Introduction; Divine Command Theory, Situation Ethics, Cultural Relativism
The Divine Command Theory is an ethical philosophy based on one’s religious values and the faith they put in God, meaning that at the crux of this theory is the belief that God is ‘the source of moral truth and communicates his will to humanity via commands’. This allows that everything God commands, regardless of whether it is good or bad (determined by man), is law and must be obeyed. The idea of this command being truly good or bad is dependant on its origin – it is good on the condition that it is a command from God and, therefore, divine.
Situation ethics, a moral compromise made and promoted by former priest Joseph Fletcher, is a specific set of moral ethics rooted in the power of love and all its qualities. A proposition made to counter the unsound reasoning between legalism (that decisions are fixed in law) and antinomianism (the process of ethical decision-making ought to be spontaneous), based on the claim that ‘God is love’, found in the book of John. According to this logic, justice achieved through the circumstances of the situation rather than what set law would declare. This began as an ethical philosophy established through religion, but similarly to its creator, it is easily applied to cases unrelated to the Christian faith.
Cultural Relativism is the justifiable understanding that different ethnic and cultural groups function according to distinctive laws, each adhering to a separate set of expectations and ideologies. A man in his own country might be bound by one set of laws, but as he moves into another country where the law is made clear but is no longer the same, he must adjust his behaviour accordingly. As no one group of people are perfect, it is not believed to be acceptable to judge or criticise a culture that differs from our own.
Similarities and Differences
A prominent similarity between two of the three philosophical ethics is religion. Both situation ethics and the divine command theory originate from a religious – namely Christian – perspective. However, the core of situation ethics shifts away from what could be considered as Christian ideals. While the divine command theory comes from the belief that God’s commands are good and ought to be followed, goodness and love become aspects of life that require close relation in order to be related to God or his commands. If an issue is created out of something that is not done from love, it is not likely to gain approval or pardon from a situation ethicist, though if it was done for the sake of obeying God, it is likely to be pardonable in the eyes of a divine command theorist.
In comparison, cultural relativism does not demonstrate any religious origins. Perhaps it is a tolerant way of viewing the world, but it is not something done out of devotion to divine beings or power. It barely even supports religion, rather existing to prevent a specific or singular group, whether it be religious or secular. From judging opposing or differing groups. It defends culture rather than religion.
All three philosophical ethics work to defend the best interests of the people who follow or apply them to their lives, and although they have differing origins and beliefs, they encounter many arguments both for and against.