Posts Tagged ‘Patron’

Book Plunge: The Global Gospel

January 20, 2015

What do I think of Werner Mischke’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Global Gospel

Mission One has released the Global Gospel by Mischke to illustrate the problem in reaching people in the Majority World. We have been hampered growing up in a guilt-innocence culture whereas the world of the Bible is that of an honor-shame culture. It also has impacted our reading of the Bible as where there are parts that are not made explicit, because these would be part of the background culture, we automatically tend to plug in our own culture.

Consider marriage. In the ancient world, a marriage would often be a matter between two men. No. Not the way you’re thinking in our debates today. It would be a matter between the father of the groom and the father of the bride. The two would arrange it and it would be a sort of trade. Marriage would be used to unite families and often could be used for political alliances as well. If we read in our concept of dating and marriage, we misread the text.

Mischke has a great line that I wish we all could learn in the west to show this.

Culturally speaking, the Bible does not “belong” to you; it’s not your book.

What a great lesson to learn. While we can agree with Paul that everything was written for us, it was not written to us. We of necessity need Scripture to understand the salvation of Christ and what it is we are to do, but we do not have to have Western culture being assumed as part of Christianity. This is not to say that Western culture is a bad thing, but it is to say that it does not need to be married to the Gospel. Too often in our evangelism strategy, we’ve brought over not just the Gospel to unreached people, but we’ve also brought over our own culture and included it in the Gospel.

If you go to people of an honor-shame culture and start talking about the guilt that is experienced because of our sin and the beauty of justification by faith, you will not get much of a response to your altar call. These people are not thinking primarily about guilt. What matters most to them is honor and shame. In fact, maintaining honor means more to them than life itself does. This is why Japanese pilots could crash on Pearl Harbor as an attack and why some terrorists can do suicide bombers. They value the honor of what they fight for and the honor they can gain more than their own lives.

Now imagine going to these people instead and telling them about how they are living in a state of shame. They have dishonored the one true God and will be having to face His eternal shame. However, this God has provided a remedy. His Son has come and faced the shame that we all deserve by dying a most shameful death on a cross at the hands of His enemies. However, in facing this, God honored Him by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand to rule the world. All who trust in Him, He will bestow His honor on and adopt them into the family of God.

Okay. Now you’re talking. If you’re speaking of honor and shame to these people, they will be listening. While you should believe in justification by faith, that is not the message that will reach these people because that is a message about guilt. Of course in honor-shame cultures there is guilt in the sense of having done an objective wrong to someone, but the result is not an internal feeling that we must make amends and fix the problem. The main sense for the honor-shame is that the person has been a disgrace and has dishonored their family and their culture. In fact, this is one reason suicide can be so prevalent in an honor-shame culture like Japan. It is better to die than to live with shame.

Mischke takes us through several aspects of an honor-shame culture. Why is the face so important? What is challenge-riposte? What is a patron and how does he relate to his clients? Why is purity such a big deal? These and many other questions are asked. Mischke also wants to stress an important point that this not only applies to how we reach people in the majority world, and yes, most of the world does think in terms of honor and shame, but how we reach our own people over here.

How many of us have had guilt for a past sin that we’ve done and while we know forgiveness, we still have a lot of shame over it? It is just painful to look back and think on it every time. Many of us to some extent carry shame. I am convinced none of us can live fully in an individualistic culture. There is always still going to be this background culture of honor and shame no matter how much we try to bury it.

How would your presentation of the Gospel be different if you not only removed the objective guilt someone has before the throne of God, but you also shared with them that God has taken away their shame. What if you showed them that God has honored them? What if you showed them that honor is something they are even commanded to seek for in Scripture? What if you showed them they really are adopted into the family of God?

For this, Mischke’s book will also give a greater appreciation of the work of Christ. Removing guilt is good and important and we should never lose sight of that, but the idea of honor is essential. So much we have songs in our contemporary culture that speak of God as if He is our buddy and our best friend. What if you instead got the message that you are seated in the heavens as Ephesians 2 says? What if you were told you were adopted into the family of God, as can be found at the end of Romans 8? I can’t help but think of C.S. Lewis who said we are far too easily pleased. We want to be a friend of God. He wants us seated in the heavens.

