The Model of Guilt-Shame-Fear—A Short History

The idea of “guilt vs. shame” has a long history in 20th-century scholarship (see previous post). But how did the cultural model of guilt-shame-fear develop? Here is a super short history of the cultural trichotomony. 

In 1954, Christian anthropologist and linguist Eugene Nida in Customs and Cultures mentions, “We have to reckon with three different types of reactions to transgressions of religiously sanctioned codes: fear, shame, and guilt.” This is the first known mention of guilt-shame-fear, but Nida offers no further explanation. 

Psychologists in the 1960’s began to write about the internal aspects of guilt, shame, and anxiety. David Augsburger (Professor of Psychology/Counseling at Fuller) expounded the categories in several of his publications, including Conflict Mediation Across Cultures (1986). Here is his explanation:

“Anxiety, shame, and guilt are the normal and sequential control processes that emerge in the first, second, and third years of a child’s development in every culture. Each culture has its own balanced and its own integrative hierarchy of these internal controls. Tribalistic cultures are dominated by the fear/anxiety motive. Individualistic cultures generally seek to minimize anxiety and shame while socializing the child to have more of a guilt orientation, while many collectivistic cultures generally tend to encourage a shame orientation. … The three function together, although the intensity of each influence varies significantly from culture to culture.” (pp. 82, 126)

Charles Kraft’s Perspectives article titled “The 3 Encounters of Christian Witness” (adapted from his 1991 EMQ article) speaks about ministry approaches in terms of “truth,” “power,” and “allegiance” encounter. Doug Hayward reaches similar conclusions in “The Evangelization of Animists: Power, Truth or Love Encounter?” IJFM (1997). Though they do not use the language of guilt-shame-fear, the overlap with their categories is remarkable.

Roland Muller’s book Honor & Shame: Unlocking the Door (2001) expanded and popularized the notion guilt, shame, and fear cultures for Christian ministry. Though Muller’s book focuses on Muslim evangelism, it has notably influenced practitioners and missiologists.

My publication of The 3D Gospel: Ministry in Guilt, Shame, and Fear Cultures (2014) sought to outline a biblical/systematic theology and some ministry approaches for engaging each culture type.

There you have it—a super short history of the guilt-shame-fear cultural paradigm! Any others works worth mentioning? Please share in a comment below.

Read more posts in this series “Guilt-Shame-Fear: Revisited“.

 

Posted in Culture, Guilt, Honor, Shame, Wesetern Tagged with: , , ,

A Quick Patronage Survey, Please!

Patronage is a common reality in global ministry, but it is rarely discussed in missiology. So unfortunately Christians struggle to navigate patronage. 


To help us learn more about people’s understandings and perceptions of patronage, please take this survey. There are many good reasons to take the survey; you can pick your favorite form of motivation:

  1. It’s short…4-5 minutes, maximum. 
  2. It’s revealing…the questions will prompt some learning reflection.
  3. You know those weekly blog posts from HonorShame.com…consider them small gifts that create social indebtedness. Here’s your chance to reciprocate. Or perhaps, this is a way to make me indebted to you! 🙂
  4. I will make a summary of the data available to the greater missions community. The collective results will help clarify the current situation and issues related to patronage. This will allow the global missions community to collectively forge a more precise and more strategic path forward. For example, the results will help inform research topics and conversations at the upcoming Patronage Symposium future blog posts here at HonorShame.com.
  5. As a thank you, two respondents will be randomly selected to win a free book of their choice from this list: http://honorshame.com/recommendations .

Thanks again for taking this short survey about patronage

 

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The Meaning of ‘Shame’—A Short History

Where do these categories of “guilt-shame” or “shame-honor” come from? Like all ideas, the notion of “shame” has developed over time. This post summarizes the main currents of shame research in the 20th century.

The Beginning: Ruth Benedict

The binary labels of “guilt-culture” and “shame-culture” is often credited to American anthropologist Ruth Benedict. Anthropologists contrasted “guilt” and “shame” in the early 1900’s, but Benedict’s book The Cross and the Chrysanthemum (1946) popularized the classification. World War II pitted Western militaries against an industrialized, non-Western power for the first time. To understand the mindset of their enemy in the East, the U.S. military commissioned Ruth Benedict to study and explain Japanese culture. Benedict explained how Western culture was controlled by internal conscience, whereas shame cultures like Japan use public opinions to sanction behavior. Her book was highly influential in the U.S. military, Western academia, as well as in Japan and China where translations become bestsellers. Once can hardly underestimate the influence of her book in this discussion. Even though anthropology after Benedict critiqued elements of her guilt-shame dichotomy, the categories continued to frame the discussion.

