Situation Ethics

By Steve Willis

“Ethics” has to do with what one “ought” to do. Situation ethics means the “situationist (the individual practicing situation ethics-SW) enters into every decision-making situation fully armed with the ethical maxims of his community and its heritage (this includes the Bible-SW) and he treats them with respect as illuminators of his problems. Just the same he is prepared in any situation to compromise them or set them aside in the situation if love seems better served by doing so” (Joseph Fletcher, Situation Ethics, p. 26). The only rule is no rules are definite, or absolute. Love is supposed to decide what is good. Rules are “. . .only valid if they happen to serve love in any situation” (p. 30).

Situation ethics means in some cases (perhaps to save a life), as long as there is love (and to serve love), God permits lying, fornication, murder, or any other act that would in other situations be considered sin. There are two major fallacies, regarding love.and regarding goodness, that are foundations of the situationist view.

God is love (1 Jn. 4:8,16). God’s infinite love has already determined the rules for men, This is the highest love, which no man can match. Which situationist is to say that his love in a given situation is greater than God’s love? If love is the norm, let us use God’s love. “. . .and whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has been truly perfected” (1 Jn. 2:5). “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 Jn. 5:3).

No one is good except God alone. This is what Jesus said in Mk. 10:18. A man had just asked what to do to have life. Jesus told the man to “keep the commandments” and then listed: “You shall not commit murder-, You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 19:17-19). What man can claim to know what is good except by revelation from God? Eph. 2:9 teaches that man cannot determine the works that will save him. Does the situationist think himself so good that he can transcend the goodness, the laws of God?

God is love. If love demands good be done to an individual, do what God has defined as good, His commandments. Our knowledge might not think some acts would be “good” in a situation, but that is because our knowledge is finite. God’s “commandments are not burdensome (1 Jn. 5:3). Keep them!

Truth Magazine XX: 37, p. 587
September 16, 1976