Is the Honor-Shame Conference about evangelism and discipleship in America?


Yesterday I received an interesting email from a missiologist/author/trainer. His question was about the Honor-Shame Conference, June 19–21, 2017 at Wheaton. He asked:

“… what percentage of the June conference will deal with the application of honor-shame thinking to evangelism and discipleship in America, and which presenters will be hitting it?”

As Coordinator of the Honor-Shame Conference, here (below) is how I responded to his question; the text has been edited for clarity in this blog post.

Overall, I think about 50% of the conference—and maybe more—is applicable to “evangelism and discipleship in America”. Of course this also depends on your context in America. There are so many different cultural contexts, so to generalize about “evangelism and discipleship in America” is fraught with the risk of over-generalizing and subjectivity. Having said that …

First of all, there is the hermeneutical grounding of honor-shame. The honor-shame paradigm is first of all about hermeneutics (Scripture interpretation)—and second of all about anthropology (better understanding of ourselves and other peoples).

We believe that through honor-shame, we are getting closer to the way the original authors and hearers of Scripture understood the Word of God. So this is first of all about good interpretation of Scripture; you might even say we are grounded in the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura. It is secondly about better contextualization.

The double-benefit of honor-shame

This points to a double benefit—better hermeneutics and better understanding of non-Western peoples. The double-benefit is inherent in the principle, “The gospel is already contextualized for honor-shame cultures”, quoting Jackson Wu. But even in saying this, I grimace a little, because it is not merely non-Western peoples who will better grasp the gospel through honor-shame; I so firmly believe that Western peoples also really benefit from a gospel that is infused by the Bible’s own honor-shame dynamics. We could discuss sometime the range of books that point to this reality.

So concerning the hermeneutical priority, let’s consider first the plenary sessions. In my opinion, about 80% of the content in the plenary sessions is about hermeneutics enhanced by honor-shame—how this is part of theology, how it relates to the gospel and to church life in America. (Click here to see the six plenary sessions in the Honor-Shame Conference.) If you look at these plenary sessions in totality—in my opinion—you are seeing an overall emphasis on the role of honor-shame in theology, Scripture interpretation, and the gospel. Also, in the list of workshops, one of the workshops seems to focus exclusively on hermeneutics—Dr. E. Randolph Richards: “Honor-Shame in the Gospel of John”.

Now let’s get beyond hermeneutics to whether the presentations address an “American” or Western audience:

Here are the workshops which I think which will relate specifically to an “American” or Western audience:

  • DJ Chuang: “Towards Erasing the Shame of Mental Illness”
  • Steve Hong: “Unlocking Evangelism in our Cities with an Honor-Shame Framework”
  • Jeff Jackson: “Honor-Shame as a Crucial Component of a Local Church’s Ministry to Current or Former US military Members and Their Families”
  • Mako A. Nagasawa: “How to Bring About Personal Healing and Social Justice Using Medical Substitutionary Atonement”
  • Robert Walter: “Grace in the Face of God: ‘Seeking God’s Face’ in Prayer as Cleansing for Toxic Shame”

The next list of workshops, in my opinion, are mostly rooted in cross-cultural ministry in overseas, non-Western communities. But I believe the relevance of these workshops is significant for many Americans and Westerners. There is cross-over impact here:

  • Sam Heldenbrand: “Honor, Shame, and the Gospel: Reframing the Messenger”
  • Dr. Katie J. Rawson: “A Gospel that Reconciles: Teaching About Honor-Shame to Advance Racial and Ethnic Reconciliation”
  • Randall Spacht, Lacides Hernandez, Juan Guillermo Cardona: “The 3D Gospel in Latin America”
  • Joyce Jow: “From Pollution to Purity: The Restoration of the Hemorrhaging Woman”
  • Dr. Steve Tracy: “Abuse and Shame: How the Cross Transforms Shame”

Because of the fact that there are so many non-Western peoples in the USA, there is a need for preaching, evangelism, and discipleship that is conducted without a Western theological bias (see this post about theological bias and contextualization). This makes all of the workshops relevant, because we have so many Asians, so many Latin Americans, so many peoples from Africa and the Middle East living among us.

I also suggest you read the 14-page Workshop Descriptions document to get a fuller understanding of the 28 workshops offered at the Honor-Shame Conference.


How do I summarize the points in my email to my friend the missiologist?

