AUTHOR: Unknown
PUBLISHED ON: March 20, 2003
PUBLISHED IN: Christian Living

                            SITUATION ETHICS


.     Cathy and Bill have finally told their parents about their living
arrangements.  The older folks were shocked.  But the kids exclaim, “We only
wanted to make sure we were meant for each other.  Hasty marriages create
divorces.  Can’t you understand we only want to do the most `loving’ thing?”

.     Margie has just received an affirmative on her pregnancy test. She’s a
full time student who works a part-time job.  An abortion is the answer! 
Would it be fair to bring an unwanted baby into an already over-populated
world?  Anyway, she could never give the child proper attention or time with
her busy schedule.  In this situation Margie’s solution seems “kind and
practical” to herself.

.     Robert, who has always been an excellent student, finds himself
unprepared for a crucial scholarship examination.  His excuse is righteous-
death in the family.  He contacts a friend who gladly gives him a secret copy
of the test’s answer sheet.  Rationalizing if circumstances had been normal he
would have make the grade anyway, he cheats.  It was the only “right” thing to


.     None of the above people would have thought of their actions as sin. 
That would be “legalism.”  Unknowingly, many have fallen into the attractive
philosophy of situation ethics.

.     Situation ethics is a conglomeration of relativism, universalism, and

.     Relativism denies absolutes, saying that right or wrong is conditionally
determined by its relationship to the individual circumstance.

.     Universalism is a mixture of wishful thinking and modern theology. All
men are saved by Christ’s atonement whether they know it or not. Besides,
would a loving God send anyone to hell?

.     Humanism declares man’s basic goodness and denies the doctrine of
original sin.  Give us the right environmental factors with a “good”
conscience for guidance and man can be righteous on his own accord.

.     Situation ethics basically claims that man is capable of making “loving”
decisions without a set definition of what is loving.

.     It denounces legalism and any rigid behavioral rules.  Simply consider
the situation, what seems best for you and do the most loving thing.


.     Even though situation ethics distorts most orthodox Christian beliefs, it
claims to be Christian.  What is meant by “Christian” is never clearly
defined, but strong inferences are made.  A quote from Joseph Fletcher’s book,
Situation Ethics, states, “The Christian situationist who is also neighbor or
person concerned: `Your love is like mine, like everybody’s; it is the Holy
Spirit.  Love is not the work of the Holy Spirit, it is the Holy Spirit-
working in us.  God is love, He doesn’t merely have it or give it:  He gives
Himself-to all men, to all sorts and conditions: to believers and unbelievers,
high and low, dark and pale, learned and ignorant, Marxists and Christian, and
Hottentots.’ ”

.     In other words, all humans have the Holy Spirit and God in them
regardless of spiritual condition and this enables them to make the right

.     One problem, if this is true: how come there is so much “old-fashioned”
sin in the world?  Do our rising crime, dope, and divorce rates indicate man’s
ability to decide for himself?  Maybe we do need help.

.     Jesus told us the way to living was through Him and the only true love
came from God.  He also said that unless a man was spiritually born again he
would never enter the kingdom of Heaven.  Every man has to make a personal
decision to receive salvation.  Jesus said that man must follow Him on the
narrow road and deny self to be a Christian.


.     One obvious flaw of situation ethics is the way legalism and true
Christian ethics are confused.

.     There is a vast difference between Christian ethics and legalism.
Christian ethics is the biblical law supported by the love of Jesus. Legalism
is the law upheld by people and their traditions.

.     Jesus never said the Ten Commandments were to be disregarded but that the
law without love was hypocrisy.

.     When the Pharisees caught a young woman in adultery they brought her up
before Jesus thinking they could trip him up on a legal technicality.

.     The law clearly said to stone her.  Jesus did not deny this but simply
said, O.K., the man who has not sinned throw the first stone. They left one by
one.  Jesus and the woman were left standing alone. He could have cast the
stone rightfully but didn’t.  Why?

.     Jesus knew about forgiveness.  The little principle ignored when
situationists discuss Christian ethics.  He did not say that’s all right,
maybe it was a justifiable act considering her position.  He plainly called
her adultery sin but said He forgave her and to go and sin no more.

.     Previously, Jesus had re-defined adultery.  Even if a man looks at a
woman lustfully he has committed adultery with her in his heart.

