Please pardon my english if you find any incongruent usage of words, grammar. A first posting by a non-english speaker

I understand that hypothetical questions are usually missing all the relevant surrounding conditions, making them inappropriate to solicit answers.

Nonetheless, I would like to put a real world decision problem on the table hoping that Christian ethic theories would help choosing an action for the following question.

A missionary who has a mission of enlightening arrives at a primitive tribe in a jungle. The tribe has a custom of offering one of its chief's wives to its visitor and declining it is considered a great shame to the chief and the offered one.

What action would Christian ethic theories recommend the missionary to do and why?

What lines of the bible or Christian ethical philosophies can help the missionary decide whether to accept the offer?

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    Welcome to the site! Please consider taking the tour as it's a helpful part of the process in coming to an understanding of how we are different from other sites. 'Christianity' as a generalization is fairly meaningless on this site - there is way too much diversity of views regarding a whole host of issues (including this one) amongst Christians to make unqualified use of the term advisable. Jul 23, 2014 at 9:00
  • @bruisedreed I updated the question a bit to be more specific. Is it good enough? Thanks for your time.
    – msk
    Jul 23, 2014 at 10:22
  • @msk It's not whether it's good enough for me that matters, but the judgment of the site's community ;) You'll know if there is a further problem if the question is placed on hold - you'll be given some additional feedback as to why it's not sufficiently on-topic and hopefully some guidance on how the question could be re-edited with a view to re-opening it. In the absence of any such action, I'll attempt an answer for you. Jul 23, 2014 at 10:55
  • Hi, I'm giving the feedback that @bruisedreed said might be coming. As phrased, this question is only answerable by giving opinions. "Christian ethics" is something that varies from group to group and person to person. It's subjective. See Is it valid to ask if “Christianity” teaches anything? As this is asked, there are likely to be varying opinions, but no one clear answer that is definitively "correct". Opinion-based questions simply aren't on -topic here. Jul 23, 2014 at 11:55
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    @msk The difficulty with that is that there are many different "Christian ethical systems", founded on different ways of understanding the interactions between God and humanity. That being the case, it's not really possible to state (without making a HUGE long list) all the different ways that Christian ethical statements might guide someone. Jul 23, 2014 at 15:30

1 Answer 1


Firstly, the situation is not entirely hypothetical - these circumstances have occurred in reality before with varying outcomes and a more generalized case involving similar issues is something that is actually on the radar of missionary trainers and supporters (cf. this on-line article).

The Biblical issues that I see at play in a situation like this are:

  1. Contextualisation - the Biblical models for this principal are the incarnation of Christ (cf. Philippians 2:1-11) and the missiological methodology of the Apostle Paul (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23). Close observation of this principle will encourage the missionary to adopt as much of the tribe's culture that can possibly be harmonized with the following two points.
  2. The Biblical framework of marriage (cf. Matthew 19:3-12, 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Timothy 3:2, 2 Corinthians 6:14-15) - In summary, it is good to be married (it is also good to be single, so each one should determine what is the best state for them), but marriage is for life and should be with only one 'equally yoked' partner.
  3. Personal Conviction (cf. Romans 14:5,23) - A Christian is not an ethical automaton: principles are not legal requirements, and a missionary should only attempt enacting those principles which he can willingly and in faith embrace without reservation.

The relative importance of these principles and how they would play out in a real-world scenario would not only vary from denomination to denomination, but almost certainly from individual to individual - to attempt anything more perscriptive would be a pharisaical extreme.

  • I feel shameful not giving adequate points due to lack of reputation. The answer is superb and very impressive. Also, it gives me great interest in the lines mentioned. Thank you.
    – msk
    Jul 23, 2014 at 12:21
  • You're welcome, if you'd like some modern day examples of contextualisation in action, I'd recommend Bruchko, by Bruce Olsen or the works of Don Richardson (Peace Child, Lord's of the Earth etc.) Jul 23, 2014 at 12:25

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