  1. America is increasingly a land of diverse peoples and cultures—and this represents a major Great Commission opportunity for the church. Understanding the double benefit of honor-shame—1) better Scripture interpretation, and 2) better contextualization of the gospel for people in honor-shame cultures—may represent a strategic advance for the Church. This is valuable for all Americans—whether their background is Christian, nonreligious, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or other.
  2. Come to the Honor-Shame Conference, June 19–21, 2017 at Wheaton!

The Father’s Love Gospel Booklet in Japanese—FREE copies available

Good news—200 copies of the Japanese version of The Father’s Love Gospel Booklet are available for free.

This is the booklet based on the Prodigal Son story (Luke 15:11–32) which allows you to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Bible’s own “language of honor and shame”.

Click here to visit The Father’s Love Gospel Booklet website page, to learn more about this resource. Note: you won’t see anything here about the Japanese version. But you will see all the pages, the drawings, the questions designed for interaction—and how we make a bridge to the atonement of Christ.

  • 20 pages, 4.125 x 3.5 inches, fits into a shirt pocket
  • Designed for interaction and easy conversation
  • Lovingly designed for people whose pivotal cultural value is honor and shame—to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ

My friends at First Baptist Church, Hendersonville have been involved in blessing many Japanese in Middle Tennessee. They took the English version of The Father’s Love Gospel Booklet … had the translation work done … had the new page-layout work completed in Adobe InDesign … and got it printed. From their print run, an extra 200 copies were left over—and these were recently given to Mission ONE. Many thanks to Mike McClanahan and the missions department at FBC Hendersonville!

So for the cost of shipping, you can get these 200 gospel booklets for no additional cost. Interested? Write to me at

Available now—200 copies of The Father’s Love Gospel Booklet in Japanese.

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:
» »

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.

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.

“Honor, Shame and the Gospel”—six-week class at Scottsdale Bible Church starts January 24th

sbclogoI am so grateful for my home church, Scottsdale Bible, which has provided me the opportunity to teach a class based on my book, The Global Gospel. The class will incorporate lecture with PowerPoint, handouts, and ample discussion. It will be held six successive Sundays, January 24 to February 28, 11:00 a.m., at the Shea Campus. The classroom is A7. Copies of The Global Gospel are available at the Scottsdale Bible book store/café.

Honor, Shame, and the Gospel

Honor shame and the gospelOverview: How does the gospel speak to a violent world and the refugee crisis? Are there facets of the gospel that especially resonate with Muslims as well as millennials? In this interactive class with the author of The Global Gospel, you’ll discover how understanding the Bible’s own honor/shame dynamics offers fresh answers and powerful hope through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Class 1: Biblical Honor for a World of Shame: We’ll compare basic Majority World values of honor/shame to Western values of innocence/guilt. We’ll show why guilt is more likely to lead to healing behavior—whereas shame is more likely to lead to hurtful behavior. Could it be that a gospel that focuses on sin and guilt is the “on-ramp” to a gospel that also addresses sin and shame?

Class 2: The Gospel of Honor-Status Reversal: We’ll discover a motif in Scripture—honor-status reversal—hidden in plain sight from Genesis to Revelation. We’ll go through the The Father’s Love Booklet (each attendee gets a copy). We’ll learn how to share the gospel in the “language of honor and shame”. It’s a new, easy way to share Christ with people from Majority World cultures.

Class 3: The Gospel of Purity: Christians know they are forgiven. But for many, a sense of shame persists. How does the Bible’s “purity language” speak to us through the gospel to forgive, cleanse and restore? How does the gospel speak to Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist peoples with their ritual purity practices? This is good news here and now—and across cultures.

Class 4: The Gospel of the Kingdom for a Violent World: Honor-based violence makes the news daily. Yet the church is weak in its understanding and response. Discover how the dark side of honor and shame fuels violence. Examine how Christ’s honor-sharing “gospel of the kingdom” offers a powerful cure for violence—a living hope and powerful message for the world today.

Class 5: The Gospel that Speaks to Postmodernism and Pluralism: How can our theology emphasize “sola Scriptura” (the sole authority of Scripture)—while also speaking to our postmodern, pluralistic world? We will examine three ways: 1) Acknowledging blind spots in Western theology; 2) addressing the sinful pathology of shame; and 3) magnifying the multicultural essence of the gospel.

