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C. Peter Wagner’s Situation Ethics

C. Peter Wagner, commander-in-chief of the rising apostolic army, has recently written a new book entitled The Church in the Workplace: How God’s People Can Transform Society (Regal, 2006). Last week we noted that C. Peter Wagner has timed the introduction of a new type of “philanthropic apostle” with the launching of his new book.

The marketplace apostles, corporate businessmen, who are supposedly part of a new expanded ekklesia (church) definition (see 9/18/05 Herescope), are integrally interconnected with these new philanthropic apostles who will fund dominionism endeavors world-wide.

In our previous posts we raised some serious ethical questions about this newfound “doctrine.” C. Peter Wagner also raises some ethical questions (what he calls “minefields”) in his book, but he relies upon the theory and techniques of situation ethics to answer these ethical dilemmas. He writes that his “major fear” is “to be misunderstood,” particularly by those “who tend to see issues in black and white without wide areas of gray between them.” And he says that these people “are likely to wonder if I am teaching so-called situation ethics.” (p. 103)

In the next subtitled section, “Godly Ethics” (p. 103), Wagner denies that this is what he is doing. He writes, “No, I am not teaching situation ethics. I believe in biblical holiness,” and then presents a quote that really isn’t germane. He then explains:

“Drawing on my background as a missiologist, I see my task as defining these rules as best as I can. My approach is phenomenological. It is not philosophical or theological or exegetical or revelational, all of which are legitimate, alternative approaches that many of my good friends regularly take. I am simply trying to focus more on what is than on what ought to be.

“If I am successful, the minefields will be safer, and we, God’s army, can move forward harmoniously toward transforming the societies in which we live.” (p. 104)

These two paragraphs are quite interesting. First, Wagner acknowledges that he has taken on the “task as defining these rules” for his newly-created marketplace and philanthropic apostles. This is a scary proposition since he then admits that he going to employ a phenomenological approach to defining ethical rules.

Phenomenology is an interesting metaphysical philosophy. It only looks at phenomena, i.e., what happens,” not ontology: why something happens. Below is a definition of phenomenology from http://www.answers.com/topic/phenomenology:

phenomenology, modern school of philosophy founded by Edmund Husserl. Its influence extended throughout Europe and was particularly important to the early development of existentialism. Husserl attempted to develop a universal philosophic method, devoid of presuppositions, by focusing purely on phenomena and describing them; anything that could not be seen, and thus was not immediately given to the consciousness, was excluded. The concern was with what is known, not how it is known. The phenomenological method is thus neither the deductive method of logic nor the empirical method of the natural sciences; instead it consists in realizing the presence of an object and elucidating its meaning through intuition. Husserl considered the object of the phenomenological method to be the immediate seizure, in an act of vision, of the ideal intelligible content of the phenomenon. Notable members of the school have been Roman Ingarden, Max Scheler, Emmanuel Levinas, and Marvin Farber. [emphasis added]

Throughout his book C. Peter Wagner employs the same techniques as the values clarification experts. He raises ethical scenarios and answers these moral dilemmas — NOT with Scripture — but with case examples. This is precisely what is called “situation ethics.” It is a nifty little psychological gimmick that manipulates the hearers/readers to look away from the Word of God for the answer. Here is how it works:

1. An ethical question is raised, often in the context of a specific situation.

2. The answer is presented in a series of stories, little vignettes, which create a very gray situation where black and white are not entirely clear. These little vignettes never disclose the full story, but rather paint a stark, bleak, gray dilemma for which there seems to be no way out.

3. The solution to the ethical dilemma is then presented as grayish pragmatism — “This seemed to be the lesser of two evils, so I chose this route.”

4. The Word of God is not presented as a viable alternative. Neither is fervent prayer — yielding and leaning on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Rather, man’s reason and an extreme pragmatism are exalted as the only way out of this morass.

C. Peter Wagner admits that he is a pragmatist, and spends a considerable time quoting from one of his chief critics in this matter, John MacArthur, in his book When the Church Becomes Like the World. The result of this exercise is that Wagner stoically defends his pragmatism — “I have carefuly read all that John MacArthur says about me and my pragmatism. Everything he says is true!” (p. 146)

The Truth:

The trouble with pragmatism, phenomenology and situation ethics is that in his new book C. Peter Wagner is employing them to justify the activities that his rapidly forming army of philanthropic and marketplace apostles will be engaging in across the face of the earth as part of a dominionism drive. This is scary stuff indeed!

Wagner wrote a chapter entitled “The Means and the End” in which he concludes:

“That the end does not justify unethical or immoral means is a sound, ethical principle. But beyond that, it is largely irrelevant to most of our lives in the real world, because day in and day out we choose means that will best accomplish our ends.” (p. 145)

Without the Scriptures applied to the totally of one’s life — particularly the workplace and financial matters — this is an alarming statement. Divorcing huge segments of one’s life from the comprehensive guidelines of God’s Word by saying that they are “irrelevant” is walking out on a dangerous precipice. The slippery slope of moral relativism is only a short drop-off away.

There is a wonderful, comforting Scripture which answers the confusing mutterings of moral relativists:

Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:11-13)