by Jayson Georges and Mark D. Baker
IVP Academic, 2016
—Reviewed by Rick Kronk, Scholar-Practitioner with Christar, Inc., Assistant Professor of Global Ministries at Toccoa Falls College, Toccoa Falls, GA
Though people of honor-shame are following Jesus more than ever, the fact remains that most people in honor-shame cultures remain unreached for the Gospel” (p. 21). Even a brief consideration of the remaining task of world evangelism shows that if the Church is going to see a completion of the Great Commission, it must find a way to effectively communicate the gospel and conceive of the Church to accommodate an honor-shame worldview paradigm. This book suggests how the Church could do that.
The authors present a practical theology of a redeemed honor-shame paradigm which is then applied. Part 1 provides an anthropological explanation and assessment of how honor and shame are expressed in cultures in contrast to guilt cultures, which are equated with Western culture(s).
Part 2 confirms this anthropological foundation by surveying honor-shame as expressed in Old and New Testament examples, with particular emphasis on Jesus’ life and ministry. Part 3, the bulk of the proposal, provides an extended discussion of how honor-shame applies to the author-defined categories of practical ministry, which include spirituality, relationships, evangelism, conversion, ethics, and community. In each case, a redeemed honor-shame paradigm is argued to serve as a legitimate, if not superior vehicle of the Christian faith.
Despite the helpful defense of the legitimacy of a redeemed honor-shame paradigm as essential to the future of the Church’s global witness and constituted life of faith, the author’s attempts to legitimize the paradigm sometimes go too far. For example, although the contrast of cultures which are dominated by an honor-shame worldview with Western, guilt cultures is helpful, the assumption that a common ‘Western’ culture can be precisely articulated is debatable and that it can be equated with ‘guilt’ culture begs the question.
Second, the suggestion that the ultimate outcome of the missio Dei (p. 135) is restored human honor misses the point widely. The objective of the missio Dei is restoration of the uninterrupted worship of God. Honor, which is intrinsic to God, is attributed to his creation as a result of its being restored to do that for which it was created.
Finally, whereas the authors rightly conclude that “the goal of discipleship is not to pivot people from a shame-based morality to a guilt-based morality, but rather is to transform people’s notions of honor and shame so they align with God’s” (p. 211) is accurate, they offer little to suggest how this transformation takes place. Behind honor-shame responses to life are deep-seated values (what is important) and beliefs (why these are important) which need a spiritual overhaul (Rom. 12:1-2).
The timeliness of this book cannot be missed in light of the current global migration crisis which primarily involves those from homelands steeped in honor-shame cultures. As the Church in the West is increasingly exposed to those of an honor-shame worldview, it cannot ignore the appeal by the authors to allow a redeemed honor-shame paradigm to serve as an appropriate category for gospel proclamation, as well as a suitable relational pattern for life in the Church.
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EMQ, Vol. 53, No. 3. Copyright © 2017 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.