Anthropology

In the 1960’s and 70’s, cultural anthropologists such as Julien Pitt-Rivers of Oxford developed the idea of “honor-shame cultures” by researching Mediterranean cultures. Their research developed anthropological models such as challenge-riposte, patron-client, ascribed vs. achieved, kinship, purity, limited good, etc. These anthropologists explained the nuances of honor and shame in Mediterranean societies with great insight.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s a group of biblical scholars led by Bruce Malina and Jerome Neyrey began applying those anthropological insights to the New Testament. The Context Group, as they labeled themselves, used “social-science criticism” to expound the honor-shame aspects inherent to the New Testament. Their work was primarily academic, so focused on history and hermeneutics more than practical theology.

Several evangelical NT scholars in the 21st century like David deSiva and Kenneth Bailey leverage insights from the social sciences to interpret biblical texts. Their works are notably less dependent upon constructs of Mediterranean anthropologists of 50 years ago, and points towards pastoral applications of honor-shame.

Psychology

In a separate field of thought, psychology began discussing guilt and shame in the 1970’s. So the psychology of guilt and shame is rather developed. Christian psychologists like David Augsburger (1980’s), Lewis Smedes (1990’s), and Edward Welch (2010’s) have adopted those insights for Christian ministry and counseling. Compared to anthropology, psychology views guilt and shame as personal feelings, not public social sanctions. They describe the emotional dynamics in an individual, not the social realities between people.

Psychologists typically view guilt as helpful and shame as hurtful. Consequently, Westerner’s perceive shame as mostly negative. So when anthropology defines cultural groups as “shame-based,” negative assumptions get unfairly attached to those cultures. 

This image here summarizes how “shame” has developed in research.

The conflation of anthropological and psychological definitions of shame is a common mistake. It is sloppy and lazy research to use psychological conclusions about shame when making a point about “honor-shame cultures.”

Today: #Shame

Since 2010, two realities have brought “shame” out from the psychologist’s office into mainstream conversation: Brene Brown and social media. Brene Brown is a shame researcher at the University of Houston. Her 2010 TED talk, “The Power of Vulnerability” become the second most viewed videos on TED.com and YouTube. Her bestselling books Daring Greatly, The Gifts of Imperfection, and I Thought it Was Just Me offer inspiring stories and practical insights for overcoming shame. Brown proposes empathy, vulnerability, and community as the antidote to shame.

Social media has also introduced shame into mainstream Western culture, but more at an experiential than cognitive level. The explosion of “internet bullying” and “digital shaming” has directly exposed modern people to a reality long relegated to “traditional cultures”—disgrace, shame, honor, etc. Social commentators note social media creates a new “shame-culture.” For example, the March 2015 cover story of Christianity Today, “The Good News About Shame”, proposed “social media is leaving us more ashamed than ever—and more ready to hear the gospel.” The deluge of digital shame has sideswiped Western culture and forced us to reckon with a resurgence of shame.

Read more posts in this series “Guilt-Shame-Fear: Revisited“.

 

Posted in Communication, Culture, Honor, Shame, Wesetern Tagged with: , , , , ,

Guilt-Shame-Fear & Other Cultural Models

There are many models that explain how global cultures differ. They all simplify reality in different ways. This post shows how the guilt-shame-fear paradigm compares to other well-known cultural models.

1. Hofstede’s 6 Dimensions

An organizational anthropologist named Geert Hoftstede began working at Europe IBM in 1965. He founded the Personal Research department for IBM in Europe, which provided a global platform for cultural research. From 1967-73, he conducted a survey of national values among 117,000 IBM employees. Hofstede’s subsequent analysis identified six dimensions where national cultures differ.

  • high-power distance vs. low-power distance
  • collectivism vs. individualism
  • weak certainty avoidance vs. strong certainty avoidance
  • masculinity (task focus) vs. femininity (relational focus)
  • long-term orientation vs. short-term orientation
  • indulgence vs. restraint

Although these binaries were not unique to Hofstede, his scientific research helped legitimate the categories by providing a quantifiable theory for cultural differences. His international bestseller Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (1991) mainstreamed the cultural model in academic and business circles.

Read more ›

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The Value of Cultural Models

In 2015 I taught a course in Chad, Africa. I considered bringing gifts for the 12 Chadian students, but we had a very tight luggage allowance. The school director suggested instead that I buy a goat at the end of class for us all to enjoy. I loved that idea!

One morning the Chadian students gathered to butcher the goat for dinner that night. As I stood by watching, I tried hard to repress my shock. I grew up on a farm during my teenage years, so am somewhat familiar with how an animal “should” be butchered. But they cut the animal totally different! Even what they counted as edible was totally different! Everything except the hide went into one the cooking pot—meat, organs, unclean intestines, and even the skull.

