Joseph F. Fletcher – Situation Ethics and it’s relationship to Idolatry
In 1991, when Joseph F. Fletcher passed away at the ripe old age of 86 (ref 1) there were very few present to observe his passing. There are not many people who even recognize his name. This was a man who probably influenced modern society as much as Charles Darwin or Sigmund Freud.
Certain books and teachers can have a great impact on society. Charles Darwin wrote ” The Origin of the Species” and started a whole religion. Yes, evolution is a religion, and requires more faith to believe in it than almost any other religion; with its belief of one species changing into another species and fish becoming land animals.
Sigmund Freud’s writings continue to influence people even though most psychology philosophy discredits a lot of his ideas.
Joseph F. Fletcher was a teacher at an Episcopal seminary in the 1960’s. While still teaching, he renounced his belief in God and declared himself a secular humanist. He neither resigned nor was asked to resign but continued to use his pulpit and classrooms to promote his idea system (ref 1).
In 1966, he published a book called “Situation Ethics”. This book and the ideas Fletcher taught, has brought dramatic changes to the American culture.
His basic idea was this: In any given situation, a person should do what he called “the loving thing” rather than follow rigid rules derived from Divine revelation–or for that matter, any set of rigid rules, even those coming from simple reasoning. This idea is based on the worship of the person! That humankind, in its natural state, is “fundamentally, decent, enlightened, reasonable, and eager to do the right thing”.
... and cultures from different kinds of peoples. I liked this book because of the setting and ... trying to please his father and finds peace in another religion with the British missionaries that have invaded the village. In ... book to make people see the changes over the years of these tribes from moving to different areas and learning different religions ...
In his book “Situation Ethics”, ‘Fletcher captures the attention of the readers about a German woman separated from her husband during the Battle of the Bulge, and imprisoned in the Ukraine. While in prison she learned that her husband, who was a prisoner of war, had been released from another camp and had located their two children in Berlin. There were only two reasons the Russians would release a prisoner: (1) Severe medical treatment or (2) Pregnancy. She persuaded a Russian soldier to impregnate her in order to be released. All loved her and the child born out of adultery. Fletcher lauds this as a loving act, the law against adultery being superseded by the SITUATION AT HAND’ (Fletcher, pg. 164-165).
This idea is incredibly naive, as any student of nature knows: humankind is basically selfish and self-centered and looking for gratification. But the doctrine of situation ethics has led to such corruption it’s almost unimaginable!
“Doing the loving thing” became corrupted to “do your own thing”; this has led to abortion “on demand” and active euthanasia — killing of older, sickly people or those deemed unfit to procreate. Euthanasia has been an active political movement in the U.S. promoted by Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who has been commonly referred to as the suicide doctor. As a result of Dr. Kevorkian’s actions, numerous “right to die” referendums have appeared on state ballots in recent elections. The idea that there are no hard and fast rules, and no natural or God-given laws like the Ten Commandments, has led us to a lawless society that is rapidly destroying itself.
Before his death, Joseph Fletcher is said to have deplored the sleaze and immorality in our society. He never realized the impact his ideas had or that the ideas themselves helped create the very sleaze and immorality he deplored.
What is wrong with situation ethics? Careful study will show that almost all of the problems of our society have to do with idolatry, in strict violation of the 1st Commandment [Exodus 20:3] When we put anything or anybody, including ourselves, between God and us, this is idolatry.
... "? That there is a thing called the will of God which, once and for all time, determines what man ought to do and ... enthusiastic, more soulful. -- Love is the state in which man sees things most decidedly as they are not. The force of illusion ... ." ...The collapse of a god: he became a "thing-in-itself." 18. The Christian concept of a god -- the god as the patron of ...
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. [Exodus 20:3]
What is situation ethics, but a person deciding that they can be god? We decide what’s right and wrong and when something is right or wrong, not by obeying God’s laws, but by following our own, internal guidelines. This is one reason so many people have a difficult time understanding the Bible, they want to pick and choose what’s right or wrong. “Why did God allow Adam and Eve to commit the sin in the Garden of Eden?” they ask. And if you tell them it’s because humankind must develop character by choosing good over evil of their own free will — that character cannot be created but must be developed — well, that’s just too hard to understand! “Why did God do it like that anyway?” they’ll say.
Until recently, the tie between homosexuality and idolatry was not clear. The explanation was given to us by the Apostle Paul 1900 years ago, but seldom understood. He wrote:
1:19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
1:22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
1:23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
1:24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
1:25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
1:26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
1:27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
... statement. “Never judge a book by its cover.” The word “book” also refers to person. External appearances can ... smile. It will impact something good. Usually, person like that doesn’t want to greet others first ... a rascal may be a friendly and kind person. He probably has reason to act like that ... the most important is inner beauty or character. Person who has fierce face, frightening appearances looks ...
1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
1:29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
1:30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
1:31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
1:32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. [Romans 1: 19-32]
What has homosexuality to do with idolatry? It is the idolatry of “self-worship”. The closest thing to totally self-contained sex, is sex with a person who looks like you!
Even in the Christian community, it is easy for idolatry to creep in. Some people place their trust and confidence in some religious leader — some charismatic preacher — following the human, instead of Jesus Christ. No matter who that human is, or how good they may be, it is wrong to worship any human!
And how about the way some protestant churches treat their ministers? When the minister is held to different standards than the average person. Other than expecting them to be “apt to teach”, and the other standards of I Timothy 3, we are practicing idolatry by putting that minister in a “special” place and looking “up” to them instead of looking up to God. And how about when we expect “special” things of the minister’s family? Do we expect the minister’s spouse and children to be perfect? That’s idolatry! Do we expect children to NEVER misbehave? Do we hold the minister’s children to different standards than other children? If we do, we are practicing idolatry!
Another way idolatry creeps in to the church is when we try to usurp God’s position as JUDGE! Can we really know someone’s heart? Of course not, yet we sometimes act as if we do.
... can be a problem for not only gods but also humans. Athene says that "for humankind ... " (7). Even though Aeschylus gives the gods a human personification, even Apollo admits to Orestes that ... (7). However, Aeschylus strongly points to the human condition because Orestes himself pleads guilty for his ... her brother wishes retribution. Nonetheless, it is human fate that Orestes must eventually kill his ...
Is it up to us to approve of the people who attend church with us? Jesus
said to the self-righteous religious people of his day:
” So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” [John 8:7]
Not that we cannot watch people and see the “fruit” their action produce,
And make our judgments accordingly; but by doing so we are still attempting to
judge another person’s heart.
Setting yourself up as a judge is idolatry! Did you ever wonder just how judging was a sin? Think about it! Jesus told us in Mathew 7:1-2:
7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
7:2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
Think about this the next time that you decide to pass judgment on your fellow human: are you committing idolatry? Are you setting yourself up as God? Joseph Fletcher’s ideas have had a devastating impact on America and all Western Society and even on the whole world. It is a philosophy that absolves a person of any accountability of personal responsibility. It is also a philosophy that takes all meaning from life. If there are no standards to which we aspire, why try to climb the ladder to success? Personal achievement, character growth and morality are abandoned and the very fabric of society is torn. If God’s laws are not important, how can laws created by humans mean anything.
It’s a philosophy that, if carried to extremes, will mean the very death of our society.
1. Joseph Fletcher – Father of Situational Ethics http://moon.peperdine.edu/gsep/class/ethics/Fletcher
2. Fletcher, Joseph F. “Situation Ethics”
3. Biblical references are taken from the King James Version