Top Books on Honor-Shame Ethics

A stream of 21st-century philosophers are rehabilitating honor in philosophical discourse. Even the collaborative website www.HonorEthics.org is “devoted to the study of honor as an ethical value.” These philosophers argue how honor and shame can be redemptive moral values. As one philosopher says,

“honor is purportedly archaic, primitive, violent, patriarchal, vain superficial, discriminatory, conformist, and even silly, [but] we can ignore or banish honor only at our peril. … We need a sense of honor, one duly cleansed of the undeniable ills of honor’s past.”

This post introduces the main philosophy publications on honor-shame.

Top Popular Books

Three books stand out as most readable. These are written for popular audiences, using everyday language with engaging examples.

  1. The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen (2010), by Anthony Appiah. This readable book offers four case studies of moral revolutions—i.e., dueling, foot binding, slave trade, and honor killing—in which altering notions of honor caused positive social changes. A thoughtful reflection on the important concept of “honor codes.”
  1. Is Shame Necessary?: New Uses for an Old Tool (2015), by Jennifer Jacquet. A short, engaging exploration into social shame and how it might be used to promote large-scale political change and social reform. Guilt shapes individual behavior but fails to change social institutions.
  1. Why Honor Matters (2018), by Tamler Sommers. This recent book convincingly argues for restoring honor to the center of morality. For Sommers, honor offers a solution to the problems of Western liberalism such as alienation, shameless, and cowardiceness. This book is persuasive and provocative. For more, read the reviews by Jackson Wu and Werner Mishcke.

 “On the Obsolescence of the Concept of Honor,”(1983) by Peter Berger in Revisions: Changing Perspectives in Moral Philosophy (p. 172-81) is a classic worth reading. He explains how Western society is shifting from honor morality to dignity morality. 

Another quality book is Honor: A History by James Bowman. He emphasizes on the decline of honor in the the West. 

There are also several academic works. These are technical works, most beneficial for doctoral students or insomniacs.

  • Bagby, Laurie M. Johnson. 2009. Thomas Hobbes: Turning Point for Honor. Lanham: Lexington Books.
  • Cunningham, Anthony. 2013. Modern Honor: A Philosophical Defense. New York: Routledge.
  • Deonna, Julien A., Raffaele Rodogno, and Fabrice Teroni. 2011. In Defense of Shame: The Faces of an Emotion. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Fan, Ruiping. 2010. Reconstructionist Confucianism: Rethinking Morality after the West. New York: Springer.
  • Olsthoorn, Peter. 2015. Honor in Political and Moral Philosophy. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
  • Oprisko, Robert L. 2012. Honor: A Phenomenology. New York: Routledge.
  • Sessions, William Lad. 2010. Honor for Us: A Philosophical Analysis, Interpretation and Defense. New York: Continuum.
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CT Interview with Jackson Wu

Christianity Today has published my interview with Jackson Wu about his latest book Reading Romans with Eastern EyesAs their title says, “There’s More to Romans than Personal Salvation.”

I enjoyed learning about the backstory of this book from Jackson. The article is short and offers a nice overview of the book. Happy reading!

 

 

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Workshops for the 2020 Honor-Shame Conference

Workshops were a highlight of the 2017 Honor-Shame Conference. The topics and speakers were excellent. So we are excited to organize more workshops for the 2020 Honor-Shame Conference.  

We are currently accepting submissions for workshop presentations. Complete this form by October 15 to be considered. 

Twenty-eight excellent workshops will be presented at the Honor-Shame Conference. These alone are reason enough to register and attend! The following people plan to lead a workshop presentation at next year’s gathering:

  • Gerry Breshears, professor of systematic theology and chair of the Division of Biblical and Theological Studies at Western Seminary
  • Duane Elmer, director of the Ph.D. program in educational studies and the G. W. Aldeen Chair of International Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
  • Audrey Frank, author/speaker, Fellow at The Truth Collective
  • Sunny Hong, intercultural consultant with SIL International and Wycliffe Bible Translators
  • Philip Jamieson, president of United Methodist Foundation for the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences
  • Joshua Jipp, associate professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
  • Jukka Kääriäinen, associate professor of systematic theology at China Lutheran Seminary in Hsinchu, Taiwan
  • Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary 
  • Samuel Melvin, founder of The Church and Race Ministries
  • Juliet November, author and cross-cultural worker in Thailand
  • E. Randolph Richards, professor of biblical studies and provost at Palm Beach Atlantic University
  • Ken Roberts serves with Pioneers Int’l, and has walked alongside Hindus in India and America for over 10 years
  • Sheryl Takagi Silzer, adjunct professor at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University
  • Chris Sneller, director of innovation at Bridges International, a division of Cru
  • Trey Thomas, cross-cultural trainer, East Asia
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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Shaming

Shaming people can be a powerful tool for changing behavior and establishing norms. Jennifer Jacquet (Professor of Environmental Studies at New York University) in Is Shame Necessary?: New Uses for an Old Tool explains how people can shame selectively and effectively.

This post is a summary of her “7 habits of highly effective shaming.” Her suggestions focus on shaming large institutions such as governments and corporations. Keep in mind that these guidelines are not biblical principles per se. These principles do not apply to restorative shaming in personal relationships or small communities. The focus is on institutional shaming for systemic change.  

  1. The audience should care. The social group that learns about the shameful behavior should also be the victim. If a company is polluting a town’s water supply, their shameful behavior should be exposed to those citizens to get them engaged. However, when the pizza man delivers the wrong pizza, that doesn’t affect other people—so there is no need to rant on Twitter, just call the company directly.
  1. The actual behavior should not be desired. There must be a big gap between reality and expectations. Shame is a strong solution. Like antibiotics, you don’t want to overuse it, or it loses its effect. So, shame should be reserved for extreme circumstances.
  1. Formal punishment should be absent. Shaming is a last resort, not a preferred option. You should first try to work through established protocol and systems as much as possible. But when legal recourse of intuitional structures does not allow justice, shame may be your best tool. For example, the financial industry received a $245 billion tax-payer bailout in 2008, then paid executives $20 billion bonuses and took lavish corporate retreats. There was nothing technically illegal with that behavior, so President Obama called them out as “shameful.” The U.N.’s Declaration on Human Rights has no legal teeth, so organizations like Human Rights Watch investigate and expose shameful behavior to enforce behavior.
  1. The transgressor should feel ashamed. The person should be sensitive to the group’s opinion. The source of the shaming is important. Shaming works when it comes from a member of the in-group. This works because the shamed do not want to be excluded from the group; they feel the threat of rejection. So, the people who are exposed must always have a chance to reintegrate into the group. The group must have a process of re-honoring the exposed.
  1. The audience should trust the shamer. People who shame must have credibility. If you expose someone, will others trust your report, or will they suspect your motives? The shame must be above reproach as well. An evangelical leader who says “morality matters” but gets caught cheating has no integrity. A government that lectures other countries on human rights loses credibility when they torture people.
  1. Shaming should have definite benefits. Our attention is limited, so frivolous shaming accomplishes nothing. When a problem is large scale, focus your intent on a specific incident. To limit fossil fuels, shaming 3 billion people won’t work, but you could expose the antics of oil producers to shape behavior. The various “Dirty Dozen” lists are examples of focused shaming.
  1. Implement strategically. Your method for shaming should be carefully considered. You must engage an audience. Sometimes the mere threat of shame suffices: a letter informing people that the names of all non-voters would be listed in the local paper had a significant increase in voter turnout. Other times you need a long-term plan: the ministry Open Doors publishes the “World Watch List,” an annual report of the top 50 countries where Christian persecution is most severe. This helps makes religious persecution a factor in international relations.