Describing a culture is like butchering an animal—there are many ways to divide up a complex entity. A cultural model is a simple system for explaining cultural differences. Cultures are infinitely complex and complicated. However, people crossing cultures need simple categories to help them organize complex realities. So researchers have developed various models to explain cultures. Because cultures are infinitely complex, no particular cultural model in inherently “right” or “wrong.” There are infinite numbers of ways to slice up complex realities, as I learned in Chad.

Read more ›

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3 In 1: Integrating Guilt, Shame, and Fear

People often voice the concern that reducing cultures down to “guilt,” “shame,” or “fear” is oversimplifying reality—“Aren’t cultures a combination of these factors?” Most certainly. Cultures are too complex to be isolated into just three boxes. These are not three distinct categories, but factors that influence every culture to some shape. Guilt, shame, and fear are present in every person and every culture, but to differing degrees. The complexity and richness of human culture is not like Neapolitan ice cream with three separated flavors. This post explains how the three culture types overlap and integrate.

The phrase “guilt-innocence culture” is like the phrase “right-handed person.” When I say that I am right-handed, it does not mean I never use or my left hand (or don’t have a left hand!). The phrase simply indicates my primary preference. The categories are like caricatures—they highlight the most distinctive features to allow for easy identification.

Read more ›

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The Story Behind ‘The Culture Test’

What is the providence of The Culture Test? People have asked this question, as it impacts the validity and authority of the results. The short is: Jayson Georges developed The Culture Test as a ministry training tool. If you want a longer answer, read below.

Like most good ideas these days, The Culture Test started with Facebook! One evening while relaxing on the couch, my wife did a short Facebook quiz titled, “What Country is Your Personality?” She answered the 7 basic questions, then gleefully announced, “I’d be France!” This event introduced me to the entire cottage industry of silly personality quizzes available on social media: “What Scooby-Doo Character Are You?”, “What Flavor of Hot Sauce Are You?”, “Are You Beavis or Butt-head?” I knew for sure there had to be a more helpful way to categorize the world. So I decided to develop a test that helped people discern their “cultural orientation.”

Personality tests are a huge cottage industry. These tests like Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument help people understand their individual characteristics, but they do not identity the group dynamics that shape our worldview. People know their personality type, but not their groupality type. Psychology tests help people to “Know Thyself,” but we must also “Know Thy Culture.” This was my motivation.

Read more ›

Posted in Culture, Ministry, Resources Tagged with: , , ,

The 3D Gospel: Updated and Revised

The 3D Gospel started in mind as a 2-page PDF that would help people understand the results of The Culture Test. But it mushroomed into an 80-page book that I published on Amazon.

Since then, The 3D Gospel has become a top-selling book in Christian Evangelism and a popular book in mission training. To make The 3D Gospel even more accessible and helpful for readers, I have updated the book.

When I ask people why they enjoyed the book, 90% of the readers appreciate how the book was so short! So I made sure the book is not any longer. Here are the main ways I have updated and revised The 3D Gospel:

  • Added a “Discussion and Reflection Questions” at the end.
  • Edited the final section “Ministry” to be clearer.
  • Corrected typos and unclear sentences.

The changes are rather minor, so there is not much reason to purchased the updated edition if you already have a previous version. Here are the “Discussion and Reflection Questions.

You can purchase The 3D Gospel here. For a bulk discount of 50% off ( 50 copies for $225), click here

The 3D Gospel has also been translated into French, Spanish, Russian, German, and Vietnamese. Chinese (Mandarin) and Arabic translations will be available soon.

Posted in Communication, Culture, Honor, Resources, Shame Tagged with: , , ,

3 Problems with The Culture Test Results

I developed The Culture Test in 2013 to help people better understand cultures. The test is generally helpful in that regard—in five minutes people can get a snapshot of any culture. To help people learn about cultural differences, it is a good conversation start. 

However, The Culture Test, just like all other assessment tools, is not perfect. In this post I explain three issues with the results that I have noticed. As you view your personal results and use the Interactive Map, keep these in mind.

1. Quantifying “Culture”

Problem: The Culture Test purports to quantify a culture with three categories—guilt-innocence, shame-honor, and fear-power. While the simple framework offers some practical insights, we must acknowledge that “culture” in reality is far more complex and nuanced than, say, “62% guilt, 28% shame, 10% fear.” This three-number summary of a particular culture must be taken with a grain of salt. Any attempt to “quantify culture” easily becomes overly simplistic, much like personality tests. For example, my Myers-Briggs profile is INTJ. Those four letters may describe aspects of my personality, but they do not define me as a person. The same applies to The Culture Test.

