Tuesday, March 11, 2008
This is in essence the first post of what will probably be several over the course of the next few weeks. The first introductory comment was earlier under the title of "Retributive Justice." I should probably keep using that title and differentiating by using numbers as I go along, but I feel the need for a bit more introduction before delving into specifics.
By definition, retributive justice is the theory or idea that proportionate punishment is a morally acceptable response to crime, regardless of whether the punishment causes any tangible benefits. Now, we can certainly argue (and people do) over what constitutes a tangible benefit. And we can discuss the relative merits and problems with the other views of justice out there. We can discuss mixtures of the various theories, and most people's thinking on this subject is probably made up of a mixture of various ideas they have learned in life.
Regardless of the different theories of justice out there within law and academia, as a Christian believer, I have to go to a different source for defining true justice and discussing its ramifications. My search for the meaning of justice begins with Scripture, the Word of God.
We see the concept of justice right at the outset in Genesis. The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die"(Genesis 2:16-17).
Right there, God sets a standard, or a rule. A law, if you will. He also issues a warning. If this law is violated, there will be a consequence. As Creator, God has the absolute right to set the standards of behavior or rules of engagement for His creation. He has the absolute right to set penalties and punishments. He has the absolute right to judge. And we all know what happened. Adam and Eve violated God's commandment, and there had to be a consequence for their disobedience.
It is there that we have to begin. If you notice, Adam and Eve weren't diagnosed with an illness or disorder. They weren't given a pill or excused. There weren't any ridiculous social engineers or babblers around to blame the actions of the couple on their environment or economic situation. They did try to do a bit of buck passing, and maybe that inspired generations to come. Who knows. But they didn't get away with it. Court was in session and the Judge brought the gavel down hard.
It seems a rather bleak place to end for today, doesn't it? Don't worry, there's light at the end of the tunnel. But we're not there yet.