Conclusion

These 7 habits are not a moral justification for shaming. Rather, they are descriptions of how shaming can be an effective tool for changing behavior. In that regard, I find Jacquet’s list (and entire book) an insightful reflection on the positive uses of shame.

 

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How to Shame…Biblically

People who act shamelessly should incur a sense of shame.The apostle Paul explicitly shamed fellow believers, on several occasions:

I say this to your shame. (1 Cor 6:5)

I say this to your shame. (1 Cor 15:34)

Take note of those who do not obey what we say in this letter; have nothing to do with them, so that they may be ashamed. Do not regard them as enemies but warn them as believers. (2 Thess 3:14-15)

But at a time in Western culture when any form of shaming is considered oppressive and hateful, how can shame be a good thing? In other words, how can we shame biblically? In Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures, we summarize:

The threat of potential shame acts like a cultural stop sign, helping to preserve dignity and avoid offensive actions. Even though the experience of shame will be painful, we can affirm a group’s shaming when (1) the action in question is something God would consider shameful, and (2) the intent of the shaming is restoring the person to right living and right relationship with God and others. This “reintegrative” shaming is restorative and temporary.  (p. 44)

Let’s explore these two characteristics of biblical shaming.

1. Theological Shame

The action in question must be shameful in God’s eyes. We should only shame sin. Our shaming should expose people to their theological shame before God. People need to realize how their behavior has dishonored God, and thus placed themselves in a state of spiritual shame. Biblical shame involves bringing sin into the light. I appreciate John Piper’s insights here:

Well-placed shame (the kind you ought to have) is the shame we feel when there is good reason to feel it. Biblically that means we feel ashamed of something because our involvement in it was dishonoring to God. We ought to feel shame when we have a hand in bringing dishonor upon God by our attitudes or actions. (Faith in Future Grace, 129)

But tragically, the social shame most people experience is not legitimately shameful. The cultural definition of what is shameful has been warped and twisted. People carry the burden of shame for the wrong things, and this explains our innate suspicion of any shame. Shame has become a manipulative tool to influence, control, and demean at a purely social level, not a process of revealing someone’s condition before the Glorious God.

2. Restorative Shame.

The goal of God’s salvific work in history is community. God wants people to commune with himself and fellow believers for his glory. God is working in this age to form the church, the new people of God. So in that light, the goal of shaming is to strengthen God’s community. The goal of shaming is not to manipulate people into following Christians rules or attend programs, as is often the case. The primary focus of our shaming should be on relationships, not behavior.

Biblical shaming is restorative. The aim is to reintegrate people into the community. Sin ruptures relationships, but shame can also be used to reverse that rupture, to restore and strengthen social bonds. Healthy shame helps people see how they have hurt and dishonored others (including God). The process creates a pathway for the wrongdoer to right the relationship.

Shame involves isolation and alienation. So, when people sin and break relationships, they already have a sense of shame. Therefore, biblical shaming merely helps people to recognize that shame of their broken relationship. Biblical shaming is helping them understand and overcome the shame that is already present. 

Sadly, most shaming is the opposite of restorative—punitive and disintegrative. Unhealthy shaming punishes the offender and makes a spectacle of their behavior. The person is stigmatized and disgraced. The focus on unhealthy control is enforcing the social rules and maintaining power, not sanctification.

Here is an obvious issue—if the aim of shaming is restorative, then biblical shaming can only happen within community. Without community, healthy shaming is not possible because there is no community to which people can be restored. The absence of community (especially in America today) explains why shaming pushes people away instead of drawing them back into relationships.

These two points are general principles. Wisdom is needed to apply them in specific contexts and particular relationships. Thoughts or comments? Please share below.

 

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New Series: Ethics in Honor-Shame Cultures

Honor-shame is a moral system. Collectivistic cultures use honor and shame to define and enforce ethics. 

This claim may seem strange to Westerners, who generally assume that guilt-cultures believe in right and wrong, but shame cultures do not. This idea that honor-shame cultures are morally inferior dates back to 19th-century evolutionary models of cultures and continues into the present. A recent Gospel Coalition article suggested an honor-shame culture “diminishes disobedience or lacks categories for transgression.” Such thinking is unbiblical, if not ethnocentric. 

Honor-shame cultures do have a moral paradigm and sense of ethics. But this system of ethics is often overlooked and misrepresented by Westerners. Ironically, people of honor-shame cultures perceive individual, guilt-oriented cultures as being immoral and unethical.

To effect moral change (i.e., discipleship) in honor-shame cultures we must rightly understand how ethics works in collectivistic cultures. Confucius offers a nice summary of honor-shame ethics—”Guide [people] by laws, keep them in line with punishments, and they will avoid wrongdoing but will have no sense of honor and shame. Lead them with virtue and regulate them by rites, and they will have a sense of shame and, moreover, set themselves right.” (Analects 2:3).

This series approaches honor-shame ethics from various angles. Forthcoming posts will include:

  • How to Shame…Biblically
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective Shamers
  • The Best Books on Honor-Shame Ethics
  • The Ethics of Patronage
  • How to Confront Sin
  • “Guilt Cultures Don’t Believe in Sin!”

Past posts at HonorShame.com which also address ethics:

For a deeper look into this topic, you can watch the training video “Transforming Honor.”

 

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Register Now: Honor-Shame Conference (Wheaton, 2020)

You can register now for the:

Join us for the 2020 Honor-Shame Conference (June 8-10, 2020 at Wheaton College) to explore how honor and shame influence the gospel, the Church, and disciplines including theology, missiology, pastoral ministry, and counseling. Connect with others who are learning, applying, and researching about honor-shame in Christian ministry and theology. 

Cost

The conference cost of $339 includes everything—sessions, campus housing, meals, and snacks. This early discount cost is only for the first 75 registrants, so register early for the best price. Visit the conference website and registration page for complete information. Interested in presenting a workshop? Submit a proposal here.

Plenary speakers

John M. G. Barclay is the Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at Durham University in Durham, England. He is considered one of today’s most influential New Testament scholars. His most recent book is Paul and the Gift (Eerdmans, 2015), which many have recognized as the most significant book on Pauline theology in years.

 

Jayson Georges (M.Div., Talbot) is the founding editor of HonorShame.com. He has served cross-culturally for 15 years, and lives in the Middle East. His books include The 3D GospelMinistering in Honor-Shame Cultures (with Mark Baker), and the forthcoming Ministering in Patronage Cultures: Biblical Models and Missional Implications.

 

Larry S. Persons (PhD, Fuller, Intercultural Studies) was born and raised in Thailand. He has lived in Southeast Asia for more than 30 years. He is the CEO of CQ Leadership Consulting in Bangkok. In addition to leadership consulting, Larry teaches “Culturally Intelligent Leadership” at the graduate business school of Chulalongkorn University. He is the author of The Way Thais Lead: Face As Social Capital.

