|From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase|
Situation ethics is an outcome-based philosophy, but it is based on a faulty idea of "desirable outcomes" that leads to sin and death. Situation ethics isn't new. It's as old as the Fall of Man.
"How Can it Be Wrong...?"
We find the philosophy of situation ethics in the lyrics of many popular songs: "How can it be wrong when it seems so right?" - "It can't it be bad when it feels so good" - "I've got to be me, I've gotta be free." Situation ethics is the notion that ethical standards change based on the elements of a given situation, and that the focus of our behavior must not be on fixed rules but on "desirable outcomes."
Ironically, situation ethics doesn't really deny the need for a moral code independent of man. But it makes man the arbiter of when, how - and if - any such moral code should apply. The Ten Commandments, if admitted at all, become at best the Ten Suggestions.
Situation Ethics and Biblical Christianity
Therefore, the advocates of situation ethics cast doubt on the motives of Christians, indwelled by the Holy Spirit, who desire to consistently conform their actions to the fixed principles of God's Word rather than being governed by the shifting winds of the situation. Thus they label Christians as "rigid" - "easily led" - "lacking in creativity" - "unwilling to think outside the box" - "mean spirited" - "selfish" - and so on. They also say that Christians seek to "impose" a moral or ethical code on society, and they say that this is unfair and intolerant.
A Philosophy As Old as the Fall
Situation ethics is not new. It is as old as the Fall of Man recorded in Genesis chapter 3. In the Garden of Eden, Satan deceived Eve into thinking "outside the box" of the Word of God. He cast doubt on God's motives for placing a restriction upon the behavior of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:4). From there it was a small step to question whether God's one prescribed outcome for disobedience - an undesirable one - was really valid, and to suggest the possibility of a different and desirable outcome ("You shall not surely die."). And from there it was but another small step to embellish that more desirable outcome with an appeal to pride ("Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God"). From there it was but another small step for Eve to imagine the pleasures of such an outcome ("the tree was good for food, pleasant to the eyes, desirable to make one wise"). The result of situation ethics, from the Fall until now, is always sin and death.
Who Imposed a Moral Code?
By contrast, we learn from Scripture that God has given us fixed moral laws that do not bend to the shifting winds of the situation (Numbers 15:16 & 29; Deuteronomy 11:26-28, 28:58, 30:1-6; Joshua 23:6-8; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). God's motive in this is our good (Proverbs 24:21-22; James 1:17). The arbiter of desirable outcomes - which are defined in terms of transcendent good and evil, not the feelings of the moment - is God, not man (Leviticus 18:1-5; Isaiah 42:8, 45:6; Jeremiah 9:24; Ezekiel 11:12; Romans 1:25). When man seeks to implement God's moral law in his personal life and in society, he is not "imposing" a moral code. God is the One who has done that, from the beginning, and He has the right to do that because He created us. It is our responsibility to obey Him.