The Four presumptions and six fundamental principles of Christian love

Fletcher's principles developed for application of situation ethics theory to a moral situation.

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  • Created by: Hannah
  • Created on: 06-05-12 12:21

The Four Presumptions / Four working principles.

1. Pragmatism - the proposed action must work towards a loving end and be practical in that it it achives a loving outcome (in other words, the action must work).

2. Relativism - there are no fixed rules that must always be obeyed, however nor is it free for all! Decisions must be relative to Christian love and act according to Christian love. As Joseph Fletcher said, situation ethics "relativizes the absolute, it does not absolutize the relative". 

3. Positivism -  The course of action has to start with a positive choice because you need to want to good. Situation ethics depends on Christians freely choosing the faith that God is love, so giving first place to Christian love.

4. Personalism - Whilst the legalist puts law before the person, situation ethics values that people are more important than the rule, just as Jesus showed in the New Testament, for example working on the Sabbath (Jesus said "My Father is always working, and so am I." in John 5:17).

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Six Fundamental Principles of Christian Love.

1. Only love is intrinsically good - As Joseph Fletcher said, "only one 'thing' is intrinsically good; namely, love: nothing else". Love is intrinsically valuable because it has inherent worth, and nothing else has intrinsic value but gains or acquires its value only because it happens to either help or hurt people, for example, a lie is not intrinsically wrong, but is wrong if it harms people, but may be right if it helps people.

2. Love is the only norm - As Fletcher said, "the ruling norm of Christian decision is love: nothing else". Love replaces the law because law should only be obeyed in the interests of love, not for law's sake! Jesus summarized the entire law by saying "God is love" and "love your neighbour" so love is the only law. (However, this may allow individuals to easily justify any of their actions in the name of love because it is subjective).

3. Love and Justice are the same - Fletcher said, "love and justice are the same, for justice is love distributed, nothing else." There can be no love without justice, for example, an injustice such as a child starving is an example of a lack of love. If love was properly shared out, there would be no injustice. 

4. Love is not liking - Fletcher said, "love wills the neighbour's good, whether we like him or not". Love is discerning and critical, not sentimental. Martin Luther King said it would be nonsense to like their violent oppressors, but that they should love them because Christian love is a non-selfish love of all people.

5. The loving end justifies the means - Fletcher said, "only the end justifies the means". You cannot claim to be following a rule, like do not lie, knowing it will cause great harm. Only the loving end or outcome can justify your action. A loving end is therefore the intended outcome of a chosen outcome, and you do not do it for any other means.

6. Love decides there and then - There are no rules about what should or shouldn't be done - in each situation, you decided there and then what the most loving thing to do is.

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