 

Benjamin C. Shin has served as a pastor, para-church leader and professor for more than 20 years. He currently serves as Associate Professor of Bible Exposition and Director of the Asian-American Ministry track for the Doctor of Ministry at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California. He is the author (with Sheryl Silzer) of Tapestry of Grace: Untangling the Cultural Complexities of Asian American Life & Ministry.

 

Shirin Taber directs the Middle East Women’s  Leadership Network (mideastwomen.org). She is the author of Muslims Next Door and a contributor to Islam and North America: Loving our Muslim Neighbors. With the JESUS Film Project, she helped produce the film Magdalena. In 2019, Shirin begins her Ph.D. focused on the intersection of women’s right and religious freedom in Tunisia.

 

T. V. Thomas is Founder and Director of the Centre for Evangelism & World Mission (founded in 1984) in Regina, Canada. For over three decades T.V. has enjoyed trans-denominational and transcontinental ministry of speaking, teaching and networking. T.V. helps lead InterVarsity in Canada, Ethnic America Network (EAN), and Lausanne Global Diaspora Network (GDN).

 

Jackson Wu teaches theology and missiology in East Asia. His books include Saving God’s Face and One Gospel for All Nations. His forthcoming book is Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes. He blogs at jacksonwu.org, and is the book reviews editor of the mission and culture section for Themelios from The Gospel Coalition.

 

Workshop Presenters

We are accepting workshop proposals for the the 2020 Honor-Shame Conference. To submit a workshop proposal, click hereWe are planning for 28 diverse workshops, including these presenters:

  • Audrey Frank, author/speaker, Fellow at The Truth Collective
  • Sunny Hong, intercultural consultant with SIL International and Wycliffe Bible Translators
  • Philip Jamieson, president of United Methodist Foundation for the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences
  • Joshua Jipp, associate professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
  • Jukka Kääriäinen, associate professor of systematic theology at China Lutheran Seminary in Hsinchu, Taiwan
  • Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary 
  • Samuel Melvin, founder of The Church and Race Ministries
  • Juliet November, author and cross-cultural worker in Thailand
  • E. Randolph Richards, professor of biblical studies and provost at Palm Beach Atlantic University
  • Ken Roberts, serves with Pioneers Int’l, and has walked alongside Hindus in India and America for over 10 years
  • Sheryl Takagi Silzer, adjunct professor at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University
  • Chris Sneller, director of innovation at Bridges International, a division of Cru
  • Trey Thomas, cross-cultural trainer, East Asia

Visit the conference website for complete and updated information. 

 

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Updated Data for The Global Culture Map

The data for the “Global Map of Culture Types” has been updated and doubled. Click here to view and use the map. 

This free, interactive tool visualizes all results from TheCultureTest.com. The initial launch (March 2018) included data from the first 23,000 respondents. I have added another 24,000 results, so the map now shows a total of 47,000 results. 

 

Tips for Usage

  • For best viewing results, access the map on a computer (not smartphone) and click the square full-screen icon on the bottom right.
  • To see the summary results of a country, just scroll over it with the pointer. 
  • To view the full data of a country, click the country, then click the icon of lines after the word “exclude.”
  • To filter the data, use the tools on the right. For a description of the filters, see here. This page also has information about permission and credits.
  • Keep in mind the map has limitations and issues, as I discussed in this post

This map is free and open to the public, with the the hope that it will spur missiological reflection. Let me know if you are interested in conducted extensive research of this data (info@honorshame.com), as I’d be glad to help however possible.

 

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Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes (Jackson Wu)

Do you want to see Romans from an honor-shame perspective? Here is the book!

Jackson Wu’s latest book, Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes: Honor and Shame in Pauls’ Message and Mission (IVP Academic) is now available at just $14. Here is the publisher’s description:

What does it mean to “read Romans with Eastern eyes”? Combining research from Asian scholars with his many years of experience living and working in East Asia, Jackson directs our attention to Paul’s letter to the Romans. He argues that some traditional East Asian cultural values are closer to those of the first-century biblical world than common Western cultural values. In addition, he adds his voice to the scholarship engaging the values of honor and shame in particular and their influence on biblical interpretation. As readers, we bring our own cultural fluencies and values to the text. Our biases and backgrounds influence what we observe―and what we overlook. This book helps us consider ways we sometimes miss valuable insights because of widespread cultural blind spots. In Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes, Jackson demonstrates how paying attention to East Asian culture provides a helpful lens for interpreting Paul’s most complex letter. When read this way, we see how honor and shame shape so much of Paul’s message and mission.

When I teach on honor-shame people inevitably ask, “What about Romans?” They assume the book is foremost about guilt and forgiveness. Scholars are now rethinking such Reformation assumptions about Romans. Jackson Wu demonstrates how honor-shame not only informs the book of Romans, but plays a central role in Paul’s entire letter. The chapter-by-chapter analysis combines exegesis, biblical theology, and missional application in a delightful way.

Jackson has also released a short video and recent blogposts related to this book. Happy reading!

 

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Malachi 1 (HSP)

The honor-shame paraphrase of Malachi 1 is from the recent book Malachi: An Honor-Shame Paraphraseby Jayson Georges.


A message from Yahweh to his people Israel, through Malachi.1

God’s Proven Covenant Loyalty

Yahweh says, “Israel, you have always been my special people. So why do you doubt my trustworthiness or loyalty toward you? Your current struggles as a nation shouldn’t make you feel rejected or cast aside.”2

“Look how I destroyed your cousin Esau—that demonstrates my covenant loyalty with you Israelites. They are the rejected ones. Their land is a complete dump, a ghost town. Edom is nothing. And even if they try to rebuild, I will prevent them,” says Yahweh the Sovereign. “Everyone will scorn Edom as ‘The Wicked People.’ I am entirely against them, and entirely for you. Your eyes will see my faithfulness, and your tongues will honor me, ‘Great and glorious in all the earth is Yahweh, our God.’”3–5

Israel’s Polluted and Dishonoring Offerings

“Shouldn’t a son honor his father? Shouldn’t a servant respect the master? Of course! But you dishonor me, though I’m your Father! And you disrespect me, though I’m your master!” says Yahweh the Sovereign. “You priests trample all over my name. You belittle my glory. Let me tell you how you insult my honor—you present disgusting offerings to me in the temple as though I’m insignificant.”6

“Then you have the nerve to ask me, ‘But how have our crippled animals tarnished your name?’ Are you really serious—have you no shame? Your question alone insults me. When you bring me a worthless offering, that is morally wrong! It is evil to blemish my name. The nasty animals you present to me belittle my majesty.”7–8a

“Imagine you go visit your governor. Would you take him dirty socks as a gift? Never! He would not welcome you, nor would he grant your request. Rather, that governor would scold you publicly for such an insult! But nevertheless, this is what you are doing to me—offering a lame gift, then expecting kind favors. Do you really think I’m pleased to receive what you offer?” says Yahweh the Sovereign. “It would be better to close the temple and end our relationship. Your attempts at worship are vomitus. You are disgusting and unworthy of my presence. And I refuse to accept the insults you bring me,” says Yahweh.8b–10

