Seeking for Justice

This was the title and theme of a sermon I preached recently. The two texts were Micah 3 and Matthew 25:31-46. I like the results enough to post the highlights on here for discussion.

As I did my homework for the sermon, I discovered that there are three basic forms of the concept of justice.

elijah___the_ravens1. Distributive Justice Concerned with the fair allocation of resources among members of a community.

• What should be distributed?

• Who should receive the things distributed?

• How should these things be distributed?

The principle says that every person should have the same level of material goods and services. It is most commonly justified on the grounds that people are owed equal respect and that equality in material goods and services is the best way to give effect to this ideal.

Because societies have a limited amount of wealth and resources, a question arises as to how those benefits ought to be distributed.

2. Retributive Justice Retributive Justice is a matter of giving people their just desserts.

  • In cases of wrongdoing, someone has lost certain benefits, while someone who does not deserve those benefits has gained them.
  • Punishment will set this imbalance straight.

Central to retributive justice are the notions of merit and dessert. This means that people who work hard deserve the fruits of their labor, while those who break the rules deserve to be punished. People deserve to be treated in the same way that they voluntarily choose to treat others.

Retributive justice is in this way backward-looking. Punishment is warranted as a response to a past event of injustice or wrongdoing. It acts to reinforce rules that have been broken and balance the scales of justice.

3. Restorative Justice

•Restorative justice is concerned with healing victims’ wounds, restoring offenders to law-abiding lives, and repairing harm done to interpersonal relationships and the community.

  • It seeks to involve all stakeholders and provide opportunities for those most affected by the crime to be directly involved and to respond to the harm caused.
  • A restorative justice process aims to empower victims to participate effectively in dialogue with offenders.

Victims take an active role in what takes place, as well as defining the responsibilities and obligations of offenders. Offenders also participate in this exchange, to understand the harm they have caused to victims, and to take active responsibility for it.

While fulfilling these obligations may be painful, the goal is not revenge, but restoration of healthy relationships between individuals, and in communities that have been most affected by the crime.

What is interesting is the correlation to the biblical accounts of Justice. It doesn’t take much work to fit the biblical narratives into one or more of these categories.

I found three four goals of justice as I worked through the materials:

  • Restoring the equilibrium of community (whether it is local or international)
  • Restoring the victim(s) from whatever level of injustice or oppression that they suffer to a proper relationship with God and others;
  • Restoring the oppressor/victimizer to a proper relationship with God and others, especially their victims;
  • Restoring the community and creation to its proper role and relationship with God.

By the way, the image at the top is from a painting by the Chinese Christian artist He Qi, called Elijah and the Ravens. His gallery is here. Take a look


Missionary Conquest

imageJust about the time you think it’s safe to tell someone you are a follower of Christ. I found this game on a website advertising board games, card games, puzzles, and other useful paraphernalia.

As one researcher has said, evangelical protestants seeking sanctified versions of everything from board games and television to rock ‘n’ roll. All part of a mentality that says that  ‘God wants me to have a fulfilling life here as well.’

The blurb by the company says:

Missionary Conquest

Don’t miss this exciting game of laughter and strategy! Travel around the world as a missionary and learn to finance your trips with wise investments. Good decisions and risks are major factors in this wonderful game. No Bible knowledge is required to play, win or to enjoy this game.

I especially like where it says, “learn to finance your trips with wise investments.” Of course, “no bible knowledge is required to play, win, or enjoy this game.” Just like real life.

On another, more serious note, David Bosch wrote in Transforming Mission,

If the “missionary text” of Greek Patristic period was John 3:16, and that of medieval Catholicism Luke 14:23, then one may perhaps claim that Romans 1:16f is the “missionary text” of the Protestant theological paradigm in all its many forms.

My question is, what is the “missionary text ” of the emerging/Postmodern era? I’m not sure what I’d say, but John 10:10 isn’t too bad:

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Let me know what you think.

Nothing New Under the Sun?

canaanite-Jesus Interesting news article that I found on Yahoo. It seems that the director of the movie Basic Instinct is writing a book.

“Basic Instinct” director Paul Verhoeven will publish a revisionist biography of Jesus in September, following more than 20 years of research.

The Dutch filmmaker, who has had a lifelong ambition to make a film about Jesus based on scientific research, claims that Jesus’ father was probably a Roman soldier who raped Mary during the Jewish uprising in Galilee. He also claims that Christ was not betrayed by Judas Iscariot.

Verhoeven decided to write the book to raise interest in his film project. Verhoeven, who turns 70 in July, has been a regular attendee of U.S. scholar Robert W. Funk’s Jesus seminars, which question miracles and statements attributed to Jesus.

There are a couple of interesting points here.

First, the qualifications of this person to do this kind of work is…?

  1. He is a film maker. Oh yes, that gives him a lot of credibility. What I like especially is that he decided to write the book to raise interest in his film project.
  2. He is a follower of Robert Funk and the Jesus Seminar.

Please forgive my cynicism, I have seen people with excellent investigative skills whose work is overlooked because they lacked the necessary pedigree, but this is a bit much. This kind of expertise is a Monty Python exercise in logic.

But the part I find interesting is the premise of his book, that is, Jesus was the bastard child of Mary, who was raped by a Roman soldier by the name of Panthera.

According to the discussion, for example, in Mary in the New Testament, By Raymond E. Brown and Paul J. Achtemeier (p262), there may some concurrence with or familiarity with biblical traditions, but these polemics contain little history.

Verhoeven’s claim that the Roman soldier named Panthera is probably based on a corruption of the Greek word for virgin (parqenoß), an accusation found in Celsius, and quoted in Origen:

“But let us now return to where the Jew is introduced, speaking of the mother of Jesus, and saying that “when she was pregnant she was turned out of doors by the carpenter to whom she had been betrothed, as having been guilty of adultery, and that she bore a child to a certain soldier named Panthera;”

But, the book will probably receive it’s 30 seconds of fame for its bold and daring premise, and will put Verhoeven along that other great biblical scholar, James Cameron.