Bexhill Week 3 - CCRS @ Brighton and Bexhill

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Transcript Bexhill Week 3 - CCRS @ Brighton and Bexhill

Conscience, Situation Ethics &
Divine Command Theory
Learning Outcomes
Explore the Church’s teaching on conscience.
Evaluate the main principles of situation ethics and apply to different
moral dilemmas.
Evaluate Divine Command Theory.
Pete Byrne CCRS Bexhill- Session 3
Where do Christian Ethics originate?
Construct an ideas map showing all the possible sources of
information that could shape your decision that stealing is wrong.
Where do Christian Ethics originate?
• The Bible
– Old and New Testament
• Natural Law & Reason
– St Thomas Aquinas
• Tradition – Interpretation of Bible
– Catholic/Protestant practice
• Church - The Magisterium
– The Pope and Bishops
• Situation Ethics - Love
– Fletcher’s Relativism
• Conscience – Reason & Judgment
– The voice of the Holy Spirit
• The Holy Spirit - Revelation
– Individual or group prayer, Church
What is conscience?
Where does it come from?
The Church on Conscience
“In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose
upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love
good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart:
do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is
the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged. Conscience is the
most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose
voice echoes in his depths. In a wonderful manner conscience reveals that law
which is fulfilled by love of God and neighbour. In fidelity to conscience,
Christians are joined with the rest of men in the search for truth, and for the
genuine solution to the numerous problems which arise in the life of individuals
from social relationships. Hence the more right conscience holds sway, the more
persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and strive to be guided by the
objective norms of morality. Conscience frequently errs from invincible
ignorance without losing its dignity. The same cannot be said for a man who
cares but little for truth and goodness, or for a conscience which by degrees
grows practically sightless as a result of habitual sin.”
Gaudium et Spes, 16
Cardinal Newman
Newman was once an Anglican and
became a Catholic and a Cardinal.
He converted because he felt called by God
to do so.
He argued that his conscience would not
allow him to remain an Anglican.
Newman claims that when we do
something wrong we feel ashamed, we feel
guilty, we feel responsible.
This implies, he holds, that there is ONE
before whom we feel ashamed, guilty and
It will not do to say that we are ashamed
before the community – because we feel
guilty even when no-one does or can know
of what we have done.
Conscience leading to God
• Newman claimed that humans,
unlike animals, possess a
conscience guiding us to an
objective morality.
• Apparent subjective morality is
therefore the result of the
conscience being INFORMED
differently in different societies.
• The existence of the faculty of
conscience points to God as the
Divine author of this faculty.
Do you agree?
Sigmund Freud
• Lived 1856- 1939
• Giant of psychology and founded
• First to recognise the power and
influence of the unconscious and
subconscious mind.
• Explained conscience and morality in
terms of socialisation.
“Religion is an illusion and it derives its strength from the fact that it falls in
with our instinctual desires.”
-Sigmund Freud
Freud’s Theory of the Human Mind
The Id- Our basic instincts, desires and appetites e.g. anger, sex, food (chaotic, amoral and
pleasure seeking).
The Ego- Rational mind and is shaped by the external world and pressures. Part of us that has
a level of self-awareness (rational, organised and realistic).
The Superego- Part of the ego and informs us what we should and shouldn’t do. It watches
the ego and criticises it, as well as the id. This internal ‘conscience’ comes from our
childhood, especially our parents, our teachers and society (critical, moralising).
Situation Ethics
What do we know already?
Situation Ethics
Based on the Christian principle of love e.g. we should do the most
loving thing in each situation.
• Founded by Joseph Fletcher (former priest turned
atheist) – only love is intrinsically good.
• No actions are intrinsically right or wrong in
themselves, e.g. stealing (a pistol from a man who
intends to use it to murder his wife) may be right.
• Rejection of Legalism.
• Agapeic Love (unconditional and self-sacrificial
love) is the primary and only absolute rule.
• Rules should not come before the type of love and
compassion which Jesus showed in the Gospels.
• Relative and teleological (focuses on
Situation Ethics- A New Testament Approach to Morality
Read Mark 2:23 - 3:6; Mark 7:1-23;
Matthew 5-7 – What do you find?
Jesus challenged the legalism
of the Torah. If in conflict, his
teachings take precedence.
– Matthew 5:17
"Do not think that I have come
to abolish the Law of Moses or
the Prophets; I have not come to
abolish them but to fulfil them.
New Testament Ethics
The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10)
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart,
for they shall see God.