Solution: Read results from The Culture Test with fair expectations. The results for individual countries should not be woodenly interpreted as absolute values. So if your country is 70% guilt, that does not mean you make seven out of ten decisions based on guilt values. Rather, the results should be interpreted relative to other countries. So, for example, Germany is 20% shame, while Albania is 66%. So we can conclude from these scores that Albania, compared to Germany, is strongly influenced my shame.

2. Accuracy of Answers

Problem: Nearly 30,000 people have answered the 32 questions (25 cultural + 7 personal) on The Culture Test. Of these nearly 1,000,000 total answers, I have not stood over the shoulder of a single person to verify the accuracy of their answers. Though I tried to make the test as simple and clear as possible for people to take by themselves, surely some people have misunderstood a question or entered an incorrect answer. Here are some examples of how answers might be incorrect:

  • There are several results for North Korea, but I wonder if people simply clicked the wrong option on the dropdown menu.
  • For the final question about the respondent’s age, I wonder, “What percentage of people enter their correct age on online forms?” I know it is less than 100%.
  • I suspect people have misread or misinterpreted some of the cultural questions.
  • Even if people answered the question “correctly” it may still be “wrong” simply because the test in in English. For example, a twenty-year-old Japanese person may answer the questions based how they act in their English classroom (because the English-language questions evoke that context), not how they interact with their Japanese relatives in the rest of their life. (Note: the The Culture Test is also available in Spanish, so this may not apply as much in Latin contexts). 

Solution: Though I have not calculated the margin of error, it certainly does exist. The best solution to this problem is to have a global team translate and personally administer The Culture Test in all global cultures. I personally do not have a budget for that, so let me know if you do! Until then, assume a margin of error.

3. The Test-Takers Are Not Random, So The Results Are Not Representative

Problem: The Global Map of Culture Types visualizes the primary culture type of every country in the world. However, the respondents were not randomly selected, so they may not fairly represent the entire demographic of that country. Three examples illustrate this point:

1. Zimbabwe: The average score of 44 results from Zimbabwe is 52 guilt/38 shame/9 fear. Compared to other African countries, this score is strongly guilt-oriented. But a closer look explains the reason. Because of Zimbabwe colonial history, there are effectively two cultures in the country. Zimbabweans who self-identified as “African,” or “Shano,” or “colored” (20 results) averaged 37/51/12—a score much closer to other African countries. However, Zimbabweans who self-identified as “White” or “Anglo” (22 results) scored on average 66/28/6—a score close to Europeans and Western countries. Since about the same number of people from each group took The Culture Test, the average score that is visualized on the map for Zimbabwe splits the difference between these two cultural groups.

However, white/Anglo Africans are only 0.2% of Zimbabwe’s population; yet they represent over half of the results in the data. The 44 people who took The Culture Test for Zimbabwe do not accurately represent the countries racial demographics.

2. China: For Chinese culture, the average score from people born and raised in China (“Culture Type: Primary”) is 47 guilt/ 37 shame/ 16 fear. But among expatriates who have lived in China for 10+ years, Chinese culture was 27 guilt/ 55 shame/ 18 fear. This is a swing of ~20 percentage points from between guilt and shame.

Here is my hypothesis for this discrepancy. The Chinese nationals who took The Culture Test obviously knew English. From this, we could assume they are educated, and most likely urban, younger, and from the East coast. Moreover, they probably learned about this resource from another Christian (likely a Western Christian), suggesting they themselves are Christian and connected with Western Christians. If these deductions are generally true, then the Chinese nationals who took The Culture Test represent a narrow segment of the overall population, and are therefore not an accurate snapshot of “Chinese culture” as a whole.

However, I suspect that the responses from expatriates who have lived in China for 10+ years might better represent China as a whole. This is not because they know the culture better, but because they are more dispersed throughout Chinese society, so their answers are based on a broader set of cultural experiences and social groups.

3. UAE: Of the 30 people in United Arab Emirates who took The Culture Test, only nine answered the questions for “Arab” culture. The other twenty-one are Western, African, or Asian expatriates. This result obviously slants the average score for UAE.

The un-random and un-representative nature of the results is perhaps the biggest shortcoming of The Culture Test. Most people have learned about The Culture Test in one of three ways: reading The 3D Gospel, visiting HonorShame.com, or attending a class where it was assigned. This suggests the majority of people who have taken The Culture Test are Christians engaged in ministry or interested in global cultures. Such a particular social group hardly represents the whole of a society.

Conclusion

These issues, IMO, do not render all the results invalid or useless, but helps us understand how much weight we can rightly attribute to the results. The results and the data visualization map are not perfect, but hopefully they serve as first steps towards helping us think through the issues. By making the anonymous data available for others to analyze, I hope further insights will emerge. 

