Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Does Justice Require Love?

A few posts back, I wrote about the relationship between moral supererogation and Jesus' ethical demands. I was fumbling in the dark, looking for wiser words on the subject. My request may have been answered through an article in Books & Culture by Miroslav Volf (can't find it online, unfortunately, so you'll have to seek it out in the real world). Volf reviews the books Justice and Justice and Love (forthcoming) by Nicholas Wolterstorff--

Okay, while adding links to this post, I found out that Wolterstorff was born in Bigelow, Minnesota (pop. 231). Bigelow is ten miles away from my home town, which means, of course, that we mocked it and its inhabitents mercilessly. Yet it spawned a crazy-smart philosopher. My mind has been blown.

Moving on, Volf praises these books highly but suggests his own refinements to a Christian understanding of these two imperatives.

Seriously, I cannot believe he's from Bigelow. Home of the Tuesday Taco night (at the local bar) and Yale philosophers.

I don't have the review in front of me now, but Volf's argument brings up some of the tensions I mentioned in my post. He argues that justice has a prior or broader claim on us than does love. We owe it to others to give them justice, but we don't owe it to them to forgive them for treating us unjustly. But by the end of the article, he has grounded justice in love (particularly the love that God shows to all people). I don't remember exactly how he got there--philosophers and theologians usually leave me in the dust. But I'm curious to revisit the argument.

Especially because of the Bigelow connection. Seriously. Search the Scriptures yourself: nobody comes from Bigelow.

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