My (Elliot) spouse doesnt see vehicles. In fact, she sees them on a regular basis, however she doesnt essentially discover them. And she or he actually doesnt distinguish between Volvo and Volkswagen or between mild compact and all-wheel drive. However when our household just lately purchased an outdated VW Golf, she began to note Golfs all over the place. Thoughts you, its not that Golfs abruptly appeared on American roadways in 2020, however that she now had eyes to see what was there all alongside.
So it’s with Scripture. And missionaries expertise this phenomenon maybe as a lot as anybody else. By crossing cultures and encountering new relational and social dynamics, their eyes are opened to see truths within the Bible which have at all times been there. This doesnt make missionaries extra non secular; they only have one other set of lenses for seeing. And within the case of Jackson Wus stimulating new guide, Studying Romans with Japanese Eyes: Honor and Disgrace in Paul’s Message and Mission, he graciously presents his pair of East Asian spectacles to us, his readers.
On the outset, we should always acknowledge how powerfuland doubtlessly hazardousthis easy act is: to learn Romans with a brand new set of eyes opens up a world of recent realities. Wuwho has lived and labored in East Asia for nearly 20 years and serves on the Asian/Asian-American Theology steering committee of the Evangelical Theological Societyfocuses particularly on the dynamics of disgrace and honor in a relational and collectivist tradition. Nevertheless, as quickly as we uncover what our Western eyes had been lacking, we notice that switching prescriptions has the potential to blind us to different realities within the textual content. Studying the Bible with Japanese eyes is not any panacea, for the Bible is neither purely Japanese nor Western.
We see what our eyes are formed to see.On this case, we dont respect, or maybe weren’t even conscious of, some vital cultural realities at work throughout the biblical textand on the time of its composition.
Regardless of that actuality, we imagine Wus mission is legitimate and useful. For one, Japanese methods of considering and relating are culturally nearer to the traditional Mediterranean context of the Bibleat least by way of a collectivist mentality and its manifestation in honor-shame dynamics. Second, its additionally true that our Western, individualistic tradition, extra strongly bent towards a guilt-innocence framework, mixed with our historical past of theology (such because the Catholic-Protestant debates) have influenced our eyes with a form of genetic predisposition. Had been near-sighted or far-sighted. We see what our eyes are formed to see. We dont essentially discover what else is there. Some issues seem smaller than they’re, some greater. On this case, we dont respect, or maybe we don’t even know, some vital cultural realities at work throughout the biblical textand on the time of its composition.
Studying Romans with Japanese Eyes: Honor and Disgrace in Paul’s Message and Mission
IVP Tutorial. 248 pp.
As readers, we convey our personal cultural fluencies and values to the textual content. Our biases and backgrounds affect what we observeand what we overlook. This guide helps us take into account methods we generally miss beneficial insights due to widespread cultural blind spots. InStudying Romans with Japanese Eyes, Jackson demonstrates how listening to East Asian tradition gives a useful lens for decoding Paul’s most advanced letter. When learn this manner, we see how honor and disgrace form a lot of Paul’s message and mission.
With respect to the guide of Romans, Wu has chosen a textual content we would assume is most coherent inside a Western, guilt-innocence framework. But he persistently opens our eyes to see what else is there, what weve maybe by no means seen earlier than. He does so, at the very least at sure factors, with great perception.
First, Wu considers how Paul frames his letter in a culturally delicate and persuasive approach. Paul makes use of a excessive context methodology of communication, saying greater than his phrases say, in an effort to tactfully elevate private missionary help whereas concurrently confronting the social problems with prejudice (Jew/Greek or Greek/Barbarian), grounding all of it in theological exposition. Slightly than quash cultural convictions that elevate one (in honor) over one other (in disgrace), Paul demonstrates that true honor is discovered via the gospel (35). He motivates the Roman congregation to hitch him in mission as they view others in a different way and develop a reoriented (Christian) honor-shame perspective (37).
Because the guide unfolds, Wu demonstrates the pervasiveness of honor-shame dynamics in Romans. Honor is definitely central to Pauls theology, not peripheral. In Romans 1, Disgrace is each the trigger of Gods anger and the consequence of disregarding him (44). In Romans 2, Honor and disgrace are central to understanding the evil of sin (47). In Romans 3, the gospel is in regards to the vindication of God, not merely the justification of sinners. In Romans 8, the earth is groaning for the revelation of the sons of God in glory, as God fills the earth with image-bearers who replicate his character and kingship (23). In Romans 911 (Wus compelling 10th chapter), our justification is linked to the vindication of Gods honor.
Sin is heinous as a result of it’s a shameful offense towards the King who deserves our highest honor and allegiance. This resonates extra in collectivist cultures that worth relationship, hierarchy, and honor-shame. It additionally precisely represents Scripture’s witness.
