Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Justice and Morality

(Re-posted here in the main blog after a response to a comment)

You cannot separate justice and morality. The two are inseparable. Justice involves giving to and requiring from everyone that which is appropriate. Rights are uniform predispositions of justice. Being unjust is a sort of immorality. Moral principles, rules, and rights statements explain and define specific relationships - often stating what is owed or appropriate, either in positive or negative form.

You should not steal because that is taking what belongs to another. Stealing is violating your neighbor's right to property. Stealing is an act of injustice. Justice requires the thief to restore what has been taken, plus an appropriate penalty as retribution, example, and deterrent for the harm done to the order and harmony of relationships between humans and between God and humans.

Humans are obligated to be moral and just and respect the rights of others because they were created by God in His image, belong to God, and flourish in the order designed by God. Without God and His order humans are just bundles of chemicals. Why would they be entitled to dignity or privilege if that were all they were?

3 comments:

Lynn Green said...

Humans, if they were "simply chemicals" as you say, would be entitled to equal dignity because all humans are by nature equal. Yes, injustice is immoral because it is a violation of human dignity. Slavery is, and always was immoral, despite the fact that the Bible clearly allows for slavery in both the Torah and in the writings of St. Paul.

However, it is also unjust, and therefore immoral to deny someone his or her human rights simply because that person is a homosexual. This is true despite the fact that some religious faiths see homosexuality as immoral. (My faith does not. We not only perform gay unions believing them to be just and right, we also ordain ministers regardless of sexual orientation. We believe that God's justice demands this of us.)

Dean McConnell said...

There is only a “human nature” for all humans to share if there is a God who created humans according to one design, to be one kind of thing, with one status – which I believe is the case. Without God, there would be no “nature,” only will and power. Happily God is there and did make humans one kind of thing.

I am glad you see that injustice is immoral. I hope you will some day see that immorality is unjust.

You are correct that chattel slavery is and was immoral. The Old Testament did not allow southern style chattel slavery. In deference and compromise with social needs and realities the Old Testament law of Israel did allow a sort of bond slavery and the use of a kind of slavery as a substitute for prisons and prisoner of war camps. But even then slaves had to be recognized as human and treated as humans. The New Testament simply deals with the reality of Roman slavery; it does not endorse it as such. It is true that not everything that is immoral can or should be illegal in every society in all circumstances. Chattel slavery should be illegal in all places at all times. Other types of slavery should be illegal today because we have other, less morally risky ways of dealing with social problems like socially incompetent, chronically criminal, or permanently hostile people.

Homosexuals are human, entitled to human dignity, and entitled to human rights. Homosexual acts are sins (like adultery, theft, murder, misrepresenting God, worshipping false gods, coveting etc.) and should be understood as such by the church. Engaging in a lifestyle that endorses a sin or is built around a sin does not make a person less than human. Not all sins should be illegal. But neither society nor the church should not encourage sins by, say ordaining practicing and unrepentant drug addicts, or blessing incestuous unions, or appointing abortionists as church elders, or modeling the church growth plan on the teaching of P.T. Barnum. Respecting human dignity requires honesty about morality even while we engage in mercy and extend grace to our fellow fallen beings.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. McConnell,

I really love your enlightning postings. I've found a Latin Dictionary which I'd like to share with you and your readers.
Hope you like it.
Richard