Item description for Strange Virtues: Ethics in a Multicultural World by Bernard T. Adeney...
Overview Written by a theologian and veteran missionary, this book is one of the first to address in depth what may be the stickiest crosscultural communication problem--differing approaches to morality. Comprehensively, Adeney considers ethics across cultures, addresses the ethical import of other religions and gender relations, and explores how the Bible and culture interact to produce ethical stances.
Publishers Description Theologian and veteran missionary Bernard Adeney addresses in-depth what may be the stickiest crosscultural communication problem of our day: differing approaches to morality. In this comprehensive treatment, he considers ethics across cultures, addresses the ethical import of other religions and gender relations, explores how the Bible and culture interact to produce ethical stances, and includes particular case studies.Strange Virtues will benefit not only missionaries, ethicists and students, but all Christians who want to better understand their neighbors here at home.
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Studio: IVP Academic
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.04" Width: 6.1" Height: 0.85" Weight: 0.85 lbs.
Release Date Jan 1, 2000
Publisher IVP-InterVarsity Press
ISBN 0830818553 ISBN13 9780830818556
Reviews - What do customers think about Strange Virtues: Ethics in a Multicultural World?
Solid and critically open-minded Mar 17, 2007
Strange virtues is a book on cross-cultural ethics. The author is a professor of ethics at an Indonesian University. He has a very diverse perspective on the topic because of growing up as a missionary kid in China and then traveling, living and studying in numerous other countries since then. The author states in his preface that each topic of this book springs from his personal experience and not simply from academic interests. Adeney feels that his field of ethics is an integral part of Christian theological education. He is not however interested in ethics that become fixed on answering moral questions rather than in developing virtue. (p.35) The major hypothesis of the book is that ethics or virtue or goodness is expressed in each culture differently. The author argues that all things including moral laws are culture bound. Therefore, since the Bible was written into a culture, it is not possible to take all of the laws which were written to the Jewish people, and transplant them into another culture. He does not however believe that values are ever relative. Rather, he believes that our understanding of values is always relative. The limitations of our backgrounds, our cultural biases, and largely the presence of sin in our lives, prevent us from an absolute understanding of right and wrong. He points out that in the same way that the `rules' of grammar come secondary to an actual spoken language, so do moral laws crystallize out of the Bible into a certain culture. The laws are not capable of encompassing all the goodness of God, but do give us a direction and in some cases, actual instruction. He goes on to say that when moral wisdom in the Bible takes the form of a law, it should be accepted as a great gift. However, Biblical law is only a small part of the moral teaching of the Bible. "How do we live well or virtuously in another culture?" This is a question posed at the beginning of the second chapter. The answer given is that we learn through experience; by living, by practicing. Goodness does not consist in what we know but how we live.(p.46) The first five chapters I found extremely helpful for a general overview of the study of ethics from a distinctly Christian perspective. The author gives a lot of good substance to chew on. Some of the view points may be looked on a little tentatively by some, but I think it is helpful to consider them with an open mind. The second half of the book focuses on several specific problems encountered by cross-cultural workers: communication, bribery, oppression of women, torture, and other religions. I was moderately disappointed in the second half of the book. It seems sometimes as if he is going too far with his admission of what we cannot know about God, other religions, knowledge, truth, etc. It appears as though he is violating his own principle of ontological conviction (p.190) by being so indecisive. The second half of the book talks a lot about the "social project" of Christianity. This should not be surprising given the author's emphasis on praxis, living out our theory or theology, in the first part of the book. But it can make a western Christian a little nervous about a works based salvation. Adeney makes abundant use of other authors and sources in this book as well as extensive footnoting. There are also many terms used that may be above the heads of an average reader. He seems to be extremely learned (or at least makes himself seem that way) and seems to have a good handle on many other authorities in his and related fields. Overall I was very pleased with the book and would recommend it to just about any mature Christian I know especially to those interested or involved in cross-cultural missions. It is heavy material and takes a while to get through. If someone was looking for an abridgement, I would recommend the first six chapters for a good overview and chapter seven for a good expanded case study. I think the author does a good job of mixing stories, real life experiences and concerns, and a humility toward a fantastic God. I encourage, and I'm sure the author would do the same, the reader to approach this book critically, open minded, and prayerfully.
A Student's Perspective Jul 20, 2006
Strange Virtues: Ethics in a Multicultural World, by Bernard T. Adeney is a wonderful tool for anybody living or working in a different culture. This includes different cultures within one's home country. Especially in heavily multinational countries (like America or Britain) interacting with those of differing fundamental worldviews is almost unavoidable. In fact, Adeney has no problem with "the elasticity of the concept of culture," and reminds the reader that even under the same roof there can be dwelling two highly unique cultures within man and wife. For this reason, Strange Virtues would be appropriate inside the generic library of any person seeking insight into how to respond to someone whose values are significantly different than their own. Needless to say, no one culture holds a monopoly on truth and this seems to be why Adeney has written Strange Virtues. His thesis might be that there is good within all cultures and only by studying the values of those radically different is one able to be shocked into a clearer recognition of what s/he believes because for the first time, basic assumptions are challenged.
