2. What is situation ethics?
Many of those Christians who believe that conscience is more
important that the Bible or the Church believe that Christians should
follow situation ethics which began with an American thinker,
If the Bible says stealing is wrong, it cannot be allowed whatever the
situation. So, if you find out that a madman has bought nuclear
weapons, you could not steal them from him to save the world,
because stealing is wrong. Similarly, if a 12 year old girl was raped
and became pregnant, she could not be allowed an abortion
because the Church has declared that abortion is wrong.
Fletcher felt that this was wrong and said that Christians should only
follow the Bible and/or the Church if it was the most loving thing to
do. Therefore, a Christian would work out that the most loving thing
to do in the situation of the 12 year old girl would be to allow her to
have an abortion.
3. Why some Christians use situation
ethics as a guide for making moral
• Jesus seemed to follow situation ethics because he over-ruled what
the Old Testament said when he thought it was unloving. For
example, he healed people on the Sabbath because he said it was
more important to do good than to obey the Sabbath laws.
• They think Christians should only do what will produce good results
such as stealing the nuclear weapons and allowing the 12 year old
to have an abortion.
• Jesus said the greatest commandments are to love God and love
your neighbour, meaning Christians should always do what will have
the most loving results.
• They believe that Christianity is a religion of love and so Christians
should make their moral decisions based on love not laws.
4. Why some Christians think situation
ethics is wrong
• They believe the Bible is God's word to Christians about how to live, so it
should be the basis for moral decision-making.
• They believe they should follow the Ten Commandments and the Sermon
on the Mount rather than relying on their own ideas.
• They think the Church knows better what Christians should do than an
• They claim you can never be sure what the consequences might be. They
use examples such as a doctor in a remote who has one unit of blood to
save the lives of two people (an old alcoholic and a young mother).
Following situation ethics he would use it for the mother, but actually the
mother was a child abuser and the old man was about to discover a cure for
cancer. So the doctor would have been better to follow the Christian
teaching and given them half each.
5. Exam questions
b) Do you think situation ethics is a good way of making moral
Give two reasons for you point of view. (4)
c) Explain why some Christians believe situation ethics is the most
Christian way of making moral decisions (8)
d) 'Christians should always do the most loving thing.'
i) Do you agree? Give reasons for your opinion. (3)
ii) Give reasons why some people may disagree
with you. (3)
In your answer, you should refer to at least one religion.