Christian Social Justice Principles Exploring the Concept of Justice


Throughout the month of February, the topic of justice has been widely discussed, particularly in the realm of social justice. However, these discussions often prove unhelpful, as they tend to close ears and solidify opinions based on ignorance. In this post, we aim to move the broader conversation on justice forward by posing questions and making valuable distinctions.

Biblical vs. Secular Justice

When it comes to justice, terminology often leads to the loss of substantive understanding. Debating between “biblical justice” and “social justice” is unhelpful because justice is inherently social. Attempts to define the word “justice” also tend to stall out as people can agree on the core aspects of the definition but disagree on its application. While we can all concur that justice concerns “what is right,” different parties dispute what exactly counts as right.

Among Christians, there is a frequent presumption that the distinction between biblical and non-biblical justice is obvious. However, this assumption is flawed. For example, some argue that biblical justice is about restitution or restoration, while worldly justice is about retribution. Yet, readers of the Bible know that God frequently imposes retribution upon his enemies, and conservative evangelicals base an entire atonement theory on God’s retributive justice. Additionally, numerous biblical passages emphasize the importance of making restitution, further complicating the argument. Christians themselves cannot even agree on the justice of reparations. Thus, the distinction between biblical and secular justice based on restitution and retribution falls short.

Tolerance of Injustice

During a recent small group discussion on justice, a common pattern emerged. When discussing specific issues, people began taking sides, and it was often not clear which side was correct. This ambiguity arises because both sides typically present valid arguments about how the world should be. For example, valuing black lives and valuing white lives are both important principles. Simultaneously, it is unjust for cops to shoot unarmed people, but they should also be respected for their tough jobs and the risks they take on behalf of society.

This pattern can be observed in various controversial topics and forms of hardship and suffering. In every case, some degree of injustice is at the root, and proposed solutions may raise questions about whether justice is being served for certain parties. Thus, all justice, at least for the time being, is proximate. This understanding prompts us to consider the degree of injustice we are willing to tolerate in our efforts to improve the world.

Seeking Biblical Justice

Returning to the supposed contrast between biblical and secular justice, we must consider a few key points:

  1. Biblical justice abhors all forms of injustice. When proposing solutions, it is crucial to recognize that certain injustices may remain unaddressed.

  2. It is possible for secular, non-Christians to pursue biblical justice without realizing it. Christians should not assume that they automatically seek biblical justice simply because of their faith. Cultural values influence us all, and it is possible for believers to lose sight of what is ultimately right.

  3. Many of our arguments could be enhanced if we read and accept the entirety of what the Bible teaches about justice, rather than pitting one text against another. It is important to examine our own tendencies to cherry-pick verses to support our arguments, rather than embracing the full scope of biblical teachings on justice.

In conclusion, the concept of justice is complex and multifaceted. Debates and discussions surrounding justice, particularly in the context of social justice, require careful consideration and a willingness to grapple with the nuances. By understanding the limitations of our definitions and acknowledging the inherent challenges in seeking justice, we can approach these conversations with greater empathy and open-mindedness. Ultimately, as Christians, we should strive to pursue biblical justice, recognizing its complexities and our own potential biases.