“The entire world (except you!) knows and reveres my name. People everywhere give homage to my name with their finest offerings. My name is famous in the entire world. The nations honor me,” says Yahweh the Sovereign.10-11

“But Israel, my special people who should exalt me, steps upon my face. Your behavior reveals what you really think: ‘God’s house isn’t worthy of respect. It doesn’t matter if we bring gross food to him.’ Without a trace of joy, you toss me your scraps as though I’m burdening you,” says Yahweh the Sovereign. “Do you really think I should accept your mangled, diseased offerings as a gift of thanks? Shame on you! You have a nice animal to offer and even promise before others to bring it to me, then you present a defective animal. This is an utter disgrace! Do you know who I am? I am the great King. I am far higher than your local governor, whom you would not dare disrespect. Even if my own people defame me, my glorious name is honored by all peoples,” says Yahweh the Sovereign.12–14

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New Book—Malachi: An Honor-Shame Paraphrase

The new book Malachi An Honor-Shame Paraphrase is now available, for just $2.99 (Kindle edition). Along with 1 PeterEsther, Psalms, and James, this is the fifth title in the Honor-Shame Paraphrase series. 

The prophetic book of Malachi reveals the nature of Israel’s covenant relationships with God in the Old Testament. Malachi rebukes Israel for shaming God and calls them to an honoring life. Through this short, dynamic book, we can glimpse into the entire theology of the Old Testament and religious mindset of ancient Israelites. 

Readers often misinterpret Scripture for a simple reason—our culture is very different from the ancient cultures of the Bible. For example, Westerners are often “blind” to the social dynamics of honor and shame. The Honor-Shame Paraphrase helps you understand the Bible according to its original cultural context. We highlight social nuances to unlock the meaning of Scripture in insightful and accessible ways. This series is ideal for personal devotions, teaching preparation, ministry preparation, Bible studies, and life groups.

Learn more about the Honor-Shame Paraphrase series, or buy the book here. Click here to request a free PDF copy for classroom use or public review. The next post will feature the honor-shame paraphrase of Malachi chapter 1. 

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“Husbands, Honour Your Wives” (1 Peter 3:7)

Andrew Bartlett, QC of Crown Office Chambers, London, is a highly-rated international arbitrator, and also a Deputy High Court Judge in England and Judge of the Upper Tribunal. He has a BA in Theology (University of Gloucestershire) and has served as an elder or churchwarden in various churches. This post is excerpted from his new book Men and Women in Christ: Fresh Light from the Biblical Texts (IVP, 2019).


The paying of honour to the wife in I Peter 3:7 is not a concession to her relative physical weakness but a recognition of her high status.

The honouring of another person may take place either in a situation where the person honoured is in authority over the person who pays honour (as in I Peter 2:17 – honour the emperor) or where there is no such authority (again as in I Peter 2:17 – honour everyone). An instruction to pay honour does not necessarily imply that such authority exists.

Honour was a concept of central social importance in the Mediterranean societies in which Peter lived and ministered. This is not the case in Western societies today, so it is easy for us to miss the force of what Peter writes about it. A person could gain great honour by being adopted into a high-status family. For example, Octavian’s honour status rose enormously when it became known that Julius Caesar had adopted him as his son and named him as his heir. Octavian subsequently became the Emperor Augustus, and as Caesar’s son styled himself ‘son of god’. There was no higher honour status than this in Gentile society. To be born into or adopted into the true God’s family, and named as an heir of the true God, was even greater than this: it was the highest honour status imaginable. This is the Christian believer’s position (see, 1:4 ‘inheritance’; 1:23 ‘born anew’; 2:9 ‘a people belonging to God’; cf. deSilva, Honor, Patronage, Kinship and Purity, 23–29).

In most English versions the connection of 3:7 with 2:17 is not apparent: one would not appreciate from those versions that Peter says ‘honour [timaō] everyone, honour [timaō] the emperor’ and then ‘men, render honour [timē] to your wives’. But this would have been clear to Peter’s first readers, who should not have misunderstood 3:1–7 as affirming that men have a God-given status of being lords over their wives. He has told wives to submit to their husbands. ‘In the same way’ husbands are to pay honour to their wives.

Thus in 3:7 Peter is instructing husbands to show their submissive conduct, like that of wives (3:1), of Christ (2:21), of household slaves (2:18) and of all believers (2:13). They are to do this by honouring their wives in view of their shared highest possible status as God’s heirs in God’s family. This speaks of equality between husband and wife as fellow Christians, and a voluntary giving of honour by husband to wife.

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My Attempts to Visualize Honor & Shame

I use mostly words to explain honor and shame. I write out my ideas in books, articles, and blogposts. I regret not being more artistic, because honor and shame can also be powerfully communicated visually. On a few occasions, I’ve had the opportunity to represent honor and shame visually.

I consider these visual designs as essential parts of the honor-shame message. Each piece is the result of an intentional design process. This post explains my attempts to visualize honor and shame. Hopefully, this helps you better understand honor and shame and consider non-verbal ways to communicate those concepts

1. The HonorShame.com Logo

The HonorShame.com logo (developed by Josh Feit of www.Evangela.com) was constructed on a grid of 25 equilateral diamonds. The identical shapes—the second rotated 180 degrees from the first—construct a broken letter ‘S’, which is divided by the ‘H’ created in the negative space. The “H”onor breaks apart “S”hame. The two pieces of the “S” are then combined for the background design.

This design broadly invokes the artistic patterns of honor-shame cultures, without being confined to any particular culture. The red tones evoke the color of blood—a rich symbol for both honor and shame.

2. The 3D Gospel

Every genre has a certain look and feel. You can distinguish a romance novel from a historical biography by observing the fonts, colors, and styles. The cover of ministry books, like The 3D Gospel, often depict the idea of culture, often by showing non-Western faces or something “foreign.” I wanted to depict the diversity of humanity in a dignifying, but not otherizing manner. 

The image combines the dignified profile of six different people: a white/European, a Chinese, a black African, a Middle Easterner, an Indian, and a tribal person. Each of those groups represents around 1 billion people, so together, they roughly represent the global population. Plus, there is balance in regard to gender and age. The gospel is for every person, no exceptions. I purposefully included a Western/European face to show Western culture is one particular culture among others. This affirms the main point of my book—that guilt-theology, shame-theology, and fear-theology are equally valid in Scripture.

I also wanted to illustrate the completeness and wholeness to the gospel. There are not 3 gospels, but 1 three-dimensional gospel. This unity and universality comes together in the single face that is the focal point of the image. The result is a memorable, compelling cover image.

3. Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures

The most common visual for honor-shame is a downward-looking or covered face. I hate that visual. It is lazy, clichéd, demeaning, and inaccurate. And even worse, the face is usually an Asian or women, as if white men don’t deal with shame! We wanted to convey honor and shame without locating the concepts in any particular human. David Fassett, IVP’s award-winning designer, hit a homerun with his beautiful visualization of honor and shame.

