Crisis in Morality Part I: The Philosophical Basis of the New Morality -- By: Erwin W. Lutzer
BSac 129:515 (Jul 72) p. 226
Crisis in Morality
The Philosophical Basis of the New Morality
[Erwin W. Lutzer, Pastor, Edgewater Baptist Church, Chicago, Illinois.]
[EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is adapted from the author’s forthcoming book entitled The Morality Gap which is to be published in November, 1972. Permission to use this material has been granted by Moody Press.]
In the past, moral conduct has frequently been enforced by emphasizing the penalty involved if the moral law is violated. “Crime doesn’t pay,” is an expression that was heard a generation ago. Today it is seldom repeated for one good reason: thousands of people are realizing that it does not pay to be honest (at least not in financial terms). The crook generally becomes wealthy, the honest man becomes poor. Criminals are discovering that crime (unlike the fluctuating stock market) pays handsome dividends. This has caused perceptive individuals to ask, “If it doesn’t pay to be honest, why bother?” That is an excellent question.
Since the argument from consequences no longer has retained its force, many—especially young people—who at one time intended to live within the confines of absolutes have climbed on to the moral toboggan slide. Rather than living by principles, decisions are now made situationally. Recently a coed, when deciding whether or not to cheat, asked an interesting philosophical question. “Which is the greater evil—to cheat or to flunk out of college?” For her the latter was the greater evil, so she made her decision accordingly. Such reasoning is based on what has become known as situation ethics. No longer are decisions made on the basis of principle, but rather on the basis of desired results. If the old form of morality
BSac 129:515 (Jul 72) p. 227
(e.g., honesty, faithfulness, and continence) does not pay, perhaps it is time to have a moral theory which does. Situation ethics, by teaching that love must replace law, promises that morality can indeed pay. The value of moral actions is no longer judged in accordance with fixed rules; now only that which is loving becomes moral. In an age that cries “make love, not war,” such an ethic may indeed appear appropriate.
However, in order for any moral viewpoint to commend itself, it must of necessity be evaluated both philosophically and theologically. If ethics is a study which is designed to tell people what they ought to do, every ethical theory must be carefully analyzed. It is hoped that these articles will in a measure meet this need. The purpose of the investigation is to find the answer to two questions: Can situation ethics give guidance in making ethical choices? If so, can these cho...
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