One of the joys of reading the Bible is to see again and again how it ties together so thoroughly and deeply, and to see again and again how clearly it presents the reality of the human condition in all of its beauty and ugliness. My joy was increased three-fold recently as I enjoyed the wonderful book The 3D Gospel: Ministry in Guilt, Shame, and Fear Cultures by Jayson Georges.
If you are, like me, a Christian in the West, you have probably interacted with the gospel primarily on the basis of guilt. Our main (perhaps only) understanding of the gospel is that we have been declared ‘not guilty’ due to the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. This is a good understanding, and the certain testimony of the Scriptures, but as Georges lays out in his very well-written book, it is only one facet of a fuller understanding of the gospel.
I won’t try to lay it all out here, as you’ll be much better served by taking the time to read through the short (only 80 pages) but very content-rich book, but I’ll try to whet your appetite.
Georges explains that there are three types of cultures: guilt-innocence cultures, shame-honor cultures, and fear-power cultures. Every person and group includes some elements of all three culture types, but one of the three will dominate. In the West we are primarily a guilt-innocence culture, and so we understand the gospel mainly from that perspective. In the East, shame-honor predominates, and in tribal parts of the world, like Africa, fear-p0wer dominates.
Just this understanding was eye-opening for me. I think we all understand that honor, shame, fear, and power are major influences in how we live our lives, but I don’t think we have (or at least I haven’t) considered deeply how the gospel addresses these issues.
A second eye-popper was to see how clearly the themes of shame and honor, and fear and power run right alongside the theme of guilt and innocence throughout the Scriptures. It’s not that there are three gospels, mind you. There is but one. But, it is much more comprehensive in how it addresses the effects of sin in humanity than I had realized. This is wonderful for my own interaction with the gospel, but so much more so when we consider how we can better bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to bear in the lives of those in shame-honor or fear-power cultures.
I’m still chewing and pondering the implications of my new understanding of how humans react to sin and how the gospel addresses that sin. As I do, I will unpack more. In the meantime, I strongly encourage you to take a look at this book, The 3D Gospel. Hopefully it will be available in a print format soon. You can also check out the rest of the author’s website. Let me know what you learn, and how it will affect your understanding and communication of the gospel!