The “creature-consciousness” or self-depreciation one feels before the Holy “is beyond question not that of the transgression of the moral law [but rather] it is the feeling of absolute ‘profaneness.’” One feels shame and desires atonement not because of what one has done but because of what one is. To see it otherwise is, for Otto, a diminishing of the experience to the merely moral. That’s my phrase, but one can almost imagine Otto using it, as when he objects to notions such as “redemption” and “atonement” being transferred downward “from their mystical sphere into that of rational ethics and attenuated . . . into moral concepts,” thus being moved “from a sphere where they have an authentic and necessary place to one where their validity is most disputable.”
I think the problem arises from the separation of faith and deeds in the first place. As St. James wrote, faith without works is dead. In the case of the religious person, the deed are the fruit of faith. Common ethics has more to do with custom and good manners. Moreover, for the person of faith, a good deed may even carry with it a measure of shame, when one realizes how annoyed one was in doing it. Being good and kind may lend itself to needlepoint, but in practice it is often not easy at all. That's where the love comes in. To do the good with a loving mind and heart is what differentiates the genuinely religious from the merely ethical.