Read more posts in this series “Guilt-Shame-Fear: Revisited“.

 

Posted in Culture, Ministry, Shame Tagged with: ,

New Resource: Interactive Global Map of Culture Types

If you like maps and cultures, you will love the new Interactive Global Map of Culture Types. This interactive map visualizes the anonymous data from 25,000+ results from The Culture Test. Of all the resources I have developed at HonorShame.com, this one is my favorite!

The map provides a snapshot overview of global culture types and allows for deeper research into each country. My goal in developing this map is two-fold. One, to provide a quick overview of global cultures. Two, to make the data set from The Culture Test anonymous and publicly available for those interested in further research. Even after spending hours interacting with the map, I have only scratched the service in terms of uncovering cultural and global insights. Most people will enjoy playing around with the map, but some will be eager to dig into the numbers. Hopefully the interface will please both groups.

For complete instructions and copyright information, visit http://honorshame.com/map/. Please note the map should be viewed on a laptop or desktop screen.

A special thanks for Lauren LaRochelle for her excellent design work in this project!

Read more posts in this series “Guilt-Shame-Fear: Revisited“.

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Guilt, Shame & Fear: Revisited

The notion of guilt, shame, and fear cultures has become a common topic in mission conversations. Ministry organizations and teams around the world are discussing the topic.

Four years have passed since I published The 3D Gospel and developed TheCultureTest.com. This time has allowed me to reflect on the guilt-shame-fear cultural paradigm.

The next 13 posts in the series “Guilt, Shame & Fear: Revisited” will address questions that commonly arise. Hopefully these posts will clarify the topic and inspire strategic insights.

Here are the forthcoming titles in the series:

 

Posted in Shame, Shame & Fear: Revisited, Spirituality, Uncategorized Tagged with: ,

“Honor Restored”—New Evangelism Tool from Cru

Last summer several Cru staff members attended the Honor-Shame conference in Wheaton. After the conference, they began discussing and designing a new honor-shame evangelism tool that could used in a smart-phone app.
 
Their new tool “Honor Restored” launched in December 2017. Based loosely on the HonorShame reference bookmark, Honor Restored does a good job distilling the essentials into a aesthetic and accessible resource. 
 
The tool is available in Cru’s evangelism app, GodTools, which is available at Apple’s App store and at Google Play. First, download the GodTools app, then tap the + sign and you will see the tool Honor Restored.
 
The app has been translated into Hindi, Arabic, Croatian, Persian/Farsi, Turkish, and Portuguese. They are translating it into Mandarin, French, Russian, Marathi, German, Telugu, Spanish, Korean, and Japanese.
 
If you have questions, feedback, or suggestions on possible translations, email Chris Sneller at csneller@gmail.com.
 
 
 
Posted in Bible, Resources Tagged with: ,

The Honor of Salvation – 11 Tozer Quotes

In The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer offers powerful insights about the role of shame in sin and honor in salvation. The following quotes are from Chapters 8 and 9 of the book, which is available for free in PDF and Kindle.

Chapter 8 “Restoring the Creator-Creature Relation” examines how giving honor to God is the essence of our relationship with him.

“We owe Him every honor that it is in our power to give Him. Our everlasting grief lies in giving Him anything less. The pursuit of God will embrace the labor of bringing our total personality into conformity to His, and this not judicially, but actually. I do not here refer to the act of justification by faith in Christ. I speak of a voluntary exalting of God to His proper station over us and a willing surrender of our whole being to the place of worshipful submission, which the Creator-creature circumstance makes proper.

“The world of fallen men does not honor God. Millions call themselves by His name, it is true, and pay some token respect to Him, but a simple test will show how little He is really honored among them. Let the average man be put to the proof on the question of who is above, and his true position will be exposed.

“Let no one imagine that he will lose anything of human dignity by this voluntary sellout of his all to his God. He does not by this degrade himself as a man; rather, he finds his right place of high honor as one made in the image of his Creator. His deep disgrace lay in his moral derangement, his unnatural usurpation of the place of God. His honor will be proved by restoring again that stolen throne. In exalting God over all, he finds his own highest honor upheld.

“In our Lord Jesus Christ this [divine law of reciprocal honor] was seen in simple perfection. In His lowly manhood He humbled Himself and gladly gave all glory to His Father in heaven. He sought not His own honor, but the honor of God who sent Him. If I glorify myself, He said on one occasion, my glory is nothing; it is my Father that glorifies me. So far had the proud Pharisees departed from this law that they could not understand one who honored God at his own expense. I honour my Father, said Jesus to them, and ye do dishonour me.

