Volume 41 - Issue 3
The 3D Gospel: Ministry in Guilt, Shame, and Fear Culturesby Jayson Georges
Jayson Georges, author of The 3D Gospel, is a missiologist who has also served as a missionary in Central Asia, working in development, discipleship, and church planting. During that time, he became more attuned to the issues of shame and fear and developed a greater desire for the honor of God. Out of that new awareness, Georges pursued this dimension of culture and theology in new ways. He has developed TheCultureTest.com, an online test that allows one to identify personal or more broad cultural orientation toward guilt, shame, and fear. He also blogs at HonorShame.com, which he founded in 2013. This blog, Honorshame.com,
offers practical tools and training for Christians ministering in honor-shame contexts. Though honor-shame is the primary OS for 80% of the world, they remain significant blind spots in Western culture, theology, and missiology. HonorShame.com develops and advocates a biblical missiology for honor-shame cultures, so that all peoples will sing, “My salvation and honor depend on God” (Ps 62:7).
The 3D Gospel is George’s attempt to make this learning accessible to a broader audience.
A programmatic statement for the entire book comes from the concluding section. Georges argues that sin
distorts the human family by causing guilt, shame, and fear. Consequently, the cultures of the world chase after innocence, honor, and power apart from God. But the God of the Bible desires to bless all peoples with the fullness of salvation in Christ. The calling of the Church is to meaningfully introduce the nations to the God who addresses our deepest cultural and spiritual longings. (p. 73)
Most readers would likely agree in theory with such a statement. But, as Georges contends, a large number of contemporary Christians do not embrace the fullness of salvation that makes room the areas of shame-honor and fear-power. More than simply a casual oversight, such constitutes “a one-dimensional gospel” that
threatens the veracity and integrity of the Bible. We misread Scripture and construct a sub-biblical view of God. If God does not save us from shame and fear (not just theoretically, but practically), then we severely minimize his glory as God. A 3D gospel allows us to more fully worship our holy, glorious, and sovereign God. (p. 74)
Relying upon a typology of varying cultural reaction to infractions, Georges extrapolates three broad cultural types: guilt-, shame-, and fear-cultures. Guilt-cultures correlate with western individualistic cultures, shame-cultures with non-western collectivist cultures, and fear-cultures with animistic-cultures. Georges is quick to note that no culture partakes exclusively in one type and that these types are very broad heuristics. Yet, as Georges contends, all societies will likely tilt toward one particular type, thus warranting the designation.
Chapter Three, using this tripartite framework of guilt-shame-fear, elaborates on the story of salvation viewed through each of these cultural lenses. This brief but very helpful chapter provides nuanced descriptions about how the gospel story can be heard with strong resonances for guilt-innocence, shame-honor, and fear-power. Georges fills his discussion with key scriptural texts that connect to each particular dimension. This chapter contains a brief survey of three major theories of atonement (ransom, satisfaction, and penal substitution). Each theory speaks powerfully and particularly to guilt, shame, or fear as each image speaks to different human needs.
Georges ends the book with a chapter on contextualized forms of witness. Christian communication must address each culture type in distinctive fashion. As he unpacks the 3D gospel, he leads readers through a helpful discussion of truth-, power-, and community-encounters. He notes specific biblical imagery, metaphors, and a contextualized “plan of salvation” to match each cultural framework. There are also brief yet helpful discussion questions at the end of the book. These can be used profitably for further reflection or group discussions.
Georges writes as an informed practitioner. He adeptly summarizes very broad cultural and theological issues in a clear, practical form. I would raise a few minor issues. First, Georges paints with very broad cultural strokes, which he admits are oversimplifications. Second, though not intended for experts, several foundational claims would benefit from more scholarly grounding, such as George’s claim that the primary creative force for these cultural differences is socio-economic (p. 27) and the division of culture into three broad types (p. 10). Since it is more introductory and practical in purpose, these issues perhaps are more a function of the book’s brevity and function than real oversights.
Though missiological in focus, this book would be beneficial for any who wish to understand better the gospel in all its fullness. This book would be an excellent resource for all who work to frame the Christian message in any culture. It could function in introductory courses on missions or courses that deal specifically with the gospel. Also, since the book is relatively short and written at a popular level, it is ideal for church classes or discussions about missions and culture. In short, The 3D Gospel is a perfect introduction into the critical issues of honor-shame, innocence-guilt, and power-fear.
Abilene Christian University
Abilene, Texas, USA
Other Articles in this Issue
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