Thursday, August 6, 2020

In his article A Biblical Critique of Secular Justice and Critical Theory, Tim Keller analyses existing law systems. He describes their characteristics and weaknesses. It is fascinating to see how many illustrative examples we can find in the Bible. He explains why a system of moral values is needed and why religion is important.

Keller defines a “Spectrum of Justice Theories” where he differentiates four fundamental legislation systems, aligning them on a scale between “individualistic” and “collectivistic”:






“A just society promotes individual freedom.”



“A just society promotes fairness for all.”



“A just society maximizes the greatest happiness for the greatest number.”



“A just society subverts the power of dominant groups in favor of the oppressed.”

Yes, Christian faith trains us to evaluate our law systems. It invites and encourages us to judge our judges, to ask whether a given law is good.

While all this is great, one thing disturbs me. I disagree with Keller’s way of arranging the components. He seems to suggest to use the bible as a law book. He somehow leaves the impression that this would be a solution. Or is it only me having a biased reading? What Keller calls “biblical justice” cannot be a replacement or alternative for the named human law systems. The Bible is not a law book, it is rather a meta law book, i.e. a documentation of historical law systems, their successes and failures.

So my conclusion maybe is not exactly that of Keller: the Bible does not want not become a secular law (“Give to the emperor what’s the emperor”, “If somebody forces you to walk one mile, then walk two”), but it provides a moral compass, a system of concepts and values, which makes political discussions about secular laws more productive. Politicians without a common religion are like a group of people trying to do some job without having a common working language.