Archive for August, 2012

Brown begins by showing the connection between humanity and humus.  All of humanity is connected to the ground from which they come.  They are “groundlings.”  This connection is more noticeable in the Hebrew in which Adam is only slightly different than the word for earth.  As such, Brown points out that humanity is not created in the imago Dei but in the imago terrae.  It is from this dust that God creates everything.  Rather than a powerfully cosmic God, we see a “God of the compost.”  God is intimately working in the “Garden of Plenty.”

Genesis 1 has the continual mantra “It is good.”  However, Genesis 2 moves against this pattern, saying, “It is not good.”  That is not to say that Creation is somehow poorly constructed.  Rather, it is not good because in some way the Creation does not fully reflect the nature of YHWH.  We soon find out this is because man is alone, which is not good.  God is a communal Being, as such, humanity is also communal.  Fretheim’s relational theology becomes quite helpful at this point in recognizing the connection between Creator and humanity.  The Creation is a community, but it is lacking in the fullest sense for the man without woman.  There is an unequal relationship between man and the other creatures.  This is demonstrated in Adam’s naming of the animals, while woman is not “named.”  It is only with woman that Adam proclaims that he has found his ezer kenigdo.

Fretheim notes that God allows the man to decide what is “adequate to move the evaluation of the creation from ‘not good’ to ‘good’” (Kindle location 1537).  In determining what is “fit for him,” God allows and invites freedom and real decisions on the part of humanity.  However, in discerning the issue of homosexuality, would Fretheim also say that this same reality would allow humanity to determine what is good, so that it might be changed?  Fretheim notes that the relationship is not purely sexual, but based also upon the equality between male and female.  So, are the options that God provides contained within certain boundaries?  How might we discuss issues of sexuality further, especially given the heated nature of the topic?

Fretheim’s framework of relational creation is decisively helpful in several ways.  First, it suggests that Creation is not static.  Rather, it is dynamic and subject to further development by other parts of the creation (i.e., humanity).  God creates a world full of potentialities.  Decisions of humanity opens and closes possibilities.  For instance, the narrative notes that no vegetation exists because man has not tilled the soil.  Not only is humanity brought into Eden, but they are invited to join in the creative process!

Fretheim addresses the issue of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  This prohibition is the Law which precedes sin.  In this way, creation’s capacity to create is shown to be derivative of God’s power to create.  There are limits or boundaries within which humanity is invited to work.  These boundaries of relationship provide life and blessing and fruitfulness of Creation.  To step outside of these boundaries is to no longer recognize their dependence upon God or the “proper use of power.”

Unfortunately, Brown spends most of his time discussing the science of origins rather than focusing on the text of Genesis.  Although they may not be mutually exclusive, the text should not be forced to say things that it is not concerned about.  The primary issue is theological and should remain so in our discussions of the text.  Fretheim integrates science into his discussion of the Genesis narratives; however, it is woven much more seamlessly in with the narratives of Genesis 1 and 2.  Thus, science and the text are given voice while maintaining respectful boundaries where they cannot speak.

Written in poetic prose, Genesis 1 contains a rhythm and rhyme that provide a certain meter to the content.  This rhythm strengthens the overall sense of orderliness inherent in God’s ordering of tōhû wābōhû.  Other creation narratives from the ancient Middle East contain many parallels with the Hebrew narrative.  Arnold maintains that Genesis 1 is not explicitly polemical in nature to these other narratives.  He does recognize the parallels and suggests that it is implicitly polemical.  At this point, Arnold seems to be splitting hairs.  First, nobody can really know if this was or was not the intent of the author.  Second, we can recognize that it is polemical, whether that is the intention or not.

Fretheim agrees with Arnold by stating that God acts in entirely different ways in Genesis 1 than does Marduk and the other gods of ancient Middle Eastern creation narratives.  The gods of the other nations are violent, whereas Genesis 1 describes God as merely speaking to simultaneously command and invite Creation into being.  God does not struggle with chaos.  The watery deep is not like Tiamat, but is invited to cooperate with God.  Fretheim also uses science to back up his position concerning chaos.  Although chaos is randomness, that randomness falls within certain boundaries.  There is orderliness that proceeds from chaos, although it still may not be predictable.

