“You shall appoint for yourselves judges and officials in all your towns which the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not distort justice, you shall not show partiality; and you shall not accept a bribe, because a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and distorts the words of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Deut 16.18-20).
“The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are justice; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and just is He” (Deut 32.4; NASB). 1
“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Stop doing evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor, Obtain justice for the orphan and, plead for the widow’s case” (Isa 1.16-17).
Given the nature of our current 24/7 news cycle it is impossible to keep up with and comment on all things as they happen. By the time you’ve researched a topic, jotted down a few notes, and allowed it to simmer and coalesce in your mind, new news has become old news. Just as you were beginning to organize and articulate your thoughts in a cogent and meaningful way, time has seemingly swept away—in the minds of many—the importance of the event. People have moved on to something else. Like a rambunctious dog, one minute the world around you is looking in the same direction and then a new ball passes through their field of vision, and off they go. Chasing what is new, forgetting what has passed, and all the while (depending on the subject matter) they are left worse for ware. The one thing that all of the information being constantly blitzed at us guarantees is that undisciplined minds will have an attention span of a gnat. There are nefarious forces that desire it to be such, but I for one do not. Nor, do I believe our Creator wants it that way either.
Previously, I’ve been speaking on matters pertaining to the Kyle Rittenhouse case. We’ve looked at the context surrounding the situation that led to that fateful night on August 25, 2020. We’ve seen the way that the media has cherry picked narratives in order to promote, instigate, and stir up strife on the issue of racism. Amidst all of this there has been an outcry by many voices for justice. And so, having weighed these matters for some time I mentioned last week my desire to step into the fray and offer a biblical definition of justice. Though by no means be exhaustive, it should give us a good starting point in understanding this misconstrued concept in our day.
What is justice? I figure since there is so much talk about justice nowadays it might do us some good to have a working definition of the concept. Language naturally evolves over time. There are certain cultural or contextual factors that affect the meaning of a term, concept or idea. All words have what is known as a semantical range; meaning, definitions shift depending upon how the term is being used. Given the current rapidity in which our culture is changing the meaning of words, say, for example, with the term vaccine2, I thought it best for us to do a quick compare and contrast between how “justice” was understood in the past and today.
Noah Webster, in 1828, defined justice as:
“The virtue which consists in giving to every one what is his due; practical conformity to the laws and to principles of rectitude in the dealings of men with each other; honesty; integrity in commerce or mutual intercourse.”3
Whereas, the online Cambridge dictionary defines justice as,
“fairness in the way people are dealt with…”4
Immediately, the observant reader (listener) will notice a slight change in the emphasis here. Both definitions focus on human behavior, but only one emphasizes human behavior that is derived through conformity to the law. Both definitions agree that we ought to treat our fellow human beings fairly (i.e., correctly), but only one offers some standards as to how that fairness is to be understood.
Understanding of Reality…
Why the discrepancy? Why two different understandings? Why is one more detailed in how people are to treat others, and the other so vague? Fairness sounds like a noble term. And given my own worldview, I would agree that “fairness” is to some degree a central concern of true justice. If “fairness” is being defined as “correct behavior towards others.”5 The issue in the definition is similar to the issue in the clarion call for justice. There are two opposing standards (i.e., starting points) at work here in how one understands reality.
Noah Webster was a Christian and therefore, understood reality as defined by the God of the Bible. It was God’s graciousness that created the universe as a whole. And so, Webster was concerned with defining language in terms of the Creator.6 God gave communication to mankind as a gift to be used wisely and appropriately.7 Thus, Webster sought to provide future generations of American’s with a clear understanding of purpose for the use of language and the definition of words. For him the use of language was a religious matter, a holy endeavor that sought to reflect the holiness of God.
The linguistic experts for the Cambridge dictionary reflect the modern understanding of reality; in essence, we are all a product of evolution. There is no God above us, we are what we are; what we make ourselves to be. Language like law is not handed down from on high, but is the result of the subjective powers that be. In other words, language is always in motion—ever-changing—and it is determined and defined by the shifting winds of humanistic doctrine. A belief-system that claims mankind is a law unto themselves (i.e., autonomous). Given the current downward spiral into socialism and a totalitarian state, it is the State that dictates not only what is right or wrong, but what is the correct meaning of the terms in question; like justice.
