Tim Keller: “A Biblical Critique of Secular Justice and Critical Theory”

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Which justice? There have never been stronger calls for justice than those we are hearing today. But seldom do those issuing the calls acknowledge that currently there are competing visions of justice, often at sharp variance, and that none of them have achieved anything like a cultural consensus, not even in a single country like the US. It is overconfident to assume that everyone will adopt your view of justice, rather than some other, merely because you say so.

Pastor and theologian Tim Keller (Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City) gives a thoughtful and biblical critique of secular justice and critical theory. 

This is an additional article in the series on justice and race by Timothy Keller that includes: “The Bible and Race” (March 2020), “The Sin of Racism” (June 2020), and coming in September 2020, “Justice in the Bible.”

The Problem We Face

Which justice? There have never been stronger calls for justice than those we are hearing today. But seldom do those issuing the calls acknowledge that currently there are competing visions of justice, often at sharp variance, and that none of them have achieved anything like a cultural consensus, not even in a single country like the US. It is overconfident to assume that everyone will adopt your view of justice, rather than some other, merely because you say so.

Biblical justice. In the Bible Christians have an ancient, rich, strong, comprehensive, complex, and attractive understanding of justice. Biblical justice differs in significant ways from all the secular alternatives, without ignoring the concerns of any of them. Yet Christians know little about biblical justice, despite its prominence in the Scriptures. This ignorance is having two effects. First, large swaths of the church still do not see ‘doing justice’ as part of their calling as individual believers. Second, many younger Christians, recognizing this failure of the church and wanting to rectify things, are taking up one or another of the secular approaches to justice, which introduces distortions into their practice and lives.

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The History of Justice

The traditions. No one has done a better job of explaining our current predicament over justice than Alasdair MacIntyre, especially in his book Whose Justice? Which Rationality? He shows that behind every understanding of justice is a set of philosophical beliefs about (a) human nature and purpose (b) morality, and (c) practical rationality—how we know things and justify true beliefs. In his book he traces out four basic historical traditions of justice. There is the Classical (Homer through Aristotle), the Biblical (Augustine through Aquinas, whose accomplishment was to incorporate some of Aristotle), the Enlightenment (especially Locke, Kant, and Hume)—which then set the stage for the modern Liberal approach, which has fragmented into a number of competing views that struggle with one another in our own day …

The entire article can be found here

 

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