Arnold states: “What God has created in vv. 3-5 is time, which is more important than space for this chapter” (39).  Although time may be an important part of the Creation (i.e., seasons and days), space plays an equally important part in the process.  Day 1-3 is the creation of space, which is then filled on days 4-6.  Day 7 can even be framed as a creating of “space” for rest.  Life does not happen without the proper “space” in which life can be sustained.  Fretheim contests that light and space are inseparable dimensions, contra Arnold.  Both are vitally important aspects of Creation that enable life.

Fretheim employed the imagery of the cosmos being formed in the likeness of the tabernacle.  Each day moves you closer to the Holy of Holies, embodied in the Sabbath.  Although I had thought about the tabernacle being a microcosm of the Creation, I had not considered the reverse in Genesis 1.  This is a powerful image in that all of Creation is gathered in this symphony of worship, where life is created, blessed and sustained.  Thus, space seems to be equally important!

In connection with this imagery, Genesis 1 revolves around the number seven.  The first sentence is made of seven words, the second has fourteen, and the third sentence has thirty-five.  Overall, there are 469 words, which is a multiple of seven.  “God ‘saw and pronounced creation ‘good’ seven times; ‘earth’ or ‘land’… appears twenty-one times; ‘God’ is repeated thirty-five times.  There are also seven days of Creation.  Seven is a significant number in this passage, connoting wholeness or completion.  Fretheim notes the differentiated order that is represented in this number’s use and how that reflects the character of the whole passage.

The phrase “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness,” has been interpreted in a number of ways.  Typically, the Christian faith has understood this in Trinitarian terms: Father, Son, and Spirit conversing.  Another way to understand this is to say that there is a heavenly host that is being referred to here.  I have heard both of these positions before; however, I was unaware of a third possibility.  Arnold suggests that God is simply deliberating with God’s self “about the creation of humankind… God himself decisively steps in to make humankind” (44).  This seems only mildly different than the Trinitarian formulation.

Fretheim, on the other hand, understands this to be a heavenly host rather than God’s inner dialogue and deliberation.  Fretheim bases this interpretation on other passages in the Old Testament that record the “heavenly council.”  According to Fretheim, the heavenly host has been replaced by humanity as “God’s new pantheon.”

Overall, both Arnold and Fretheim have strengths and weaknesses in their interpretations of Genesis 1.  Fretheim couples his interpretation with scientific undergirding to help shed light on the complexities of creation.  This also happens to be the weakness of his argument, especially given the changing nature of science.  This potentially limits some of its future usefulness.

Arnold offers a less holistic view of the passage.  Most of his commentary on Genesis 1 focuses on its similarities and dissimilarities with the ancient creation stories (i.e., Enuma Elish).  Although this is an important thing to consider, his argument is weak in trying to show that Genesis 1 is not explicitly polemical.  As noted above, that is not something that can be proven.  We only have the text as it is now… which is polemical when read with the other ancient creation stories.  This detracts from Arnold’s interpretation.  However, Arnold does provide some contrasts to Fretheim that allow you to see other available options.

Thesis of the Book

             Missions are compared to a mouse and an elephant at a party.  Although the elephant is having fun, the mouse ends up crushed.  Essentially, that story depicts the manner of Western missions in the Global South.  Although missions may have good intentions, quite often there are disastrous results for the Global South (like the mouse).  The thesis of this book is that missions is changing and must continue to change so that we may truly partner with the Global South rather than continue being unreflective about the outcome of our missions.  The Global South has much to offer that we can learn from and it is important to hear their voice as we work together to live out the Kingdom in our world!

Evaluation of Sources Used

            Yes, the sources helped to support the thesis.  The sources implemented were from notable theologians, such as Marva J. Dawn and Lesslie Newbigin.  These sources were not merely mentioned, but were often quoted to provide support for the main idea.  However, that was not the strongest point for the sources used.  This book put into practice what it was preaching through its pages.  Authors from the Global South were also implemented into the composition of this work.  C. René Padilla, for instance, was referenced quite often and to great extent.  This strengthened the argument of the book on the sole basis that the authors were willing to listen to other parts of the world and their perspective.  Thus, their actions spoke louder than their words: “We have much to learn from our ministry partners in the Global South.”  They also implemented other sources from contexts outside the Global North.

