Select Page



Dr. Grant C. Richison


The argument for changing the gospel from guilt/innocence is that some cultures are shame/honor oriented. The shame/honor issue surrounding the gospel relates to how the community thinks about a person becoming a believer. If the community deems this deplorable then for an individual to choose to believe differently, it becomes culturally wrong. The accommodation of the gospel to shame/honor of necessity must 1) neuter the idea of sin and 2) negate the idea that the individual must make the decision to receive the blood-bought work of Christ.

The real problem with the shame/honor approach is the loss of the sense of personal sin. The concept of a Savior will also be lost if we orient the gospel to shame/honor. We receive forgiveness for sins, not as a collective community, but as individuals, because an individual believes that Jesus died for his/her sins. The argument that some missiologists now make for presenting the gospel to shame/honor cultures is a contextual argument, that is, contextualization precedes theology. They change from a doctrine of sin to a doctrine of “image.” They use biblical theology which includes ideas of identity to do this. They must “rethink” the biblical idea of the gospel to make change to their theology. They shift to ideas of the covenant and kingdom to build this new gospel. They want to suffuse the idea of guilt because that brings shame.

To place culture or contextualization over exegesis is eisegesis. In other words, people who distort the gospel by eisegesis have violated hermeneutics and fail to honor Scripture as prior to any philosophy.

We must acknowledge that the gospel must be presented with a particular culture in view. We approach people on their approachable side. But this is a matter of method, not message (which is the problem with the new theology of missions). The essential problem is the accommodation of truth, of message, of the gospel itself. The method approach must present the gospel so that shame cultures can hear the message of sin/forgiveness without letting their cultural assumption to get in the way.