The top portion features the heavens, a place of exaltation and divine glory. The lower part is parched dirt, a symbol of disgrace and death. The cover also has two icons: a crown representing royal honor and a trash meaning worthless and rejected. The colors of royal gold and charcoal gray reinforce these values.

The first mock-up featured a teardrop icon on bottom (instead of the trash can), but we felt that reflected the Western definition of shame (a private emotion) more than the biblical reality (a communal evaluation). The central portion features the title, with special prominence given to the words “Honor-Shame,” our desired focal point. I was happy our author names are on the top portion of the cover and not in the dirt!

4. The Honor-Shame Paraphrase

For this cover, I hired David Fassett of InterVarsity Press. I asked him to illustrate this idea—“cultural insights of the Bible made accessible and engaging.” I wanted the Honor-Shame Paraphrase series cover to feel practical (but not sentimental) like a bible study series, and also insightful (but not academic) like a commentary series.

The bold geometrical shapes communicate the authority and confidence of Scripture. Yet, the red Bible ribbon flowing through the cover shows my paraphrase is not definitive or final. The red ribbon also suggests the Bible is laced with honor and shame.  

Regarding the two icons on the picture, the designer David Fassett explained, “Since there is a strong dichotomy involved in the title, I thought it would lend itself well to visual interpretation. The top symbol is intended to allude to a crown or mountains to symbolize honor. The shape at the bottom is playing off the same shapes as the top symbol, only highly distorted/inverted. It’s meant to convey a sense of failure or turmoil. The position of each element is important conceptually too, the top symbolizing raised up/elevated by the group and the bottom symbolizing shame and rejection. I think the bottom shape also feels like a wadded-up piece of paper, which further reinforces the idea.”

These visual elements reflect the social aspects of honor and shame, plus the hermeneutical contrasts of clarity and confusion. These same motifs are echoed by the two contrasting triangles (one right side up and white, the other upside down and black) that fill the front cover. Put together, these elements communicate the aim of the Honor-Shame Paraphrase—accessible biblical insights.

5. My Headshot

I wanted my headshot somehow to play off of the concept of “face.” So, we used darkness to create the effect of being “faceless.” Yet, the emerging light suggests brightness shining on my face as though I am beholding glory face to face.

The picture thus captures both elements of honor and shame. The photographer David Park did a great job with the lighting. In a pitch-black room, I held a flashlight in front of my face while he photographed the back of my head. 

Conclusion

I am truly grateful for such talented creators who helped me visually express honor and shame. They did an amazing job using visuals to reinforce the concepts.

As you endeavor to communicate the biblical realities of honor and shame, consider the visual and non-discursive ways you can reinforce your teaching content.

 

Posted in Communication, Culture, Honor-Shame Paraphrase, Spirituality, Theology Tagged with: ,

Honor-Shame Conference (June, 2020)—Save the Date!

Following the success of the first Honor-Shame Conference (2017), we are excited to announce:

The Honor-Shame Conference: Reconciling the Nations

The conference will be June 8–10, 2020 at Wheaton College (near Chicago). Please mark your calendars!

Would you like to conduct a workshop? We will be accepting proposal submissions. More information will be provided in the coming months.

Plenary speakers

John M. G. Barclay is the Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at Durham University in Durham, England. He is considered one of today’s most influential New Testament scholars. His most recent book is Paul and the Gift (Eerdmans, 2015), which many have recognized as the most significant book on Pauline theology in years.

 

Jayson Georges (M.Div., Talbot) is the founding editor of HonorShame.com. He has served cross-culturally for 15 years, and lives in the Middle East. His books include The 3D GospelMinistering in Honor-Shame Cultures (with Mark Baker), and the forthcoming Ministering in Patronage Cultures: Biblical Models and Missional Implications.

 

Larry S. Persons (PhD, Fuller, Intercultural Studies) was born and raised in Thailand. He has lived in Southeast Asia for more than 30 years. He is the CEO of CQ Leadership Consulting in Bangkok. In addition to leadership consulting, Larry teaches “Culturally Intelligent Leadership” at the graduate business school of Chulalongkorn University. He is the author of The Way Thais Lead: Face As Social Capital.

 

Benjamin C. Shin has served as a pastor, para-church leader and professor for more than 20 years. He currently serves as Associate Professor of Bible Exposition and Director of the Asian-American Ministry track for the Doctor of Ministry at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California. He is the author (with Sheryl Silzer) of Tapestry of Grace: Untangling the Cultural Complexities of Asian American Life & Ministry.

 

Shirin Taber directs the Middle East Women’s  Leadership Network (mideastwomen.org). She is the author of Muslims Next Door and a contributor to Islam and North America: Loving our Muslim Neighbors. With the JESUS Film Project, she helped produce the film Magdalena. In 2019, Shirin begins her Ph.D. focused on the intersection of women’s right and religious freedom in Tunisia.

 

T. V. Thomas is Founder and Director of the Centre for Evangelism & World Mission (founded in 1984) in Regina, Canada. For over three decades T.V. has enjoyed trans-denominational and transcontinental ministry of speaking, teaching and networking. T.V. helps lead InterVarsity in Canada, Ethnic America Network (EAN), and Lausanne Global Diaspora Network (GDN).

 

Jackson Wu teaches theology and missiology in East Asia. His books include Saving God’s Face and One Gospel for All Nations. His forthcoming book is Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes. He blogs at jacksonwu.org, and is the book reviews editor of the mission and culture section for Themelios from The Gospel Coalition.

Save the date of June 8–10, 2020 for the Honor-Shame Conference.

Posted in Uncategorized

Visualizing the Resurrection

Christians throughout history have used art to communicate theology. Most paintings are rather straightforward in their depiction of a gospel scene. But the scene of the resurrection of Jesus is an enigma. The miracle of Jesus’ resurrection was not directly described in the Bible. We see the results of the resurrection, but no one witnessed the actual resurrection of Jesus’s corpse inside the grave. So then, how did early Christians portray the resurrection in art?

John Dominic Crossan and Susan Sexton Crossan address this question in the recent cover article of Biblical Archeology Review, “Resurrection Easter: Hunting for the Original Resurrection Image.” They claim, “Christianity eventually produced two direct depictions of the Resurrection moment (Easter), and they are utterly different from one another.” By the year 1000 AD, both traditions were fairly fixed in their portrayal of the resurrection.

The western Church developed the Individual Resurrection in which Jesus rises alone. The focus of the scene is the empty tomb and Jesus rising from the dead in triumph.

The eastern Church developed the Universal Resurrection. Here, Jesus raises triumphant from death/Hades and leads humanity up from the grave.

Honor, Shame and the Resurrection

The eastern Church’s Universal Resurrection has clear honor-shame elements. In terms of its theology of the resurrection, the eastern (Greek) Church highlighted honor-shame more than the western (Latin) Church.

The Resurrection (Dark Church, Goreme)

First, the eastern image of Anastasis (Greek, resurrection) portrays a collectivistic victory. Jesus pulls Adam and Eve, representatives of Humanity, up out of the grave. Old Testament figures David and Solomon watch and participate from the right side. In some depictions, more saints stand with Adam and Eve. Jesus rises with the saints.