The sources used also included “secular” sources.  This provided “outside parties” that have taken note of these problematic issues that confront those engaged in cross-cultural missions.  A great amount of data concerning the issues of poverty, war and genocide, environmental concerns, and other problems set the backdrop for the discussion about “partnering” with the Church across the world.  This was helpful to see that being missional is a holistic endeavor that must include the indigenous peoples and leaders, if there is to be a good and lasting impact.

Development of the Main Idea

             Missions have become a much more de-centralized endeavor.  Previously, missionaries and missions agencies were at the center of outreach to other parts of the world.  In recent years there has been a decrease in the local church’s reliance upon these missionaries as the only source of information.  Due to globalization, the world has become more accessible to people geographically located in other world areas.  This accessibility has not only inculcated a desire to be involved with the “borderlands” but it has also encouraged local churches to undertake missions on their own.  The missionary has become more of a tour guide than previously.

Globalization is often seen as a “flattening” of the world where everything is becoming more uniform and accessible.  Although there is a great degree of that, there is still a great deal of diversity and inequity in the world.  The world is both “flat and spiky.”  Working cross-culturally means that we must be aware of the cultural differences and issues that may be potential “spiky” areas.

Many well intentioned missionaries or groups have entered other cultures and created disastrous results because they came in as the “experts” rather than in humility, asking how they might best serve the community.  The result ranges from distrust, to confusion, to anger from the indigenous population.  The Northern “partner” is often left disillusioned or unaware that their endeavors were harmful… thus, the vicious cycle is repeated.  Resources are sometimes wasted on useless projects that could have best served in other ways.

Partnership is not merely a good idea, but it is a theological necessity.  The Church is never fully whole if it is not the universal Church.  We have much to learn from our Southern partners.  PLA (acronym meaning Participatory Learning and Action) helps us to remember that we are engaged in mission together.  And, ultimately, the mission is not ours but God’s mission in which we are invited to participate.  As such, the community determines the need and we simultaneously learn and act toward a collective solution.  This empowers the local church while helping it to keep momentum through the partner’s contributions (i.e., time, resources, knowledge, people etc.).  There is an overlap that should link both partners inseparably together for cooperative transformation of both communities.  It is long-term discipleship together.

Ultimately, partnering together takes diligent work and listening.  It is vital to understand the context and culture, to know the heartbeat of the community, and to fully understand its potential and limitations.  To have an effective and sustained impact on an area, it is important that we weigh all of the necessary information before acting.  This means that we should take seriously the knowledge of those that live in the culture.  They are resident experts on what will likely work best.  This does not mean that we can play an important role, but it does mean that we cannot walk into a place thinking that we know best.  Otherwise, we may only waste time and energy.

One of the strongest points to me was the planning element.  It is helpful to see that we are “intercultural” partners, rather than cross-cultural partners.  This means that we engage the issue together on equal footing, working together.  As such, it is important to get the local community involved and “rolling the wheel” first.  Then, as this happens, there will be momentum added as the other church contributes to the overall vision.

However, the strength of this element in the book is also its weakness.  In cultures, like North America, that value planning and are time-oriented, this planning may be seen as the obvious progression of steps.  But, in event-oriented cultures planning like this may be a foreign concept and not easily or readily translatable to that context.  As a result, the planning suggested in the book may drastically need to be altered to fit the context.

The mission is not merely about converting people or completing projects.  These are minor goals compared to the overarching goal, which is to connect people as growing disciples to the living Christ.  As such, we are equipping one another as partners for this all-encompassing mission!  We must ask how our partnership is aiding us in discipling others.  We must move beyond charity and allow our works of compassion to embody justice.  Really, it is about “normalizing the Kingdom” in a broken world.

Personal Evaluation of the Book

Overall, I thought the book was insightful concerning the ways that missions has morphed and detailing the ways that it still needs to be sensitive to issues in the Global South.  Missions must be a partnership that goes beyond merely “saving souls.”  Rather, it is a partnership where both may be edified and built up in the faith.  It is about transformation.  This transformation is challenging because it calls for mutual accountability and discipleship.  It is long-term partnership that engenders active listening to all parties concerned.  And, it engages the issues that continue to promote oppression and the resulting resentment from the “bottom billion.”  I would recommend this book, especially given that it emphasizes the theology of missions in considering how we should embody our call as a missional people.  That is something with which we must continually wrestle.

