Does Truth Depend on the Situation?

How do we make moral and ethical decisions? In order to follow the path to heaven, we must be very adept at making proper decisions.

In Ephesians 4:14, we read, “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive” (NKJV; cf. 1 Peter 5:8).

Satan has been fabulously successful with his weapons of denial and rationalization. He leads us to believe that there are no moral absolutes but that all truth is situational. Shrewdly, he convinces us that there are “no rules” and “the end justifies the means.”

Situation ethics says:

  • “I know it is wrong, but everyone is doing it!” ;
  • “Sex outside of marriage is wrong, unless we really love each other”
  • “This movie only has a few bad scenes in it”
  • “Stealing from your employer is wrong, unless your boss refuses to give you the raise you deserve”
  • “How can something that feels so good be sinful?”

Modesty is one area where situation ethics is often applied.

  • “It’s summertime and it’s hot”
  • “This is the fashion right now”
  • “All my friends are dressed this way”
  • “Men aren’t supposed to be staring at me anyway.”

With situation ethics, we are holding ourselves to the wrong standard. We are comparing ourselves to friends, family, or society, rather than God. In 2 Corinthians 10:12, Paul chastises those who compare themselves to themselves and says “they are not wise.”

Biblical doctrine has not been immune to situation ethics. Christians will take a doctrine clearly taught in Scripture and say:

  • “Times have changed. We live in a different culture”
  • “We all can’t understand the Bible alike anyway”
  • “I know other Christians who believe this.”

This is a very dangerous doctrine that can destroy our souls because it places the situation as our sole arbitrator of truth, rather than the word of God.

God believes resolutely in absolute standards. God decided what would be right and wrong before time began. Psalm 119:89, “Forever, O Lord, Your word was settled in heaven.”

Before situations, friends, family, fashion designers, magazines, and Hollywood starlets existed, absolute truth was settled.

Situation ethics is unwise because it is “not in man to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Solomon wrote, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

Situation ethics finds a way to satisfy our selfish desires. We will do anything to be at peace with ourselves. We will take something we want to do and rationalize until we can safely justify it in our minds.

Then, if it goes wrong, we blame it on God so we don’t have to bear the consequences of our sin. We must never forget that people will believe whatever gets them through the night.

“The new morality is an excuse for doing the things deep down men know are wrong. Men have tired of following God’s laws of absolutes, and are now looking for a ‘way out.’ Situationism is that ‘way out.'” /1

At the judgment, the unalterable truth of Scripture will be our judge (John 12:48; Revelation 20:11-15). Situation ethics will not bring salvation, but howls of laughter from Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44).

/1. Leon Morris, Christianity Today, July, 196

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