Tag Archives: justice

On the moral compassion of social justice

[From CNN]

It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.

People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we’re compassionate we’ll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint. -Penn Jillette

Bonus: Here is a great interview of Penn by the CATO Institute:

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Is God a “God of wrath”? Several reasons why He isn’t.

A rather interesting discussion on Facebook began when a friend of mine posted the following:

The Prince of Peace also is the holy, righteous, and just God of wrath.

Justice is the reason for wrath

Justice, not wrath. In order for God to be a “God of wrath” there would need to be something for God to display his wrath to for eternity, making sin a necessity, which would entail dualism.

Peace and wrath are incompatible as eternal states of being. Wrath may be displayed in order to bring about peace, but in that case it is merely a means to an end, namely a just or peaceful state of affairs.

Further, wrath, like hatred, is nowhere stated as being a part of God’s character. Presumably because before God chose to create, when there was naught but the trinity in a state of complete perfection, there was no need for God to hate or display his wrath to bring about a just state of peace.

But doesn’t the Bible say that God is also wrathful?

Hebrews 1:9 says, “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.” God’s attributes are perfectly balanced in His divine perfection. The wrath of God is always perfect just as is His love, always. Man has a hard time understanding this because man’s wrath is almost always compromised by the presence of sin, therefore they cannot place that attribute upon God. The word says, and I believe it.

This is not something you can make an appeal to mystery for and then just walk away and pretend as if you’ve avoided the issue. The fact remains that if wrath is a part of God’s character as opposed to merely something God employed in time in regards to finite beings, there would need to be a timeless, infinite object of God’s wrath. That would raise such an object of wrath to a position of sharing other attributes God alone possesses. Namely being a necessary as opposed to contingent being.

So just as wickedness is not eternal, neither is the need to punish it. Justice, and love, however, are.

Let’s approach this from another angle: If wrath is a part of God’s character, who was God displaying wrath to for eternity past? Sinners? Are we willing to say that men and angles are uncreated eternal beings?

There is a difference between God’s actions in time vs. character traits that are a part of God’s nature. So no, God is not jealous in that He was jealous before time began since that would also require there to be something God is jealous of.

I suppose a point of difficulty for us1 is our notion of time and God’s relation to it. I would maintain that God is not immutable in the sense that most reformed people view Him as (which would also make it impossible for God to think, act, speak, etc.) but that God entered into time when He decided to create so that there are some tensed truths we can say of God now that have not always been and will not always be true. Being wrathful is one of those truths, as is being jealous.

And as fine a point as it may be2, I believe it is important to make a distinction between the means and the ends. God’s wrath is not an end in itself but rather a means to an end. The same goes for God’s jealousy.

Isn’t wrath an integral part of justice? Who did God display justice to before man was created?

Wes, your first response to the “God of wrath” statement was, “Justice, not wrath. In order for God to be a “God of wrath” there would need to be something for God to display his wrath to for eternity, making sin a necessity, which would entail dualism.”

Under your hypothesis, Wes, how could He be a God of justice, because as you later stated, “Let’s approach this from another angle: If wrath is a part of God’s character, who was God displaying wrath to for eternity past? Sinners?”

Let’s approach it from your angle, Wes. If you deny the God of wrath because there were no sinners in eternity past for His wrath to be displayed upon, why can you freely accept the God of justice prior to the need for justice under the same conditions? Who would He need to display justice to? (emphasis mine)

Himself.

Justice is indeed needed, but there can be a just state of affairs without the need for anything to be done to maintain that state of affairs.

God is wholly just and therefore complete in Himself. The question of God’s character including wrath has a direct bearing on His aseity or completeness within Himself.

The key here in my estimation is to remove man from the equation completely lest we get sidetracked by immaterial issues when discussing what constitutes the character of God.