.     He said this to establish everyone’s guilt and to expose the futility of
reaching God by works.  Man needs something beyond himself to keep him right. 
He needs to be changed inside through the saving power of Jesus Christ.


.     The theory of situation ethics sounds reasonable, but does it work?  Take
a closer look around.  It seems when restraints are taken away we feel no
moral obligation to exercise moderation.  Social nearsightedness takes over.

.     We become sensualists, relying on natural instincts of desire for
guidance.  Hedonism and antinomianism are the most common forms of sensualism. 
The hedonist lives for pleasure and happiness, making these his goals in life. 
Because happiness is actually a by-product, not the substance, of a purposeful
life, he is never satisfied.

.     The hedonist tries to make the result the means.  Thus lacking real
purpose in life, he is denied his very goal of happiness by his own self-

.     Henery Sedgwick, a pioneer in developing the modern hedonistic view,
coined the phrase, “pleasure sought is pleasure lost;” the hedonistic paradox.


.     Despite what many modernists claim, we have found ourselves caught in the
proverbial treadmill.  Wanting to be free and independent we have become
enslaved to our lust.

.     C. S. Lewis, well-known Christian writer, stated in The Great Divorce,
“The sensualist, I’ll allow ye, begins by pursuing a real pleasure, though a
small one… But the time comes on when, though the pleasure becomes less and
less and the craving fiercer and fiercer and though he knows that joy can
never come that way, yet he prefers to joy the mere fondling of unappeasable
lust and would not have it taken from him.  He’d fight to the death to keep
it.  He’d like well to be able to scratch; but even when he can scratch no
more he’d rather itch than not.”


.     Even though the situationist denounces antinomianism as an undesirable
system of ethics, many time he sinks to this.  Why? Situation ethics gives no
motivation to take responsible actions.

.     Antinomianism literally means “against the law.”  The term was first used
to describe a religious view of Christianity.  The view reasoned that since we
are saved by grace, not by works, why repent of immoral actions and adhere to
right living?  Otherwise, burn the rule book.

.     Antinomianism gave birth to the modern day philosophy of existentialism. 
The existentialist believes there are no valid principle and no universal laws
for human conduct.  The “now” and the present experience is all that matters.

.     No purpose in the world or congruency between one day and the next can be
found.  No experience connects with the next.  Every situation is unique and

.     The philosophy is totally self-centered with no concern with the present
actions’ affect on the future.

.     This view-point is a total cop-out from responsibility.  Rules and laws
become meaningless.  Many frustrated people have adopted existentialism only
to find themselves reverting to lawlessness and antinomianism.

.     A good example is this generation of young adults.  First, honestly
searching for what is right, disregarding established Christian ethics, we
gave way to self-indulgence and blatant immorality resulting in complete
lawlessness.  Lawlessness produced everything this generation was protesting
in the first place.


.     What can we do about the mess we have already created?

.     First, admit that you aren’t God and have done wrong.  Dr. Menninger,
highly acclaimed American psychiatrist, feels the only way to present day
moral repairs is to revive the concept of sin.  In his book, Whatever Became
Of Sin?, he writes that sin is ” a transgression of the law of God;
disobedience of the divine will; moral failure… Sin has a willful defiant,
or disloyal quality; someone is defied or offended or hurt.”

.     God has been saying this to us for centuries.  “For all have sinned and
come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23.  Since God is the creator, and
we are the created, perhaps His solution to sin and how to make decisions is

.     God sent His only son, Jesus, to earth to pay the consequences for our
sins.  Jesus was the sinless sacrifice on the cross who arose victoriously
over sin and death.  If you trust in, rely on, and cling to Jesus, you can be
forgiven of your sins and given eternal life.

.     Once you have accepted Jesus Christ as the way out of your sin problem
then look into His plan for living the Christian life in the New Testament.

.     Accept God’s absolutes as your standard for living.  Go to Him daily in
communicating prayer, asking for forgiveness and guidance in doing the loving

.     “No man is free who is a slave to the flesh.” – Seneca

.     “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life…”  “Ye shall know the truth and
the truth will set you free.” – Jesus

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                    407 N. Malden, Chicago, IL 60640
                       (c)1984 JPUSA Productions

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