Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Two Great Book Lists

Over at the amazing "Booknotes" blog by Byron Bolger of Hearts & Minds Bookstore, you'll find two important lists for every thinking Christian. Last week, it was the Top Ten Books on Christian Worldview. This week, it's Top Books on the Christian Mind.

My favorite on last week's list is Albert Wolters, Creation Regained, which is a readable and succinct defense of the Creation-Fall-Redemption paradigm for understanding culture and the role of the Christian in it. My favorite on the second list isn't on the second list, because Byron did not include my personal favorite on the topic, J.P. Moreland, Love Your God with All Your Mind (NavPress 1997). But I quibble. These lists ought to be the gold standard for evangelicals seeking guidance in faithful thinking about . . . . anything.

The only other book that may have been omitted is Mark Bertrand's forthcoming book Rethinking Worldview: Learning How to Think, Live and Speak in This World. But it's not out until October. I eagerly anticipate its arrival.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Righteousness and Justice

At Valparaiso University School of Law in April 1964, Jaroslav Pelikan delivered a short address based on Luther's Lectures on Galatians. The published version is entitled Justitia as Justice and Justitia as Righteousness:

From the Galatians I have selected one problem that baffled me almost daily as I was translating and that seems to me fundamental enough to warrant our close scrutiny here, that is, the distinction and the analogy between justice and righteousness. For behind both these words in English is one word in Luther's Latin, justitia, as there is one word for both in Greek and in Hebrew.

Pelikan explores the connections between and the distinctions of justice and righteousness. Relying on Galatians and Luther's interpretation of it, Pelikan develops the key questions about the relationship of the moral law of God-- required righteousness-- and the just operation of the law of man-- justice. Both are justitia.

Specifically, he asks, "What does the definition of justitia as righteousness in Luther's Galatians contribute to the definition of justitia as justice?" For those of us interested in the relationship of human and divine justice, this promises to be a helpful question. Pelikan develops some themes by way of fragments of an answer:

  • Perfection is really the serious and high demand of a holy God, not a wink, wink, nudge, nudge suggestion.
  • Indifference by men to the demands of the law "could undermine not only the justitia announced by the Gospel and conferred by grace, it would undermine the structures of society as well."
  • According to Luther, "Christian justitia consists in two things: first, in faith, which attributes glory to God; secondly, in God's imputation [i.e., of justitia] . . . not for our sakes or for the sake of our worthiness or works but for the sake of Christ Himself, in whom we believe."
  • Man's zeal for absolute justice, then, can lead to the height of injustice. Summum jus, summa injuria, in Cicero's epigram.

Pelikan concludes: "Therefore, a prerequisite for the achievement of the kind of justitia as justice that [is] attainable under the condition of fallen existence [is] a recognition of the unattainability of the absolute demand for justitia."

The lawyer, then, must recognize "the limits of his competence and the limited possibilities of justitia as justice."

And, I would add, the lawyer must have a theologically developed understanding of the jurisdiction and competence of the state and its relationship to other human jurisdictions, such as the family and the church. So much here highlights the significance of doctrine to law and government: what is the nature of God, the nature of the state, the nature of the human person? What, exactly, is justice? Plenty to think about and talk about for a lifetime.