Book review: The 3D Gospel—Ministry in Fear, Shame, and Guilt Cultures


Let’s begin with an excerpt:

Western Christianity emphasizes the facet of biblical salvation most meaningful in its cultural context. Historically, two significant voices behind Western theology,
Augustine of Hippo (b. 354) and Martin Luther (b. 1483), were both plagued with an internal sense of God’s wrath toward their transgressions. So their writings explore how God forgives and acquits guilty sinners. While theology from Western contexts
addresses guilt and innocence, people in most Majority World cultures desire honor to cover shame and power to mitigate fear. … Despite the prominence of shame-honor and fear-power dynamics in global cultures, they remain conspicuous blind spots in most Christian theology. (p. 13–14)

These blind spots in Western theology are conspicuous, indeed. It is true not only with regard to global cultures, but also with regard to Scripture itself. This is where The 3D Gospel succeeds. In a brief volume (it’s also well-documented!), Georges exposes these blind spots and the reader becomes aware of how Scripture and the gospel address all three cultural paradigms—innocence/guilt, honor/shame, and power/fear.

Here’s what I like about The 3D Gospel, by Jayson Georges

1) The 3D Gospel is concise. It took me about two hours to read. It is simple but not simplistic; it‘s easy-to-read yet biblically rich and solid.

2) It explains culture differences simply. The explanations of various culture values—guilt/innocence, shame/honor, and fear/power—are clear and helpful.

3) It builds on the legal framework for the gospel. The book shows how the guilt/innocence (or legal) framework for the gospel is biblically true—but not the only gospel framework. The gospel is more multifaceted that we normally realize.

4) It’s well organized. The excellent comparisons charts and lists help clarify the way guilt/innocence, shame/honor, and fear/power presentations may be developed from the Bible—so that the gospel may better resonate with various cultures.

5) It magnifies the Word of God. The 3D Gospel makes the reader think, Wow, now I understand better how the Bible speaks so powerfully to all cultures!

The 3D Gospel offers material which every short-term mission trip goer, every long-term missionary, every Christian worker, will find immediately useful.

And in light of the rapidly increasing cultural diversity of our own cities and communities in North America, I also hope this book will be read by many, many pastors. The preaching of the gospel in North America would be greatly enriched if pastors would receive the insights of The 3D Gospel.

Another excerpt from The 3D Gospel

The 3D Gospel in Ephesians

Paul wrote the book of Ephesians to explain “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (3:8), which involves each of these three components of salvation (italics added below).

Guilt-Innocence—“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” (1:7a). God “made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” (2:5).

Shame-Honor—“In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ” (1:5). “You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (2:19, cf. 2:12-13).

Fear-Power—“That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at this right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion” (1:19-21).
“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (6:10-11).[1]

The 3D Gospel has much value, because we Western evangelicals tend to have unnecessary rigidity in the way we understand and articulate the gospel. We often fail to realize that our own theological perspectives are not culturally neutral.

One minor critique

I deeply appreciate The 3D Gospel. I also have one critique: The author of The 3D Gospel does not reveal the overlap in Scripture between honor/shame and power/fear.

Consider the above-quoted passage, Ephesians 1:19–21. Georges rightly indicates that this verse addresses the concerns of power/fear cultures, categorizing this as a ‘power/fear verse’.

But he makes no mention of the fact that when Christ was raised from the dead and seated at God’s “right hand”, this is also an expression of honor/shame. The phrase “seated him at his right hand” is a striking example of the honor/shame dynamic of “body language”.[2]

When Apostle Paul wrote these verses in Ephesians he referred to Psalm 110:1—“The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’” This is a reference to the power and the honor of the coming Messiah-King. Moreover, the phrase, “I make your enemies your footstool” is also an expression of the shaming of God’s enemies. This “footstool” idea is reflected in Ephesians 1:22, which contains the phrase, “he put all things under his feet” (cf. Ps 8:6). In the Ancient Near East and Roman Empire, honor and power were significantly synonymous.

I believe, therefore, that Ephesians 1:19–22 speaks just as much about the honor of the King, as it speaks of his power.

Of course, this kind of nuance requires more words. And the author intended The 3D Gospel to be an easy enriching read; in this regard, Georges succeeds admirably. So perhaps my critique is a bit unfair.

Like a diamond, The 3D Gospel is a treasure

Jayson Georges has made a valuable contribution to the discussion in the Christian world concerning the gospel. The 3D Gospel is an elegant introduction for those who want to understand basic cultural differences in our world while also exploring biblically faithful—and multifaceted—ways to understand and communicate the gospel.

We can and must build on the Western innocence/guilt framework of the gospel to include the Bible’s own emphasis on honor/shame and power/fear. Jayson Georges’ The 3D Gospel helps show the way.

Click here to learn how to get single copies or bulk orders of The 3D Gospel.

1.  Jayson Georges, The 3D Gospel: Ministry in Guilt, Shame, and Fear Cultures, 2014, p. 12.

2. For more on the honor/shame dynamic of “body language” and the extensive use of the honorific words “right hand” in the NT, see chapter 1.6 in The Global Gospel, pages 118–121.

Leave a Reply