Second, the Anastasis scene symbolizes the restoration of status. Creation is put back into place. The divine hierarchy gets restored. Jesus raises humanity. In the image, Jesus grabs Adam by the wrist to indicate how humans completely rely upon God. Moreover, Jesus puts down God’s enemies. Death is broken and destroyed. Jesus steps on the head of Hades. Death fails to hold Adam down. Humanity, once a slave under the rule of sin and death, now rises above them with Christ. The resurrection redraws the social hierarchy. Such status reversal is a common motif of biblical salvation.

The Bible Says….

So, which image better conforms to the New Testament picture of Jesus’ resurrection? Crossan and Crossan suggest the eastern image of universal resurrection seems closer to the biblical vision of Jesus’ resurrection. Matthew 27:53 says “many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.” In 1 Cor 15, Paul portrays the resurrection as a collective event. In the Old Testament, the resurrection of the dead is a revival of all God’s people, not a special favor for just one person. Paul also says, “we have been raised with Christ” (Col 3:1; cf. Eph 2:6). The resurrection is the collectivistic restoration of humanity to glory.

 

Posted in Bible, Christology, Honor Tagged with: , , , ,

Not Taking Revenge (Ajith Fernando)

Ajith Fernando (ThM, Fuller) serves as the teaching director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka. This post is from his latest book, Discipling in A Multicultural World (Crossway, 2019), which has a strong focus on practical discipleship in honor-shame oriented cultures. This excerpt from pp. 215-16 is used by permission from the publisher.


It is very difficult for new believers in most cultures to accept that Christians must not take revenge. When I tell them this after someone has hurt them, some respond that I can follow that principle as a mature Christian, but it is impossible for them. In many cultures, when some- one has dishonored you, it is wrong not to restore your honor or that of your family or friend through revenge. Dishonoring the wrongdoer is seen as the way to restore honor. However much we teach about this, the natural reaction to being hit by another is to hit back. Jesus’s statement “But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt. 5:39) is considered impossible to practice in today’s world.

Here too the dual emphasis on community and the doctrine of God helps. The community changes its value system by turning the refusal to take revenge into an honorable practice—a high value. We expound this principle often in our teaching and preaching. We show how true healing takes place when there is forgiveness. When teaching what it means to obey God, we will use as illustrations vivid stories of Christians who forgave and refused to retaliate. We present the heroism of honorable forgiveness and the healing it brings. As I have said often in this book, values are changed through constant exposure to the truth.

The doctrine of God gives the logic of why revenge is not necessary. Paul says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Rom. 12:19). The logic of this is that dishonor will indeed come at the final judgment to those who hurt us (unless they repent). God will repay. We show how the doctrine of judgment is an antidote to bitterness. People who have been hurt are angry that wrongdoers have gotten away with it. They haven’t. God will repay.  Later in Romans Paul will say that this repayment of evil is sometimes done by government authorities, to whom God has entrusted the task of rewarding good and punishing evil (Romans 13). If we tried to take revenge, we would make a mess of it. Instead, we do something we can do, something that will help heal us: we activate love in the place of hatred. So Paul goes on to say, “To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head’” (Rom. 12:20). The result of this process, says Paul, is honor for us, for we have won a victory: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). The logic is based on the doctrine of God, but the language uses honor-shame criteria. …

We must labor to help our people to have this transformed mind— with its new sense of values that looks at truthfulness and the refusal to take revenge as honorable things.

 

Posted in Culture, ethics, leadership, Missiology, Uncategorized Tagged with: ,

Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

From an honor-shame perspective, why did Jesus have to die?

This is a common question people ask, and is worth exploring. Reflecting on this topic exposes some cultural assumptions and helps us to better understand biblical salvation.

The Issue

The question is about the necessity of the atonement. Why did Christ have to die? What sort of moral/cosmological imperative necessitates the death of God’s son, Jesus Christ?

This question has a cultural and theological background. Western theology has long emphasized the necessity of the atonement. The reasoning runs as such:

  1. Humans violated God’s law.
  2. Justice requires that all violations must be punished.
  3. So instead of us, Jesus got punished in our place on the cross.

This line of reasoning has a clear sense of necessity. God had to die because of the dictates of justice demand consequences. Any unpunished wrong would violate divine holiness. The requirements of justice compel God to act in such a manner. This rationale resonates with Westerners because it follows a logical and legal sequence. This is the framework from which people ask about the necessity of Christ’s death.  And because this is a common explanation of the atonement, people naturally ask whether “honor-shame” has a similar explanation for the atonement.

Here are three reasons, in light of the moral logic of honor-shame, for why Christ died.

1. God’s Love

The very question “Why did Jesus have to do die?” might point us in the wrong direction. Imagine asking a newly-engaged couple, “Why did he have to give propose? What was the necessity for that action?” You can ask that question and wait for an answer from this jubilant couple, but you’d be pushing the conversation down a unique path.     

Here’s the issue. The thought of God having to do something implies there is some force/logic/morality that is outside and above God. In Western theology, the notion of “justice”—the moral dictate that violations must be punished—compels, requires, and necessitates that God acts. Or to use political speak, God can’t be “soft on crime.” We must be cautious here, lest we present “justice” as the cosmic force to which Yahweh must submit, as if God was forced into a corner. Asking about the “necessity” of the atonement can be limited and distracting

The Bible portrays God’s initiative in our salvation as his own will and desire. God saves us because he wants to. Or to use biblical language, the incarnation and crucifixion of God’s Son happened because of the “love of God.” The motive to save humans comes foremost from the heart of God, not external compulsion. Three biblical texts illustrate this point:

“The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Duet 7:7-8)

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” (John 3:16a)

Paul says the Son of God “loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20b)

And remember, biblical love is not platonic romantic feelings, but a relational commitment, covenant loyalty, hesed. God saves us because he wanted to initiate and preserve a covenant relationship with his people. God loves people. This is a significant reason for the death of Christ. God was not simply legally and morally bound by an external force, but motivated by self-giving covenant love.

I establish this point because some assume honor-shame theology can only be valid if it can explain the necessity of the atonement. My next two points do in fact explain why Jesus’ had to die, but first I wanted to establish why this question shouldn’t be the sole yardstick for soteriological paradigms. The point about God’s love functions as groundwork to help us think more clearly.

2. God’s Honor

Something does in fact compel God to act. Jesus had to die to fix the problem of sin. As any good doctor knows, you must first diagnose the problem (sin) before prescribing a solution (atonement). So what exactly is the problem of sin that Jesus’ death resolves?

Sin is a problem because it demeans and dishonors God. Sin is not merely a legal violation, but a diminishment of God’s glory.  (For more, see posts here, or Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures, pp. 68-73). So the problem that must get resolved is the erosion of God’s honor. Scripture is clear that God must get glory. The absence of God’s glory is the biggest problem in the universe.

The topic of God’s glory/honor, both its nature and necessity, is a prominent theme in Scripture and Church History. Three theologians have explored this topic: Anslem’s Cur Deus Homo, Jonathan Edwards’ The End for Which God Created the World, and John Piper’s God’s Passion for His Glory.  All three books are available online for free. Previous HonorShame.com posts have summarized both Anselm and Edwards, because of their importance.