Now I do not agree with everything Mischke says. For instance, with challenge-riposte, I think Mischke does go against it some. I think Jesus in fact engaged heavily in it and the resurrection, as Mischke rightly shows, is certainly the ultimate riposte. The early church did the same as did the apostles and where the honor of God is challenged today, we also need often to engage in challenge-riposte as well.

Still, this is the kind of book I wish every pastor would read. It is an excellent introduction to this kind of thinking for those who might not be familiar with it at all. If we could reclaim this, we would not only have much more vibrant Christian lives, but we would also be able to understand the Bible and the historical Jesus far better than we do. In fact, while some have said there could be a fourth quest for the historical Jesus starting with taking the Gospel of John more seriously, I believe the next real quest for the historical Jesus will involve learning to understand Jesus from a majority world perspective.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Apostles’ Creed: The Father

March 11, 2014

What does it mean when we talk about God the Father? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Last time, I just started us off with God and stated that the term at this point is not specific. Many people will say they believe in God, but God can be so vague as to mean anything that they want. I also gave arguments for God’s existence. From this point on, we are going to be assuming theism.

When we say God is Father, we have automatically now introduced a personal element. We can rule out a pantheistic viewpoint at this stage then. God is someone who can be treated as a person. Perhaps in some cases we could view out deism unless we want to assume God is some sort of deadbeat father.

The term Jesus used when He spoke about the Father was often, “abba.” This was a term that would also show familiarity and access. Jesus was one in a special position of access to the goodness of the Father due to His being the only begotten Son.

On the other hand, Jesus would often say “Abba, Father” which would include the familiar as well as the respect. In our modern age, we like to emphasize the familiar term, which we have all right to use, but to forget about the respect term. God is not often respected.

I look at this as the concept of how we treat Christ especially as the buddy Jesus. Unfortunately, this too often has us not treat Christ as someone who is our sovereign king and is our sole connection to the Father through the Holy Spirit.

We can do the same with the Father. God can be treated casually instead of as the strong reality that He is, and we’re all guilty of it. This is why the belief system of many young people today in regards to Christianity is described as morally therapeutic deism. God is there, but God’s purpose is to make sure you’re happy and that you feel good, especially about yourself.

It’s also important to note that in the ancient world, God would have been seen as Father along the lines of a patron. The patron was the one who provided the blessings to the people known as clients. These blessings would be seen as grace. The loyalty that the clients were to show the patron in return for His blessings was faith. The patron could be YHWH or Zeus or a slavemaster or a parent or the emperor.

God is the supreme patron and with regards to fatherhood, Paul reminds us that God is the father from whom all fatherhood comes. It’s not the case that a man has a son and God’s relationship with us is something like that. It’s that God has his Son and has us as His adopted sons (and daughters) as a result and a man’s relationship with His son is something like that. It is never the case that God is like us. It is always the case that what we have that is good is like Him.

That we can call God Father still does mean that we have access to Him and we should always make sure that we are not taking that privilege lightly. Many of us in the West are blessed beyond measure, even if poor. We have more Bibles than we know what to do with, unaware often that someone in a third world country or a place with heavy persecution like China would give anything to have even a page of a Bible they could understand. We have access to more information in scholarly works about God than anywhere else. We do not normally live in constant terror of other nations destroying us. We do not worry about having food to eat or water to drink or clothes to wear.

There is nothing wrong with our being blessed, but let us not lose sight that it is indeed a blessing. Our Father owes us nothing save what He has already promised and blessing in this life of a material sort is NEVER promised. He has promised us forgiveness and eternal life, both of which we often lose sight of, especially when those material blessings we aren’t promised are not being given. Of course, when we find ourselves in this situation, it is just fine to be honest about it, like the Psalmist often is, but let us try to change our attitude to realize as James says, that every good gift comes from the Father above. Every single one of them comes from God and each one is a gift of grace.

Knowing God as Father should be a reminder to us of the grace that has been bestowed on us. We have a rare privilege that we have access to God, something that would seem incredible to people in the Old Testament times who had to go through numerous intermediaries. We are a privileged people. Indeed, we who are the least in the Kingdom are said to be greater than John the Baptist.

Today, don’t lose sight of God as Father. Treat Him with the respect that He is due.

In Christ,
Nick Peters