The New Morality: Its Failures and Fallacies (3)

By Dick Blackford

Men from different religious backgrounds have united in opposing the new morality. Conservative Catholics and Protestants have opposed it. Most of our institutional brethren have opposed it. Our question now is: Can they oppose it consistently?

Who Can Consistently Oppose Situational Ethics?

Not Catholics. Fletcher’s doctrine that “circumstances alter cases” is merely an enlargement on the Catholic doctrine of mental reservation (” . . . so that a false statement knowingly made to one who has not a right to the truth will not be a lie,” Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. IX, p. 471). The Catholic church has set aside the word of God on the subject of honesty on the basis of situations that might develop in which it would not be beneficial (in this life) to tell the truth. Fletcher has simply enlarged on that and applied it to other areas of morality. He can set aside adultery on the basis of circumstances if something beneficial (in this life) results. On what basis can Catholics oppose situation ethics? Not any. They were practicing it on th matter of bearing false witness before Fletcher was born.

Not Protestants. For years, Protestants have taught that salvation involves no rules for they claim we would be earning our salvation. They said, “Let your conscience be your guide” in religion. Situationists say the same thing about morality. Protestants have said, “it makes no difference what you believe (in religion) just so you’re sincere.” Situationists say the same about morality. For decades Protestants (especially Baptists) have tried to set aside obedience in baptism on the basis of difficult situations (Blackford-Dabdoub Debate, 1977, second night). The cases most often used are th soldier on the battlefield who needs to be baptized and the man on the way to the creek for baptism and is killed. Any teaching of God can be set aside in this manner. What about the man who is on his way to hear the gospel for the first time and is killed before he reaches the building? Is he saved without the gospel (Rom. 1:16)? Can all men be saved without the gospel? Those who seek to bypass our Lord’s will int eh religious realm are bedfellows to those who try to bypass His will in the moral realm! If it works for Baptists then it should work for Fletcher. He is simply applying Baptists arguments to morality. Close kin indeed! One thing for sure, Fletcher should not have to accept all the blame for the moral climate of our society. It is easy to see where his arguments came from. We do not mean to be hard on the Baptist people, but they do need to see the consequences of their reasoning. Protestant preachers have opened the floodgate and are not powerless to stop the flood.

Even if the soldier was an exception to baptism, it would not establish the rule for everyone else not in that situation. Those in America who have every opportunity to obey the gospel but spend every night in the comfort of their homes watching television, going to ball games or other forms of entertainment, would not qualify. Nor would it fit the denominationalists who are too prejudiced to study or attend debates on the subject. It certainly would not fit false teachers who spend their time trying to find loopholes around it. It is usually their fault that the soldier gets in such a predicament anyway. If he would not listen to those who tell him baptism is not essential (in spite of Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21, etc.) he would not wait til the lost control the circumstances. The Bible stresses the importance of doing it immediately (Acts 16:29-34). If our attitude is right toward God and His word, we will follow the rule instead of always trying to be the exception. If there are exceptions, God has not told us. We will let him handle it one judgment day and be satisfied with whatever He chooses to do.

Not Institutional Brethren. In controversies over church support of institutions and church-sponsored recreation some have used “the end justifies the means” argument. Verbal pictures of babies left on doorsteps, children eating out of garbage cans, and other emotional circumstances have been used to set aside God’s will for local churches. Sponsoring elders who oversee other flocks that are not “among you” (1 Pet. 5:2) on the basis that “these are struggling groups who need our oversight” are using sitiuationism. Brethren who argue for church-sponsored recreation and entertainment “because if we don’t, the denominations will get our young people” are using the same reasoning as Fletcher.

If Catholics, Protestants, and institutional brethren cannot consistently oppose the new morality, then who can? Christians who have the right attitude toward God and His word! When faced with a difficult situation, whether individually or on a congregational basis, (1) Be patient enough to wait for the way of escape. God is faithful and will not allow you to be tempted above your ability to resist (1 Cor. 10:13). (2) Pray regularly. The prayers of a righteous person are of great benefit (Jas. 5:16). (3) Study regularly. The Psalmist said a knowledge of the word will keep you from sin (Psa. 119:11). It did for Jesus (Mt. 4:1-11). (4) Remember that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13), and “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).


Situationism seeks to cloud the issue between right and wrong. However, by following the preventatives given above one can see clearly and know when he has pleased God.

Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 4, p. 105
February 16, 1984