Tim Keller offers Biblical view of justice

Courtesy Photo / The Bison
Timothy Keller, author and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC 

 Tyler Smothers

Faith Editor

The outcry for justice in the United States can be heard in metropolis and township. It is read in newspapers and research papers, and people are talking about it more and more due to the several shootings of unarmed Black men and women in America. 

When we all talk about “it” how do we know we mean the same thing? How do you know which voices are trustworthy? How do you know if they truly have the common good in mind?

 Timothy Keller, in his article “A Biblical Critique of Secular Justice and Critical Theory,” lays out the key differences between Biblical and secular visions of justice.

“Seldom do those issuing the calls acknowledge that currently there are competing visions of justice, often a sharp variance,” said Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

Keller said, though, that “none of them have achieved anything like a cultural consensus.” 

Keller lays out secular and biblical foundations for justice in a charitable and helpful way. 

 He said, “in the Bible Christians have an ancient, rich, strong, comprehensive, complex, and attractive understanding of justice.” 

Secular visions for justice have roots too, and Keller traces them to the enlightenment.

 Enlightenment philosophy was skeptical that any religion could provide a knowable universal basis for morality and justice. 

The alternative to the historic and rich justice of Scripture is that “all moral claims are culturally constructed and so, ultimately, based on our feelings and preferences,” Keller said. 

Keller said, “unless you know what human beings are for, you will never come to any agreement as to what good or bad behavior is and therefore what justice is.” 

A secular perception of the world would say that “we are not here for any purpose at all,” said Keller and, “if that is the case then there is no good way to argue coherently on secular premises and beliefs about the world that any particular behavior is wrong and unjust.”

 It is too easy to stop here and build up the ‘evil atheist’ straw man many believers criticize, but I’m not doing that. 

It doesn’t offer any answers and it shuts down opportunities for meaningful conversations.

People are diplomatic and they cry sometimes. People have always been concerned about how other people are treated in some capacity. 

An atheist and a Christian could enjoy coffee together and agree on the importance of kindness and treating people with dignity, but only one has an answer that holds up for everyone. 

Keller lays out 5 facets of Biblical justice: community, equity, corporate responsibility, individual responsibility, and advocacy.

While the atheist and Christian can agree on these points, still only one has a sturdy and meaningful platform to protest, speak and live from.

 A secular person’s defense of a secular notion of justice is just an opinion. 

Secularism cannot talk about justice as a transcendental truth when it impoverishes truth to an individual’s opinion. 

Keller points out that the views of justice alternative to the Bible address some of the five facets, “but,” he said, “none addresses them all.” 

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