Situation ethics

Situation ethics

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Key terms

Relativistic= There are no absolute moral rules that everyone must obey

Teleological= An ethical system that is concerned with the consequences of actions

Legalism= The belief that there are fixed moral laws that must be obeyed

Antinomianism= The belief that there are no fixed moral principles and that ethics should be spontaneous


  • Developed in the 1960s by Joseph Flether
  • In the twentieth century, the USA and UK were facing changes that involved people moving away from legalism and towards antinomianism- This happened because people did not want to be told what to do by God anymore
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Joseph Fletcher

  • American theologian
  • He wanted to preserve the Christian principle of love, therefore situation ethics involves making decisions depending on what 'best serves love'

Agape love

  • Situation ethics has one single maxim which is agape love (Agape love= selfless love)
  • Fletcher claimed that agape love was essential and it should be applied to every situation
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The four working principles


  • The action must work towards the end which is love


  • The situationist must avoid words like 'never' and 'always' because there are no fixed rules- All decisions must be relative to Christian love


  • 'God is love'- You must give first place to Christian love


  • People must come first
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The six fundamental principles

  • Only one thing is intrinsically good which is love
  • The ruling norm of Christian decision making is love- Jesus broke the rules when it best served love
  • Love and justice are the same- 'Justice is love distributed'
  • Love wills the neighbour's good, whether we like him or not'
  • Only the end result justifies the means
  • Love's decisions are made situationally, not prescriptively
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Evaluation- Strengths

  • It shows that Christians can be situationists and still follow biblical laws
  • It provides a good enough reason to break ethical principles
  • The whole system is guided by the desirable principle of love
  • It isn't tied to rules like deontological ethics- This makes it flexible because each situation can be judged individually
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Evaluation- Weaknesses

  • It's a religious ethical system- It doesn't appeal to everyone
  • Our ideas of love might be subjective
  • This theory allows bad actions to bring about more 'loving' consequences
  • This theory is permissive- It allows things that Christians would never allow
  • They say that there are no ethical principles but they allow one: Do the most loving thing- This contradicts itself
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