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 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.


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?


Posted in Bible, Evangelism Tagged with: ,

What is

What is I want to answer this question for two reasons. One, to provide a brief background for the many new subscribers to this website. And two, to share how blog posts will be different in the future. started in 2013 to equip Christian ministers and foster a biblical conversation about honor-shame. The focus point has always the concept of honor and shame. I (Jayson Georges) started and edit the website, but the aim is an open platform for community resourcing. At this point, is the online hub for the Honor-Shame Network.

I’m pleased and amazed to see how the conversation on honor-shame has developed among mission communities. The topic is now commonly discussed in ministry and academic contexts, such as pre-field training and EMQ national gatherings. The website has over 3,700 blog subscribers and about 10,000 monthly views. But most encouraging, I have heard many stories about significant life changes, both personally and strategically, from people as they have learned about honor and shame.

The tsunami of publications about shame in Western culture has buoyed our ministry conversation about honor-shame. Without Brene Brown, there would have far less interest in honor-shame these last 5 years. There has been a cultural reawakening to shame (but not yet to honor!). has been fortunate to catch that wave and make a small contribution.  

When I (Jayson Georges) started the website I personally committed to blogging once a week for the first four years. But this last year our family has relocated overseas and I am pursuing other ministry opportunities. Because of time constraints, I only plan to blog monthly. I still plan to remain active in conversations and training events on honor-shame. I will release new resources when my next IVP book Ministering in Patronage Cultures releases this summer. The Honor-Shame Network still plans to organize another Honor-Shame Conference at Wheaton (June 2020). I still want to keep the conversation going. But in this current season, I simply don’t have to chance to write, edit, and post blog posts every week.

This post also serves as an open invitation for guest posts. The conversation on honor-shame is still rather new, and many questions remain. This post has a list of topics people want to know more about. If you have some insight, reflection, or research worth sharing, please do contact You can read the guidelines and suggestions for guest posts at Thanks!


Grace and Peace,


Posted in Uncategorized

Top 10 Posts of 2018

Here are the top 10 posts from in 2018. 

10. Is Africa ‘Power-Fear’ or ‘Honor-Shame’?

9. Honor Restored—New Evangelism Tool from Cru

8. Psalm 23 (HSP)

7. Recordings from the Patronage Symposium

6. 3 In 1: Integrating Guilt, Shame, and Fear

5. An Interactive Global Map of Culture Types

4. The Meaning of ‘Fear-Power’—3 Options

3. A 4th Category of ‘Pain-Pleasure’?

2. Four Problems with Guilt-Based Morality

1. CAUTION: Honor-Shame is “Unbalanced” and “Extreme”!!

You can also check out the top 10 blogposts for 201420152016, and 2017.


Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with:

“Patronage”: A Visual Explanation

The Patronage Symposium (October 2018, Beirut) wanted to develop resources for an ongoing conversation on patronage. Along with audio recordings of all the presentations, we are glad to share this visual explanation of patronage. Although the concept of patronage can be abstract and confusing, this picture shows how relationships  in honor-shame cultures typically work on a single page.

The visual should be self-evident, but here is a quick explanation. 

  • Definition (center): Patronage, at its core, is a reciprocal relationship between a “patron” and a “client.”
  • Mutual Expectations (left): The relationship has important features which apply to both sides of the relationship. 
  • Potential Pitfalls (right): Sinful humans often corrupt the patronage exchange. We must acknowledge this common reality, but realize these negative aspects are not inherent qualities of patronage.
  • Patron Description (top): The patron is a the superior party expected to give certain benefits and act in a certain manner. These words describe the qualities and gifts of patrons.
  • Client Description (bottom): The bottom words describe the qualities and expectations of clients. 

This resource was developed as a teaching resource. So it is free to download, copy, share, and use for any purpose. A special thanks to all the participants for the ideas, and a huge thanks to Werner Mischke for his design work. 


Posted in patronage, Relationships, Resources, Theology Tagged with: , ,

Honor and Wealth—9 Quotes from St. Basil

St. Basil the Great (330-379) was bishop of Caesarea (central Turkey) and the father of Western monasticism. As one of the Cappadocian Fathers, Basil was a prolific theologian who shaped orthodox Christology. Born into a rich, landowning family, Basil spend most of his inheritance on establishing the Basiliad, a large charitable facility where the poor could receive food, shelter, and medical care free of charge. Some claim his foundation was the first modern “hospital.”

Basil often spoke about social justice, care for the poor, and humanitarian aid. I recently read four of Basil’s homilies on wealth and justice (published as On Social Justice). His messages were truly amazing—convicting, insightful, and timeless. At several points, Basil appeals to honor and shame to redefine true wealth and motivate generosity. Here are nine quotes.

