God’s Justice

Wolterstorff provides a good concise summary of his view on the justice of God. He masterfully unites the concept of justice with the character of God and notion of human value.

Wolterstorff’s summary of Justice in his chapter “Justice of God” in For faith and clarity (2006), 197:

Justice is constituted of normative social relationships. Primary justice reigns when the rights of persons to the actions and restraints from action of others are honored. A person is just insofar as he or she honors the rights of others to actions and restraints from action on his or her part. A person enjoys justice insofar as others honor his or her rights to actions and restraints from action on their part. The charge that rights are individualistic makes no sense; rights are inherently social. Likewise the charge that rights are egoistic makes no sense; the very existence of the other places claims upon me. Equally senseless is the insistence one sometimes hears that we should think in terms of obligations rather than rights. If rights go, most obligations go.

To praise God for his justice is to praise God for honoring the rights of his creatures. God does not violate us. God does not treat us with disrespect for our worth. It would be perplexing indeed if God did. For we have the intrinsic worth we do have on account of being created thus by God. [emphasis mine]

One the other hand, God has the right to be honored. We do not honor God as we should. God has the right to be obeyed. We do not obey God as we should. We wrong God, deprive God of what he has a right to. God is victim of our injustice.

If God is wronged, then God is not impassible. That will lead some to conclude that God cannot be wronged. But I take divine forgiveness to be at the heart of the Christian gospel. And if God forgives, then God is not only capable of being wronged but has in fact been wronged. To say it one more time: one can forgive someone only if that person has wronged one and only for the wrong he has done one.


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