“This God-above-all position is one not easy to take. The mind may approve it while not having the consent of the will to put it into effect. While the imagination races ahead to honor God, the will may lag behind and the man may never guess how divided his heart is.

“God will unveil His glory before His servant’s eyes, and He will place all His treasures at the disposal of such a one, for He knows that His honor is safe in such consecrated hands.

“The whole course of the life is upset by failure to put God where He belongs. We exalt ourselves instead of God, and the curse follows.

Chapter 9 “Meekness and Rest” explores how Jesus resolves the multifaceted problem of shame.  

“[T]here is the burden of pride. The labor of self-love is a heavy one indeed. Think for yourself whether much of your sorrow has not arisen from someone speaking slightingly of you. As long as you set yourself up as a little god to which you must be loyal, there will be those who will delight to offer an affront to your idol. How then can you hope to have inward peace? The heart’s fierce effort to protect itself from every slight, to shield its touchy honor from the bad opinion of friend and enemy, will never let the mind have rest. Continue this fight through the years and the burden will become intolerable. Yet the sons of earth are carrying this burden continually, challenging every word spoken against them, cringing under every criticism, smarting under each fancied slight, tossing sleepless if another is preferred before them.

“[The ‘meek’ man] knows well that the world will never see him as God sees him and he has stopped caring. He rests perfectly content to allow God to set His own values. He will be patient to wait for the day when everything will get its own price tag and real worth will come into its own.

“For sin has played many evil tricks upon us, and one has been the infusing into us a false sense of shame.

“Apart from sin, we have nothing of which to be ashamed. Only an evil desire to shine makes us want to appear other than we are.

To learn how other Christian thinkers in history have addressed honor and shame, visit http://honorshame.com/blogposts/#Theology_History.

 

Posted in Bible, Honor, salvation, Spirituality Tagged with: , , ,

Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies: Recent Issue on Honor-Shame

The latest issue of Asian Journal Pentecostal Studies focuses on “Biblical Refections on Shame and Honor in Asia.” The entire issue can be downloaded for free at http://www.apts.edu/aeimages/File/AJPS_PDF/18-1Rev-Interior-file-vol-21-1.pdf. The articles include:

  1. Amanda Shao-Tan, “Spirituality for the Shamed Tsinoys with Disabilities: The Shamed Jesus in the Book of Hebrews”
  2. Marlene Yap, “The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ: From Extreme Shame to Victorious Honor”
  3. Im Seok (David) Kang, “Meaning of Remembrance of Me in 1 Corinthians 11:23-27 in Light of Bakgolnanmang: A Korean Concept of Honor.”
  4. Im Seok (David) Kang, “True Friendship: Job 6:14-30”
  5. Balu Savarikannu, “Expressions of Honor and Shame in Lamentations 1”
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6 Great Sermons on Shame & Honor

People often ask me about good sermons on the topic of shame, but there are not very many. 

Recently I’ve listened to an amazing 6-part sermon series “He Covers Our Shame” by Dr. Beau Hughes at The Village Church of Denton, Texas. The sermons are first-rate into terms of biblical explanation and spiritual application. They are available to download and stream at the church website: http://thevillagedenton.church/resources/sermons/series/he-covers-our-shame/  

The six sermon titles are:

  1. What Is Shame? 
  2. Where Does Shame Come From?
  3. The Cycle of Shame
  4. Despising Our Shame
  5. He Covers our Shame
  6. The Hope of Glory

I strongly recommend these sermons for all Christians, especially those seeking a biblical understanding of shame and honor. Another good sermon is John Piper’s “Battling the Unbelief of Misplaced Shame.”

Have you listened to a good sermon on shame (and honor)? Please share the link below in the comment section.  

Posted in Spirituality, Theology, Wesetern Tagged with: , , ,

A Hermeneutics of Honor: John Chrysostom

John Chrysostom, the archbishop of Constantinople (353–407), was famous for his eloquent preaching (the moniker Chrysostomos means “golden-mouthed”). His eighty-eight exegetical homilies on the Gospel of John read much like a social-science commentary. I will explain a few ways that honor and shame shaped his interpretation of Scripture.[1] This post three areas where honor and shame influence Chrysostom’s exegesis.[2]

1. Honor of the Incarnation (John 1)

Chrysostom references honor-shame dynamics to expound the theology of the incarnation in John 1:1–14. Chrysostom says that John opens with the pre-existence of God’s Word because “he knows that men most honor the eldest of beings which was before all” (2:7).

Chrysostom was adamant that the language of “son” does not imply inferiority to the Father. John used this expression son because he was “very confident that between Father and Son there was an equality of honor” (5:2).

