The Idolatry Of Situational Ethics
The New Immorality, by David A. Redding (Revell 1967, 156 pp., $3.50), and The New Theology and Morality, by Henlee H. Barnette (Westminster, 1967, 120 pp., $1.85, paper), is reviewed by Milton D. Hunnex, professor of philosophy, Willamette University, Salem, Oregon.
David Redding’s The New Immorality is a series of sermon-like essays that reveal a profound grasp of what the old Christian morality is all about. The First Commandment is given its proper priority, and love is kept under law. Moral principles are not scrapped because their application may vary from situation to situation. Nor are they scrapped because “only God Himself knows the difference between right and wrong in each unique instance.” “Every man is forced finally … to wait upon God,” Redding writes; yet “God never needs to sacrifice principles to satisfy any situation.” On the contrary, he implements his love with his principles “so that love [will] not be a spineless lump.”
What of the relevance of the Bible? Redding believes we are spiritual contemporaries of biblical and Reformation man. “The chief end of man in A.D. 3020, as it was for Calvin, will be ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ ” The alternative to legalism is not a God-forsaking ethic of “love and nothing else,”; it is a life tuned to God’s will. “We cannot state the necessity of the First Commandment strongly enough,” Redding writes. Jesus said, “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart …” (Mark 12:30). And to the lawyer who questioned him about how he might gain eternal life, Jesus said, “Keep the commandments.” (Matt. 19:17).
To speak of loving one’s neighbor without also speaking of loving God is idolatrous. “This Command,” says Redding, “never strays ...1
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