Firstly, Legalism is an approach in ethics that accepts that nature is based on a set of rules and principles. Fletcher states that Situation ethics is the mid-point of ‘right and wrong’ which is known as a relativist theory of ethics. Lastly, antinomianism is also a theory of ethics, yet it doesn’t recognise discipline or authority but illustrates the freedom that is received in life. This shows that Fletchers situation ethics is between the two extremes, which is known as the ‘new’ approach.
Legalism has a set of assembled rules, if these rules are fair then a society can be encouraged to live in more harmony then before, yet this can visit life’s complexities. Legalism can be argued as too demanding and restrictive, this can be shown in punishments when the rules are not followed. Not only does Fletcher reject legalism, so does Jesus. This can be seen within the Sabbath: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” The Sabbath can be seen as a legalistic approach. Legalism however is also seen as an extensive sin within the Christian world. An example of legalism would be a private school in Scotland who are expected to wear weighty deck chair coloured blazers, thick kilts, tartan ties, posh black shoes and heavy-duty navy-blue knickers. This shows that a legalist society requires to follow the rules.
On the other hand, Antinomianism scraps any rules leaving the focus on freedom meaning no ethical system is applied at all. However, freedom and the ability to make decisions can also be seen as a strength of antinomianism because it shows that some might be concerned about their actions or their verdicts, instead of constantly following ones chosen rules. Antinomianism is based on the idea that no one should follow any obligations or morality by religious authorities because people can find their own way by using their conscience. Conscience is traditionally known as an internal intuitive director to acts of good or wrong. Fletcher rejected this because the consequences can lead to moral chaos, problems and manipulation. Morals would be lost if it wasn’t for guidance, so antinomianism would simply cause a society to be chaotic.
Lastly, situational ethics is Fletchers theory of ethics. Love and respect for others is promoted which will always leave a society in harmony. Fletcher alleged that important ethical judgements needs to be made before anything else when a situation is present. This is where the application of love needs to be involved, for a Christian this is known as agape. Agape is better known as selfless love, which has three parts: love is constantly given, love is given conditionally, and love shouldn’t be to ourselves, but to others. The idea of authoritative rules is overruled, it is also debated that no guidance should be given as people should be given freedom of choice. One authoritative is known as ‘boss principle’ which points people in a general direction. Despite all this the ‘boss principle’ tends to point someone in too much of a general direction. An example of this would be the Taxi driver: A taxi driver was always voting for Republican just like his family, until he told the passenger he was voting for Democrat. The crux of Fletchers situational ethics theory is shown in this story because there are no absolute principles of good and bad.
In conclusion, Fletcher rejects legalism and antinomianism because he argues that absolute principles are too restrictive, and it will never and has never been possible to know God’s will in every given situation. Situation ethics is subjective due to agape being its only rule, which shows that Fletcher believes that love is how people should undergo their lives and responsibilities.