Chrysostom describes the incarnation (“the Word became flesh,” John 1:14) as a king conferring honor upon the lowly. “For the high when it associates with the low touches not at all its own honor, while it raises up the other from its excessive lowness; and even thus it was with the Lord. He in nothing diminished His own Nature by this condescension, but raised us, who had always sat in disgrace and darkness, to glory unspeakable. Thus it may be, a king, conversing with interest and kindness with a poor mean man, does not at all shame himself, yet makes the other observed by all and illustrious.” (11:1).

Chrysostom uses the metaphor of wedding (cf. Mt 22 and 25) to explain John 1:13 (“Who were born, not of blood, not of the will of the flesh, but of God.”) The wedding invitation is “so great an honor,” but we behaved with insolence (10:3). God “honored us with all other honor; but we…have offered insult to him” (10:3). Because we acted unworthy and defiled our garments as invitees, “it is to honor the marriage and guests, that [God] drives off those bold and shameless persons” (10:3).

Chrysostom read John as stories about people honoring or shaming Jesus. He says the opponents “use every artifice to destroy the honor of the Son of God… seeking eagerly to pull down Him whom they say they worship.” But their opposition to Christ will “fill their faces with shame and their souls with punishment” (3:2). In contrast, the apostle John was “not ashamed of the dishonor of his Teacher” (10:2).

2. Honor at the Wedding of Cana (John 2)

Chrysostom interprets Jesus’ miracle at the wedding in Cana (John 2) in light of honor and shame. He notes how the wedding hosts failed to properly respect Jesus—they “invite[d] Him not as some great one, but merely as an ordinary acquaintance” (21:1). Nevertheless, the famous Jesus attended the wedding not looking “to His own honor, but to our benefit” (21:1).

Chrysostom says that Jesus’ comment to his mother—“Woman, what have I to do with you?”—was not disrespectful or insulting, but was to “procure her the greatest benefit”(21:2). “Though [Jesus] was careful to honor His mother, yet He cared much more for the salvation of her soul,” which comes through giving honor to Jesus. Had Mary expected to “always be honored by Him as by a son,” then Jesus could not change his mother’s thoughts from “his present lowliness to his future exaltation.”

And why did Jesus say, “My hour has not yet come,” but then perform the miracle? Chrysostom proposes, “He did it to honor His mother, that He might not seem entirely to contradict and shame her that bare Him in the presence of so many” (22:1). After the wedding, Jesus escorts his family home to Capernaum where he spent a few days “to honor his mother” (23:1). Contemporary exegetes might contest Chrysostom’s cultural insights, but he would likely agree with our attempts to read Scripture in light of honor and shame.

3. Honor as a Hermenuetical Telos

Chrysostom’s homilies exhort listeners to appropriate God’s honor. The God who assigns honor is more honorable than mortals. For Chrysostom, the text of John (especially in Johannine passages where people reject Jesus) should refashion our “honor code.” These quotes illustrate Chrysostom’s reflection on the nature of honor.

“Beloved, let us…be sensible of the nobility which has been given to us by God; let us despise vulgar applause. For nothing is so ridiculous and disgraceful as [vainglory], nothing so full of shame and dishonor. One may in many ways see, that to love honor is dishonor; and that true honor consists in neglecting honor, in making no account of it, but in saying and doing everything according to what seems good to God.” (3:6)

“For if we should even desire to attain this honor, we shall then attain to it, when we seek that which comes from God alone. For, He says, “Them that honor Me, I will honor” (1 Sam 2:30). … If then we desire to obtain honor, let us shun honor, so shall we be enabled after accomplishing the laws of God to obtain both the good things which are here, and those which are promised.” (3:6)

“Look up straight to God: He will praise you, and the man who is approved by Him must not seek honor from mortals. Mortal honor often arises from flattery or hatred of others, and brings no profit; but the decision of God is free from this inequality, and brings great advantage to the man whom He approves. This praise then let us follow after.” (4:4)

“If an earthly king approves you, you make no account of the many, though they all deride you; but if the Lord of the universe praise you, do you seek the good words of beetles and gnats? For this is what these men are, compared with God, or rather not even this, but something viler, if there be anything such. How long do we wallow in the mire? How long do we set sluggards and belly-gods for our judges? (76:3)

Overall, Chrysostom’s homilies on John provide a historical model for hermeneutics and homiletics from an honor-shame perspective.


[1] H. R. Stander, “Honour and Shame as Key Concepts in Chrysostom’s Exegesis of the Gospel of John,” HTS 59, no. 3 (2003): 899–913.

[2] All citations from John Chrysostom, “Homilies on the Gospel of John,” in From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Charles Marriott, revised and edited by Kevin Knight, vol. 14 (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1889), <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/240111.htm>.

