Shall We Do Evil That Good May Come?
By Keith Sharp

Curtis Sliwa founded the organization Guardian Angels in 1978 as a citizen’s patrol to protect New York subway riders against violent crime. Largely due to favorable national publicity Sliwa and other members received, the non-profit organization grew to almost 5,000 members with chapters in 47 cities.

In November 1992 Sliwa admitted that he faked several dramatic incidents that brought him and Guardian Angels fame. Sliwa even got help from his priest to invent one occurrence. He said he needed to do this because the Guardian Angels “were in a sprint for survival” and called these methods “creative license.”

Apparently Guardian Angels was a good organization accomplishing positive results in preventing crime. These fraudulent heroics helped the group survive and even thrive. Does that justify the deception? Is it right to do something that would otherwise be wrong to accomplish a good purpose?

Situation Ethics

Those who espouse the philosophy of situation ethics say yes. They claim the circumstances determine if something is right or wrong. “… any act – even lying, premarital sex, abortion, adultery, and murder – could be right, depending upon the circumstances” (Joseph Fletcher, Situation Ethics). Thus, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, “Dr. Death,” defended assisting people to commit suicide because he prevented their continued suffering from terminal illnesses.

Institutional Brethren

Even Christians sometime fall prey to this attitude. Although gambling is not an authorized way to make money (Eph. 4:28; Acts 4:34-35), manifests covetousness (Col. 3:5-6) and violates the principle of love (Rom. 13:8-10), some defend gambling for “a worthy cause.” The State Lottery raises money for public schools and college tuitions.

Our institutional brethren have long used this argument. When confronted with the fact that church support of orphanages violates the New Testament pattern for the organization of the church and is thus unscriptural, they reply, “But look how much good is being done!” The same appeal is made for unscriptural evangelistic organizations such as One Nation Under God and World Bible School.

Divorce for Causes Other than Fornication

Some brethren admit God’s law is that fornication is the only reason for divorce (Matt. 5:32; 19:9) but argue that the law of love gives other causes, primarily abuse, if the situation demands it. This is precisely the “Situation Ethics” position of Joseph Fletcher.

In fact, to divorce one’s mate for a cause other than fornication is a failure to love your neighbor as yourself, for it places before the mate the temptation to remarry, and the one who divorced that mate is responsible for the resultant sin (Matt. 5:32; cf. 18:6-7). Those who advocate divorce for reasons other than fornication share the blame.

Their position actually places love for oneself above love for God. The first and greatest commandment is to love God (Matt. 22:35-40; Mk. 12:28-31). We express our love for God by obeying Him (1 Jn. 5:3). He commands no divorce except for fornication (Matt. 5:32; 19:9).

The Scriptures

What does the Bible say? It is true that the appropriateness of some acts is determined by the situation. But these are things that are morally neutral, matters of liberty, things allowed but not required, such as eating meat (1 Cor. 8:8-9).

But the Scriptures contain an absolute standard of right and wrong, a code of moral ethics we must not violate. To be guilty of lying, fornication, adultery, and murder is to forfeit one’s hope of eternal life (cf. Rev. 21:8; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21).

If an organization is unscriptural, it is wrong and sinful regardless of the good it accomplishes (Col. 3:17; 2 Jn. 9).

Results of Situation Ethics

Situation Ethics makes each person his own standard. “… every man must decide for himself what is right” (Fletcher. 84). But people are not capable of being their own moral guides (Prov. 16:25; 21:2; Jer. 10:23). Ancient Israel went to the depths of immorality during the period of the judges, because “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 17:6; 21:25).

Situation Ethics means an abandonment of the divine standard of right and wrong. “For the situationist there are no rules … none at all …” (Fletcher, 55). We must submit ourselves to the New Testament standard of morality (Phil. 3:16; Eph. 4:17-24).

Situation Ethics simply results in gross immorality. The “New Morality” is the old immorality. “I am prepared to argue that Christian obligation calls for lies and adultery and fornication and theft and promise breaking and killing sometimes, depending on the situation” (Fletcher, “Southern Baptist Christian Life Conference Address,” Atlanta, 1972). The Scriptures demand that we practice a moral standard that reflects the holy nature of God (Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Pet. 1:13-16).

Doing Evil That Good May Come

Some accused Paul of teaching, “Let us do evil that good may come.” He called the accusation “slander” and asserted that the “condemnation” of his accusers was “just” (Rom. 3:7-8). The position that an otherwise sinful act is justified by a good result is simply advocating, “Let us do evil that good may come.” Whether the advocate admits it or not, it is situation ethics. It is the very position the apostle Paul scathingly denounced.


The twenty-first century has seen the virtual moral collapse of our nation. The philosophy of situation ethics is a major cause.

Curtis Sliwa admitted he was wrong. All who try to defend sinful actions by appealing to a good result should repent. Wrong is wrong, and sin is sin, regardless of the purpose. It is never right to do wrong! – Highway 5 South Church of Christ website, January 2, 2016

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