Joseph Fletcher Would Be Proud

Updated: Jan 8

The incident noted here took place at an acclaimed "conservative" Southern Baptist Church. When I approached the missions leader, he defended his actions and simply agreed to disagree with me. The end never justifies the means.


Joseph Fletcher was an American professor to whom situational ethics is accredited. Fletcher believed that "the end justifies the means" which is an ethical view that allows violating one standard in order to attain some supposed “higher good.” Things like “stealing from the rich to give to the poor," or committing adultery to gain one’s release from prison can be justified by such thinking (https://www.slideshare.net/PhilosophicalInvestigations/situation-ethics-ppt-54853070).


While most Bible believing Christians would reject such moral reasoning, many within the same group would make exceptions in areas of ministry, generally, and evangelism, particularly. Hence, Fletcher would be proud of the prominent church leader who justified his mission team’s cleaning of a Buddhist temple to "show the love of Christ" and to “create” an evangelistic opportunity. After all, evangelism is the higher good, right?


While Fletcher would be proud, Paul would be ashamed. For starters, he linked the worship of any god other than the one true God as revealed in Christ to the worship of demons. Of the Gentiles, said Paul, “they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils" (1 Corinthians 10:20). In fact, the idea that the Corinthian believers should help prep the sacrifices for offering or stoke the fire for its consumption in the name of Christian hospitality or evangelism would have been ludicrous. Evidently, Paul had neither seen a "COEXIST" bumper sticker nor subscribed to the "win the lost at any cost" mentality so prevalent in the above example.


Even John countered Fletcher's ethical model (2 John). Elated by the news that some of the "elect lady's" children "walked in truth" he was saddened by the fact that others did not. In fact, they did just what the above mission leader did, they sacrificed truth on the altar of hospitality. John, then, instructed the church about both Christian cordiality and its limits. He admonished his readers to neither “receive" the propagators of error into their houses nor bid them "Godspeed" because either expression of kindness would make them "partakers" of the heretic’s "evil" teachings (2 John 1:10-11).


Although Fletcher would applaud the modern tendency to blur the distinct lines between truth and error by some justifiable disconnect between our words and our walk, Scripture clearly condemns it. Hence, we must both speak the truth and walk in it.

Tony Watts is a preacher and author of “Tongues Shall Cease?”

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