So specifically regarding the atonement, God’s honor necessitates that Christ restore and display his honor that our sin has eroded. The restoration of God’s eroded honor is what necessitates the atonement. Or in Jackson Wu’s words, God must “save face.” After all, the glory of God is the reason he does everything.

These two paragraphs from Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures explain, from two different angles the means by which Jesus resolves the ultimate problem God’s diminished glory. 

Jesus did not only bear the consequences of sin in our place but also honored God in our place. Jesus did not fall short of God’s glory. He embodied the opposite of the human sinful ways described above. He faith- fully obeyed God; he kept covenant in a way Israel had not; he was obedient to the point of death. Unlike other humans, Jesus lived in a way that was, from God’s perspective, truly honorable. Jesus never brought shame on God’s name. He thus honored God as humans had not. Although in the Roman context Jesus’ death on the cross was the epitome of shame, from God’s perspective this ultimate act of faithful obedience was the epitome of honor (Phil 2:6–11). Jesus did what no other human could ever do—live honorably and completely honor God. Jesus brought honor to God on our behalf. (p. 111)

God works through the cross and resurrection not only to restore humans’ honor but also to display his glory. Jesus’ death demonstrates God is honorable. In contemporary honor-shame terminology we might say the cross is a “face-saving” action, or “honor death”—something done to mitigate potential shame and reserve status. The cross saves God’s face by demonstrating his ultimate loyalty and faithfulness to do what he promised. God does not renege on his promises (see Rom 3:3–7). Despite humanity’s complete lack of faithfulness and loyalty (Rom 3:9–20), God has persistently maintained his covenantal promises. The Messiah’s disgraceful death revealed God’s covenant loyalty in an unexpected way. God deserves praise because Jesus fulfills the obligations God long ago placed on himself to provide salvation (Rom 1:2; 3:21; 16:26). (p. 113)

If Jesus had not died, the glory of God would not have been fully unveiled. This is the great mystery of the Gospel—the death of God’s son reveals the glory of God.

A cultural element must be noted at this point. Honor is a foreign concept in Western culture and morality. Western philosophy has dismissed and scorned the notion of honor as outdated and harmful. Because of this cultural factor, Western Christians may struggle to understand why God’s honor is important and “necessary.” We intuitively understand the moral force behind the statement  “Justice must be satisfied,” but the phrase “God must be honored” does not comport as well in our minds. But realize that in collectivistic contexts, honor is absolutely necessary as the essence of being. And in Scripture, God’s glory is preeminent. If you struggle to understand the “necessity” of God’s honor, be aware of the cultural factors at play.

Before moving to the third reason for why Jesus had to die, there is an important point to clarify. Note the order of my three points—the first two points focus on God, and only the third speaks about salvation from the human perspective. Most theologies approach the atonement in terms of human salvation—”Why did Jesus have to die for our salvation?” But the Bible sees the atonement foremost through the character and action of God. His love and his glory are the main rationale for Jesus’ death. The removal of our sin is the means/consequence, not the ultimate goal of salvation. We humans, especially those from individualistic cultures, prefer to think the cross was all about us. But in fact, the cross was foremost the cosmic display of God’s love and glory.

3. Our Shame

Jesus has to die because of our shame. Human beings were buried in a pile of shame and disgrace. We were dishonorable and unacceptable. Though God “crowned us with glory and honor” at creation (Psalm 8:6), we lost that glory (Rom 3:23). Because of our shameful sin, we humans are outside of the covenant, we cannot see God face to face, and, worst of all, we have no capacity for fulfilling our original vocation of reflecting and expanding God’s glory to the world.

We humans cannot make ourselves acceptable, pure, or honorable enough to re-enter a covenant relationship with God. Human effort to produce honor actually increases shame (see Genesis 4–11).

Our only hope of salvation is for someone higher, someone completely honorable to remove our shame. This was Jesus. He was utterly humiliated on the cross—betrayed by fellow Jews, scourged by Romans, mocked by strangers, and abandoned by friends.  His death absorbed our shame. He was like a loving father who endures disgrace to shield his children from shame (cf. Luke 15:11–32). If Christ did not die, we would wallow in shame for all of eternity (cf. Ps 83:16–17; Isa 45:16–17; Jer 20:11; Dan 12:2).

Furthermore, Jesus’ death and resurrection proves the banality and powerlessness of worldly shame. When God vindicated and exalted the most shamed person in history, he broke the power of shame over humans.  Jesus had to die because he lived according to an alternative honor code. The distorted honor code of worldly powers and principalities reacted violently to squash Jesus’ alternative honor in order to preserve their own status. Jesus had to die to the expose the truth of God’s countercultural, cruciform honor.

Conclusion

Jesus died because (1) God wanted to express his love, (2) God’s honor must be restored, and (3) only the cross could remove human shame. God accomplished all three aspects through the death of Jesus the Messiah. For this, I can only echo Paul’s exaltation, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Rom 11:33).

Posted in Christology Tagged with: , , ,

What is “God’s Glory”?—Jonathan Edwards’ Theology

What is “the glory of God”? And, why is God’s glory so important?

Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), perhaps better than any other theologian, explains the meaning and significance of God’s glory. His book, The End for Which God Created the World argues, philosophically and biblically, that the ultimate end of God and of history is the magnification of God’s supreme glory.

The concept of “God’s glory” is central for honor-shame theology, as notions are “glory” and “honor” share strong overlap. For this reason, this post summarizes Edwards’ thought on the subject. The page numbers in citations below are from John Piper’s book God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards with the Complete Text of “The End for Which God Created the World,” which is available as a free PDF.)

The notion of honor pervades Edward’s vocabulary. He repeatedly mentions glory (500x), name (169x) value (115x), regard (114x), praise (93x), esteem (61x) worthy (51x), and honor (30x). He could speak of honor eight different ways in one sentence, “If God’s own excellency and glory is worthy to be highly valued and delighted in by him, then the value and esteem hereof by others is worthy to be regarded by him” (p. 172). A rich variety of language was necessary for Edwards “to express things of so sublime a nature” as God himself (242).

Edwards claims, “All that is ever spoken of in the Scriptures as the ultimate end of God’s works, is included in that one phrase, the glory of God” (242). God does all things for his glory (191-210), for his name’s sake (210-14), for displaying his excellencies (210-14), and for his praise (218-20)—all synonyms of God’s chief end. The glory of God signifies “the emanation and true external expression of God’s internal glory and fullness” (242).

For Edwards, God is morally disposed towards his own glory. God “loves and esteems his own excellence,” “values the glory of his own nature,” and “testifies a supreme respect to himself” (150, 158, 159). This self-glorification is morally right because God “is worthy in himself to be so [respected], being infinitely the greatest and best of beings.” (140). God’s innate disposition towards honor is not “dishonorable to him” or “unworthy of God,” for “he should value himself infinitely more than his creatures” (168–71). His holiness “consist in giving due respect to that Being to whom most is due; for God is infinitely the most worthy of regard. The worthiness of others is as nothing to his” (141). His honor is neither ascribed nor achieved; his honor simply is, for all of eternity. God should, and does, seek his own glory.

