Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

2.5 Models of the Synthesis

In the ethical discussion of the new age, several new approaches attempt to unite the truths of both of these ethics, making both the will and the consequence meaningful to the ethic. Individuals who have driven this process forward include:

  • Sociologist Max Weber with the concept of his Ethics of Responsibility

Subsequently these would be further developed by 

  • Hans Jonas, who describes responsibility as an attempt at synthesis in the following terms: “Act in such a way that the consequences of your actions are reconcilable with the permanence of true human life on earth.” (The Imperative of Responsibility pg 36).

Both approaches are closer to the consequence-concept than to a conviction ethic. The most well-known ethicist of evangelical theology to date takes a different approach: Helmut Thielicke with his concept of an ethic of compromise. 

Thielicke places compromise at the heart of ethics. Very few ethical decisions are truly decisions between good and bad. Most are a choice between better or worse. This is especially true for a conflict of ethics in a border situation. The “ideal” good choice is not necessarily what is asked for. If the ethical inquiry reveals a “less bad” solution, this is already a success. This approach appears like a very practical take on ethics, which as a decidedly Christian ethic takes into account that there are many situations where one cannot escape without any blame before God, regardless of what decision one makes. The insight that there is often no ideal solution helps to prevent the demonization of individuals who decide differently than oneself. The freedom to take responsibility on one’s own shoulders through decisive action is made allowable for the Christian through the realization that they can, and should, lay these at the feet of the cross on Golgotha.