God, Rights, and Justice

‘The assumption of Israel’s writers that God holds us accountable for doing justice has the consequence that when we fail to do justice, we wrong God. We not only fail in our obligations to God. We wrong God, deprive God of that to which God has a right.

‘Injustice is perforce the impairment of shalom… God desires the flourishing of each and every one of God’s human creatures; justice is indispensable to that.’

God holds human beings accountable for doing justice; and God himself is committed to justice, both in the sense that God does justice and in the sense that God works to bring it about that human beings treat each other justly. (Nicholas Wolterstorff, ‘Justice: Rights and Wrongs’, p. 91, 83, 89)

Our obligation is twofold: to our fellow human beings and to God. By treating our fellow human beings justly is to honor that which to God has a right. Treating others justly is to honor their natural human rights, which are grounded in both the imago dei as well as God’s love for all human beings – when we honor this right, that is doing justice, and that is how we bring about shalom.

2 thoughts on “God, Rights, and Justice

  1. Steven Colborne September 13, 2012 / 8:04 pm

    But are we really free to do justly or injustly? Do we really have free will? I believe there is one will in the universe, which is God’s will, and that we are all expressions of that will. Therefore the idea of God judging human beings is absurd, as God would be judging His own action.

    You may disagree, but if you try to distinguish between the things that God is doing and the things human beings are doing, I think you will have a problem. Best wishes, Steven.


    • whitefrozen September 13, 2012 / 9:45 pm

      Does that then mean it is equally absurd to judge the actions of others, if they are expressions of the one divine will? If everything is will, divine or otherwise, you run into serious problems – see William of Ockham for more on that.


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