From Situation Ethics by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Copyright © 2004 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

My thoughts are that situationists and their philosophy of situation ethics are parasitic on Christianity.  It is about distorting the view of Christians about the moral demands of religion.  It is a secular morality pretending to be a religious one.  Situation ethics argues that rules and commandments even from God may be broken in the name of love.  It tells us when stealing is in fact the most loving thing to do.  It is seen as love and not as an evil of any kind then.  This is actually worse than what many atheists could come up with.  Why is it that religion has to be tacked on to situation ethics to invade society and ruin it?  Why does it need religion to do harm? Is the answer that religion itself has a bad side that may be hard to put your finger on but you will see it sometime! 

This is what Christian Dave Miller has to say on the subject of situationism.

Situationism is simply ethical relativism, in that it moves “away from code ethics, from stern and ironbound do’s and don’ts, from prescribed conduct and legalistic morality” (p. 24). Situationism bears close affinity with existentialism (pp. 26, 77,234). “Imitative practice,” uniformity and conformity, and “metaphysical morals” are all disdained (pp. 26,106,240). Objective principles and abstract rules are repudiated, in exchange for “freedom and openness” (pp. 72,76,233,235). Concrete absolutes are viewed unfavorably as “authoritarianism” and “rules-bound thinking” (p. 240).

SITUATIONIST PROOF TEXTS: THE SPIRIT AND LETTER OF THE LAW
 
But doesn’t the Bible make a legitimate distinction between the ‘letter of the law’ and the ‘spirit of the law’?” It is argued that sometimes it is necessary, even mandatory, to violate the “letter of the law” in order to act in harmony with the “spirit of the law.” According to this line of thinking, those who insist that obedience to the law of God is always required without exception are “hung up on the letter of the law” instead of being led by the “spirit of the law” (cf. Hook, 1984, p. 42).
 
This perspective naturally breeds and nurtures a relaxed attitude toward obedience. It militates against a desire to be precise and careful in conformity to biblical teaching. One individual explained how his feelings of devotion to Jesus made him feel that as long as he maintained a close “sense of nearness” to Christ, he did not have to fret over “nit picky” concerns, like whether Christians should be meticulous in their obedience to the laws of the land. Another person avowed that she did not “sweat the small stuff,” since she was living her life in recognition of God’s grace, and felt certain that Jesus would “cut her some slack.” The “small stuff ” to which she referred included such things as whether God will accept instrumental music in worship to Him, whether God will approve of unscriptural divorce and remarriage, and whether sprinkling may pass for New Testament baptism.
 
The primary passage in the New Testament marshaled in an effort to support the “spirit vs. letter” antithesis is Paul’s remarks to the church of Christ in Corinth (2 Corinthians 3:4-18). I urge the reader to pause and read the third chapter of Second Corinthians before reading the analysis that follows. Two phrases are typically excised from the context and used as proof texts to support a notion contrary to the chapter: “not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (vs. 6), and “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (vs. 17). These phrases are set forth by some as proof that Christians ought not to be too meticulous in conforming strictly to various New Testament directives. Those who suggest such assume that “letter” refers to the commands of God—the written statements of Scripture that specify and regulate human behavior. They also assume that “spirit” refers to one’s attitude or feelings. Hence, if the individual feels devoted, concerned, and sincere, he or she is deemed in line with “the spirit of the law.” On the other hand, the individual who appears inflexible and rigid, or overly concerned with strict obedience, is perceived to lack “compassion” and “sensitivity,” and too concerned with “the letter of the law.”
 
However, if a person takes the time to study God’s Word, and refrain from mishandling its intended meaning (Acts 17:11; 2 Corinthians 4:2; 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 2:15), he or she will see that neither Paul nor any other inspired writer agreed with such thinking. In a pericope dealing with his apostolic ministry, Paul crafted a beautiful allegory—what D.R. Dungan once called “the most perfect antithesis to be found in the whole Bible” (1888, p. 349). By arranging the contrasting phrases of the antithesis into two columns, the Bible student is able more easily to grasp Paul’s intended meaning.

