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.
Dolphin House, Dolphin Street
Devon EX24 6NA