Thesis of the Book

            The globalization of the world and its cultures is increasing movement to cross-cultural partnerships.  With these partnerships inevitably come conflicts over money and resources.  As such, it is vital that we increase our “cross-cultural intelligence” so that we may work more effectively together.  Cross-cultural partnerships must be mutually held accountable in using their resources and equally empowered to live out the mission of the Church in our world.

Evaluation of Sources Used

            The sources implemented throughout the work were helpful in solidifying Lederleitner’s position.  Many of the sources used detailed stories about cross-cultural conflict that helped to illustrate specific areas of potential conflict in our interactions with others.  As a result, this made Lederleitner’s concepts and points easily understandable.  There were a great number of sources used and many of those were fairly recent, utilizing recent research.  This also strengthened the writing.

One particular area that Lederleitner’s sources was very evident and provided content to her argument was the concept of “negative attribution.”  Duane Elmer developed a form that outlined the process of negative attribution.  These three steps helped to highlight the easy path we often take when others’ actions do not meet our expectations.  This observation was further solidified by C. S. Lewis’ observation that we often make excuses for ourselves that seem justifiable while negating others’ excuses as inexcusable and wrong.  In these ways, Lederleitner made a strong case for a need to re-assess our partnerships and accountability between those cross-cultural partners.

Development of the Main Idea

            There are several factors that determine the way that cultures handle money and resources.  One of the most fundamental cultural perspectives that shape this conversation revolves around individualism versus collectivism.  Individualism places responsibility on each person to take care of themselves.  Collectivism, in juxtaposition, holds that the community’s needs are greater than the individual’s needs.  This can be a potent arena for conflict.  It is vital that proper communication is exhibited in these situations to keep confusion and disappointment to a minimum.  This means we are careful in receiving gifts (they may be attached with promises) and making sure the details are outlined in what is being promised between the partners.

Issues of power, face, and status can also play a major role when dealing with money.  People in America are generally considered to be on the same footing.  Thus, status plays less of a role.  But, other countries place a great deal of emphasis on status.  In these cases, it can be seen as a great insult for someone of lesser position to help someone in a greater position.  “Face” is the “essential requirements placed upon him by virtue of the social position he occupies” (45).  When someone “loses face” it reflects poorly on their character and identity.  Again, how we handle issues of power and money should take these things into consideration.  Is it appropriate or would someone be shamed by our actions?

The concepts of universalism and particularism are helpful.  Universalism is the belief that rules apply to everyone in every circumstance.  Particularism is the belief that rules are subject to the context and the relationship of those involved.  Rules are to be adapted.  How cultures deal with ambiguity and time can be significant.  Cultures uncomfortable with ambiguity will try to outline everything and may be disappointed in others that do not operate on this level.  Likewise, time is a matter that impacts our involvement with others.  Monochronistic versus polychronistic cultures is another arena for potential conflict.  Monochronistic viewpoints look at time as linear and limited.  Thus, efficiency is prided.  On the other hand, polychronistic is more interested in the people rather than what they can simply accomplish for the organization.  Both have significant advantages, but we must also consider their potential pitfalls, especially when working together.

Our culture inevitably shapes us.  Our interaction with our culture trains us to interpret actions and events in specific ways.  However, as we interact with other cultures, those same actions may mean something different in that context.  The result can be a misinterpretation of actions.  When those actions don’t meet our expectations, we often assess them as wrong.  It is important to be careful when trying to interpret others’ actions.  It is best not to rush to conclusions, but to seek out information that may shed light on the situation.

Paternalism and colonialism are still alive and well.  They often disguise themselves as seeking the best interest of our partners, but cloak the underlying superiority complex.  On the flip side, just because that has been the case in the past does not mean that is the way it is now.  Measures of accountability may be necessary aspects of partnership.  The motivation behind the call for accountability determines whether it is superiority complex under a thin veneer of paternalism or colonialism.

Part of our responsibility in establishing these partnerships is not to create dependency.  In doing so, the ministries of the indigenous people can become anemic.  If funding and support is then cut, the ministry may very well fold because the people have not been equipped.  That is what partnership is about: equipping others to do every good work.  The illustration of the missionary helping people cross the bridge to find resources is a great story.  It teaches us the importance  of equipping people so that ministry is sustainable.  This can only happen as we give value, dignity, and mutuality between partners.  We are looking for sustainability, not merely short-term impact.

