An important text from Timothy Tennent on honor and shame, courtesy of Google Books

According to Timothy Tennent, “the term guilt and its various derivatives occur 145 times in the Old Testament and 10 times in the New Testament, whereas the term shame and its derivatives occur nearly 300 times in the Old Testament and 45 times in the New Testament.”

Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is … – Timothy C. Tennent – Google Books.

At the link above you can read a significant portion of a chapter from Timothy Tennent’s very impressive book; the chapter addresses the contrast between “Guilt/Innocence and Shame/Honor in Global Cultures.”

I believe the Christian Church in every culture and society has its blinds spots relative to some aspect of Christian truth and a biblical worldview. In the Western Church, is there a blind spot about the pivotal cultural value of honor and shame? The following quote from Tennent points to that being the case:

Since Western systematic theology has been almost exclusively written by theologians from cultures framed primarily by the values of guilt and innocence, there has been a corresponding failure to fully appreciate the importance of the pivotal values of honor and shame in understanding Scripture and the doctrine of sin. …

Bruce Nichols, the founder of the “Evangelical Review of Theology,” has acknowledged this problem, noting that Christian theologians have “rarely if ever stressed salvation as honoring God, exposure of sin as shame, and the need for acceptance as the restoration of honor.” In fact, a survey of all of the leading textbooks used in teaching systematic theology across the major theological traditions reveals that although the indexes are filled with references to guilt, the word “shame” appears in the index of only one of these textbooks. This omission continues to persist despite the fact that the term guilt and its various derivatives occur 145 times in the Old Testament and 10 times in the New Testament, whereas the term shame and its derivatives occur nearly 300 times in the Old Testament and 45 times in the New Testament.

This is clearly an area where systematic theology must be challenged to reflect more adequately the testimony of Scripture. I am confident that a more biblical understanding of human identity outside of Christ that is framed by guilt, fear, and shame will, in turn, stimulate a more profound and comprehensive appreciation for the work of Christ on the cross. This approach will also greatly help peoples in the Majority World to understand the significance and power of Christ’s work, which has heretofore been told primarily from only one perspective.

From Timothy C. Tennent: Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007) p. 92–93, (footnotes withheld)


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