Stewarding Wealth

Of what have you (rich people) been deprived? Of the glory that derives from wealth? Had you not sought glory from the dirt, you would have discovered the true glory like a shining beacon leading you to the Kingdom of Heaven. Nonetheless, having wealth is dear to you, though you gain from it no advantage whatsoever. (To the Rich, 2)

Why then do you go to so much trouble, why do you wear your self out, seeking to secure your wealth with bricks and mortar? After all, “a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” If it is the honor that derives from wealth that attracts you, just think how much more glory you will gain by having a multitude of children call you “father” then by having a multitude of gold coins jingling in your purse. You must leave your money behind in the end whether you will or not, but the honor that proceeds from good works will escort you to the Master. All the people will surround you when you stand before the Judge of all, calling you “father” and “benefactor” and all the other titles that pertain to those who show philanthropy. …Your glory will be eternal; you will inherit the crown of righteousness and the Kingdom of Heaven. All these things will be your reward for your stewardship of perishable things but you do not even consider them, forgetting about things hoped for in your concern for the things of the present. Come now, distribute your wealth lavishly becoming honorable and glorious in your expenditures for the needy. (I Will Tear Down My Barns, 3)

Why then are you wealthy while another is poor? Why else, but so that you might receive the reward of benevolence and faithful stewardship, while the poor are honored for patient endurance in their struggles. (I Will Tear Down My Barns, 6)

Repentance and Judgment

The king of Nineveh [in Jonah] himself turned his glory and splendor into shame. He put aside his crown and poured dust on his head; he cast off his royal garment and put on sackcloth. He left his high and exalted throne and crawled pitifully upon the ground. (In Time of Famine and Drought, 3)

[At the judgment seat of Christ] Without friends, without helpers, without supporters, without even a word in your own defense, you will be lead forth in disgrace, with bowed head and downcast eyes, utterly forsaken and ashamed. … Then everlasting shame will be the portion of sinners. (To the Rich, 6)

Being Grateful to God

From God comes everything beneficial…but human beings respond with a bitter disposition, misanthropy, and an unwillingness to share. Such characteristics are what this man offered back to his Benefactor. (I Will Tear Down My Barns, 1)

O mortal, recognize your Benefactor! Consider yourself, who you are, what resources have been entrusted to you, from whom you received them, and why you received more than others! (I Will Tear Down My Barns, 2)

How much gratitude you ought to have shown to your Benefactor, how joyful and radiant you ought to have been that you are not one of those who crowd in at others’ doors, but rather others are knocking at your door. But now you lower your eyes and quicken your step, lest anyone pry some small coin from your grasp. (I Will Tear Down My Barns, 6)

For the faithful, the grace of God …returns double for what is given. Lend, you who lack, to the rich God. He is a trustworthy guarantor, since He has the treasures of land and sea at His disposal. …With God it is a matter of honor to give a generous return. (In Time of Famine and Drought, 6)

To learn more around honor-shame in historical theology, see these posts.


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James 1 (HSP)

This paraphrase of James 1 is from the new book James: An Honor-Shame Paraphrase, by Dr. Daniel K. Eng. 

From James, a slave in the service of Jesus, the exalted King. To the twelve tribes of God’s cherished people, far away from home, who live as outsiders in a foreign land, may you rejoice in God’s favor.1

Difficulties Refine Your Devotion to God

My dear family members, celebrate greatly whenever you go through all kinds of difficult times. You all know this process proves your loyalty to God, just like the process of testing gold proves that it is genuine. A furnace both tests the authenticity of gold and refines the purity of gold. Likewise, these difficulties make your devotion to God stronger. And let your collective devotion to God continue to grow and mature, so that you will be a fully developed family. Your loyalty will bring you toward the goal of being perfectly acceptable to God, not falling short in any way.2–4

Full Allegiance to God

But if any of you family members fall short in wisdom, ask our benevolent God! He generously gives to everyone no matter what their status. He is never reluctant; he doesn’t look for fault when giving to anyone. If anyone asks the Benefactor for wisdom, he will be glad to give it as a gift. But that family member must ask in loyalty to God alone, without wavering back and forth. Because someone who wavers and holds back from full allegiance to God is like an unpredictable wave, being tossed by the wind. That person has shown himself to be disloyal, and should not expect that the Benefactor will give him a gift. He has divided loyalties; he is a double-crosser. He cannot decide with whom his allegiance lies. He is two-faced and has no fidelity in anything he does.5–8

The Reversal of the Disgraced and Admired

The debased and marginalized brother or sister should publicly celebrate the high esteem that he will receive in the future. The rich man, now honored by society, should celebrate the disgrace he expects to get. Like a spring flower, those rich people receive admiration, but it will not last. The sun blazes and comes up with a burning wind, making the land like an oven. It reduces the grass to a wasteland, and the flowers shrivel up and die. The beautiful appearance that everyone celebrated is lost forever. In the same way, the rich man will lose the admired status he has while doing all his business.9–11

Main Idea: God Esteems the Loyal

God esteems the person who remains loyal through all the difficulties. Just like we can tell that gold is pure when it remains the same in the fire, God esteems and approves the person who remains loyal to him through the tough times. That loyal brother or sister can look forward to receiving something even more valuable than gold: the crown of life, the eternal badge of recognition, which God promised to bestow on those devoted to him.12

God Does Not Entice Anyone to Disloyalty

No one should say in these difficult times, “God is leading me to be disloyal to him.” After all, this would be impossible. God cannot be disloyal to anyone, and he never wants anyone to be disloyal to him. But that enticement to be disloyal to God comes from inside someone, from a person’s own desire, from the unspeakable things inside the heart. His own desire to be unfaithful carries him away. This desire to betray God leads to disgraceful acts, which grow unhindered and lead to shameful death.13–15

