In a previous blog post, Justice from a Human Perspective, I explored how we people have an innate sense of justice from a very early age, even before two years old, and that sense of justice develops as we mature. Everyone has a sense of justice, and we all act as if justice is a knowable, immutable fact. Even when we disagree on what justice means in a given situation.
We disagree on things like abortion and capital punishment. Get very nuanced, and the differences multiply. Even at the highest levels, we experience a disconnect between the innate assumption that justice is objectively knowable and agreement on just what it is.
I believe the disconnect exists because we are finite beings. We are finite, and we our perspectives are, therefore, limited. As a result, justice from our human perspective (individually and collectively) is ultimately subjective.
God, on the other hand, is not so limited. His perspective is broader, wider, deeper and greater in every possible way because God is infinite.
Justice isn’t just because God says so (an arbitrary and capricious standard). Justice also isn’t an abstract standard to which even God is subject. Justice flows from the very nature of God, because He is the creator of everything (all that is seen and unseen). Justice is defined in relation to God by necessity, because of who and what He is.
One thing is for sure: in a world created by God, we don’t determine justice.
We all have our perspectives about what is just, but the only standard that ultimately counts is the standard of justice that conforms to God’s nature.
And, that begs the question: what can we know of God and God’s justice? That is a loaded question to be sure!
As finite beings, how can we know God’s perspective if He doesn’t reveal it to us?
We can know something about it, perhaps, just as we might know something about God. For instance, God who created the space/time and matter, must be different from the universe He created. He must be spaceless/timeless and non-material. The universe had a beginning, but God must not have had a beginning (otherwise, we would have an infinite regress – who created God? who created the thing that created God? etc.)
An infinite, non-material, timeless, spaceless God would most certainly have a different perspective on justice, even if the basic components of justice are objective and knowable – things that we can grasp, just as we grasp how gravity works and quantum mechanics. We might not understand all of it but we are able to grasp some of it, and we continue to advance in our knowledge and understanding.
We can know something of God’s perspective on justice from what we can know about the attributes of God, even without any special revelation from Him to us. Beyond that, though, we would need God to reveal His perspective to us.
Each religion attempts to answer these types of questions about God and the universe. Hinduism, for instance, developed the idea of karma and reincarnation. In the Hindu tradition, we are rewarded (or punished) in the next life for what we do in this life. It’s a never ending cycle of getting in the next life what we earned in this life.
The Christian tradition somewhat agrees with the basic idea of getting what we deserve in the next life for the way we lived in this life, but without the endless cycles of reincarnation. We die once, and then the judgment. Thus, both traditions perceive something about justice, but they interpret it and apply it differently. In the next piece, An Exercise in Viewing Justice from God’s Perspective, I will explore one way that Jesus reveals clues to us on God’s perspective about justice.