God’s glory is not static, but actively overflowing into creation for eternity; the full manifestation of God’s glory necessitates a full process. Edwards explains the pervasive extent and full course of God’s self-glorification: “The beams of glory come from God, are something of God, and are refunded back again to their original. So that the whole is of God, and in God, and to God; and he is the beginning, and the middle, and the end.” Edwards explains how the Hebrew kabod and Greek doxa are used in each of these ways. Glory, the common translation of those words, involves three aspects: (1) internal excellency or worthiness for regard, a possessed value, (2) the public exhibition of his gracious goodness, a visible effulgence, and (3) the honor he receives from creatures, praise (229–39). In sum, God has glory, displays glory, and gets glory, forever.

God’s own joy in his glorious fullness disposes him to exhibit his glory in creation, so that his glory is further known and cherished by others. God “loves to have himself valued and esteemed” (150). “God’s glory should be known by a glorious society of created beings” and esteemed according to its dignity (149). This recognition of divine supremacy is God’s aim in creation and redemption. As the sun radiates light, God’s supreme glory overflows (246). God’s internal glory and fullness are communicated; he externalizes his innate excellency. God’s own delight in his internal glory disposes him to exhibit that glory in all things: providence, creation, redemption, and eternity (191–210).

Edwards argues how God’s glory and human happiness are one end and the same. Our joyous praising of God acknowledges and exhibits his glory (246). Or, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” Salvation is receiving and returning the effulgence of divine radiance (246–47). Our delight and praise perfects the fullness of divine glory.

Our chief end as humans is to glorify God, as Edwards repeats in multiple ways. Our knowledge and happiness consists in regarding, esteeming, respecting, and exalting God as the chief good (249). Christian holiness means “the heart exalting, magnifying, or glorying God” (158). God is “pleased with the proper love, esteem, and honor of himself” (173).

The magnification of God’s supreme glory continues unabated into eternity. Edwards viewed the eternal state as “increasing union and conformity though eternity” (159–61, 249). Our knowledge and magnification of God’s glory will infinitely progress. God’s desire for his glory leads to “increasing communication of himself through eternity.” The end for which God created the world, has no end. His glory abounds forever.

Edwards, like no other theologian, offers a radical vision of God’s supreme honor in all things. From eternity past to eternity future, the ultimate end of all things is the glory of God. Edwards provides a philosophical and biblical anchor for a Christian theology of God in honor-shame terms.

 

Posted in Theology Tagged with: , , , ,

A Japanese Scapegoat for Impurity

Brian McGregor (M.Div., Columbia International University) recently Shinto: The Gospel’s Gate, a book that explores Japanese atonement concepts in light of honor and shame.


The Japanese have a particular understanding of sin. The word is 罪 tsumi, which also means crime. So ‘sinner’ is translated as 罪人tsumibito, criminal. Therefore, when a Japanese person is told that they are a sinner, they answer that they are not criminals. Their confusion is made worse when we speak of penal substitution and God’s justice in connection with salvation.

In Shintō thought, tsumi is directly related to kegare, physical and spiritual impurity. In Shintō the world is filled with spirits which must be properly served to avoid their anger and receive their blessing. One of the barriers to receiving blessing is tsumi and kegare. This echoes Jesus’ rebuke to the Pharisees to clean the inside of the cup first (Matt. 23:26). Interestingly, Shintō deals with this kegare through お祓い Oharai.

Oharai is a twice-a-year rite where participants transfer their tsumi and kegare onto a paper doll. This doll has several names – one is 贖物 agamono, which translates as ‘ransom.’ Japanese Shintō scholar Kato Genchi refers to it as an inanimate scapegoat (On Shintō). This word, scapegoat, also appears in Leviticus 16 and the rite of Yom Kippur.

Torii of Aoshima Shrine, credit

The scapegoat is anointed with the blood of the slain goat and bull and then sent into the wilderness. It is by the sending away of the live goat that the people of Israel are made clean before YHWH. And it is through the work of the agamono that the Japanese are cleansed from their tsumi and kegare.

The parallel between Oharai and Yom Kippur led me to question my understanding of words like atonement, propitiation, sin, salvation, and sanctification. But the hardest word to deal with was the Hebrew term Azazel, which is often glossed ‘scapegoat.’ Many English translations have a footnote next to the word, saying, “Hebrew word of unknown origin, believed to be a demon.”

Azazel is not a demon, it is a name that refers to Jesus, the God Who Bears Our Sin. Hebrews 9:6-28 uses Yom Kippur to describe the atonement through Jesus. The climax of the argument is in 9:23-28. Verse 28a, “so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many” (ESV) must be a reference to the live goat who bore the sins of Israel into the dessert (Lev. 16:22). Thus, scripture itself is using Yom Kippur and the live goat, le Azazel, as a typological prophecy. And I would not have learned this without trying to understand Shintō.

There are scapegoat rituals in cultures throughout the world. Leviticus 16 and Oharai provide a way to explain the gospel in shame-honor language through the lens of spiritual purity and impurity. In your context, look for a scapegoat rite which removes impurity and/or shame. It might take the most surprising form, like a paper doll. But God can use a simple piece of paper to explain the most profound and wonderful story in the world.

 

Posted in Evangelism, Jesus Christ Tagged with: , , ,

Creation to Christ Story

Andy Smith has served in Southeast Asia since 1989. He is the International Coordinator for Evangelization with OMF International.


Several years ago I learned about Creation to Christ stories. These stories summarize the Bible. Versions range from 1 minute to 60 minutes long. I find them a wonderful way to tell others about the big story of God and how we fit in it.

I initially wrote a Creation to Christ story using ‘the purpose of life’ as its theme. Because I train people who serve in many different contexts, I have written several additional Creation to Christ stories. Each one is for a specific context. Below is a 2-minute version for honor-shame contexts. Consider trying it with your friends who were shaped by that context.

A long time ago, God made the universe. Of all that He created, people were the most special. He bestowed the highest honor on them, making them in His image.

One day, people were tempted to do disobey God. After doing the shameful deed, they became separated from Him.

More and more people were born. They, too, did shameful things. However, God chose a man and promised him, “I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you, and I will bless the whole world through your descendants.” That man believed God. In the following years, God fulfilled His promise to him.

Nevertheless, people continued to do shameful things. So, God sent them messengers. Occasionally, those messengers announced that He would send a Savior who would make it possible for people’s honor to be restored.

At the right time, God sent that Savior. His name is Jesus. He performed miracles, healed the sick, and taught with authority. Those who believed He was the Promised Savior became His followers. God gave them the right to become His children.

Others refused to believe. They had Jesus arrested and put to death. Unknown to them, God was working out His plan. He put on Jesus the shame of all people. Jesus died on their behalf. Then, to give Him the greatest honor for having done so, God raised Him from the dead.

Jesus appeared to His followers. He told them that they would receive the Spirit of God who would change them from the inside out, enabling them to become honorable.

Jesus returned to heaven. As promised, His followers received the Spirit of God who changed them from the inside out.

The same is happening today. God forgives those who believe that Jesus died for them. He removes their shame and gives them the right to become His children. His Spirit changes them from the inside out, enabling them to become honorable.

I’m one of them. I enjoy helping others have their honor restored. Is this something you and your family would be interested in?

 

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