My cherished and precious family, do not give in and follow the voices that lead you to wander away and be disloyal to our God, the benevolent One. Remember, every precious act of benevolence and every praiseworthy gift comes from above. God gives only good gifts, never evil. The good gifts come down like rain from our loving Father, the exalted One who made the sun and the moon and the stars. God is always the same. He is solid like a rock and never changes; he is not inconsistent like shadows. God decreed to birth us into his family through his true and reliable declaration, so that we would be the most precious of everything he created. God views us the way a proud father views his treasured children.16–18

Do Not Be Filthy

Always remind yourselves of this, my cherished family members—all of you should be eager to listen, be careful in choosing your words, and be patient before becoming angry with one another. Contain your desire to talk back or get even, because fleshly anger does not cultivate a life rightly devoted to God. Do not fool yourself into thinking your anger will end up honoring God. Because of this, remove the disgraceful things that make you defiled and unacceptable, as if you were stripping off your filthy outfit to prepare for baptism. Put them all aside: anger, hate, and malice. Instead, be immersed in humility. Embrace the precious gift that God has given us, the decrees he has embedded deep within you. This word has the might and potency to completely transform you.19–21

Be Executors of God’s Decrees

Live out the identity of being God’s family. Don’t just pretend that you like the word of God—do what it says! Be the administrator and executor of God’s righteous decrees. Do not hear it and then do nothing. That amounts to lying to yourselves about your allegiance to God. If someone receives the king’s decrees but fails to implement them, he is like a man who carefully examines his face in a mirror for a long time, then as soon as he walks away forgets what he looks like. All the time in front of the mirror amounted to nothing. But the person who takes care to examine God’s full and perfect declaration and stays loyal to it— he’s not just hearing or reading it. He is an esteemed executor of the King’s edicts. He is a trusted lieutenant or steward, acting on God’s behalf. He will be favored and distinguished. 22–25

Preview of the Rest of James: True Devotion to God

If you think that you are devoted to God, but your words are not under control, you’re fooling yourself. Your so-called devotion to God is worthless in his eyes. True devotion that is valuable before God is like unalloyed gold and silver. Like a spotless sacrifice, let your deeds before God be spotless. This unsullied devotion means caring for those marginalized and disregarded in society, including women without husbands or children without parents. True devotion to God our Father also banishes the undignified and disgraceful things of the world, keeping them from polluting you.26–27

Click here for more information on the book James: An Honor-Shame Paraphrase.

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New Book—James: An Honor-Shame Paraphrase

The new book James: An Honor-Shame Paraphrase is now available. Along with 1 PeterEsther, and Psalms this is the fourth title in the Honor-Shame Paraphrase series.

With fresh language and research insights, Dr. Daniel K. Eng unpacks the honor-shame themes of James. He deftly traces James’ main exhortation to remain loyal to God alone and the pastoral strategies for developing biblical community. With an introduction to the socio-cultural context of the epistle, this book clearly presents the original, cultural meaning of James.

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


The author Daniel K. Eng is a PhD Candidate in Biblical Studies at the University of Cambridge. He is a graduate of Talbot School of Theology (ThM, Bible Exposition; DMin, Asian American Ministry) and has served as a pastor in churches in California, Texas, and the United Kingdom. He is the author of journal articles on honor-shame as well as the epistle of James. His thesis focuses on divine approval in James in view of the Septuagint, intertestamental literature, and the sayings of Jesus.


“The proliferation of Bible translations today results from debates about the best ‘literal’ rendering of ancient linguistic and grammatical forms into modern languages. Daniel Eng’s paraphrase of James takes this a step farther by highlighting more subtle social and cultural matters of the ancient world, related to family, community, loyalty, and allegiance. Its implications for our theology and our church cannot be underestimated. Indeed, it offers an important corrective for today’s Christianity informed by Western cultural values.”

Dr. Alexander Chow, Senior Lecturer in Theology and World Christianity, University of Edinburgh, author of Chinese Public Theology

“Daniel Eng is imminently qualified to write an honor-shame paraphrase of James. His doctoral studies have given him a thorough understanding of the book, and his experiences in an Asian culture enable him to readily see the honor-shame nuances of the letter. Equally significant, he shows that James is not simply a collection of disconnected pearls, but is instead a progressive unfolding of a single theme—“God esteems those who persevere in loyalty to him.” An added bonus for preachers are the many delightful contemporary expressions for biblical phrases. This is an engaging and valuable book!”
Donald R. Sunukjian, Professor of Preaching, Talbot School of Theology, author of Invitation to James

“I plan to use this translation in future courses on the epistle of James to help my students break out of their preconceptions of this challenging little text.” 
Dr. Mariam Kamell Kovalishyn, Professor at Regent College, author of James: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

“Daniel K. Eng’s Honor-Shame Paraphrase of James is a true treasure and an excellent tool for studying the social-cultural background of James. With language that exposes implicit nuances hidden beneath the text, Eng brings the modern reader back into the original context by capturing the implied-values of honor and shame. Values such as loyalty, allegiance, family, and social status come to the surface. Seeing the communal pressures of bringing honor or shame to one’s family is a critical undertone that is often lost when reading through the individualistic perspective of Western Christianity. These passages are helpfully rephrased to reflect the communal paradigm of the original audience. Pastors ministering in cultural contexts that are steeped in an honor and shame framework will find language that is directly applicable to their congregations. Preachers, in general, will welcome this paraphrase as a powerful resource for illustrating the biblical text. I highly recommend this work for any serious student of James.”

