Review of Jackson Wu’s Saving God’s Face by Daniel Eng

Review of Jackson Wu’s: Saving God’s Face: A Chinese Contextualization of Salvation through Honor and Shame by Daniel Eng In Jackson Wu’s dissertation on theology with a Chinese framework, the author takes his understanding of honor-shame and applies it the gospel. He de-constructs the theology that has been heavily influenced by western thinking and guides the reader to understand the concepts of salvation from an East Asian perspective. Wu defines “honor” as the value placed upon people within their social context, and it can be ascribed by others or can be achieved (437, 438). As hard work and self-improvement are generally lauded in Asian culture, one’s honor is placed in one’s own achievements and reputation. The author then defines “shame” as ill repute on a person for failure to meet a standard issued by the community. Within the context of morality, right and wrong are discussed in terms of what is honorable or shameful among Chinese people (445). Wu points out that the Chinese concept of honor is similar to the understanding of biblical writers in discussing the gospel. While western constructions of the gospel are centered around law and judgment (545), the East Asian viewpoint shifts the focus onto the group. In reflecting on my own journey, I see how the communication of honor-shame has been more compelling to me than guilt. I suspect that many Asian Americans would, as I do, relate more to the older brother than the younger brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son. Both sons’ interactions with the Father brought shame upon the community. The older brother’s words focused on the guilty...

Christian Pre-Marital Counseling, Asian-American Style

(The following was originally posted on The Good Book Blog in four parts by Dr. Benjamin Shin. It is presented here in its entirety with minor edits for flow.) Unique Cultural Needs of an Asian-American Couple Recently, a friend contacted me and asked for a resource in pre-marital counseling that would be specific to some of the unique cultural needs of an Asian-American couple. I thought about this for a while and realized that I was not familiar with such a curriculum. I explained to him that I typically use material by Family Life’s Dennis and Barbara Rainey and add my own insights on some of the challenges for Asian-Americans in preparing to get married. Simply put, the biggest difference in counseling an Asian-American couple in pre-marital counseling boils down to issues related to family relationships, especially in regards to parents and in-laws. This will be examined in light of some well-known passages that address this topic. Typically, this begins with the passage in Genesis 2:24 which states, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” This idea has been termed by Christians as the concept of “leaving and cleaving.” In other words, the newly married couple leaves the comforts, financial support, and authority of his/her respective parents and then cleaves to one another as they start a brand new family entity. This allows for growth, maturity, responsibility, independence, and a future lineage to begin. In light of this biblical idea, there is a difference of interpretation between Western and Eastern interpreters, not necessarily on the...

Understanding Shame and Its Effects on Asian Americans

(The following was originally posted on The Good Book Blog in two parts by Dr. Benjamin Shin. It is presented here in its entirety with minor edits for flow.) Understanding An Older Concept In Today’s World Many years ago, Fats Domino (and later Cheap Trick on Live at Budokon) sang these lyrics in the song entitled, “Ain’t That a Shame”: You made me cry, when you said goodbye
 Ain’t that a shame
 My tears fell like rain 
Ain’t that a shame
 You’re the one to blame You broke my heart, when you said we’re apart
 Ain’t that a shame 
My tears fell like rain
 Ain’t that a shame
 You’re the one to blame Although these lyrics reflect the sorrows of a jilted lover, they also capture an important older concept that has relevance for today. It embraces the dynamic of shame, which is one of the greatest cultural dynamics of the New Testament. This paradigm is key in understanding other concepts and various texts accurately especially as it relates to topics such as approval, reputation, glory, and status. While these practices were prevalent in the 1st century of the Mediterranean, they also have current bearing to different segments of society today, specifically Asian-Americans in the 21st century. This blog will be the first in a series of blogs that will demonstrate the correlation of Paul’s use of shame in light of the framework of Roman cultural practices as well as how it relates to modern 21st century Asian-American spiritual tendencies. The spread and growth of Christianity among Asian-Americans throughout the United States have been exponential. This has been witnessed...

Educating the Asian American Future: Interview with Ben Shin

Dr. Benjamin C. Shin was interviewed by Inheritance Magazine (March 2013) about the Talbot School of Theology’s Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) Asian American Ministry Track. INH: How did you get involved with the inception of this program? BENJAMIN: It started with the realization that maybe Western seminaries, as good as they are, might not be helping students in their own cultural context. So the idea for this program had been around for about a year, when the director of the D.Min. program came to me and asked if this was something I’d be interested in. It was a no-brainer for me, as I’m very passionate about this. I’m at a point in my career where I’m trying to be more strategic. I’m training people who will be pastors in the M.Div. program, and I’m training pastors who are coming back for more education in the D.Min. program. I see myself as a shepherd or pastor to those pastors, and this program with Talbot will be a tremendous opportunity to do that. We are trying to retool, renew, and reform Asian American pastors and churches. As we retool them, we want to renew them with encouragement, with the hopes of reforming the Asian American church so they will be better and healthier for the future. And it all starts with the leaders. We want to help pastors understand what Asian American ministry is and how to succeed, flourish, and endure. INH: Can you give us a sneak peak of what the program will be like? BENJAMIN: We’ve set up classes for a three-year cohort, and we’ve hired what we think...