Conflict will naturally happen as cultures have different expectations and those are not always explicit.  As such, we must learn to navigate the sometimes tricky waters of cross-cultural partnerships.  Likewise, when there are misallocations or fraud, we must find creative solutions.  In some instances, such as misallocation, direct conflict may not be the best approach.  It may actually cause someone to lose face and only aggravate the situation.  On the other hand, fraud may require a more firm approach, but even within this there can be a measure of grace extended to those individuals.  We believe that even the most horrific situations are redeemable and we desire to move in those directions as people respond to those opportunities.

Personal Evaluation of the Book

I thought this book was helpful.  Although it covered many of the same concepts as other books on missions and money, it did provide helpful analysis and potential solutions for avoiding these cultural conflicts.  The suggestions for working through these cultural conflicts were the most helpful aspect of the book.  The stories included helped to illustrate the cultural conflicts that arose in various partnerships.  As such, it was easy to see that these conflicts usually had good intentions behind them but caused distress because both cultures were unaware of the other’s modus operandi.  Overall, I would suggest that others read this as a good primer for cross-cultural interactions and partnerships that are mutually beneficial and accountable to one another.

Violence and evil are exponentially increasing.  The consequence of Adam and Eve’s disobedience is most evident in Cain’s murder of Abel.  This violent trend only escalates in Lamech’s killing of a young man.  If remarks: “If Cain is avenged seven times, Lamech will be avenged seventy-seven times.”  Something has gone entirely haywire in God’s good Creation.  In fact, Genesis 6:5-8 tells us that humanity’s wickedness “was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.”  The Creation has become entropic!

This brings about a change of heart in God.  God looks upon their wickedness and at the way humanity violates God’s boundaries for Creation.  The order that God had ordained had been reduced to chaos.  As a result, God “repents” from having created humanity in the first place!  However, God’s regretting the creation of humanity is not limited to humanity.  Rather, God repents of having created everything.  Something about humanity’s disobedience has seeped into the larger created order!  Sin is communal and impacts everything!

Even in the midst of God’s repenting, something keeps God from acting to fully destroy everything.  Noah is said to have found favor in God’s eyes.  Of course, we know that God provides a space of salvation for Noah and his family and the animals as the waters of chaos collapse in upon themselves and destroy everything not in the Ark.

On the other side of the flood, Noah and his family emerge from the Ark and begin to makes sacrifices to God.  This offering pleased God, prompting God to covenant that the ground would no longer be cursed because of man, despite still having a heart that continually pondered evil from youth!  In other words, natural disasters (such as Hurricane Katrina) were not God’s judgment upon wicked humanity.  The Created order is still simply broken and does not always reflect the order that it was intended to reflect.  Likewise, God will not destroy “every living creature” because of humanity’s wickedness.

The condition of the human heart before and after the flood has not changed.  Despite this fact, God covenants (restricts God’s power) to act in certain ways in the future.  God will not destroy everything.  In other words, God is committed to God’s Creation, despite its broken state.  Rather, God will continue to act in ways that draws the Creation back to its intended purpose.  God will act in ways to save and restore the Creation back to its original “very good.”  God will continue to preserve, sustain, and bless life!

Even though nothing has fundamentally changed about humanity after the flood, God still allows humanity to live and impact the world.  God values human freedom and decisions, even when they are opposed to God.  God does not coerce or force humanity to “love” God or to obey God.  True love and obedience can only be an invitation to respond!  Thus, Noah’s sacrifice to God is pleasing because Noah is righteous, or in right relationship with God.  Noah has freely chosen to worship God as a loving response to the mercy of the Creator!

God is demonstrated in these passages to be a relational Being.  Despite the continuing wickedness of humanity, God still sees something valuable, something worth saving in them and in the larger Creation!  Our decisions, either for or against God have real consequences.  Our wicked inclinations are ever before us and unleash a world of torrent chaos.  We are in desperate need of God’s mercy and grace to save us.  Amazingly, God’s desire is to bless life and to restore that which has been broken.