A Universal Standard…
How can there be justice, or fairness in the treatment of others without having a universal standard of right and wrong that applies to all? That is the pivotal question facing our time; by what standard? People speak of justice and injustices, but their versions of reality differ; which results in opposing definitions.
What form of justice should have been applied to the Rittenhouse case?8 What about in regards to the Waukesha killer, Darrel Brooks?9 Or, what shall we say about the recent Oxford High School shooter?10 Who are the victims? Who are the assailants? How are we to judge such things, if we are going to cry out for justice in the streets?
Jesus commanded His disciples to judge righteously:
“Do not judge by the outward appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7.24).
This was in reference to Deuteronomy 16:18-19 cited above. True justice does not look at external factors (richness, poorness, skin color, fame or lack-thereof), for it is impartial to such non-mitigating factors. The question surrounding these top profile cases is “What is justice?” Justice, as Webster explained, is in relation to “conformity to the laws and principles of rectitude.” In other words, adherence to an objective standard that demonstrates moral integrity, also known as, righteousness.
True righteousness means doing what is right and refraining from participating in wrong doing. As the wisdom writer of Proverbs explains,
“My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you…then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding…then you will discern righteousness, justice, and integrity, and every good path” (Prov 2.1, 5-6, 9; cf. Psa 119.9).
It is the Word of God that defines the only ethical standard that has universal applicability (cf. 119.142, 160). It is God’s Law-Word that all people are commanded to live by, from the lesser to the greater (cf. Deut 8.1; Prov 4.4). The civil rulers above us, be they judges or kings, or magistrates at various levels, will find that adherence to God’s dictates prevents injustices from being done against the people whom they have been called to serve (Deut 16.18-19; Deut 17.18-20). Thus, the biblical witness proclaims to the Lord on High:
“I will also speak of Your testimonies before kings and shall not be ashamed” (Psa 119.46).
What then does the world have to offer? By what standard may we inquire of to find justice in the secular sphere? Is there one, I know not any!
For it is said we are cosmic accidents, products of mere chance with nothing behind us or in front of us but empty space. We live and die and are no more, so then, by what then do you cry out for justice with.
Justice is meant to be blind, impartial, not given to prejudice. And while I don’t necessarily agree with all of the conclusions that Russel Kirk makes in his own lectures on the subject, he is right when he states the following,
“Somewhere there must exist an authority for beliefs about justice; and the authority of merely human, and therefore fallible, courts of law is insufficient to command popular assent and obedience.”11
Justice like so many concepts that we beholden to in our day is a religious idea. From the standpoint of the Christian worldview there is only one place where the truth of justice can truly be unearthed, and it is seated in both testaments of the Holy Bible. It is God, our Creator, magnified in the life of Jesus of Nazareth the Christ, from which justice comes. He demands that we be impartial, that every matter be weighed before judgment is reached. That no sentence against another may be carried out without first having two to three witnesses (i.e., lines of evidences) that support the allegations being levied at them. And, only after the witnesses themselves have been proven non-malicious, may their testimony be taken as valid. The concept of “innocent until proven guilty” rests on these truths. Not mob justice as we have witnessed so many times in recent years. Not even vigilante justice. For justice associated with those ideas is not justice at all, but a perverted attempt of human beings playing at being God.
So, in closing I would like to consider the three cases mentioned above. One already determined in a court of law, two others forthcoming. Was justice served in the Rittenhouse case? Was it self-defense? Or was it aggravated assault on innocent bystanders? Justice was served, it was self-defense, and therefore no charge of wrong doing may be laid at the young man’s feet. You may not like what he did. You may not like that he carried a gun in the open. You may not approve his discretionary use of force. But, personal opinions aside, he was found not guilty after the evidence had been effectively weighed in light of the circumstances on that fateful night of August 25, 2020.
What do we say about the other two men? What do we say about Brooks or Crumbly? Like Rittenhouse they should be assumed “innocent until proven guilty.” Their cases should be decided on an interpretive analysis of the evidence by a jury of their own peers. Public opinion aggravated by a biased media should have no factor in the determination of those cases.
