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Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World Paperback – July 31, 1992

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Editorial Reviews


"This book is right on target and just in time--when Christians in the same churches and denominations have trouble talking to one another. Spiritual leaders in these churches and denominations need to embody and practice it."

"A convincing case . . . . We can think of so many people who need to read this book, even as we suspect most of them think it would do us a heap of good. They're probably right."

"Mouw convincingly argues that the need for civility is pressing. The virtue is nearly extinct. Civility is a Christian virtue whereby we enter public discussions with a strong conviction of Christian truth, a willingness to learn from those with whom we disagree, and a desire to honor the humanity of even our fiercest foe. Civility is not a passive politeness that defers to everyone and stands for nothing. Neither is it relativistic. It is a mannerly demeanor in which an inner intensity never overpowers self-restraint or rational discourse. . . . The book articulates an urgent message Christians should take to heart."

About the Author

Mouw is president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Before coming to Fuller in 1985 as professor of Christian philosophy and ethics, he was for seventeen years professor of philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 173 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (July 31, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830818251
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830818259
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,832,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard J. Mouw (PhD, University of Chicago) is president and professor of Christian philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He is a columnist and the author of numerous books.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Duane Bajema on August 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
Mouw delves into a helpful critique of how people, especially people who profess to be Christians, can interact in the world in a positive and helpful manner. The book is an easy read that humbly critiques as well as offers ideas for insightful ways of seeing how one's belief system can be developed to promote respect and positive civil discourse. I found especially helpful his description of the problem of "triumphalism" which is a concern to me in our society. This is a good read that will promote solid self-examination in a fresh manner. I felt edified and challenged after I had read the book, and I recommend it as an individual reading as well as reading the book as a group.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Daniel B. Clendenin on January 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, wrote this short and simple book a dozen years ago, but it is, perhaps, even more timely today than when it first appeared. The last several presidential elections indicate that our country and our churches are badly divided over a broad range of important issues like gay rights, abortion, stem cell research, the place of America in the world, global economics, health care, and the list goes on. Many people employ a military metaphor to describe our so-called "culture wars." President Bush divided our world in terms of an "axis of evil." In a war, to state the obvious, you have friends and foes, enemies and allies, the goal being for Good (that would be "our" side) to defeat Evil ("their" side). Sharp, partisan and demonizing rhetoric about these issues divides us even further. One is left to exasperate with Rodney King, who lamented after police who had publicly beaten him were acquitted and riots erupted, "why can't we all just get along?"

Mouw shows how and why Christians should not only be people of conviction, but people of compassion and civility. We are, he reminds us, to "pursue peace with everyone" (Hebrews 12:14), and to "show every courtesy to everyone" (Titus 3:2). Civility does not mean we have to like everyone we meet, forfeit our convictions to a relativistic perspective, or befriend people as a manipulative ploy to evangelize them. Rather, it means caring deeply about our civitas and its public life, because God so cares. After defining the nature and parameters of Christian civility, Mouw investigates its implications for our speech, attitudes, pluralistic society, sexual mores, other religions, and leadership in a fallen world. He explores the limits of civility, when there is no "on the other hand.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Eric Nykamp on July 23, 2008
Format: Paperback
I heard Richard Mouw give a talk on this book a dozen years ago. I often have turned to this book since then to remind myself of what the tone of Christianity should sound like in this day and age. Too often, I am afraid, Christians express their convictions without much generosity, tact, or sensitivity for those who do not share these beliefs. I do not see this as the example of Jesus who saved the "strong language" for those who already understood grace, and still needed some pointers on how to live. This book is a breath of fresh air and gives good general guidance on how a person can hold beliefs that may run counter to the values of any one particular culture ... and do so in a manner that reflects a heart and spirit of love. It is a book that genuinly wrestles with tough issues without shying away from them, and shows where Christians have cracks. This is one of my favorite books to remind me of how Christians, myself included, should try to live.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Darren McDonald on June 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
This call for civility in public (and particularly religious) dialogue is vitally important. In order for our multi-cultural world to truly thrive, we need to learn to talk together *with* those who hold views other than our own. We live in a world where public discourse usually devolves into the demonization of one's "opponent." Mouw's book offers a helpful discussion of how one can hold onto one's convictions while respecting the worldview and world in which one's friends live.

Mouw is a leader, both as a scholar and as a Christian, in the quest to foster healthy interfaith dialogue where the beliefs of all parties are taken seriously and disagreements are allowed in friendship.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on November 14, 2010
Format: Paperback
Love thy enemy is a virtue of Christianity that seems more and more lost. "Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World" is an urging to readers to remember the Christian values of love and respect even for those who do not follow your faith and beliefs. Stating that civility is the key to a better understanding on all sides of an argument, too often Americans fall into name calling and being truly awful to each other to get anything done. "Uncommon Decency" is a powerful read with a stronger message, very highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. Morgan on October 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
I can't remember who said it, but one of my favorite quotes is "The gospel is offensive enough, we do not have to be.." The problem is that too many believers are seen as offensive. We can tend to categorize (or even justify) our "offensiveness" as honesty, or speaking in love.

Richard Mouw's book challenges this view. In this updated version of his book first published in the early 90's Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility In An Uncivil World , Mouw argues that Christian's need to cultivate civility.

Does this preclude Christian's holding strong convictions? Not at all. Civility does not require that we discard are strong convictions or doctrinal beliefs, but it does mean that we change how we present them and how we act in discussing them.

Does civility mean we have to like everybody? No. But again, it does mean that we must be aware of how we treat others, even those we find hard to get along with or even dislike.

Regardless of who it is we are speaking to; regardless of how we feel about them; regardless of what they believe, we are to treat them, as Mouw powerfully points out, as persons who are created in God's image who are still within reach of divine mercy.

This is not an easy thing to do. In fact, it is only something which is `grace' empowered, and it is something which we need to work at daily.

Oh how I wish many in the church would read this. Too often we come across as angry and arrogant as well as offensive, both in terms of our witness and in our everyday life. We have the truth. We have the Gospel. Let us begin to present the truths of scripture with love, compassion, with civility and let our loves mirror this even in rush hour traffic, or the crowded mall. The years of Christian experience and service flow from Mouw's pen in this book, and we should listen to him as an elder of the global Church.

Highly recommended.
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