Thesis of the Book

            “The biggest problems in short-term missions are not technical or administrative.  The biggest challenges lie in communication, misunderstanding, personality conflict, poor leadership, and bad teamwork” (14).  Livermore suggests that we can’t simply change behavior but must also “open our eyes” to cultural assumptions that lead to conflict and rectify it by increasing our cultural intelligence (CQ).

Evaluation of Sources Used

            The sources used supported the thesis of the book.  Most of the sources employed were not much more than ten years old from the writing of the book.  This makes use of contemporary knowledge and theories, rather than relying on outdated modes of psychology, sociology, or missiology.  However, that is also its potential weakness, since it does not track historical thought, how it has changed, or why that is necessary.

Livermore should have used more sources to support or supplement the CQ sections.  Although that section is helpful, it likely could have been much stronger.  Granted, there may not be much research on that particular topic; there should be other research that would help further support what Livermore is talking about in each section.

The theology resources implemented were very good.  N. T. Wright, Robert Webber, Mark Noll, Henry Nouwen, and Lesslie Newbigin were some of the notable theologians used to undergird the theological position of the book.  This was a very strong point.

Development of the Main Idea

             Globalization is happening exponentially.  There is tremendous opportunity to engage in cross-cultural interaction daily.  These interactions shed light on the inequality of resources and power that often exist between cultures.  Disease, wealth, expansion of business and consumerism, refugees, and a growing global population are all issues confronting us.

Along with these cultural issues, the face of the Church is changing.  The Western church is no longer the most numerous member of the Church universal.  Rather, non-Western countries, such as Africa, are the dominant figures represented.  Yet, much of the power and resources are consumed by the Western church, and specifically the American church.  So, although there is a larger representation in non-Western churches, the West continues to hold an inequitable amount of power in shaping the Church.

This inequity in power is extremely evident in short-term missions.  Quite often the focus for our short-term missions has been what we will get out of the experience.  Our motivation for doing short-term missions is important.  Is it from a desire to serve God or to get something out of it?  Our expectations shape our interpretation of the impact of our short-term mission endeavors.  Sometimes this can lead to vastly overstated impact by those that engage in the short-term mission.

Short-term mission, by its very nature, instills a sense of urgency to accomplish the task quickly.  Time-centered cultures, such as America, tend to focus on checking off the to-do-list.  However, in an “event-centered” culture where time is not as big of a concern, this can create tension.  In this way, we must consider the way the national church’s culture operates and work within that frame of reference.  At the same time, we must keep in mind that “our” plans may not be what are most needed and we must be flexible to respond to God’s leading.

Blanket beliefs concerning other cultures can lead to great misunderstandings.  Although there may be overlap between people groups, there are also vast differences.  Livermore suggests that we must not only expand our knowledge CQ, but must also increase our perseverance to understand and assimilate into the culture.  Knowledge CQ alone, according to Livermore, is the most dangerous if not supplemented by perseverance, interpretive, and behavioral CQ.

A fundamentalist interpretation of Scripture can also lead to major issues.  I see this being connected to our blanket assumptions about other cultures.  Because people are seen to be the same, their interpretation must also be the same.  This mentality can lead to dissonance when other cultures’ interpretation of Scripture does not entirely line up with ours.  We can quickly demonize others who think differently than us, though their interpretation may be good and valuable.

As mentioned earlier, there is great inequality between the poor and the rich of the world.  The gap between the rich and the poor can create a power imbalance between the host and the guests.  Livermore makes the point that we must live in the tension between being generous with our resources and not using them in ways that are manipulative or self-serving.  We must see the people we are serving as equals, not as inferiors.  Otherwise, the attitude of imperialism has not changed but merely been re-packaged.

Finally, there is something to be said for simplicity.  However, this does not mean that we should be unreflective about our engagement of another culture.  This connects to the interpretive CQ, as well as, the perseverance CQ.  Hopefully, this leads to more knowledge and a positive change in behavior.  In order for us to grow, it is important that we provide space for honest reflection.  The quick, cliché responses to the impact of our short-term missions often create a barrier to true understanding of the significance of the cross-cultural experience.  This helps deflate our sometimes overly inflated egos that make us feel like we are “Rock Stars” to this people we have come to serve.

