Responding to Jackson Wu, Saving God’s Face: A Chinese Contextualization of Salvation through Honor and Shame

(For a review of this important book, visit the Global China Center.)

Jackson Wu’s book raises important questions for Christians who want to communicate the Christian message among Chinese people.

The first is: Can Chinese people “hear” a message that focuses on sin, guilt, forgiveness, and justification by faith in the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus in our place? In my review, I present some evidence indicating that they can.

I believe that we should still focus on this central feature of the gospel, without neglecting other aspects of salvation, such as vindication (honor and shame), regeneration, new life, the gift of the Holy Spirit, adoption into the family of God, membership in the people of God, cleansing and purification, etc.

Second: Should we show Chinese how the Bible addresses their concern for “face” and honor, as well as their sense of belonging to a group and not just being isolated individuals? Yes! Jackson Wu has made this very clear in his book.

Third: Should we also show how the Bible places the overall plan of salvation within the greater context of God’s passion for his glory? Again, Yes! Wu appropriately uses the work of John Piper, disciple of Jonathan Edwards, to remind us of this vital truth.

Fourth: In understanding the Bible and attempting to contextualize theology, should we be open to questions from other cultures and seek to respond to them? Yes.

Fifth: Should messengers from a foreign culture spend years trying to learn the language and culture of a local people, in order to communicate Christ more effectively to them? As Jackson Wu points out, Yes!

Sixth: Are “canned” presentations of the gospel that seek quick decisions based on a truncated message likely to result in shallow “conversions”? Again, with Wu, I say, Yes!

Finally: Should we begin outside the Bible for our understanding of it, or should we start with a careful reading of Scripture, doing our best to uncover all the major themes in a given passage, as well as the general emphases of Scripture? In contrast to some of Wu’s statements, I believe that we should always begin with the Bible, not with culture, philosophy, or any other extra-biblical sources of ideas.

In my opinion, the major weakness of the New Perspective on Paul lies precisely here: Its advocates start from a disputed reading of Second Temple Judaism, through which they re-interpret Paul and the rest of the New Testament.

-G. Wright Doyle