Skip to comments.Doing Justice
Posted on 04/06/2006 7:03:44 PM PDT by sionnsar
The first few weeks of seminary were full of surprises for me. Id been warned to expect the worst. And, thankfully, Id been well prepared by my pastors (Al Lawrence+ and Matt Kessler+) to meet it.
All the same there were some things I never got used to.
I still wince, for example, every time I hear someone pray to the Lord loudly and boldly for justice.
I know what they mean and, thankfully God knows what they mean. But being an evangelical Ive always associated the word justice with Gods perfect justice; the unerring standard by which the Lord Christ will judge the world when he returns in power and glory.
And used in that sense Ive always agreed with The Rev. Dr. RC Sproul who says, Never pray for justice. You just might get it.
As fallen sinners we ought rather to pray for mercy. As believers, forgiven sinners, we (evangelicals) praise and thank God for Christs justifying righteousness gracefully applied to our account through faith in Jesus Christ which alone saves us from the eternal fires of hell which is where we would find ourselves were God to deal with us according to his justice.
Thats why I wince.
But we all know what revisionists mean. They mean justice in the purely human sense. But the more I read and spend time around them the more I think a better word to use might be equality.
In fact this whole topic calls to mind my seminary ethics professors odd definition of justice. Dr. Timothy Sedgwick taught that justice consists of treating equals equally.
Thus, doing justice means finding an equal and ensuring that he or she is being treated equally. Who is equal? All human beings are equal. Are all human beings treated equally? No. Thats where the prayer for justice comes in.
The whole system of course hinges on determining who is really equal and what it really means to treat equals equally.
For example, later on in the course I discovered that it is not a given that unborn human beings are equal. They are not therefore necessarily entitled to equal treatment. The same goes for the old and mentally disabled who might need to be euthanized (with or without their permission).
It turns out that one of the primary considerations for determining who is equal is whether or not a given person remains capable of engaging in the primary ends or purposes of human life. One of these purposes is living in community. The unborn and some of the severely disabled are no longer able to live in community and thus, they are not necessarily fully human. Thus, when they get in the way of more equal human beings pursuing the ends of life it sometimes makes sense to make them go away. After a lot of prayer of course.
This is, to use a complex theological term, sick.
To be fair, Dr. Sedgwick was not an open advocate these of applications of justice nor was he an open opponent. He was simply passing the system along.
But from within the framework of the system its easy see how both the freedom to kill unborn babies and the right to be a non-celibate gay bishop can be justice issues without the untoward intrusion of cognitive dissonance.
It might be helpful to point out here that the system itself is a perversion of the more classic definition of justice which is giving to each his due.
Classically speaking, all human beings as bearers of the image of God, the imago dei, are equal by nature. The unborn child and the severely mentally disabled woman are both fully human because both are created in Gods image and in his likeness and both are loved by and in some form of relationship with the Creator of all things.
That image bearing capacity is in no way diminished by their incapacity to participate in community.
The same natural equality based on the imago dei applies across racial, ethnic, and gender boundaries. All are created equally in Gods image and thus all are fully human.
But this does not, classically, mean that we are all owed the same treatment by right.
Sometimes, as a matter of justice, our behavior limits our access to certain roles and opportunities. This explains why an unborn child has a right not to be killed and a convicted serial murderer does not necessarily enjoy the same right; even though both equally bear the image of God. Within the classic definition of justice, treatment is determined by a given individual's moral choice of the will.
What is fascinating about the newer, twisted, definition of justice (treating equals equally) serves to suck the moral content out of the word. It doesn't matter what someone does. It only matters whether someone is. And, most importantly, the humanity community, not God, makes the ultimate decision about a being's "is"ness.
"Treating equals equally" certainly explains a lot to me about our times and our Church.
No, 'justice' isn't a buzz word for equality. It is a buzz word for favored treatment.
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