Does the Bible teach situational ethics?
Question: "Does the Bible teach situational ethics?"
Situational ethics is a particular view of moral ethics that basically holds that the morality of an act is determined right or wrong by the function of the choice. Situational ethics states that if there is a right and wrong, it is merely determined by the desired outcome of the situation. Situational ethics is different from moral relativism in that moral relativism states that there is no right or wrong. Situational ethics envelopes a code of ethics in which meeting the needs of each situation determines what is right or wrong.
From cover to cover, the Bible is true, consistent, and applicable. Yes, there are questions, and sometimes questions without answers or quick answers, but questions do not negate the validity or consistency of Godís Word. So does the Bible teach, admonish, or even lean toward advocating situational ethics? The short answer is "no." Let us consider three principles: 1) God is creator and sustainer; He is . . . God, with a big G! 2) All of Godís Word is true. Every bit. Even the parts we donít like or understand. 3) Right and wrong are determined and defined by who God is.
1. God is creator and sustainer. Situational ethics states that ethics are determined by surroundings or circumstance. Godís Word references ethics to be determined by Godís sovereignty, as He is creator and sustainer. And that is not a matter of semantics but of fact. Even if God were to give a command to one group of people and forbid it to another group, the determination of whether it is right or wrong, ethical or not is not based on the situation, but rather on Godís command. God not only has the authority but the sovereignty to govern the morality of right and wrong. Romans 3:4 says, ďLet God be true and every man a liar.Ē
2. All of Godís Word is true. To suggest that the Bible advocates situational ethics would be to imply that there are errors contained therein. That is not possible. It is not possible because of number 1, God is creator and sustainer.
3. Right and wrong are determined and defined by who God is. Love is Godís nature. He defines what love is not by what He does, but simply by who He is. The Bible says, God is love (1 John 4:16). It goes on to say that love is selfless and considerate of others, never seeking its own glory or pleasure (1 Corinthians 13). Therefore, by definition of who God is, love, a non-selfish love, the Bible, being given by God and being all true, cannot contain a plan for ethics that would in itself defy the nature of God. Situational ethics finds right and wrong to please the majority or a single person out of selfishness. Love is the opposite. Love seeks to encourage and build up others.
Two foundational problems with situational ethics are the reality of an absolute truth and the concept of real love. The Bible does teach absolute truth which demands that right and wrong are predetermined by a Holy God. And loveóGodís definition of true, honest, real loveóleaves no room for selfish or impure motivations. Even if you were to say that the situation demands you be selfless, it is you making the call and not a Holy God. Your reasons for determining what is best, without true loveóand true love can only come from a relationship with Godóare foundationally selfish.
So what happens when things look right but God says they are wrong? Well, we must trust Godís sovereignty and trust ďthat all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purposeĒ (Romans 8:28). If we belong to Christ, God has given us His Spirit (John 16), and through Him we have an understanding of what is right and wrong. Through Him we are convicted, encouraged, and guided to righteousness. If your earnest desire is to know the truth of a matter, seek God, and He will answer. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6).
Christian Ethics in Plain Language by J. Kerby Anderson.
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