Rev. Hanley Liu, English Pastor, First Chinese Baptist Church of Walnut

“What Eng has successfully done with his paraphrase of James is provide modern readers access to the ancient context of an important New Testament epistle. We now know that the benefits for understanding the ancient world of the Bible are inestimable. This work is a valuable part of that pursuit. Anyone interested in the New Testament should read this book.”

Dr. Jeffrey P. García, Assistant Professor in Bible, Nyack College

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Honor-Shame Presentations at EMS

Many people couldn’t access the 5 EMS talks from the previous links—sorry about that.
You can now get all the audio files in Dropbox here. Or, clink the following links to open separate tabs in your web browser: Chris SnellerChris Flanders, John Ferch, Bud Simon, and panel discussion. Full descriptions are below.

The most recent national conference of the Evangelical Missiological Society (October 12-14, 2018 in Dallas, TX) featured a track exclusively devoted to issues regarding Honor & Shame. These 7 excellent presentations and discussions highlight the growing significance of honor & shame issues for the global missiological community.
Here are downloadable audio files of the presentations (some presentations are not included due to security concerns or technical issues). A special thanks to the EMS for their gracious permission to make these available for free, and to Dr. Chris Flanders for chairing the session!  These are the descriptions of the 5 available files:

Honor Restored: The Compelling Story of Creating an Honor-Shame App, by Chris Sneller, Bridges International, Houston Baptist University

This presentation explores how Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) developed Honor Restored, a digital evangelistic tract for honor-shame contexts. In the 1950s Bill Bright, Cru’s founder, wrote the widely-used “Four Spiritual Laws.” The yellow tract focused on explaining the gospel from a guilt-innocence perspective. In recent years Cru created GodTools, an evangelistic app, which recently hit 500,000, downloads. Dr. Sneller will tell the story of the creation of these tools, focusing on Honor Restored, which was launched in December 2017.

Conviction and Elenctics: Bringing Shame upon an Honored Missiological Paradigm (Chris Flanders, Abilene Christian University)

Eminent Reformed theologian, Francis Turetin, and noted missiologists Herman Bavinck and David Hesselgrave are among those that helped create a sub-discipline of missiology known as “elenctics” (conviction). Such resulted from a strong reaction against liberal 19th and 20th-century theology that minimized the seriousness and personal awareness of individual sin, particularly in missionary proclamation. Recent honor-shame approaches to scripture highlight how this approach was based more on western legal notions, outdated anthropology, and individualistic psychology. This presentation highlights how the biblical notion of “convict” is much more closely related to the experience of shame and why this is important for evangelism and global missiology.

Shame and Secularization: A Collateral Rise in American Society, by Bud Simon, Asbury Theological Seminary

The twentieth century has seen the United States undergo major changes in cultural values. Secularization has risen as a process in society, which pushes the church to the margins as a determinant of values. This has diminished the role of organized religion as a factor in establishing morality. At the same time as secularization has occurred, shame has increasingly taken the place of guilt as a moral imperative, changing the way culture determines right and wrong. Scripture provides insights for how to express good news to those who primarily define their cultural orientation through honor-shame relationships. This duality in cultural transitions motivates the church to reexamine evangelism and how ‘good news’ is expressed in the twenty-first century. A related article, “Honor-Shame Cultural Theory: Antecedents and Origins,” was published earlier this month at

Secularization and Social Control in Alaskan Eskimo Culture: Shifting from Fear/Power to Honor/Shame, by John Ferch, Western Seminary

The American colonization of Alaska during the early 20th century brought rapid change to the Yupik and Inupiat cultures. As the shamans succumbed to disease and the supernatural realm was called into question by Western technology and economics, the ancient methods of regulating social behavior lost much of their relevance. This paper traces how secularization has influenced the Eskimo cultures to shift from a Fear/Power-based worldview towards greater emphasis on Honor/Shame, with a view towards helping the church maintain appropriate approaches to ministry in this context.

Panel Discussion: The Impact of Honor/Shame Issues on Mission and Evangelism, with Chris Flanders, Werner Mischke, Wayne Dye, Mark Harlan, Kurt Richardson, and John Ferch

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Recordings from Patronage Symposium

We are excited to share the audio recordings of the Patronage Symposium (Beirut, October 3-5). They can be accessed and downloaded from here.

All the sessions were truly excellent, so this marks a key launching point for a conversation about patronage. Assuming you don’t have time to listen to all of them, I suggest picking the titles that best fit your interests and ministry contexts—you really can’t go wrong. Except for the 2 panel sessions, all presentations are 30-35 minutes long. These resources are available for the public, so feel free to share with others.

Below is a complete list of the presentations, along with my short summary of each one. Lynn Thigpen and Jackson Wu developed webinar-style presentations with their slideshows (see links below). 