The strength of this book is found in Livermore’s inclusion of cross-cultural intelligence (CQ).  Knowledge is vital; however, it can also cause us to be blind to the ways that we are culturally insensitive.  Behavioral CQ grows out of our knowledge and ability to interpretive cultural cues.  This only comes about by persevering through cross-cultural conflict which is inevitable.  Most importantly, there is never a point where we are finished growing.  Again, short-term missions must become a partnership where each group can be mutually challenged and empowered.  Only in this way may the Body of Christ, through the power of the Spirit, be made one.

Personal Evaluation of the Book

Overall, Livermore’s book was insightful.  It was similar in many ways to Lingenfelter’s book, but provides a more holistic picture on challenges of cross-cultural ministry.  The strength of Livermore’s writing is found in the integration of the cross-cultural IQ (CQ).  This helped to delineate the need for more than just knowledge concerning the culture that one is engaging.  Rather, one must integrate interpretive, perseverance, and behavioral cross-cultural intelligence to knowledge.

I appreciated the dissonance that the book creates in discussing short-term missions.  Although we cannot totally disregard short-term missions, we definitely should question the motivations that often undergird our desire to engage short-term missions.  Our culture often blinds us to the realities of other cultures.  The result is a diminished impact both for the host and for the guest.  We definitely must be more aware of those cultural conflicts when engaging cross-cultural ministry and missions.

A descriptive, rather than prescriptive, understanding of Genesis 3:14-19 dramatically shifts our understanding.  This passage has often been used as a way to legitimize patriarchal hegemony, showing women’s subordination to men as both Biblical and God-ordained.  Yet, if this is descriptive, Genesis 3:16 merely paints a picture of the rupture that has occurred in the relationship between man and woman due to disobeying God’s command.

However, it must be noted that man and woman are held equally culpable for their disobedience.  For instance, disobedience leads to increased “labor” for both man and woman.  The consequence of disobedience is equal for both genders.  This equanimity is reflective of the relationship between man and woman previous to sin.  Eve, taken from Adam’s side, was intended to be an Ezer Kenigdo, a help-mate that is “flesh of flesh and bone of bone.”  They are like one another (although not the same) and equal in the relationship.

But, the “one flesh” reality has become something less than intended.  Despite this fact, the curse and the results of disobedience are never perceived as God’s desire for Creation.  In fact, it seems to be quite opposite of the God who blesses Creation continuously who now pronounces curse (on the serpent and ground).  Yet, God does not curse man and woman but describes the rupturing of relationship that is now humanity’s modus operandi and has already been demonstrated in pointing the finger of blame away from one’s self to another.

The rupturing of this relationship is most prominently on display in the use of power between man and woman.  Where God empowers humanity to govern over Creation, humanity has now usurped that power for its own self-seeking means.  Rather than stewarding Creation as servants of God, they will now seek to dominate it for their own ends.  The relationship that was intended to most reflect the imago Dei, man and woman, is now interlocked in a power struggle.  Thus, Adam asserts his dominance over woman by naming her Eve in verse 20 (which previously was reserved for naming the animals).  There has been a significant shift in the relationship.  Man and woman were made to provide community for one another.  Now, disobedience and the striving for power have resulted in isolation, which does not reflect the imago Dei.

The Creation marked by God’s shalom is now marred by the enmity between all of the Creation.  The fields will not yield fruit from Adam’s tilling; creatures and humanity will be at odds; humanity will be divided; and life will be dramatically shortened.  Despite this pronouncement from God, we often work to reverse the effects of our disobedience.  Tractors make tilling easier.  Medicines make birth more bearable.  If we work toward these ends, why should we do any less for reconciling humanity, especially the inequality between the sexes?  If this passage is descriptive rather than prescriptive, then this is not an invitation to continue to operate as if it is the will of God!

The Christian community needs this text to be re-interpreted beyond the prescriptive understanding so that it may be allowed to re-function.  The results of sin are not to be taken as the will of the Creator, because that would also make God the instigator of evil!  Rather, this passage can be a platform from which to speak about proper uses of power, especially in the context of covenant fidelity between men and women.  Ironically, our use of such passages to protect or enlarge our power only confirms the truth of the passage, though not necessarily affirming our hegemonic interpretations.  This text is concerned with communicating to God’s people the result of disobedience: fissure in relationship.  As God begins to reconcile the brokenness, we too are called to partner with God in mending what has been separated.