For a selected instance of how a renewed imaginative and prescient of honor would possibly have an effect on our theology, take into account this query: What makes sin so heinous? We would reply that sin deserves everlasting punishment as a result of its a authorized offense towards an infinite God. That is completely true. It’s additionally conceptually summary and lacks relational drive. A complementary answeralso from the angle of Romanssays sin is heinous as a result of its a shameful offense towards the King who deserves our highest honor and allegiance. This resonates extra in collectivist cultures that worth relationship, hierarchy, and honor-shame. It additionally precisely represents Scriptures witness. However many Westerners simply dont see or suppose on this approach.
Consequently, honor-shame dynamics have a direct software not solely to theology but additionally to discipleship. Like Paul, we’d like not disavow honor-shame realities, even these current inside our fame-focused tradition. However we are able to and will reorient them. Moreover, this context ought to have a profound impact on our evangelism. Wu writes:
Some evangelistic displays stress private peace and otherworldly salvation reasonably than resurrection. They dont encourage steadfast struggling since they attraction most strongly to self-preservation, explaining salvation basically as aid from struggling. (110)
As persecution will increase within the West, we have to recuperate a full-orbed gospel that prepares new converts for what awaits. In any other case, as Wu warns, they wont have the ability to boast in struggling as long as their basic hope is private escape from ache (110). As a substitute, we should always emphasize with Paul that had been saved for glory, not merely from punishment.
Inasmuch as we respect Wus contribution to the churchs understanding of Romans, we do have some vital issues. In some circumstances, we imagine Wu has blurred theological strains particularly associated to the doctrine of justification. Whereas his main and acknowledged agenda is to focus on shame-honor and collectivist elements of Romans, his secondary purpose seems to be influenced by his dedication to the New Perspective studying of Paul.
Wu has sought to right an overemphasis on the person. However we imagine hes completed so with an overemphasis on the collective. And hes completed so in a approach that, at occasions, confuses a vital side of the gospel itselfjustification.
In consequence, we imagine Wu conflates who is justified with how they’re justified. At occasions the scope of the gospel eclipses the content material and technique of the gospel (90). Wu needs to emphasise (not with out some warrant) the neighborhood identification that comes with justification. Quoting N. T. Wright, he repeatedly affirms, Justification is all about being declared a member of Gods folks (106). However this communal focus appears to blind Wu to Pauls means to speak about justification in private and particular person phrases as nicely, particularly just about what it truly is reasonably than to whom its utilized, and significantly within the texts of Romans 34. (For extra particulars, see our forthcoming fuller engagement with Wu in The Journal for International Christianity.)
Wu has sought to right an overemphasis on the person. That is wanted. However we imagine hes completed so with an overemphasis on the collective. And hes completed so in a approach that, at occasions, confuses a vital side of the gospel itselfjustification.
Some defenders of Wu or his perspective might now be tempted to dismiss our earlier reward for his guide as shallow and insincere. Some dedicated to a standard understanding of justification might now be tempted to dismiss Wus complete mission. Each temptations needs to be resisted. Wu has given us many real insights, and theyre precisely the issues that these within the Reformed evangelical world must seereading Wu with discerning eyes, after all.
One other Perspective
In locations all through the guide, Wu advocates for a center approach (98). He needs to reinforce and stability our imaginative and prescient by giving us new glasses, maybe one thing like bifocals. However he doesnt at all times exhibit an built-in method. The distinctions are nonetheless too sharp. This may at all times be the problem, since had been all closely influenced by our dwelling or host cultures. Nevertheless, we’d suggest a attainable different.
Inside the covenant, authorized isn’t an alternative choice to relational, for the legislation is by its nature God’s approach for us to like him and others in a covenant relationship.
For a extra balanced set of studying glasses, we recommend contemplating the covenantal nature of Gods relationship with the world, to Jews via the legislation and the Gentiles via creation. Inside the covenant, authorized isn’t an alternative choice to relational, for the legislation is by its nature Gods approach for us to like him and others in a covenant relationship. And neither are the person and the communal options, for the covenant relationship of a king to a folks essentially entails particular person, familial, and communal tasks and penalties, whether or not blessing or cursing.
By recognizing the cultural and theological perspective of covenantby studying with covenantal eyeswe can see Gods redemptive work as concurrently particular person and collective, relational and judicial, addressing problems with honor, innocence, guilt, and disgrace, below the hierarchy and rulership of the Choose, King, and Father. We imagine enhancing the covenantal side of this dialogue is a fruitful approach ahead.
See Whats There
We additionally imagine that cautious readers who dont blindly observe Wus view of justification can vastly profit from his main goal. His theology of justification is definitely peripheral and dispensable, not central and inherent, to his foremost thesis.
Even those that disagree, subsequently, have a lot to study from studying Wus work. This guide sheds mild and brings readability to the great quantity of communal, relational, and honor-shame dynamics which can be current and profound in the way in which Paul expresses the glories of Christ and his gospel inside Romans. Wu helps us see what’s there, and for that we’re grateful.