In our last post, we began to consider what Jesus taught on the Biblical worldview of justice, which readers may review here: http://www.growingchristianresources.com/2021/07/p1-jesus-and-biblical-worldview-of.html
We noted that the first foundation for understanding justice is that it is grounded in the character and revelation of God Himself. Moral categories such as "justice" are what we call "objective truths", meaning that they are what they are regardless of what anyone may think, and they are the same across cultures, times and places. Justice is not some abstraction that exists independently of God, but rather is a perfection of which God is by His very nature. To put it another way, God is just because He is God. We not only live in a physical, but moral universe. Moreover, anytime we are dealing with morality, we involve persons. Years ago I learned the following moral argument for God's existence:
Premise one: If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
Premise two: Objective moral values and duties exist.
Therefore: God exists.
For there to be some sort of universal law, there is necessarily a Lawgiver and there are moral persons to whom such an objective morality is given as an obligation for them to live by. In today's post, we continue on developing our Biblical worldview of justice by noting the second important foundation for it - that human beings, both men and women, are made in God's image. We shall then close the post with final applications and resources for the reader to further reinforce their understanding.
What is meant by "made in God's image"
The first time we come across the idea of man "made in God's image" is in Genesis 1:26-
"Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
As theologians over the centuries have wrestled with what is meant by this term, three major ideas have emerged. The first possible meaning of "God's image" in man has to do with "exercising of authority" or "function". Men and women both appear to have the ability to cultivate and bring into order the creation around them and certain levels of the animal kingdom. Undoubtedly, the fall of human beings in Genesis 3 greatly impaired this functional element of the "image of God in man". Nevertheless, we still see this first meaning operative in humanity.
The second possible meaning to "made in God's image" (Latin "imago dei") is in how human beings are made for relationship with one another and with God - hence, a "relational" meaning. In Genesis 5:3, we read of how Seth, Adam's son -
"When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth."
As men and women relate to one another in marriage as God's image bearers, as well as with their children, we see how imperative it is for human beings to have social relationships. Also too, both men and women were created with the fundamental need to have a relationship with God. In the fall, the relationship Adam and Eve had with God was severed - resulting in man's profound spiritual and moral lostness (see Ephesians 2:12). Nevertheless, when Christ came into the world to provide salvation, the promise of salvation is at the moment of saving faith, this capacity to know God and relate to Him is restored to the redeemed man or women (see Colossians 3:10).
So we see a functional and relational meaning assigned to this idea of "imago dei" or "made in God's image. One more meaning is worth mentioning, and that is that the idea of man made in God's image has to do with each person's inherent "dignity". Genesis 9:6 has God issuing forth this command in his covenant with Noah -
“Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man."
Any form of premeditated taking of life in a criminal setting is defined by Scripture as murder, or destroying of a fellow image bearer. As the reader notes what is written below in regards to social issues such as "right-to-life" and "opposing racism", both issues deal with how fellow image bearers (whether unborn or different ethnicities) are to be treated with dignity due to the "imago dei" embedded in the biological and moral/spiritual nature that defines what it means to be "human" in male and females. With these functional, relational and dignity elements briefly defined as constituting what it means when we say "made in God's image" (or imago dei), we can now proceed to see how Jesus treated this issue with respect to a Biblical worldview of justice.
Jesus deals with dignity of human life or "man made in God's image"
Jesus comes upon a second scene and the Sabbath issue comes up again. Jesus raised the issue on the right to life and value of life in Mark 3:4 “And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent”.
The arbitrary, man-made tradition that claimed to “preserve what was right on the Sabbath” would had preferred the injustice of the man with a withered hand remaining unhealed by Jesus. Just as it was in Jesus’ day, true justice demands that all human beings, whether unborn, whatever ethnicity, whatever gender, are inherently valuable because of their being made in God’s image. But now, what happens whenever we reject the revelation of “true justice” for the arbitrary, man-made system of moral relativism in which society defines what is “just”?
The late Christian thinker Francis Schaeffer delivered a historic message in 1982 entitled “The Christian Manifesto”, in which he described what was going in our nation because of justice defined by man-made arbitrary law detached from God’s law:
“More frightening still, in our country, at our own moment of history, is the fact that any basis of law then becomes arbitrary -- merely certain people making decisions as to what is for the good of society at the given moment. Now this is the real reason for the breakdown in morals in our country. It's the real reason for the breakdown in values in our country, and it is the reason that our Supreme Court now functions so thoroughly upon the fact of arbitrary law. They have no basis for law that is fixed, therefore, like the young person who decides to live hedonistically upon their own chosen arbitrary values, society is now doing the same thing legally. Certain few people come together and decide what they arbitrarily believe is for the good of society at the given moment, and that becomes law.”