Class 6: The Story of Joseph as Gospel Motif: Can the story of Joseph (Gen 37–50) help us make sense of the whole Bible? We’ll explore the motif of honor-status reversal in this amazing drama. In so doing, we’ll see God’s sovereignty over evil, his purpose to bless all peoples through his honorific family, and his persistent reversal of honor status—all pointing to the glorious gospel.

Questions? Please write to me at

New resources to examine your level of awareness of honor/shame in cross-cultural ministry

Levels of awareness of honor-shame diagram.fw
“H/S-1 to H/S-5: Levels of Awareness of Honor/Shame 
in Cross-Cultural Ministry”. This diagram was developed as I was writing The Global Gospel. It reflects my own long journey to understand the subject of honor/shame dynamics in the Bible—and what this means for cross-cultural ministry . After EMQ approved my submission for an article about this, Dr. Scott Moreau offered good suggestions to improve the diagram. I am grateful for his advice.
Two resources are available to you: 1) an article in EMQ, and 2) a downloadable PDF of the diagram-chart

“H/S-1 to H/S-5: Levels of Awareness of Honor/Shame 
in Cross-Cultural Ministry” describes a learning journey to help you understand honor/shame dynamics in the Bible—and how this relates to your work of blessing all the peoples of the earth through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Here’s an overview of “H/S-1 to H/S-5”:
  • H/S-1: Unawareness. At this level the key words are “blind spot”.  You have little to no awareness 
of honor/shame dynamics; it’s both a cultural and theological
 blind spot.
  • H/S-2: Ethical. At this level the key words are “inferior values”. You become aware of honor and shame in the culture—but only the unethical or dark side of honor/shame.
  • H/S-3: Functional. At this level the key words are “Bible cultures”. You become aware of honor/shame as the pivotal cultural value of Bible societies. You gain a functional tool for better Scripture interpretation, better hermeneutics. Understanding honor/shame helps to minimize the Western bias for interpreting Scripture
. Plus you gain a tool to better understand Majority World cultures.
  • H/S-4: Evangelical. At this level the key words are “gospel message”.  You now understand that honor/shame dynamics are central to the meaning 
and proclamation of the gospel of Christ
  • H/S-5: Teleological. At this level the key words are “glorious kingdom”. You see honor/shame dynamics as central to the Bible’s narrative of a doxological destiny for Christ and for believers from among all the peoples of the earth.

“H/S-1 to H/S-5” is available in two forms—an article in EMQ and the downloadable diagram/chart. This resource is designed to help you: 1) bring to the surface default attitudes about honor/shame relative to the Bible and the culture in which you serve, and 2) consider adjusting your beliefs and practices in the light of the Bible’s negative and positive renderings of honor/shame dynamics.

EMQ-logoTHE ARTICLE: H/S-1 to H/S-5: Levels ofLevels of awareness of honor-shame chart Awareness of Honor/Shame in Cross-Cultural Ministry.” This 3,000-word article was published in Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ), April 2015. The article is available by logging in at EMQonline. The article is available only to subscribers. (After April 2016, the article will be downloadable from this page.) The article is written in an academic style—and is based on Addendum 2 in The Global Gospel

THE DIAGRAM-CHART: “H/S-1 to H/S-5: Levels of Awareness of Honor/Shame in Cross-Cultural Ministry.” Published as Addendum 2 in The Global Gospel—now available as a free PDF by clicking here.

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.

Shame is more pathological than guilt—here’s why, and why it matters

shame vs guilt pathologyShame is more pathological socially

I was stunned. In my learning journey about honor and shame I knew I had to read extensively. And as I got into the first chapter in the book by Tangney and Dearing, Shame and Guilt, I was not prepared to discover this stunning truth:[1]

Guilt is about what behavior; it’s about what I’ve done.

But shame is about being; it’s about who I am.

Consider, for example, this sentence: I did that horrible thing.

The guilt-prone person says, “I did that horrible thing.” My behavior was bad.

But shame is different. The shame-prone person says, “I did that horrible thing.” The emphasis is not on my behavior, but on my core identity—hence, I am bad. Tangney called this “global devaluation”[2]—the idea is that one’s whole identity is corrupt, not just one’s behavior.

Tangney and Dearing unpack the significance of this in society. It’s based on more than 40 years of university research. Over and over again, the research points to this fact:

Guilt is more likely to lead to healing behavior.