Richard James—Patronage Symposium: Interdisciplinary, Intercultural, Interfaith Opportunities…introduces the nature and importance of patronage through three engaging stories. (Note: available as PDF-text only)

Panel—Closing Summary….has Richard James, Martin Accad, John Barclay, Jayson Georges, and Andy McCullough summarize the Patronage Symposium by sharing their thoughts on “the main takeaway of our time” and “next steps for patronage missiology.”

Panel—Lebanese Community Leadership…was an excellent 2-hour discussion with 5 prominent Lebanese leaders (a politician, Islamic mullah, pastor, psychologist, & NGO leader) about navigating the good and bad of patronage in Lebanese daily life.


Randolph Richards—Paul the Broker…identifies the ways Paul functioned as a broker in his letters and ministry, both good and bad examples.

Jayson Georges—2 Principles of Biblical Patronage…presents a practical model for transforming patronage relationships to be God-centered and life-giving.

Gerry Breshears—Abrahamic Righteousness…exegetically examines Genesis 12-25 to consider the basis of God reckoning Abraham righteous.

Werner Mischke—Abraham’s Model of Patronage… studies the various instances when Abraham functioned as a patronage.

Julyan Lidstone—A NT Perspective on Patronage/Leadership…offers a practical study of leadership styles (both good and bad) in 1 Corinthians.

John Barclay—How the Christ-gift Alters Patronage: NT Reflections…examines how Christ (esp. in 2 Cor 8-9) redefines the exchange in reciprocal relationships.

David deSilva—Stewardship: Paul’s Transformation of Patronage Within the Ekklesia…identifies key motifs in of patronage relationships in Paul’s letters and ministry.


James Tino—Patronage and the Search for Blessing in Latin American Religiosity…gives a functional examination of patronage dynamics in Latin church relationships.

Ekkhardt Sonntag— Wasta, Mediation and Patronage in Arab Cultures…explains wasta is relational mediation among Arabs, with applications for Hebrews 2 and refugee ministry.

Cristian Dimitrescu— Patronage in Discipleship & Mission in Asian Cultures…explores cultural patronage dynamics for ministry in Philippines/Asian contexts.

Patrick Chan— Confucianism and Chinese Patronage Relationships…explains social patronage in Chinese society.

Lynn Thigpen—Moving from Spiritual Patronage to Supra-Patronage: A Cambodian Story…presents a biblical model for supra-patronage through a compelling conversion story. The webinar style PPT presentation is on YouTube.

Anonymous—Consequences Of Benefaction in Developing Communities: An Asian Case Study…shows how patronage dynamics affected an NGO development project.

Jim Harries—Side Stepping Patronage with Vulnerable Mission…cautions against the use of outside funds in favor of using only local resources.

Chris Flanders—Becoming Clients: Thai Conversions to Christianity…analyzes 20 conversation narratives to see how God’s patronal provision was central.

Robert Oh—Patronage in Korean-Cambodia CP Relationships….traces his personal narrative and the meaning of fatherhood in ministry contexts.

Cathy Hine—Patronage in Women’s Discipleship…analyzes the dynamics of social networks in conversion and identify formation.

Jackson Wu—Reciprocity, Collectivism, and the Chinese Church….analyzes forms and meanings of reciprocity, using Chinese culture as an example. The webinar style PPT presentation is on YouTube. The paper is available here as a PDF.


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The Patronage Symposium: A Recap

Last week 54 people gathering in Beirut, Lebanon for The Patronage Symposium. All presentations were recorded, and will be posted in a few weeks here at In the meantime, Andy McCullough wrote this recap for those who could not attend. Andy is the author of Global Humility, and has lived in Cyprus, Middle East, India and UK. 

It was quite an extraordinary experience for me to be in a room full of people who I read—i.e., John Barclay, Randy Richards, Jayson Georges, Gerry Breshears, Werner Mischke, Jackson Wu. If an anti-honour-shame terrorist had wanted to take out all the leaders in this field of discovery, this was the room to bomb! This was the Patronage Symposium: Exploring the Gospel in Patron-Client Contexts in Beirut, October 3-5 2018, which I was privileged to attend.

Amidst all the world-leading papers presented from a dazzling array of different perspectives, the stand-out moment for me was a panel of Lebanese leaders, Muslim and Christian, talking about how they navigate the dynamics of patron-client expectations in real life. This “view from the inside” changed the conversation irreversibly, as views from the inside invariably do.

Changed was the conversation, from black-and-white to grey, from cognitive assent to intuitive navigation, from “what” to “how,” from “is patronage good or bad?” to “patronage is a morally-neutral cultural reality, but people can be good or bad.” Proximity always begets empathy.

Cathy Hine, in her paper, defined patron-client reciprocity as an “adaptive response to inequalities inherent in a hierarchical structure.” In Serbian Pastor Vlada Stojanovic’s observation, “such reciprocal relationships are beautiful. The wisdom required to dance this dance in my culture is enriching. I do want to see hearts redeemed. I don’t want to see my culture flattened.”

What happens next? Perhaps making and strengthening interdisciplinary and intercultural relationships, the reciprocity of mutual learning and the increase of our kingdom social capital is sufficient outcome! Perhaps, to use Jackson Wu’s phrase, relational collectivism is reward enough!

