Joseph Fletcher was a leading academic in the 1960s who published a book called “Situation Ethics: The New Morality” This book portrayed a new idea on how moral decisions should be taken. Fletcher based his ideas on the idea of Agape love which he felt was shown from Jesus Christ throughout the New Testament. Situation ethics was set up so that the basis of moral decisions was agape love instead of the ideas of legalism and antinomianism. Fletcher based his idea of situation ethics on a throw away comment made by a taxi driver “sometimes you gotta set aside your principles and do the right thing”- this led to him decided that the approach of legalism wasn’t correct as rules aren’t always going to make the correct consequence.
Legalism is only concerned with the laws and uses them for a basis in deciding the most moral action to take. It is deontological approach to morality. In Christianity a fundamentalist could be classed as a legalistic as they would follow the 10 commandments to the word and never break them. Fletcher disagreed with the idea that a law should always be the moral thing to believe in terms of ethical decisions. For example it was once a rule to stone the oldest son of a family if they did not listen to the demands of the father- legalism would view this as correct but by anyone’s plain judgment there are errors in this way of thinking, this is what Fletcher believed. Legalism does accept and take account for exceptions and special factors and always try to update rules to cover these exceptions, however Fletcher viewed this as complicated and just a creation of rules, sub-rules and regulations creating a too constricted way of living. Fletcher rejected legalism because he believed rules and laws caused too many problems, he also believed that the idea that one rule had to outlaw another in certain circumstances would mean that there would be too many rules to remember and a book would have to be created full of contradicting rules to suit...
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