The Bible—so close to the culture of India?

From July 13 to 24, 2015, I taught a class at Hindustan Bible Institute in Chennai, India. Based on my book The Global Gospel, the class was titled, “The Global Gospel: Setting the Gospel Free from Western Assumptions”.

The comments below are from one student’s essay which was part of the final exam. The student’s name is Jaimol Jacob. I have lightly edited her text.

The purpose of this post is to learn from the perspective of a Christian from an Eastern culture … to learn from one who, while living in an Eastern land, has had Christian training exclusively from a Western perspective … and who, for the first time, has now learned of the commonality between her Eastern culture and the Bible’s pivotal cultural value of honor and shame.

While these comments from Jaimol are certainly not intended to be a comprehensive, nuanced treatment on the subject, I am grateful that she has put her thoughts on paper. She has given me permission to share her words with the readers of this blog.  –WM

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Mrs. Jaimol Jacob comments on the honor/shame values in the Bible—and how these ancient values are closely aligned with the cultural values of India.

“Honor-shame concept is very much deep rooted in Eastern mind. Everyone in the East knows what it means to [have] shame and honor. [The] Bible is also speaking about familial culture and honor-shame dynamics.

“Most of the missionaries who came to India in the past tried to teach people based on Western cultural values. This made a deep wound and separation in the society between East and West. Christians and Bible are considered completely foreign. We [Christians] are also following the same tradition and never looked at the Bible with our own cultural thinking. … So the effective contextualization of the gospel became a failure and India is still largely unreached.

“Christians and Bible are considered completely foreign.”

“This course about the honor/shame dynamics is really making me to feel that [the] Bible is talking about our cultural values. It is an Eastern book. It helps me to look at [the] Bible from the honor/shame dynamics present in the Bible. I [now] understand it is more relevant to talk about sin as shame and impurity/uncleanness than [as] guilt and innocence.

“God is expecting people from all cultures to come to Him and worship Him in their own cultural patterns. Some of the Indian cultures [have] been plucked out, (especially in Northeast India) by the missionaries [who] implanted their Western culture. It is not really mission. God approves of every culture and wants to transform it, not to completely pluck it out. Even Western theology is influenced by its own culture.

“God approves of every culture and wants to transform it, not to completely pluck it out.”

“From this class I understood that [the] Bible is so close to Indian culture and its values, but away from Western cultural values. So it helped me think about new methods to proclaim the Gospel, related to Indian culture which will be free from Western concept with its values—so that every person must clearly understand [and] accept Jesus Christ, the Saviour who removes our shame and gives hope to people who are in hopeless, rejected, and shameful condition.

“Bible is so close to Indian culture and its values…”

“This class helps me to understand the human longing for honor. Eastern [values] are more regal than legal … more familial than individualistic … more local than cosmic … more concrete than abstract. So such people need the Gospel which relates to their life.”

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