The Pilgrim’s Pensieve #23

The fuss with judging

I began to write on one of those popular slogans that really bothers me, the whole “don’t judge” mantra. First of all, I wanted to tackle how grossly unbiblical it is, address some of the reasons why it is popular, and finally say what we lose out on when we get rid of judgment. What I thought will be a quick article to write up, as many of my posts turn out to be, became more complicated and challenging than I had anticipated. I had to wrestle with the larger issue of justice of which judgment is a crucial subset. I was hitting so many road blocks as I tried to say what I wanted through different approaches. Then it finally hit me. Though I recognized there needed to be conversation on the oft neglected virtue and power of justice, my own views on it had not matured enough to write incisively and coherently about it.

What brought the question of justice on to my radar in was the internal protestant debate between two schools of thought on Paul, the old perspective and the new perspective. In particular the controversy with N.T. Wright’s perspective on Paul and how he understands and translates the Greek word dikaosune in the apostle’s writing. Before this becomes too nerdy, dikaosune is the word translated as righteousness. It is important because it is crucial to the reformation flagship doctrine of righteousness or justification by faith alone. Now dikaosune belongs to a Greek word group that can have so many different nuanced meanings. Wright seeks to bring all these to bear in how Paul uses that word group in his writings, not restricting it to a purely forensic or legal sense as Protestants traditionally do. The problem, it seems to me, they have with Wright is that for him the forensic framework is secondary and subservient, not primary, in his assessment of Paul’s worldview. He doesn’t deny the courtroom analogy is present in Paul’s writing yet he does not think it is as important as Protestants have made it out to be in the last 500 years. (I just noticed that in trying to make it nerdy, I made it very nerdy.) If you know about Protestant theology you will get why this has rubbed many people the wrong.

The point I am making is that Wright points out that justice is a very big word that encompasses so many things because justice as a real thing is that important. Wright sees justice as something you do in the world not moral certification that is disengaged from the world. I agree with him that talk of justice does not feature in our conversations about righteousness, which is very odd since the two are obviously intertwined. We focus so much on being theological correct that our talk about righteousness has nothing to do with the real world. It is something spiritually that happens to us in Christ, makes me feel good to know I have it even though I was not deserving and that’s it.

Hopefully, in future posts I will be able to address the pop culture slogan and the weightier matters of righteousness and justice. For now I have to take my time and see what the Bible means by them and then I can move from there to what to make of it in the present.

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