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The Patronage Symposium: 3 Quick Must-Knows

The Patronage Symposium will gather people to examine the gospel for patron-client contexts. To learn more, visit www.HonorShame.com/patronage. Here are three related announcements:

1. Registration Ending Soon (Feb 10)

The Patronage Symposium will be limited to ~40 people to foster substantive discussions. To request an official invitation, please complete this form by February 10. 

2. A Great Video

This 5-minute video by Richard Yaqoub (a co-organizer of The Patronage Symposium) is a wonderful explanation of patronage in the Bible and ministry. The contextual explanations of Ezekiel 34 and John 10 are particularly insightful.

3. Dr. John Barclay to Participate

Dr. John Barclay, Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at Durham University and author of Paul and the Gifttentatively plans to join us at The Patronage Symposium, presenting on “How does the Christ-Gift Alter the Operations of Patronage? Theological reflections from the New Testament.” The participation of such a renown New Testament scholar will establish a strong biblical foundation for the conversation on patronage.

To learn more about The Patronage Symposium, visit http://honorshame.com/patronage/.

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Paul’s Honor Ethic in 1 Corinthians

Honor and shame are innately social and cooperate realities. For this reason, an honor-centric morality prioritizes relational harmony and communal edification, as seen in Pauline theology. John Barclay says, “Paul’s redefinition of honor thus gives prestige to such traits that promote social cohesion and mutual construction” (2014, 313). Victor Furnish explains, “For [Paul], moral action is never a matter of an isolated actor choosing from among a variety of abstract ideas on the basis of how inherently “good” or “evil” each may be. Instead, it is always a matter of choosing and doing what is good for the brother and what will upbuild the whole community of brethren” (2009, 233). First Corinthians offers an apostolic case study of an honor-centric ethic, which approaches morality different than the West’s guilt-based paradigm.

The formation of God’s covenant community is Paul’s moral vision and ethical telos. Richard Hays notes, “The ethical norm, then, is not given in the form of a predetermined rule or set of rules for conduct; rather, the right action must be discerned on the basis of a Christological paradigm, with a view to the need of the community and the community’s identity as God’s covenant people” (Hays 1994, 37). So for example, when certain Corinthians approach the issue of idol-meat as an individual right, Paul reframes it as a matter of community construction (1 Cor 8).

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Posted in ethics, Honor, Resources, Shame, Theology, Wesetern Tagged with: , , ,

4 Problems with Guilt-Based Morality

Western theologians and missionaries often assume that “guilt-based” morality is ethically superior. This, I believe, is a dangerous assumption.

A guilt-based approach to ethics has several shortcomings that limit its moral effectiveness, particularly in collectivistic contexts. These limitations do not invalidate Western ethics as “wrong” or “unbiblical.” The notion of individual guilt is indeed essential, but not sufficient, for moral change. By noting these four shortcomings of guilt-based morality, I hope to show where Christians could incorporate honor-shame insights in developing a biblical morality.

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New SEANET Book for Buddhist Contexts

Paul deNeui is Professor of Missiology at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago. He recently edited Restored to Freedom from Guilt, Shame, and Fear: Lessons from the Buddhist World (SEANET 13; William Carey Library, 2017; TOC here). This post is an excerpt from his introduction.


Anxiety is common to every culture. The expression of it and restoration from it are also determined by every culture. What brings relief in one context may only aggravate anxiety in another. Those working interculturally face this challenge when the solutions that worked in their home contexts fail to bring desired results in the new location and often cause further damage.

The hidden inner differences of our various worldview lenses best reveal themselves in times of crises, when we don’t understand why “the other” doesn’t respond as we do. A teachable moment? Yes, but learning in the midst of crisis is difficult at best. Unfortunately, the usual result of such unguided cultural encounters is a reinforcement of prejudicial stereotypes on both sides. What would happen if intercultural workers were to prepare themselves proactively for the inevitable and view future encounters of differing worldviews as enriching experiences rather than cultural time bombs waiting to explode?

Anxiety is given expression from out of the worldview where it is born. For many cultures, fear-orientation, guilt-orientation, and/or shame-orientation are major impacts upon the shaping and expression of individual and communal-held worldview. …

Freedom “from” brings with it the positive side of these three orientations: the freedom “to” empowerment, honor, and innocence. We use the word “restoration” believing that it is God’s intention to restore all that were lost through fear, guilt, and shame back to the original freedom to power, honor, and innocence of relationships with the Creator, with humanity, with self, and with all of creation. To that end, we join our voices with that of the Psalmist,

Restore us, O God;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved.
Psalm 80:3

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