The Sermon on the Mount
Underlying it all is the
commandment of ‘love’.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
New Testament Ethics
The Golden Rule - (Matthew 7:12)
• So in everything, do to others what
you would have them do to you, for
this sums up the Law and the
The Greatest Commandment?
Deuteronomy 6: 5 - Mark 12:28-31
• Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God,
the Lord is one. Love the Lord your
God with all your heart and with all
your soul and with all your mind
and with all your strength.
• 'Love your neighbour as yourself.‘
Jesus’ Two Commandments
The Chief Christian Virtue = LOVE
• ‘In everything do to others as you would
have them do to you.’
– Matthew 7:12a
• Love is the fulfilling of the law.
– Romans 13:10b
• Love, and do what you will. If you keep
silence, keep silence in love; if you
speak, speak in love; if you correct,
correct in love; if you forebear, forebear
in love. Let love’s root be within, you, for
from that root nothing but good can
– Augustine, Epistola Joannis 7.8
God wants us to follow Jesus’ teachings from desire, not fear or duty.
This will lead us to the Kingdom of God and ultimate union with God.
Situation Ethics
Four Working Principles
Pragmatism- do what works in
Relativism- There are no moral
absolutes or fixed rules except
Positivism- Decisions are based on
agape not reason.
Personalism- people come before
rules and situations.
Six Fundamental Principles
Agape is the only absolute good.
This love is a responsible, self-giving
love; a positive duty to go out to
people in need.
Agape and justice are the same.
Agape does not have favourites e.g.
everyone should be treated equally.
Only the end (love) justifies the
Decisions vary according to the
If you follow Situation Ethics, what would
be the right decision?
A 15 year old girl becomes pregnant after being raped by a
family member. Should she have an abortion?
A gunman rushes into a newsagent looking for the
shopkeeper. You know he's in the storeroom but what do
you say?
A dying man asks his wife to help him commit suicide. What
should she do?
A woman in a prison camp will be released if she has sex
with the prison guard. Should she?
A woman could save many people from an enemy attack if
she kills her crying baby who is in danger of giving them
away. What should she do?
The right not to be tortured is considered to be an absolute
Human Right (i.e. there are no exceptional
circumstances).The (sometimes brutal) torture of suspected
terrorists could lead to information which will save
thousands of lives. Should an exception be made?
Evaluating Situation Ethics
Easy to understand and update
Flexible – situational
Based on the Christian concept of
Focus on concern for others
Allows people to take responsibility
for their actions
May go against Church and Bible
Utilitarian (love substitutes
Difficult to determine consequences
Danger of selfishness under the
banner of ‘love’
A loving motive does not
necessarily make an action good,
e.g. killing a suicide bomber
Not exactly Jesus’ ‘individualised’
love (e.g. haemorrhaged woman)
Can be used to justify anything.
Arose from the challenge of Situation Ethics and
(and its moral relativism) to traditional Catholic
Compromise between Natural Law and Situation
Accepts that certain actions (moral laws) are
wrong in themselves (Natural Law) e.g. murder.
However, it argues that in extreme circumstances,
it may be right to break such rules e.g. if there is
a proportionate reason to do so.
Killing in a Just War.
What would constitute a proportionate reason to
kill during a war?
Divine Command Theory
• God, being omnipotent and omnibenevolent, wills certain actions that must
be obeyed.
• An action is ‘right’ if God commands it.
• These commands are revealed through the
Bible or Church teaching.
• God only commands what is morally good.
• Commands are absolute, objective and
deontological e.g. obedience to God comes
before consequences.
Challenges to Divine Command Theory
The best challenge to the relationship between religion and
morality is Plato’s Euthyphro Dilemma.
This can be phrased :
Does God command X (where X is a moral Command) because it is good,
or is X good because God commands it?
In Pairs – argue the two sides of the dilemma
Is X good because God commands it?
In this case God is the direct source of moral knowledge.
Does God command X because it is good?
In this case goodness exists as something separate from God and
to which God needs access in order to make a moral command.
Other challenges to Divine Command Theory
1. How do you determine God’s will?
2. Moral teaching based on scripture is
unreliable because the texts are
culturally relative and specific to the
time they were written.
3. Does it undermine our freewill and
autonomy in favour of blind
4. Pope JPII rejected it, saying some
things are innately good or bad.
This view of Christian ethics goes completely against
the morality of love and grace.
Are Christian Ethics Absolute or Relative?
• Divine Command Theory.
• Situation Ethics
• Natural Law e.g. primary
• Proportionalism
• Jesus’ command to love.
• Jesus breaking the law e.g.
healing on the Sabbath,
ritual cleanliness.