Paul Vander Klay
January 6, 2010
Great post, Paul. We tend to think of God's 'justice' as being hellfire and judgement, or just sending Joshua and his army to kill a bunch of people. I'm going to have something to say on that on my blog in a couple of weeks. But you make a good point. People are much better at portraying injustice, or being outraged at injustice (and thereby thinking they have done something) rather than solving injustice.
The claim you pulled out from Volf's passage doesn't really resonate with me, but reading it in the context of your link it makes more sense. I wish you would have thought more on Volf's conclusion: that we are called to nonviolence because God's violence is the only just violence. It seems to me that human acts of violence in the name of justice only result in more injustice. I wonder if an Army is ever our best mechanism of justice.
Itâ€™s convenient to talk about Godâ€™s violence as if He is alone wielding a sword and we are not involved. But realize that historically He uses war and wields the sword of the human armies of Babylon, Israel, Egypt, Assyria and other nations, not just Israel to accomplish justice. God is invisible, a Spirit, and he uses humans to bring justice. God is certainly just and he has rendered justice in the past by the use of armies.<br><br>They shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall put my sword into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall stretch it out upon the land of Egypt. Ez. 30:25<br><br>Even when Jesus returns he again brings with him armies of men to bring justice.<br><br>Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses.<br><br>God calls us to justice but sometimes justice is defending the poor and delivering them out of the hand of the wicked:<br>â€œDefend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.â€
I understand Pacifists to assert that the state should be non-violent. I am not a Pacifist. Jonathan Edwards distinguished between common virtue (carrots and sticks, rewards and penalties) and true virtue (self-donating love). He noted that in the fallen world we need common virtue and benefit from it. The state is given the sword to promote common virtue and therefore establishes and enforces laws by use of the threat of penalty. Seizure of property (fines) and imprisonment are both acts of violence backed by the threat of violence. I think it is permissible for the state to act this way in the interest of justice and the protection of the weak. For this reason I am not a pacifist.
There is no human insight into God's use of the sword like Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. First, he acknowledged that both side in our Civil War prayed to the same God, who could not grant the prayers of both, and might not choose to grant the prayers of either. Second, Lincoln observed the possibility, and only the possibility, that God intended to exact by the sword and the bayonet retribution for every drop of blood taken by the lash -- to be paid by both north and south. Third, he acknowledged that whatever human intentions in the war might be, the judgments of the Almighty are true. Afterward be noted that the speech would not be popular, because men do not like to be reminded that the Almighty has purposes other than their own. Humans should be very careful about plunging into war in the belief that God wants us to do so. God will take care of what God wants to do. That said, I don't believe nations can exist without armies. There will be some big bad bully who will come along to take advantage of any nation that totally disarms. The Sikh began as a pacifist religion, then got stomped by armed neighbors, and thereby became a highly militarized community forevermore.
God's justice is a strange concept to wrap my mind around. Grace can't exist without justice, and God's justice can't exist without grace...I feel like I understand the concept but that it's way bigger than my brain is.
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