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Written by: Unknown    Posted on: 03/20/2003

Category: Christian Living

Source: CCN

                            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 do?


.     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 humanism.

.     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 decisions.

.     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- centeredness.

.     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 individual.

.     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 best.

.     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 thing.

.     "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

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

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