“Situation Ethics is the Middle Way between Legalism and Antinomianism” Explain (30)

“Situation Ethics is the Middle Way between Legalism and Antinomianism” Explain (30)

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: Hugo
  • Created on: 02-01-11 17:58
Preview of “Situation Ethics is the Middle Way between Legalism and Antinomianism” Explain (30)

First 713 words of the document:

"Situation Ethics is the Middle Way between Legalism and Antinomianism" Explain (30)
Timed ­ 25minutes
Joseph Fletcher was an American philosopher who was disgusted at the ways that religions
were taught and despised of the legalistic religions which would not allow exceptions to the rule. For
these reasons he devised an ethic called "Situation Ethics". Situation Ethics is a teleological approach
because it gives an action moral value once its consequences are analysed. For this approach an
action is moral when it maximises the love for the majority of people. Fletcher calls it a Christian ethic
because "Sophia" (rules and traditions) is present, though illuminates.
It's called the middle way because it's placed in between Legalism and Antinomianism.
Legalism focuses on the religions where people follow strict rules in believing this is the moral thing
to do. In legalism there are no exceptions. For example Catholic Natural Law is completely against the
idea of abortion because it goes against 1 of the 5 purposes, "Reproduce". It allows no room for
exceptions and it's simply immoral to go against a rule (in this case against the 5 purposes). A
diagram can be drawn in ones mind when visualising the similarities between the Situation Ethics and
the Middle Way. This legalistic approach focuses strongly on "Sophia" (rules and traditions) having it
in the front seat of a car. This Sophia is what makes all the decisions when driving and it's the same
for a person who follows the legalistic approach. They have "Sophia" in the front of their mind, and
they make decisions based on what the rules (which they follow) allow them to do. Situation Ethics on
the other hand places "Sophia" in the back seat and has love in the front seat. Sophia might be
reading a map and telling the person where to go, but love is behind the wheel and makes the
decisions. i.e Sophia is present but illuminates and producing love is the only absolute.
A legalist would say that ends do not justify the means. However, Fletcher would disagree with this
as he believes that someone cannot be said to be moral if they are to do an action which they know
will cause harm. Therefore emphasising that it's a teleological approach and it is only moral or
immoral once looked at its consequences. Legalism though, is a deontological theory which means
that the rules make an act moral or immoral. If one breaks the rule, it's immoral and if one sticks to
the rules it's a moral act.
Another reason why it's seen to be the "Middle Way" is because Fletcher stresses how it's a Christian
Ethic meaning that it cannot be strongly associated with Antinomianism. Jesus says that the two
greatest commandments are "Love your neighbour as you love yourself" and "Love God with all your
heart". Fletcher claims that this puts love at the centre of Christianity which is what Situation Ethics
does also. There are other situations in the bible where love takes precedence over rules. For
example Jesus on the Sabbath who was criticised for healing on this day. But he says, "The Sabbath is
made for man, not man made for Sabbath." This shows that we can break laws in order to serve love
to others. Hence this links it closely to Christianity, proving that Fletcher is correct in calling it a
Christian Ethic.
Antinomianism is the opposite of Legalism as it completely dismisses any rules and regulations. It's all
for freedom and anarchy. Antinomianism is against law and therefore has no rational basis to make
decisions. This can cause huge problems as immoral consequence often comes about as a result. The
similarity between Antinomianism and Situation Ethics is that Situation Ethics aims to widen freedom
and responsibilty for the legalistic people. This is evident in the 2nd out of 6 propositions in Situation

Other pages in this set

Page 2

Preview of page 2

Here's a taster:

Ethics. However, as it does keep traditions and rules partly present it must fall in between the two
ways.…read more


Ruhena Ahmed

what level did you get? :)

Similar Religious Studies resources:

See all Religious Studies resources »See all resources »