Abounding in all sorts of churches is the cry to interpret the Bible within its context and not to pull out random phrases and use them for personal deduction. The Scriptures are God's words to man in a specific cultural historical context. What may be good or acceptable in one culture may not be in another. For example, using the bare foot to touch someone is highly offensive in Thai culture, but rarely would an American give it a second thought. Therefore, it's necessary to get at the kernel of what God considers good, not only for the Israelites but for all humankind. Is it crucial to salvation for women to remain plain and unadorned? Adeney points out that the fruits of the Spirit transcend culture for "against such there is no law."(Galatians 5:23) These should be the ultimate guidelines.
Adeney keeps this in mind throughout Strange Virtues as he deals with the Christian's response to bribery and other "obvious" wrongs, what a Christian does with the goodness found in other religions (a chapter I found especially stimulating and refreshing), and handling of cultural differences in gender roles. His thinking is extremely necessary, especially for those working abroad with intentions in ministry. In the last chapter Adeney provides a thought-provoking case study about an expatriate family coping with the tremendous abuse of the local power structure. In his example, the family succeeds to a certain extent because they respond to their God-driven urge for love and justice instead of responding like many of their cultural peers. Their expatiate friends strongly encouraged them not to meddle in local affairs, but they could not remain silent despite what the culturally acceptable course was.
I found Adeney's arguments very convincing and he has in fact persuaded me to see things differently. In my mind, this is the mark of a good author and a truly useful book.
Learning Goodness by Doing Sep 21, 2005
REVIEW OF STRANGE VIRTUES: ETHICS IN A MULTICULTURAL WORLD By Bernard Adeney
I am into my 2nd reading of this remarkable book which is probably more appropriate for today than when it was written 10 years ago. I am using it as a resource for spiritual direction, with formal sessions and a guide.
Adeney has clearly set forth the notion that ethics means actions not just belief in laws and abstract principles. Laws and principles are helpful, but they grow out of actions not vice versa. Moral action means doing good appropriately in a real life context of a culture. The context, for Adeney, is the combination of the cultures of the actors in the event and the host community. That rings true to me.
He points out that traditions and rituals are important in the formation of our culture and in its practice, both of which we often engage in unconsciously, just as we learn our native language. It is in the praxis of our ethics that we become "good." Praxis is "the practice of theology or theory in experience..." (p. 48) I translate that to be what it means to be good at a certain time, in a certain place, with certain individuals. This is different from saying that all ethics are relative. It is saying that ethics must depend on context. Universal principles must have flesh and bones and become alive to foster good behavior, and some moral judgments take precedent over other lesser values. We must choose between good and good.
Adeney has written from his heart and his experience as well as his extensive knowledge, but most of all from his own ethics which includes a good dose of compassion for those whose path to goodness differs from his. He welcomes them and listens to them tell their story. Rather than judging them, Adeney shares his own experience, strength and hope and invites dialogue.
His propositions are based on relevant biblical passages and sound scholarship. He has presented different interpretations of a number of moral dilemmas and invites the reader to choose between them or find an alternative. This book can serve as the text for academic study or for discussion groups in business, church, or community. It also can be a help to all who want to maximize their visit in another culture-whether across town or across the world-and not be seen as "The Ugly American" by default; that is, by making social blunders from not knowing the rituals and traditions of the community. Learning its lessons can also reduce one's fear of being taken advantage of in a foreign environment.
I've read few nonfiction books lately that brought tears to my eyes. This one did-more than once, as it reconnected me with an experience similar to the one the author was describing. Though the details of my story were somewhat different, the deep feeling and the moral dilemma were the same. I highly recommend this book. Carolyn A. Martin, Ph.D. 71 Amaryllis Lane Tiger, GA 30576
Deals with issues many Christians are afraid to touch Mar 26, 2001
This book focuses on how Christians (and especially evangelicals) are to deal with the fact that many other cultures have moral standards that differ radically from those we take for granted here in the West (bribery for example). This book is written by one who has spent much of his life living and working in non-western cultures, and is targeted primarily for a mission minded audience who will likely be facing some of the issues covered in his book. Despite his evangelical beliefs Adeney is not afraid to question the assumed absoluteness of certain ethical principles that most Christians in the West would affirm. He asks whether our perceptions may be skewed by our culture, and whether certain moral issues may ultimately be relative to the cultural context in which they arise. I appreciated the level of balance Adeney brought to this discussion. He avoided embracing a wishy washy relativism and tolerance based on a disbelief in any solid truths, and yet he also recognized the complexity of experience and the limited abilities of human cognition and judgement. In short, he strives to maintain the delicate balance of intellectual integrity by avoiding the opposite pitfalls of uncritical relativism on one side and unthinking, unreflective dogmatism on the other. Because of this his own position sometimes comes across as unclear or weak, but it is always genuine and honest.
One chapter I especially appreciated was his discussion of the challege of other religions to the Christian. He recognizes that other religions can often seem to surpass Christianity in aesthetic beauty, spiritual meaningfulness, and ethical excellence. However, he also balances this with the admission that religions are often the source of demonic and/or social oppression. Adeney, then weighs the philosophical options of inclusivism, exclusivism, and pluralism in relation to religions. Adeney's own position is fuzzy but at least he is one of the few authors to admit the validity and difficulties in each option.
Gives insight into evry day life in Africa May 19, 1996
I read this book as an assignment for a bioethics class. It is written in an easy to read style. It made me thankfull of our American way of life but also gave me some understanding into other cultrues and their way of thinking about religion and society