Monday, January 27, 2014

Charity, mercy and social justice

[Previous post here]

That charity must not be justice in order to be charity is something sadly controverted in our day. From within supposed Reformed and Evangelical circles, we have Tim Keller who has muddied the waters and attempted to steer people towards embracing the Leftist notion of "social justice," which has nothing to do with real justice at all.

The main focus of "justice" is basically giving people what they deserve. Someone breaks the law, they are punished for doing so. Especially in Christian theology, the notion of justice is tied in with notions of works and merit. God exercises His justice when He punishes sinners, because sinners sin and their sins deserved to be punished. Justice is purely an external of giving another his due.

Charity on the other hand as it is used is often linked with mercy. Mercy by definition must be unequal. A judge who acquits the innocent is NOT being merciful to the acquitted. Mercy is always to the undeserving, either in withholding punishment or in giving undeserved aid. To speak of "merited" mercy is an oxymoron. God in His grace in His mercy withholds the punishment due to sinners who turn in faith to Christ. Those sinners do not deserve the mercy; it is purely unmerited. Mercy and charity is thus antithetical to justice and law, the former pair being unmerited and the latter pair merited.

It is with this understanding that we see how terrible Keller's leftist socialist idea of "social justice" is. By calling charity and mercy "justice," Keller has turned something unmerited into something merited. In other words, whereas in the older understanding charity is something given by people out of their care and concern, charity in Keller's leftist system is an entitlement for the poor. The poor could demand charity, as is the case in socialist states. When charity is seen as an entitlement, then what we have as an example today are the socialist countries of Europe, where people give much to charity involuntarily through the State.

So, when Keller tried to equate "justice" and "righteousness," he commits many fallacies in his eisegesis of Job 29:12-17. No one controverts the fact that "justice" and "righteousness" are very similar and could function as synonyms. But synonyms may not necessarily have the same meaning all the time, and when we go into the details, then the differences between similar words can be seen. "Justice" is focused on the external, while "righteousness" is an internal quality. Righteousness does manifests itself in justice, and thus the two can and are often used interchangeably. But just because righteousness does manifests itself in justice does not mean that it cannot consists of other things like love. When the focus is on obligations of people, then the differences between the two terms appear. It is one thing to say it is righteous to aid the poor, and another thing to say that aiding the poor is justice, as what Keller has done. Keller, and those who follow him, have committed logical and etymological fallacies in equating righteousness with justice. While the two terms can e used as synonyms, they are not always the same thing.

The concept therefore of "social justice" is nonsensical. What it leads to logically are socialist states and economies. Instead of spreading the wealth, socialism only spreads the poverty around, being based upon faulty economics.

p = "righteous," q = "just, justice," r = "love, charity, mercy"

If p, then q; If p, then r
Keller's claim: If q, then r; q = r (Both invalid)

Truth table:

  1 2   Conclusion:
p q r If p, then q If p, then r 1 & 2 If q, then r q = r
T T T T T T T T
T T F T F F F F
T F T F T F T F
T F F F F F T T
F T T T T T T T
F T F T T T F F
F F T T T T T F
F F F T T T T T

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