Book review: The 3D Gospel: Ministry in Guilt, Shame, and Fear Cultures
Available in French, Spanish, and Russian, the The 3D Gospel is structured in three parts: culture, theology, and ministry, or mission. The author, Jayson Georges, a missiologist in residence for an evangelical organization, calls for a three-dimensional (3D) gospel that speaks to every context instead of a one-dimensional approach (western) that addresses only guilt and innocence.
Culture: In the first part of the book, cultural paradigms are simplified into a guilt-fear-shame trichotomy. This trichotomy serves as a framework in understanding orientations underlying every cultural context. Why do such cultural orientations exist? It is based on how resources are attained and how a particular group rewards (innocence, honor, and power) or punishes (guilt, shame, fear) (27). In such systems there are three primary gatekeepers controlling resources: formal institutions, human communities, and unseen spirits. This is further illustrated with a chart (30, 31) that shows several human needs and how each culture meets them or responds to them.
Theology: How does the guilt-shamefear trichotomy help in doing theology? For Georges, since “the Bible is one narrative in which forgiveness, honor, and power are woven together” (35), the trichotomy can serve as a framework for contextualizing the gospel as well as interpreting scripture. He thus develops three dimensions of salvation—forgiveness, honor, and power—to speak to the cultures of guilt, shame, and fear.
This is demonstrated with narrative theology (which pervades much of the book) to sketch guilt-innocence, shame-honor, and fear-power narratives of salvation. In the outline of fear-power narrative, the death of Jesus on the cross disarmed the dark powers and authorities (44). By turning to Jesus, believers are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light and are able to have power and dominion over all other authorities; thus, “God’s grace restores our authoritative position in the world” (45).
The author further posits that guilt, shame, and fear can be alleviated only by the atonement of Jesus’ death. Interestingly, theologians have made attempts to use atonement theories to speak to guilt, shame, and fear contexts through history. This is seen in the auspices of ransom theory for fear, satisfaction theory for shame, and penal substitution theory for guilt. In this way, the author engages historical theology by observing that the various substitution theories be prioritized according to the context since they help present a 3D gospel that speaks to all cultures (52). He even charted various systematized categories in the guilt, shame, and fear languages. (53, 54)
Ministry: How can the gospel be communicated in each cultural setting? This can be done by presenting a 3D “plan of salvation” and “story of salvation” combined with a suggestion to use three contextual approaches of Christian witness—truth encounter, power encounter, and community encounter—to help people engage the gospel through meaningful forms (56). The three approaches were taken from Paul’s ministry in the book of Acts (61). For instance, in truth encounter the author says that what Paul did at the end of his message in Acts 13:13–42 in proclaiming the truth as Jesus’ forgiveness of sins is the truth encounter needed for western Christianity. Unsurprisingly, this is what Western Christianity (guilt-innocence context) is known for—imparting truth whether through apologetics, rational arguments, or systematized theology.
A similar trend is followed to demonstrate community encounter. Using the conversion of the family of the Philippian jailer in Acts 16, Georges opines that people from contexts of shame need communal encounters that redefine individuals through genuine group relationship. Thus, a biblical community encounter involves an interface of experiencing the glory of the divine Trinity as a community of honor, the participation in God’s earthly family (church) as an expression of honor as well as involvement of the family unit as an affirmation of honor.
In this easy to read theological and practical book, the use of narrative theology as well as semantics and familiar words and phrases for each element of the trichotomy is commendable. Also, considering the globalization phenomenon, the author’s recognition of the fact that each element of the trichotomy can be seen in each cultural context makes this little book outstanding. Moreover, this book is a contribution to the ongoing global theological discourse of intercultural missiology. Finally, although this book seems to be written for western theologians, it is worth reading for everyone engaged in any form of ministry. —Reviewed by Chigemezi Nnadozie Wogu, research associate, Institute of Adventist Studies, Friedensau Adventist University, Möckern, Germany
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