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Professor Baber’s ‘religion without ethics’

20 March 2015


From Emma Laughton
Sir, - Professor Harriet Baber (Comment, 6 March) is right to remind us to pay attention to the many secular proponents of ethics without religion. On the other hand, she thinks that "religion without ethics" is a meaningful proposition. For her, "ethics is a secular discipline". She concludes with the categorical assertion that "articulating ethical principles and promoting good behaviour, helping the needy, and promoting social justice" are "secular purposes" outside the Church's scope.

This cannot, however, be considered a Christian point of view. Nor is she able to maintain it coherently alongside her idea that the Church can still get on with the only correct religious tasks of "preaching the Word, administering the sacraments . . . opening the Kingdom of heaven", and other similar activities predicated on worship of Jesus as Lord. Yet she has already hurriedly conceded the force of Matthew 25.35-36.

Perhaps Professor Baber also needs to remember Matthew 25.40: "Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me." She asserts that the Church has nothing to contribute to the critical discussion of ethical issues. But, if Jesus is the fount and criterion of ethical behaviour, as the Gospel says, Christianity does, indeed, have something distinctive to offer.

Emma Laughton
Dolphin House, Dolphin Street
Devon EX24 6NA

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