Am I saying that neither of those two men12 murdered people? No, that’s not what I’m saying. But I am saying that a truly just system will allow them to have their day in court, where the evidences may be interpreted in light of the surrounded circumstances. And, in a just system if they are found guilty, they both should be executed for their crimes against humanity. But if we want justice to prevail we need to stop seeing matters with colored glasses. Right and wrong is not a matter of personal opinion, nor is it one of race, wealth or power. As it is written,
“To show partiality to the wicked is not good, Nor to suppress the righteous in judgment…One who gives an answer before he hears, It is foolishness and shame to him” (Prov 18.5, 13).
1Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture shall be of the New American Standard Bible, 2020 update (NASB).
2Formerly, a vaccine was commonly given to a person to aid immunity against a communicable disease. This was accomplished through the use of weakened or dead pathogens delivered into the body to allow the bodies natural immune response to react. One antibodies were produced by the immune system the pathogen was attacked and the memory of it were stored in the person’s body. That way the next time the same pathogen attempted to infect the individual their immune system was prepared to immediately fight off and prevent clinical infection.
But in an effort to deceive the unwary public, the CDC (along with several English dictionary’s) changed the definition of vaccine. Now, it no longer is limited to weakened or dead pathogens, but a product synthesized in a lab. No longer does it aid the body in providing immunity from said disease, but protection from more serious side effects.
Johanna Anim Caviezel, “The CDC Suddenly Changes the Definition of ‘Vaccine’ and ‘Vaccination,’ Citizens Journal, September 13, 2021, accessed 12/11/2021, https://www.citizensjournal.us/the-cdc-suddenly-changes-the-definition-of-vaccine-and-vaccination/.
3Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language, Facsimile Edition, Reprint 1828 (Chesapeake, VA: Foundation for American Christian Education, , 1995), s.v., “justice.”
4Cambridge Dictionary Online, s.v., “justice” def. 1, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/justice.
5“marked by impartiality and honesty: free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism…conforming with established rules” Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary & Thesaurus, 2008, def. 2, s.v., “fairness,” desktop edition.
6He said, “education [is] useless without the Bible…In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, out to be instructed…No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.” American Dictionary of the English Language, 9, italics in original.
7The tower of Babel incident recorded in Genesis 11:1-9 offers a strong warning against using the gift(s) of God in a rebellious fashion. Before the people rebelled they all spoke one language (Gen 11.1), but afterwards God confused their language so that communication was no longer possible (Gen 11.9). When people in their sin desire to confuse the masses with a false Word and gospel, as we witness in the tower of Babel incident, then God in turn darkens their own understanding so that they are left fumbling about in His creation.
8Maha Laiq, “Opinion: The Injustice of Kyle Rittenhouse’s Acquittal,” The Teen Mag, November 22, 2021, accessed 12/13/2021, https://www.theteenmagazine.com/opinion-the-injustice-of-kyle-rittenhouse-s-acquittal.
9Associated Press, “Suspect in Waukesha parade carnage says he feels ‘demonized,’” Yahooh!News, December 1, 2021, accessed 12/13/2021, https://news.yahoo.com/suspect-waukesha-parade-carnage-says-004127437.html.
10Sara Powers, “Ethan Crumbly, Accused in Oxford High School Shooting, Due in Court,” CBS Detroit, December 13, 2021, accessed 12/13/2021, https://detroit.cbslocal.com/2021/12/13/ethan-crumbley-accused-in-oxford-high-school-shooting-due-in-court/.
11Russel Kirk, “The Meaning of Justice,” Report: Poverty and Inequality, March 4, 1993, accessed 12/12/2021, https://www.heritage.org/poverty-and-inequality/report/the-meaning-justice.
12I continue to call them both men because both men are alleged killers. While I am of the personal opinion that they are guilty of the crimes against them, I think that should be decided in the court room. As to why I call a 15-year old a man, it is rather simple. He allegedly used a gun to kill four of his school mates. If this is in fact the truth, and I see no reason right now to counter this notion, he should be tried as an adult and not a child. He took a lives and now his life is forfeit. The same should be argued against Brooks. Age, nor color, nor so-called mental disability should bear any weigh in their judgment if found guilty. While our society likes to call perpetrators of crimes victims, I believe it wiser to be more concerned about the true victims—those killed by the driver of the SUV and the one who pulled the trigger of the gun.