If there is one thing doing theology globally has taught us is that we each have cultural blinders when it comes to reading, interpreting, and applying Scripture. All things being equal, the same book written by authors from different cultures will be a bit different. The essential truths and message may be the same but the flavor will reflect that of the person writing it.
Perhaps more than any other Christians, it is the missionary who sees this first hand every day. Especially for Westerners, taking the gospel to foreign cultures is met with various challenges. It offers an opportunity to speak the truth of the gospel into a new culture and allows the missionary to see the gospel afresh as they see new applications to the lives of those they are ministering to.
Getting a full picture of all of the implications of the gospel can take a lifetime of study. It is towards getting this full picture, as applied to various cultures, that Jayson Georges, former missionary and presently a missions worker in Atlanta, GA, has written The 3D Gospel: Ministry in Guilt, Shame, and Fear Cultures (2014). Jayson blogs about missions at HonorShame.com and developed TheCultureTest.com.
The idea behind The 3D Gospel is that each of the three major cultures tends to view the message of the gospel within the framework of its own context. For Westerners this means we tend to focus on the forgiveness of sins because we are a guilt-innocence based culture. But this is only part of the whole picture of gospel application.
The three major cultural context are as follows:
- Guilt-Innocence – This is evident in Western cultures which are more individualistic. Lawbreakers are deemed guilty and the wronged parties will seek justice or forgiveness.
- Shame-Honor – This is evident in Eastern cultures which are more group oriented. Those who bring shame to the group must seek to restore honor.
- Fear-Power – This is evident in tribal or African cultures which are more animistic. Here people seek power over the spirit world so they can avoid evil and harm.
It is in the book of Ephesians that Georges finds the presentation of the gospel that most clearly speaks to these cultures:
- Guilt-Innocence – Eph. 1:7a, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” This speaks to Western cultures where laws and consequences govern their societies. Justice is desired under the law. The justice for our sins is found in the cross and the forgiveness that is offered in Christ.
- Shame-Honor – Eph. 1:5, “In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.” This speaks to Eastern cultures where breaking cultural norms brings shame to the group and separation from it. While sin separates us from God, we are brought back into fellowship with Him, made His sons and daughters, through Christ.
- Fear-Power – Eph. 1:19-21, “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 his right had in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion.” This speaks to tribal and African cultures where there is a great fear of evil in the spirit world. There are other spiritual powers other than God but through Christ we have power over those and do not need to be afraid.
This book is full of cultural analysis for the three major cultures with a breakdown on how they view everything from the role of jobs, to weddings, and even how they view directions. The chapter on theology is particularly good as Jason begins with how these three cultural differences can be seen even at the Fall in Genesis three with Adam and Eve. This chapter then finishes with a detailed chart on God, Sin, Jesus, and Salvation is it relates to the three cultures. This would provide great content for a small group or Sunday School study on the gospel and culture.
The 3D Gospel is a unique and enlightening look at the multifaceted nature of the gospel as applied to various cultures. This is a must read for anyone going into or in foreign missions as it provides both sociological and cultural look at the world around us but also brings the gospel to bear on them as well. Layman will benefit from this book as it will expand their understanding of the gospel message in their own lives.
I received this book for free from Jayson Georges for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”