January 29, 2016
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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.”
January 15, 2016
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Many Christians believe politics to be a necessary evil. In other words, politics exist only because sin is present in man and the world. We only need political governance because our sinfulness requires it. God should be our ruler and not man! Further, Paul’s statement in Romans 13 that God has put in place those in government is only the case because of the sinful state in which man finds himself.
But is this the case? Is politics a necessary evil? Is it an evil institution by definition? Or is the political governance of people a necessary part of human existence regardless of the presence of sin?
Authors Bruce Ashford and Chris Pappalardo argue in their new book, One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics (B&H, 2015), that a proper understanding of the nature of man, the mandates God gave man, and the governance of people, will help us to see that politics is actually a good part of God’s created order. Similar to the institution of marriage, just because people mess it up does not mean the institution is bad. Just because politics can be full of corruption, greed, and a whole host of sins, does not mean as an institution it is evil.
In the first half of the book the authors build a positive case for politics. Given that politics is simply the governance of a society and the theory and practice of influencing others in a society, politics is not inherently evil (9). Even in a world without sin, the authors point out, decisions like what side of the road cars can drive on in a given direction still need to be made. People would be engaging in politics in order to make these decisions. It is through a decision of politics that Americans drive on the right side of the road and the British drive on the left. There would still be thousands of decisions like this in a sin free world. Political governance is the social mechanism through which these decisions would be made.
With this understanding of politics in mind the authors explore various aspects of the intersection between Christianity and Americas political system which is not characterized as being Christian and is tainted by sin. Of particular interest is the attitude the authors encourage Christians to hold toward politics. Whatever the historical Christian context may be for the founding of America, it is clear that we are far removed from that and are most likely never going back. How do Christians now live in this increasingly post-Christian political climate?
As faithful Christian citizens, we must never recant our beliefs or act unethically because of pressure put upon by fellow citizens. But as flexible Christian citizens, we must accept the limitations of living in a country composed of fellow citizens who do not share our vision of the good life. (52)
The idea of a Christian American is probably lost forever but Christians ought to always be concerned for and involved in politics because it is the social mechanism of social governance that effects us all.
The second half of the book seeks to apply the first half of the book in guiding Christians how to think about seven areas of hot political and social discussion:
- Life and Death
- Marriage and Sexuality
- Economics and Wealth
- The Environment and Ecological Stewardship
- Racial Diversity and Race Relations
- Immigrants and Immigration Reform
- War and Peace
Each of the chapters first lay a biblical foundation for each issue. These are necessarily short but get to the heart of each issue. Then they are examined from the current cultural/social/political landscape. Finally, examples are given of Christians who are leading the way in the discussion of these various areas as means for guiding Christians in applying the principles the authors laid out in the first section of the book.
One Nation Under God is an accessible, biblically faithful, realistic look at politics from a Christian worldview. Though both authors are theologians and writers, and not politicians, they still write with understanding and authority on this issue. Understanding politics from a creation, fall, redemption, restoration lens helps them to see politics as the good societal structure that it is. I strongly recommend this book for any Christian especially those who are wary of contemporary politics and the Christians role within it.
I received this book for free from B&H Academic 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.”
January 4, 2016
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“I think a look at suffering humanity would lead to the realization that trauma is perhaps the greatest mission field of the twenty-first century.”
“As the people of God we have been called in any ways to serve as the rescue workers of this world. We are invited into the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ. That means we are called into the place of darkness and death because that is where he went.”
In .41 second Google will bring up over 201 million search results for the word suffering. At every moment of the day there are thousands and thousands of people suffering all around the world. While one person is experiencing a high moment in their life there are thousands of others experiencing deep and painful suffering at the same time.
We cannot avoid suffering in our own lives. Pretending, as some religions teach, that is does not exist is no help. In a world full of sin it is only a matter of time before a person experiences suffering. When we do experience it we need ways to deal with it from people who are capable of helping us.
Bringing understanding about and the healing only Christ can offer to victims of suffering and trauma Diane Langberg has written Suffering and the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores (New Growth Press, 2015). Langberg has counseled trauma victims the world over for over forty years and works with a team of experienced counselors across numerous fields to help hurting people.
There are three reasons why Langberg’s book is a must read for all professional and church counselors. First, Langberg’s forty years of trauma counseling gives her a unique perspective and vast amounts of knowledge, wisdom and skill in working with trauma victims. Her experience with a variety of trauma situations has given her a picture of the evil that suffering brings into peoples lives. From dealing with domestic abuse in the US to helping the victims of the Rwanda genocide, she has an authority like very few others in her field.
As a result of her vast experiences, Langberg is able to present the reader with a picture of the suffering in trauma from a multitude of angels. Langberg covers everything from the psychology of suffering, the spiritual effects of suffering, living day to day with suffering, grief, the church and abuse, domestic violence, and even the role shame plays in trauma. This books is a chance to sit at the foot of a uniquely qualified counselor.
The second reason this book is so good is because of Langberg’s ability to apply the gospel to victims of trauma. Central to the hope she offers in her counseling is the reality and power of the resurrection of Christ. The suffering that trauma can take people into the pits of despair. It can take them to the grave. Jesus went to the grave Himself because of and for our sin and the sin of others. He rose out of the grave to new life and that resurrection life is available to us; to those who are suffering and experiencing trauma. When all seems lost as a result of our suffering we can be found in Christ because of His suffering.
The final reason this book is a must read is because Langberg of the challenge it is to those who are counseling victims of trauma. The primary reason, she argues, that we avoid dealing with suffering is because of our own egocentrism. Not only do we want to avoid experiencing suffering in our own lives but we want to avoid it in the lives of others. We don’t want to touch the suffering of others or be touched by it. We want to distance ourselves from the sin that causes the suffering in the lives of others but in doing so we forget that it effects us as well. Langberg writes
We are not healthy doctors working with sickness. We are sick doctors who are trying to grasp the nature and impact of a life-threatening disease that has invaded our own souls, minds, and hearts. Whatever this disease has done to our so-called patients, it has done or can do to us. (30)
Christ was not egocentric when it came to the suffering of humanity. The Son of God emptied Himself of the position He had at the right hand of the Father and took on human sinful flesh in order to redeem us from its weaknesses that our sin brought on in order to bring us back to the Father with Him. This is how we are to follow Christ when it comes to helping others with their suffering. We walk and live among the dead because that is what Jesus did for us. We offer the hope of the resurrection to the dead because that is Jesus did for us. We realize that as ministers of this resurrection hope we are as much in need of it as those to whom we offer it to in the name of Christ.
Suffering and the Heart of God is an amazing book that will give readers much to chew on with regard to suffering, its victims, and the hope of the gospel. Part of the power of her approach is that she is not writing from a merely academic perspective. This is not a clinical textbook with pat and stock observations and answers. This is a book borne out of lived experience with suffering in her own life and the life of others.
This is a book that proclaims the superior healing power of the gospel over the power suffering can have in our lives.
I received this book for free from New Growth Press 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.”