How to Babel on the Gospel in China

I want to briefly illustrate the idea from my previous post. I suggested that it may be better for us to begin with the Babel story (rather than with Adam & Eve) when preaching the gospel.

The Babel account is especially meaningful for collectivistic, honor-shame cultures. Previously, I interpreted Genesis 11 and discussed issues of face and collective identity.

In this post, I’ll use a Chinese context simply for the sake of illustration. I encourage people to find similar explanations that draw from their own culture.

shanghai-tower-china-tallest-building-completed-20130803 Continue reading

The Chase for Face: The Shame of Western Collectivism

Ever wonder what Western collectivism looks like and why it matters? My recent article attempts to deal with these questions. 800px-Constitution_We_the_PeopleYou can find it over at the Missio blog, which is hosted by The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation, and Culture. The article is called “The Chase for Face: The Shame of Western Collectivism.”

Here are some of the things I address.

Socially speaking, what is “collectivism”?

Why are honor-shame cultures considered “collectivistic”?  What’s the logic?

What does Western style “collectivistic” look like?

Can we measure honor and shame?

What is the cost of Western collectivism?

Why does all this practically matter? What is the application?

Leave your comments and join the conversation. I look forward to hearing your ideas.

Do you want “face”?

Have you ever wondered how honor-shame might influence a gospel presentation?

This video gives just a small glimpse into how such a conversation might flow. It is guided by two questions related to “face.”

  • Who are your relationships? (i.e. ascribed honor and shame)
  • What have you done? (i.e. achieved honor and shame)

These are the two ways that a person can either get face or lose face.

The video is intended to be a training video used to help people understand in part how “face” might influence our gospel conversations. Below is the Chinese version of this video.

**Note: For some reason, iPhones may not show the video posted above. For a direct link, click here.

It is NOT meant to be a gospel presentation. Of course, it does contain a number of ideas that could shape the way someone presents the gospel.

In a few weeks, I will release another video that uses honor-shame to tell the grand biblical story. Because that video will be more biblical/theological in nature, one could more easily see it as an introduction to the gospel.

I would love to hear your feedback. Let me a comment and let me know you suggestions, questions, or any other thoughts.
Here is the Chinese language version: 你要脸吗? It has been adapted in places to better suit a Chinese context.
** For those interested, you click here for the link to the Chinese version posted on youku.

China’s Pragmatic Perspective on Christianity

Recently, had an excellent summary of the Chinese government’s perspective of Christianity. The article is titled “China Takes a Pragmatic Approach to Christianity” (Aug 8, 2014).

Here is a noteworthy excerpt:

For Beijing, religion is not seen solely as a personal moral or spiritual decision. Organized religion is seen as something that can rally support, build connections and potentially create a center of power opposed to, or at least not aligned with, the Communist Party. Yet Beijing also recognizes the very real value of religious or spiritual ideals in society. Christian missionaries initiated many of China’s early institutions of higher learning and medical hospitals, and religious organizations serve strong social security functions, providing services for orphans, the poor and other elements on the fringe of society. Religion also provides a moral framework that can reduce the likelihood of widespread unrest. It promotes satisfaction with the current life, a focus on social service, and a moral code that shuns corruption, greed and disorder. In short, religion can serve to mollify the masses and to soften the potential for unrest in the face of weakening economic performance.

But China is cautious of simply embracing religion for fear of allowing religious organizations, particularly those led from overseas, to garner too much influence or control. The Communist Party of China is a jealous leader and brooks no competition. Therefore, it is aiming to ensure that Christianity and other religions can operate in line with the Party’s continued leadership, do not rise up against government policies and, most important, do not consider Western ideas, morals and norms as superior to China’s. As the Communist Party of China’s moral authority has declined in China, little has emerged to fill the gap. Religion can provide some guidance, but the Party is also seeking to harness a greater force: Chinese nationalism and history as alternative sources of legitimacy. By emphasizing the extent of Chinese history, invention and philosophy, the Party is seeking to reduce the sense of need to seek such guidance and ideals elsewhere.

What do you think?

How should the church respond to such a perspective?


Why Not Begin with Babel?

What if evangelistic presentations began with Babel? Or, what if they at least were framed by the Babel story? This post explores these two questions.

BebelPreviously, I examined common problems that emerge when we start with the Adam story (Part 1, Part 2). I also suggested another way one could start with Adam and Eve without succumbing to individualism or running into a number of apologetic questions.

Today, I offer an example whereby we can start with the group rather than the individual, i.e. the nations rather than Adam as an individual.

Continue reading

Six Places Honor and Shame Hide in the Bible was gracious enough to allow me to reblog his most recent post.

It is extremely helpful in equipping people to identity honor/shame themes in Scripture. Enjoy! And take a few minute to check out and subscribe to

There has to be a sociological term for this, because it is a universal phenomenon. When something new comes onto your radar, you begin seeing it everywhere.  This is true not only of tangible things, but ideas as well – if you learn a new concept, you recognize it frequently thereafter.

Ubiquitous things can hide in right in front of us

The themes of honor and shame permeate the Bible, but they often “hide” in our Western blind spots.  By knowing where honor and shame are typically found, we can begin to uncover amazing Biblical truths .  Here are six ways biblical writers package their ideas about honor and shame. Continue reading

Sin is personal because it is social

When sharing the gospel story and/or talking about sin, I suggest we start with the group, not the individual. In other words, we should discuss sin as a collective-group problem rather than explaining sin primarily as an individual problem.

social-networks-400x243I know some people might get worried at this point, thinking I am doing a theological “slight of hand” whereby I insert liberal theology and alleviate individuals. Not at all.

Here are 2 reasons. Continue reading

Leadership Lessons from the Party?

People often overlook a key feature of honor-same societies. Honor-shame cultures are inherently collectivistic in orientation.

Have you ever thought about how people lead others in a collectivistic context?

Over at Inside Story, you’ll find an excerpt from a recent book by Kerry Brown called The New Emperors: Power and the Princelings in China.

What I found interesting is how he describes the way one must demonstrate leadership within a collectivist society like China. The final lines of the excerpt capture the key idea very well. He states. . . Continue reading

Don’t Adamize the Gospel

Where do you start when sharing the gospel?

The beginning of a story has disproportionate influence on the effect that story has on the listener. It introduces the context, the main characters, key categories of thinking as well as the conflict, which the story will resolve.

I suggest that traditional gospel presentations begin at the wrong place. As a result, we often already lost at the starting line.

This post introduces a series that will not only explain the problem mentioned above; it will offer a solution.

STARTING LINE Continue reading