Learning to handle "situation ethics" in light of biblical principles
What has happened to us? We live in an age where ego and emotion are more important than virtue and values. An age where personal preference outweighs personal worth and “I want it now” trumps integrity. We live in an age where absolutes aren’t (unless we decide they fit into our personal plan) and standards are only something to customize and remodel to our personal satisfaction. Ours is an age where the ancient principles of sin and objective morality are being relegated to the trash heap of history. So, what are we supposed to do? Should we go along with the flow of thoughts and emotions that are reshaping our social structure? Should we abandon what is considered to be the old and worn out moral thinking of the past and embrace the new and vibrant personally-based principles of the present?
For me, most decisions start out in a very black and white fashion. Something is either right or it is wrong, so figure out which it is and get on with it. Now I realize that life is not made up of such clear-cut and easy-to-navigate roads. No, life is made up of roads that curve – they make you adjust your thinking - and roads that have hairpin turns making you go in the opposite direction you started from. Then there are the roads that become gravel and filled with pot holes, making you navigate far more slowly and carefully. Finally, there are roads that end in the weeds, that make you stop and reconsider everything because it looks like you are lost.
There are two very basic ways to figure these roads out. The first I mentioned already is using a well-defined approach and trying to apply it to whatever the road might be. The second way is to use what is called “situation ethics.” This is a theory founded by Joseph Fletcher in the 1960’s and explained in his book Situation Ethics: The New Morality.
Basically, Fletcher says to take a nuanced approach to the experiences of life, weighing the circumstances of each experience against the best possible outcome for that experience. His criteria for this process is to have noble and benevolent love for those involved so the outcome is in everyone’s very best interest. An impressive approach, thoughtful and engaging – but is it the right way to go?
Actually as I see it, I don’t think so. By very definition, situation ethics implies that what is fundamentally right must be subject to being wrong when one deems it necessary. Some have said that Jesus himself used a situation ethics approach, as he mixed with those considered undesirable and he taught things that the spiritual leaders of his day saw as direct contradictions to the Jewish Law. So, what about that? Did he? Check out our October 23, 2017 podcast, "Are we SURE Sin is Really Sinful?" and find out. Follow along with us as we reason through examples, circumstances and principles to find footing in our decision making. It just might help!
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