Hopefully, the West came East to learn, not just to teach. Hopefully theology in the academy learned something from theology on the road. Maybe the harder sciences gleaned something from the softer. Reciprocal exchange of gifts, after all, was the theme of the week!

I believe that this robust, interdisciplinary and intercultural understanding of patronage-clientelism will find application in three directions.

  1.  Exegetical. Biblical studies need to take account of this social reality in both NT and OT worlds.
  2. Missiological. Clearer understanding should lead to more thoughtful contextualisation.
  3. Pastoral/ Practical. Those working, ministering, living as outsiders in patronage-based societies will be better equipped for evangelism, business, church formation, relationships, and caring for the poor.


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Amy Carmichael, Jewels of Honor & Discipleship

Sandra Freeman has served with her husband in Botswana since 2001 doing discipleship and business mentoring. She blogs at

A difficult issue often arises in ministry when the matter of ‘honour-code’ replacement isn’t only a personal matter, but significantly impacts one’s spouse. A man may be willing to forego his personal honour, but a wife may not want him to. She sees her honour as attached to his, and doesn’t want to lose the honour that comes by being married to someone of honour.

Amy Carmichael (1867-1951), missionary to India for over 50 years, can be an inspiration in this area. The below story (from A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael, Elisabeth Elliott’s biography) reminds us that when a wife is willing to let go of her honour in the eyes of the community, her choice impacts her husband’s honour. She may be hesitant to let go of what brings her honour, because others will see her as shameful for dishonoring her husband!

Relationship complexities can be significant obstacles in replacing ‘honor-codes’ in the process of discipleship.  But this situation faced by Amy Carmichael can help us persevere in developing a new ‘honour-code’ in life and ministry.

“The great passion of Amy Carmichael’s life was uttermost love, which meant uttermost obedience. … This was the spirit she sought to instill in the members of the Starry Cluster [Amy’s band of Indian women believers who lived and ministered together]. The question of jewels illustrates their earnestness. Jewels, a word that embraced all gold or silver necklaces, bracelets, bangles, and rings (for nose, ears and ankles as well as fingers), were in Tinnevelly [a major city in the South of India], by far the most important elements in a woman’s appearance. “It is a pretty custom,” Amy wrote, “and we thought nothing of it. Our Band members wore the usual quantity. It is considered part of their dress.” Its significance however, went far beyond prettiness. Women were more or less sold to their husbands for so many rupees’ worth of jewels—a man with a B.A. could command so many, an M.A. so many, this cast so many, that one so many.  In this way the quantity of jewels a woman wore declared her husband’s honor as well as her family’s wealth…

Gradually as we sought to know more of our Lord and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, the conviction grew upon us that these things (i.e. jewels) were out of place in His own chosen workers—His separated ones—and that this conforming to the law of fashion of this world was of the flesh and not of the Spirit.” Hair oil, hairstyles, and shoes were not, in Amy’s view, an indication of the conformity to the world’s fashion, any more than were topees and umbrellas, which were believed indispensable if foreigners’ brains were not to melt.

Jewels on the other hand, were in a separate category. “I love the old native customs. I cannot bear the foreignizing element so common in much mission work in India, so it was much against the grain that I faced this thing at all. But here God’s Word ran one and custom another. There was no help for it. We prayed that if God wanted the question raised He would raise it among our workers, apart from us, and He did.”

A man had asked that his wife be allowed to travel with the Band for a while in order to learn to serve others.  They consented, and he came one day to ask her to give him her jewels. He did not think them appropriate for the sort of life he desired for her. [Amy’s beloved co-worker and friend] Ponnammal overheard his words with intense interest. Only the evening before she had heard a child (referring to Ponnammal) say, ‘When I grow up I will join that Band so that I may wear jewels like that sister.” Ponnammal asked the Lord about this and the answer came, “Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.” The message was unmistakable. She saw herself as the Indian world would see her—unjewelled, a marked woman, an eyesore, an offense. To take off her jewels was unnatural, disgraceful, even hypocritical. But in the Lord’s eyes?  He would see the love that lay behind the action. She went home, took off the jewels, laid them at His feet.

“Lord, Thou didst empty Thyself for me. I empty myself for Thee.” One by one the other women of the Band followed. The “outside Christian world” laughed them to scorn, but an English preacher, F.B. Meyer, came just in time to strengthen the Band in its conviction. He was the first they had ever heard mention the jewel question. Other women who heard him saw it as utterly impossible. “Where would my glory be if I took them off?” said one. “Where would my husband’s be? Tinnevelly women never will!”  So the Band became a “peculiar people” knit together in their desire to be “otherworldly, separate unto Jesus.” When a teenaged girl escaped from her Hindu home and joined them, Amy had a talk with her about jewels. The child, with very bad grace, tore off two foot jewels. No, said Amy, Jesus was now her jewel—would she not give Him all? The girl took off all but one ring. She looked at the members of the Band jewelless, singing “Jesus is my jewel.” Off came the ring.

Years later the oddity appeared as an eminently practical thing when a watchman of the robber caste said, “If those girls, those hundreds of girls, wore jewels according to custom, not all the money in the world could hire a watchman to guard the place.”

