God-Bites: ‘Ethics based on Love’

07 October 2019

After a summer break, on 26th September our Reader and Resource Manager Chris Ladner led a session entitled “Ethics based on Love”.

Chris introduced the session by talking about the different ways that people approach ethical and moral issues. Some people may use legalism – a set of fixed rules, perhaps based on the teaching of the Bible or Torah – the 10 commandments, the sermon on the mount, the teaching of the prophets. The teaching is covers aspects such as murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, revenge, charity, prayer, fasting, greed and judging others. Others may use antinomianism; because of grace and salvation we no longer need to be bound by the law – we instinctively know what is right and wrong.

A third way is the be bound by love. Jesus says “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.  You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” Joseph Fletcher founded situational ethics in the 1960s. The principles are that Christian love – agape – is the only ethical absolute. There is no such thing as something being inherently good or evil. There is no universal right or wrong action, and each situation is different because it involves individuals. Love is an active determination of the will, not an emotion or affection. The opposite of love is not hate but indifference. We talked about some of the working principles of this approach being pragmatism, relativism, positivism and personalism.

We had an interesting and far reaching discussion. We explored why Fletcher felt it was impossible to use situationism to consider past events by thinking about the decision to drop the atom bomb, and the plans to assassinate Hitler. We managed to cover all sorts of topics including sex before marriage, euthanasia, adultery, divorce and murder. I think we all left feeling that we had a good chance to think through some difficult subjects in a new way.

The next God-Bites session will take place on Thursday 24th October at 12 noon in the History Room in the Rectory Office and will be led by Reverend Sue who will be talking about “What Happens when we Die?”. The November meeting will take place on Thursday 28th at 12 noon and will be led by the Reverend Dr Sarah Lawrence, the IME Officer for the Diocese, who will be discussing “Baptism through the ages and today”. All welcome – we hope you can join us.

Reverend Sue