But shame is more likely to lead to hurtful behavior.

With guilt, there is a “desire to confess, apologize, or repair”. But with shame, there is a “desire to hide, escape, or strike back”.[3] This is what the research showed—forty-plus years of research, again and again.

Here’s how Tangney and Dearing describe  the difference.

The tension, remorse, and regret of guilt causes us to stop and rethink, and it offers a way out, pressing us to confess, apologize, and make amends. We become better people, and the world becomes a better place.

In contrast, shame appears to be the less “moral” emotion in several important regards. When people feel ashamed of themselves, they are not particularly motivated to apologize and attempt to repair the situation. This is not an emotion that leads people to responsibly own up to their failures, mistakes, or transgressions and make things right. Instead, they are inclined to engage in all sorts of defensive maneuvers. They may withdraw and avoid the people around them. They may deny responsibility and blame others for the shame-eliciting situation. They may become downright hostile and angry at a world that has made them feel so small. In short, shamed individuals are inclined to assume a defensive posture rather than take a constructive, reparative stance in their relationships.[4]

Shame is more pathological spiritually

From a theological and spiritual perspective, we believe as Christians that our guilt and condemnation before God as sinners is a vitally serious matter (John 3:18). Thus, we offer the gospel of Jesus Christ—forgiveness of our sins and hope of eternal life—as a cure for humanity’s condition of sin and guilt.

But the Bible says much more about sin. Sin is a more expansive and more personal problem than being guilty of breaking God’s laws. Consider just three verses in Romans 1,  2, and 3:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened (Rom 1:21).

Here in Romans 1, sin is not defined as breaking God’s laws, but as dishonoring God’s Person. Therefore, sin is not abstract; it is a personal problem. Consider also …

You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law (Rom 2:23).

In this Romans 2 passage, Paul is addressing Jews and says that, yes, sin is “breaking the law”. But Paul amplifies the seriousness of sin by saying that in breaking the law, they “dishonor God”. God’s people were dishonoring God’s Majesty. Sin is disregarding God’s royal Kingship and regal authority. In an ultimate sense, we can rightly say that sin is shame.

One more verse—it’s one that many Christians are familiar with.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23)

Once again, sin is not defined as breaking God’s laws, but as something more expansive, personal, serious: falling short of God’s glory.

Here’s why this matters

Of course, humanity’s guilt before God is real. But the shamefulness of sin—its dishonor toward God—makes sin worse than we think. It’s not merely a violation of a divine moral code. Sin dishonors the One who is God Most High over all the universe, the holy King of all creation—the very Person who made us to enjoy him and live for his glory.

Moreover, when we consider the fact that shame is more pathological than guilt in society—that is, shame produces more harm, more pain, more moral disease, more violence, more fractured families, more international conflict, more bloodshed—we are left with a compelling need:

Since shame is more pathological than guilt—both socially and spiritually—we must learn to communicate the gospel of Christ as more than a cure for sin-and-guilt, but also as a cure for sin-and-shame.

Yes, the atonement of Jesus Christ is the solution to the problem of guilt and condemnation from God. But what if the atonement was also the covering of our shame and the restoration of our honor before God?{5]

Wouldn’t this be more attractive for persons and peoples who are saturated by the cultural value of honor and shame—including multitudes in the Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim worlds?

Wouldn’t this be a more global gospel?

 This blog post is excerpted in part from my book, THE GLOBAL GOSPEL: Achieving Missional Impact in Our Multicultural World.

1. June Tangney and Ronda Dearing, Shame and Guilt (New York: Guilford Press, 2002), 25.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid., p. 180.
5. How the atonement of Christ overlaps with ten different honor/shame dynamics is the subject of Section 3 of my book, The Global Gospel.

You CAN contextualize the gospel in the language of honor and shame

I had the privilege of doing a workshop today for ISI (International Students Inc) at Phoenix Seminary. It was a dynamic, electric time of interaction and learning from one another. I am so grateful for the opportunity. Here’s the presentation I used (below).

It was also great to sell numerous copies of The Global Gospel as well as several packs of “The Father’s Love Booklet”.

I am observing a real hunger among people engaged in cross-cultural ministry to understand how the Bible’s pivotal cultural value of honor and shame relates to serving people in our world today.