Excerpted from “A Chance to Die- the Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael” by Elisabeth Elliot, chapter 18.


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Honor-Shame at Missio Nexus Conference

The upcoming Missio Nexus Conference—Partnership—will have several honor-shame related events, along with many other great opportunities and speakers.

Here are some of the honor-shape events:


In this week’s email to all attenders, Missio Nexus is inviting all attenders to take Missio Nexus president Ted Esler will summarize the data in his opening “who’s here” address. So if you are going to Partnership, be sure to click that link take TheCultureTest!

2. Workshop

Werner Mischke will lead a workshop “Giving Honor: A Key to Healthy Cross-Cultural Partnerships” (Friday at 3:30p) in the executive leadership tract. Here is the workshop summary:

Objective 1: Observe from Scripture and social science that RIVALRY was a problem in the N.T. world; correspondingly, honor competition and rivalry was a major challenge for the N.T. church.
Objective 2: Examine what rivalry and honor competition look like in mission agencies, networks, or cross-cultural partnerships today. Bring to the surface honor-status issues that often remain unstated in cross-cultural collaboration.

Objective 3: Explore the Scriptures showing Jesus and Paul revealing that serving and “giving honor” undermine rivalry and honor competition.
Objective 4: Consider what “giving honor” looks like in cross-cultural partnerships today. It often looks like empathic listening.

The corresponding article will be in the October 2018 issue of EMQ.

3. Display Table 

You can connect with the Honor-Shame Network at Missio Nexus. Werner Mischke is representing the Honor-Shame Network, one of the 30 global mission networks featured as part of the “Network Hub.” To connect, visit the Honor-Shame Network display at the Network Hub during networking times, or email Werner at
Hopefully you can attend and benefit from these events. And don’t forget about the 7 honor-shame papers at the national EMS gathering
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New Article: Theology of Honor & Shame (by J Wu)

The recent edition of Themelios journal (The Gospel Coalition) published Jackson Wu’s article “Have Theologians No Sense of Shame? How the Bible Reconciles Objective and Subjective Shame.” This article clearly sets forth a biblical theology of honor and shame. I recommend this article because it is:

  1. free, no paywall!
  2. biblical and comprehensive, filled with biblical citations
  3. accessible and clear, easy to grasp
  4. a major corrective of the half-biblical misconceptions of honor and shame

Here is the article abstract: 

Everyone agrees shame is a pervasive problem; yet, in book and articles, we find writers often talk past one another. Missionaries and anthropologists speak of “honor-shame” cultures. Psychologists describe shame as an individual, emotional experience. Strangely, theologians typically say little about the topic. Christian scholars tend to treat guilt as “objective” and shame merely a “subjective.” This misunderstanding undermines our ability to develop a practical theology of honor and shame. Therefore, this article demonstrates how the Bible helps us have an integrated understanding of shame in its theological, psychological, and social dimensions.

The article explains 6 biblical problems that concern honor-shame…

  1. People have shamed God.
  2. People are shameful
  3. People feel shame.
  4. People shame others.
  5. People suffer shame from others.
  6. God will put people to shame. 

…then explains the 6 aspects of biblical salvation in honor-shame terms.

  1. God glorifies himself.
  2. God gives us a heart to honor him.
  3. God in Christ removes shame and restores honor.
  4. We get a new identity and belong to the Church.
  5. Because of a new identity, we no longer feel ashamed.
  6. We are able to honor God and others. 

I suggest you print out this article, sit down with a pen, and dive into Scripture with this article. 


Posted in Bible, Resources, Theology Tagged with: ,

Biblically, What Is Your ‘Name’?

Author and teacher Lois Tvarberg is co-founder of the En-Gedi Resource Center. This post is adapted from her recent book, Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus 

International communications trainer Sarah Lanier has traveled the globe to teach about cultural differences. In her book Foreign to Familiar, she tells about how she handled some Arab boys who were taunting her with catcalls on the street one day. To their surprise, she turned and addressed them in Arabic, asking their names.

Startled, the boys identified themselves, wondering why she wanted to know. Because, she would tell their fathers about their behavior, and how they were being an embarrassment to their families. Horrified, the boys apologized profusely and pleaded with her not to do such a thing.1

Lanier asked the boys their names because she knew that their family’s public reputation, their “name,” was of critical importance in their society. Knowing this helps us decode a much misunderstood word in our Bibles, the Hebrew word shem, which overlaps with the English word “name” but is actually much broader. In older translations we often encounter the word “name” being used in odd ways. Grasping what shem actually means will often help us a lot.

Your Shem Is Your Communal Identity

The key to the puzzle of shem is to consider the Bible’s collective context, where a person’s identity within the wider community was of utmost significance. There, the word shem is much more about one’s identity within a community than the verbal label that a person bears, like “George,” “Bill,” or “Mary,” even though the word shem does mean “name” in that sense too.

Imagine that a stranger walks up to you and asks, “What’s your identity?” You could answer by saying “Mary Smith,” but your identity, your shem, is much bigger than that. In our culture, it comes from your education, your job, and how others perceive your status, your reputation, or your authority. To speak “in the name” of someone, biblically, is to speak by his or her authority.

