The Relevance of the Bible for Law and Ethics in Society Today

The historian Niall Ferguson quotes the verdict of a member of the Chinese Academy of the Social Sciences, tasked with finding an explanation for why the West overtook China in the sixteenth century and went on to industrial and scientific greatness. At first, he said, we thought it was because you had better guns than we had. Then we thought it was your political system. Next we thought it was your economic system. But for the past twenty years we have had no doubt: it was your religion.

What was it about the Judeo-Christian ethic that led the West to develop market economics, democratic politics, human rights and the free society? The lecture will look at seven aspects of biblical ethics, each of which played a part in this development: human dignity, freedom and responsibility; an ethic of guilt rather than shame; the family as the matrix of virtue, love as the basis of ethics and covenant as the basis of society. It will argue that all seven are currently under threat, and that the Bible remains an important voice in the public conversation about ethics and law.

Filmed by and published with the kind permission of King’s College London.

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