So in the case of wrath, we should ask how that character trait was expressed before man was ever created. When we talk to others about God being a God of love, for example, we gain a distinct advantage over those who also claim God is love but do not accept the trinity (Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, etc.). In this case we can say that God was, in eternity past, in a loving relationship in the trinity so that love and community itself become necessary character traits of God and not merely derived character traits that only come into existence after other agents were created.

Conclusion

I’ve found that people who are intent on portraying God as a “God of wrath” are bad philosophers who are often unaware of the problems, the mental time bombs, they create for others. Many times I’ve found people who adopt a view of wrath being a part of God’s character are, themselves, quite bitter and otherwise unpleasant people. In those cases it appears that the attribution of wrath to God is little more than a projection of themselves.

However we must, if we are serious about maturing and become approved workmen in the Kingdom of God, examine this issue carefully. We must pay close attention to the implications of our assertions.

God does display his wrath to sinners. But that wrath is not an end in itself. Wrath is something God uses in relation to the justice and holiness that make up God’s character.

  1. By “us”, I mean those who prefer to picture God as being eternally wrathful. []
  2. At this point, some were whining about this being a pointless argument. A tactic that is taken by those who wish not to think too deeply about an issue. []

Can Christians support the death penalty?

To answer the question of whether Christians can, with honesty and clarity of conscience (not to mention with Biblical warrant) support and even promote the death penalty we must first make a distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world. Greg Boyd calls them “the kingdom of the cross” and the “kingdom of the sword”. He derives the second from Romans 13:4 which states that the government doesn’t bear the sword in vain. Jesus also says in John 18:36 that his kingdom wasn’t of this world.

Put simply, these two kingdoms occupy two completely different spheres with distinct roles and responsibilities. Unfortunately, many people completely miss this point and, instead, tend to believe that where the Bible commands us to love our enemies1 and turn the other cheek2 it also forbids us from self-defense or the exercise of justice insofar as we, imperfect though we may be, can exact here on earth.

Sadly, this muddled thinking also spills over into the unrelated on abortion. Unrelated, because one deals with the death of an innocent human being for the pure pleasure of another (known Biblically as murder) vs. the state’s exacting of justice3. It’s helpful to keep in mind Romans 13:1-7 where we are told to submit to the state. Many like to qualify this with “as long as the state is within the will of God” but such a qualification fails in the face of the Biblical and historical evidence that the early Christians willingly submitted even to the point of death to the unjust laws designed to eradicate the “dangerous” sect of Christianity.

Like God, who sent his son to die in payment for the sins of the world, I support the death penalty.

I don’t see how someone can be a Christian and not support it actually4. I also don’t see how one can claim that support of the death penalty is against the Bible when God himself commanded it multiple (many multiples actually) times. It would seem that claiming support of the death penalty would necessarily entail questioning the holiness of God himself5.

Many like to claim that support of the death penalty is somehow intrinsically opposed to the notion of the sanctity of life, however I would argue that quite the opposite is true. If we say that there are no sins/crimes that merit death (including the willful murder of another human being) then we actually call into question the entire “eye for an eye” foundation upon which we base our entire understanding of justice. Sorry, but the phrase “an eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind” is patently false.

“An eye for an eye” doesn’t make the whole world blind, it makes the whole world just.

So, in sum, whether a Christian supports or doesn’t support capital punishment is, I believe, a matter of personal conviction6. However to claim that a person is not being consistent in their beliefs of the sanctity of life while, at the same time, upholding the practice of enforcing the death penalty is a stretch to say the least as it lacks logical, philosophical, and/or Biblical warrant.

  1. Matthew 5:44 []
  2. Matthew 5:39 []
  3. which is never called murder in the text even though there are good Greek words that would suffice to communicate that idea if that were the author’s intent []
  4. Though, I’ll stop short of questioning their faith I will question their sanity and grasp of reason and logic []
  5. Which I’m sure no one who claims to be a follower of Christ is willing to do []
  6. I believe it is important to not run to the other extreme and start questioning the salvation of pacifists either. []