The new morality made its impact during the 1960’s as a religion-approved ethical system to replace an allegedly archaic legalism. The new morality is not new. It is the natural result of centuries of groping for a system of ethics that will excuse man’s unbelief and pander to his perversions.
Prominent advocates of the new morality, also called situation ethics, generally agree that man’s reason should be the instrument of moral judgment. They accept revelation as the source of ethical norms and, at the same time, reject all revealed norms or laws except the single commandment to love God and the neighbors. Situation ethics does not aim at what is good or right, but at what is fitting.
By what authority, however, does one approach what he admits to be revelation and pick only one part as authoritative? When man’s reason begins passing judgment on God’s revelation, one forfeits the right to claim any part of the revelation as binding.
The supreme law, in the situationist’s method, is love. He holds nothing else as intrinsically good, and standards of right and wrong, he thinks, hopelessly stifle love. He sees a clear distinction between love and obedience, between right and expedience.
Though the new morality gained its fame when espoused by prominent religious figures, that in itself does not constitute the system as “Christian.” An ethical system is Christian when it conforms to the Bible.
From beginning to end, the Bible shows that God has definite expectations from His creatures, and these expectations were capsulized in the Old Testament in the Ten Commandments. The situationists generally claim Christ completely dismissed the Old Testament laws and replaced them with the single law of love. Christ did say that the love of God and of one’s neighbor were the two greatest commandments, and we should not overlook that, but He never left men without laws for the fulfillment of the greatest commandments (Matthew 22:35-40).
Christ clearly stated, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).
He further warns against others annulling even the least of the commandments and inducing others to follow suit (Matthew 5:19). In fulfilling the Law, Christ actually intensified it by commanding that observance be from the heart, and not external ritual only.
Christ, in His Sermon on the Mount, named specific Old Testament laws that He intensified by internalizing. For instance, it is not enough not to commit murder; it is equally imperative not to hate (Matthew 5:21-22). In similar fashion, He authenticated laws about adultery (5:27-28), divorce (5:31-32), taking oaths (5:33-37), giving alms (6:1-4), praying, (6:5-8), and fasting (6:16-18). Christ did not abrogate the Law; He showed that true observance must include internal as well as external obedience.
Therefore, love of God and love of neighbors are the two greatest commandments, not because God has no other expectations from man, but because these other expectations cannot be fulfilled while man’s heart is rebelling against his Maker.
The situationist is prepared to suspend, ignore, or violate any principle if he feels he can show more love by its violation than by its observance. Such ethical absurdity clearly violates the Biblical representation of love:
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (I John 5:3).
Biblical love cannot find expression apart from obedience to God’s revelation.
Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).
Situation ethics cannot legitimately claim that love replaces law in the Scripture, for the two go hand in hand.
The new morality’s popularity is enhanced by its refusal to admit to any law except love. It has been used to condone adultery, abortion, homosexuality, theft, drunkenness, and drug usage. One can rationalize much deviant behavior in the name of love, but without Biblical guidelines, he has no way of knowing whether what he is doing is loving!
The Gospel of Jesus Christ sets one free from the bondage of the law by making salvation a free gift of God’s grace, not the result of ceremony or ritual. This Gospel implants a new life in the believer so he finds his greatest joy and privilege in keeping the commandments of his Lord. The Christian experiences Christ’s promise,
“You are My friends, if you do what I command you” (John 15:14).
Excerpt from The Bible Has the Answer, by Henry Morris and Martin Clark, published by Master Books, 1987