2 CORINTHIANS 3

Old Covenant

New Covenant

Ministers of the new covenant (vs. 6)

Of the letter (vs. 6)

Of the Spirit (vs. 6)

The letter kills (vs. 6)

The Spirit gives life (vs. 6)

Ministry of Death (vs. 7)

Ministry of Spirit (vs. 8)

Written/Engraved on stones (vs. 7)

Ministry of condemnation (vs. 9)

Ministry of righteousness (vs. 9)

Glorious (vss. 7,9.11)

Much more glorious (vss.8-9,11)

Passing away (vs. 7)

Remains (vs. 11)

Veil on Moses’s face (vs. 13)

Great boldness of speech (vs. 12)

Veil remains in reading O.T. (vs. 14)

Veil taken away in Christ (vs. 14)

Veil lies on their heart (vs. 15)

Veil taken away when one turns to the Lord (vs. 16)



Comparison of “the letter” vs. “the spirit” of the law (O.T./N.T.)
 
It should be immediately evident to the unbiased observer that “the two legs of the antithesis are the New Covenant in contrast with the Old Covenant” (Dungan, p. 268). Precisely the same meaning is conveyed by the same terminology in Paul’s letter to the Romans (2:29; 7:6). The Old Testament legal system, though an excellent system for what God had in mind (Romans 7:12), was unable to provide ultimate forgiveness for violations of law and, in that sense, “kills.” It took Jesus’ death on the cross to make “life” possible—i.e., actual cleansing from sin.
 
When one recognizes the existing contextual meaning, it becomes apparent that these verses have absolutely nothing to do with the alleged “spirit vs. letter” contention! In fact, the Bible nowhere postulates such a thing. Like all liberal thinking, one must refrain from thinking too much about it if one does not wish to see the absurdity and nonsensical nature of it. The “spirit vs. letter” contrast is “better felt than told” gobbledygook that makes no sense. In an article titled “The Letter that Killeth,” written on April 3, 1897, J.W. McGarvey responded to this type of thinking:

Just once in the course of his writings Paul makes the declaration that “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Corinthians 3:7); and no remark that he ever made has been applied in a greater number of unlicensed ways. If a man insists upon preserving some ordinance in the very form of its original appointment, such an ordinance as baptism or the Lord’s Supper, for example, he is accused of contending for the letter that killeth, while the man who makes the charge, and who changes the ordinance, claims that he is following the spirit that giveth life. All of that large class of writers who make free with the Scriptures while claiming to reverence their authority, employ this device to excuse their departures from the word of God, while those who remonstrate with them for their license are denounced as literalists or sticklers for the letter that killeth. In all these instances, it seems to be claimed that if you stick close to the ordinance as Christ gave it, you will kill somebody. The last example that attracted my attention was in connection with the number of elders that should be appointed in a church. The writer says: “It has been thought to be a greater evil to have a congregation without a plurality of elders than to have an eldership without the requisite qualifications;” and he adds: “This is to do violence to the spirit of the New Testament in an effort to be loyal to its letter.” But which, in this case, is the letter, and which is the spirit? To have a plurality of elders is certainly the letter of the New Testament; that is, it is the literal requirement; and the literal requirement also is to have elders of prescribed qualifications. Where, then, is the spirit as distinguished from the letter? Echo answers, Where? The writer was so in the habit of using this favorite expression where he wished to justify a departure from Scripture precedent that he evidently applied it in this instance from pure habit and without thought (1910, pp. 160-161).

Indeed, redefining the biblical expressions “spirit of the law” and “letter of the law” enables the situationist to promote his agenda under the cloak of Bible backing.
 
If one wishes to use the expression “the spirit of the law” to refer to a proper attitude, and “the letter of the law” to refer to compliance with the explicit dictates of Scripture, it certainly is true that a person can distort or disregard “the spirit of the law” while following carefully “the letter of the law.” A person may engage in external, rote compliance without heartfelt, genuine love for God and His will. But it is impossible to represent faithfully “the spirit of the law” (i.e., to have the right attitude) while acting out of harmony with the specific details of the law. When Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commands” (John 14:15), He pinpointed the fact that “love” for Him includes obedience. It is possible to obey and not love; but it is not possible to love and not obey. One may have good intentions in one’s religious pursuits, but if those religious actions are contrary to God’s specified will, the activity is unacceptable to God. The situationist’s claim that sincerity and feelings of “love” legitimize whatever action “love” takes, is in direct contradiction to Bible teaching.
 
Situationism, antinomianism (freedom from law), and liberalism (loosing where God has bound) share in common their mutual aversion to law keeping. Christians must not fall prey to these sinister forces that attempt to soften and obscure the clear call from God to render obedience to His directives. What He seeks from people is conformity to His laws out of hearts full of sincerity, earnestness, and love.