To us, the word “name” usually brings to mind a person’s first name. Notice, though, that the name the Arab boys were far more worried about protecting was their family name. Their family’s shem (in the sense of their identity or reputation) was far more critical than their own.

Shem in the Bible

When you read the word “name” being used in an odd way in the Bible, you are likely encountering the word shem in its communal context, where honor and shame are everything. To have a “great name” is be well-known and influential, and to have a “bad name” is to be an embarrassment to everyone who knows you. This is why the word shem sometimes doesn’t even make sense translated as “name,” and is better understood as fame, renownreputation, authority, or honor. See how this clarifies these verses (ESV):

  • I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth (Zephaniah 3:20).
  • From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the Lord your God. (Joshua 9:9)
  • …So they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me. (Nehemiah 6:13)
  • Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper…This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever. (Isaiah 55:13, NIV)

The Promise of a New Name

In collective, hierarchical cultures, one’s “name” is closely associated with honor and authority. When the Scriptures talk about God giving a person a new name, it denotes that they are being given a new status in society. Abram, a withered-up wanderer, becomes Abraham, father-of-nations! Sarai, a barren old matron, becomes Sarah, mother of princes! God changed their identity and gave them a new role in society, and it came with a change in name.

In a collective society, rejecting your family heritage will cost you dearly and even cause you to be expelled from your community. …

In many cultures, publicly accepting Christ means giving up one’s family, heritage, prestige, and any chance of success in life. This is why Christ promises to give a “new name” to his followers who refuse to deny him in the face of persecution (Rev. 2:17). In this world they may have forfeited their “name,” their reputation, for his sake. But when he comes to reign in glory, these are the people whom he will single out for acclaim. No more will they be known as outcasts but as leaders and princes, with renown to replace the shame they bore during their lives.


Posted in Bible, Communication, Culture, Relationships, Theology Tagged with: , , , ,

“Patronage”: A Quick Definition

For the upcoming Patronage Symposium we developed this document “Patronage—A Quick Definitions Sheet.” Since “What exactly is patronage?” was a common question that people asked in the patronage survey, I figured this resource would be worth sharing more broadly. 


This definitions sheet is for all participants to be familiar with the basic concepts and terms. This is of course a starting point. You should not feel bound by these definitions. Speakers may feel the need to clarify their precise nuance, local specificities, or otherwise disagree with these definitions. We should also note that various expressions, metaphors and language formulas are used in particular languages and cultures to evoke patronage expectations (e.g. father and son, shepherd and flock).

The Patron-Client Model and Terms

Patronage is a social model used to describe a certain kind of relationship. It is also often called benefaction. Patronage occurs in many forms and varies considerably. The use of models oversimplifies, but does enable us to make some general descriptions of the characteristics of patronage/benefaction.

Patron-client relationships are asymmetrical relationships which exist between more than one unequal party. What distinguishes patron-client relationships from other asymmetrical relationships, is that they are voluntary, so not formalised in law. There are (usually) no treaties or legal documents, but a set of informal reciprocal expectations. Patron-client relationships are usually not one-off exchanges, but relationships maintained over a period of time.

Patrons are the stronger party. They provide benefits (or favors) to the weaker party. These benefits may be in the form of finance, material aid or other material items, but they often also include non-material benefits, such as social capital, connections, protection and other things the weaker party requires.

Clients are the weaker party. They receive benefits from the patron, and reciprocate with other favours, such as the giving of gratitude; expressions of thanks, loyalty and obedience, as well as other things.

Reciprocity is a key feature of patron-client relationships, which are based in expectations of gratitude, obligation, faithfulness, allegiance, and honor.

Brokers are agents who function between patrons and clients. Patron-client relationships are rarely only between two parties. There are often intermediaries or a chain of patron-client relationships. Brokers are often a client of a patron, as well as a patron to their own clients.

3 Other Explanations

Hereare definitions from three academics that paint a similar picture of patronage:

1. A commonly-referenced description from a Roman historian and classicist:

“First, [patronage] involves the reciprocal exchange of goods and services. Secondly, to distinguish it from a commercial transaction in the market- place, the relationship must be a personal one of some duration. Thirdly, it must be asymmetrical, in the sense that the two parties are of unequal status and offer different kinds of goods and services in the exchange—a quality which sets patronage off from friendship between equals.” —Richard Saller, Personal Patronage Under the Early Empire (Cambridge, 1982), 1.

2. A functional, descriptive explanation by a missiologist:

“The patron, like a parent, is totally responsible for the welfare of his clients. … Clients in fact can ask a patron for whatever they think he may grant, but this is not considered begging—no more than Christian think they are begging when they ask God for help. Clients for their part, must be totally loyal to their patron. … The patron gains power and prestige within the society, and the client gains security.” — Paul Hiebert, Anthropological Insights for Missionaries (Baker, 1986), 124.

3. A broad, generic definition by a biblical scholar:

Patronage is a form of exchange that is personal and that involves someone with superior status giving something to those with inferior status, leaving the inferior party owing honor and loyalty to the superior party.” — Zeba Crook, “Benefaction/PatronageOxford Bibliographies (June 2015).


Posted in Culture, Missiology, patronage, Resources Tagged with: , ,