and 1 Peter. The sheer frequency of the reference signals to us its theological weightiness. Click here to watch the video on Vimeo.

Learn more—free chapter from The Global Gospel on the honor-shame dynamic of “body language”

Free resource1The free resource available with this post is an excerpt from The Global Gospel—Chapter 2.6: Honor/Shame Dynamic #6: Body Language. The chapter is four pages long. Explore how “right hand” and  “feet” speak of the supreme honor of King Jesus and his conquest over his enemies.

Enjoy the next quick video: “Body language.

Free article, free chart: Five levels of awareness of honor-shame in cross-cultural ministry

H-S-1 to H-S-5.a
H/S-1 to H/S-5: Levels of awareness of honor-shame in cross-cultural ministry

In April 2015, Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ) published my article H/S-1 to H/S-5: Levels of Awareness of Honor/Shame in Cross-Cultural Ministry.

A year has passed since the article has been published. So now it is freely available outside of the EMQ online environment. (CLICK HERE to download 3,000-word article.) The article is still available at EMQ’s website, of course.

Levels of awareness of honor-shame chartThe article is based on a diagram-chart of the same title which is Addendum 2 in The Global Gospel. The article examines five levels of awareness of honor-shame:

  • H/S-1: Unawareness
  • H/S-2: Ethical
  • H/S-3: Functional
  • H/S-4: Evangelical
  • H/S-5: Teleological


“H/S-1 to H/S-5”
—in the forms of both the article and the diagram/chart—are intended to help Christian leaders 1) examine default attitudes about honor/shame relative to the Bible, and 2) consider alternative beliefs and practices in the light of the Bible’s negative and positive! renderings of honor/shame dynamics.

Quick video: Challenge and riposte


Fencing

Here is a quick description of the honor-shame dynamic called the “challenge and riposte”.

“Riposte” is a term used in the sport of fencing, meaning “a quick return thrust following a parry.” Socially it means, “a quick clever reply to an insult or criticism.” There are four steps to this protocol or social code of challenge and riposte—or “push-and-shove.” These four steps are:

  1. Claim of worth or value
  2. Challenge to that claim or refusal to acknowledge the claim
  3. Riposte or defense of the claim
  4. Public verdict of success awarded to either claimant or challenger[1]

There are numerous examples of honor competition in the Bible. The honor competition between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders in the Gospels frequently follows the four-step sequence referred to above. Learn about this honor-shame dynamic—“challenge and riposte”—in the next in our series of quick videos about honor and shame. Click here to watch the video on Vimeo.

Learn more—free chapter from The Global Gospel on the honor-shame dynamic of “challenge and riposte”

Free resource1The free resource available with this post is an excerpt from The Global Gospel—Chapter 2.4: Honor/Shame Dynamic #4: Challenge and Riposte. The chapter is eight pages long. NOTE: This chapter helps you understand the seemingly unending cycle of conflict and violence in some honor/shame societies. The honor-shame dynamics of the love of honor, the image of limited good, and challenge and riposte—work together in a dark synergy to support a greater propensity for violence.

Enjoy the next quick video: “Challenge and Riposte.


1. Jerome Neyrey: Honor and Shame in the Gospel of Matthew (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), 20.

Quick video: the “image of limited good”


Image of limited good vertical win-loseHere is a quick description of the honor-shame dynamic called the “image of limited good”. The image of limited good is “the belief that everything in the social, economic, natural universe … everything desired in life: land, wealth, respect and status, power and influence … exist in finite quantity and are in short supply”.[1] If you gain, I lose … it’s a “zero-sum game.”

The example given in the video is from 1 Samuel 18:6–9. After David’s victory over Goliath, Israel’s women celebrated and honored David above Saul. Did Saul celebrate with the people over their great victory? No!

Instead of Saul rejoicing over Israel’s dramatic victory, Saul lamented (1 Sam 18:8); he considered it a mortal threat that David was honored above himself. Here’s why: There was only so much honor to go around (honor is a “limited good”)—so as David’s honor status increased among the people, Saul’s own honor went down.

Saul’s extreme envy reflected the default values of his culture—a win-lose mindset—the “image of limited good”.

Learn more about the “image of limited good”, and discover how Christ overturns “limited good”—in the next in our series of quick videos about honor and shame. Click here to watch the video on Vimeo.

Learn more—free chapter from The Global Gospel on the “image of limited good”

Free resource1The free resource available with this post is an excerpt from The Global Gospel—Chapter 2.3: Honor/Shame Dynamic #3: The Image of Limited Good. The chapter is five pages long. Enjoy the next quick video: “The Image of Limited Good


1. Jerome Neyrey: Honor and Shame in the Gospel of Matthew (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), 18.