This dominance of arbitrary law, in its various forms, has operated in our nation for the last 125 years. Let me contrast the Biblical view of true justice with a slice of that timeframe to show the fruits of what arbitrary, moral relativism has done in getting us to where we are at. Let’s consider three major moral issues.
THE SANCTITY OF LIFE.
True justice and “God’s image in man” affirms the inherent value of the unborn. Exodus 21:21-23
“If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. 23 But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life”.
Passages such as Luke 1:15; Luke 1:35 and Galatians 1:15 respectively assert the personal identities of Jesus, John the Baptist and Paul in the womb. Anything that would had occurred to terminate these lives pre-term would had been understood as injustice or objectively wrong (notwithstanding, the unimaginable difference it would had made on the history itself!). This rightful opposition to abortion was increasingly fought against and overturned in the Roe vs. Wade decision of 1973. Arbitrary, societal law decided that the life of the mother was the priority, coupled with a denial of the personhood of the baby. Consequences? 62.5 million babies gone as of 2021.
MARRIAGE & GENDER.
Our Lord repeated the definition of marriage in Matthew 19:4-5
"And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?
This understanding of marriage, virtually unchallenged and universally recognized by all people everywhere for all time, increasingly eroded throughout the 2oth century. When our nation passed “no-fault divorce” in the 1960’s along with the rapid increase of “living together” cohabitation through the 1970’s, the rate of traditional marriages declined through the 80’s and 90’s. Sadly, the American church closely mimicked these trends. This opened the door for increasing demands for same-sex marriage (where sadly, increasing numbers of professing Christians are weakening and accommodating to the pressure).
In parallel to this, a legal theory, which became “critical theory”, emerged in the mid-twentieth century. Critical theory advocates that society is composed of “oppressors” and “the oppressed”. Critical theory’s view of justice is called “social justice”. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “social justice” as:
“justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.”
In short, “social justice” is what society says it is in terms of “equal goods and privileges” rather than “objective right and wrong” as defined by true justice.
Thus, when Critical theory is applied to marriage, legal leverage is pushed to demand equal access to societal and economic benefits of marriage for same-sex couples, resulting in proponents of traditional marriage being deemed as “oppressors”. Similarly, whenever Critical Theory is applied to matters of gender, we have the LBGTQ movement, which asserts that the Biblical and traditional view of gender is “oppressive”; that gender is a matter of one’s choice as defined by society; and that all public spaces need restructured to accommodate those persons who identify themselves by any gender. Despite the signing of the “Defense of Marriage Act” in 1996, which denied federal recognition of same-sex marriage, two landmark Supreme Court Cases (United States v. Windsor (2013) and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) overturned the act, paving the away for what is now uniform federal endorsement of same-sex marriage.
Scripture uniformly denounces racism. Jesus Himself treated the Samaritan woman at the well with dignity equal to his own (Samaritans were an ethnicity hated by the Jews). The Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 featured the Holy Spirit poured out on 17 different ethnicities, opening the doors for anyone in any nation to hear and believe the Gospel. Galatians 3:28 expressly states:
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
The Bible affirms the beauty and equality of all ethnicities as part of one human race, as captured in the song of Revelation 5:4 “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”
A Judeo/Christian framework (not meaning that every founding father was a Christian, but rather had a working understanding of a Judeo-Christian ethic) informed our nation’s founding. For instance, the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Martin Luther King Jr. fought for Civil Rights with this same Judeo/Christian view of true justice as seen in an excerpt from his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail:
“I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all." Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality."
Anytime true Biblical justice is replaced by arbitrary justice, injustice will result. Now I have mentioned already the arbitrary, man-made theory of law called “critical theory”. When critical theory is applied to issues of race, we have “Critical Race Theory” (CRT), which in principle undoes any progress made in past civil rights efforts. How? Such an arbitrary view of justice sows seeds to further alienate people, rather than encourage true listening to one another and working together, since it puts at odds those who are deemed “white” and classified as “systemically and irretrievably racist” from those who are the “oppressed”. We can never expect true dialogue whenever only one group is allowed to speak and the other is forced to remain silent. Furthermore, CRT neither affirms God’s existence (let alone an eternal foundation for justice); nor does it envision human beings as made in His image. This can never work with a Biblical worldview of justice nor provide help in interpreting Scripture.
These key areas all touch upon the importance of understanding the eternal basis and application of true justice. Furthermore, just as Jesus’ teaching on justice and the inherent dignity of human beings contrasted with the arbitrary laws of the Pharisees; the Bible-believing Christian needs to make sure they understand a Biblical view of justice if they expect to navigate the increasing cultural pressure and indoctrination of our current generation; preserve Biblical marriage as that of one man, one woman; and oppose evils like racism and abortion-on-demand.
How we can begin to apply Jesus’ Biblical worldview of justice.
In the recent SBC 2021 convention in Nashville, there were major discussions about so-called “Critical Race Theory” and efforts to express resolutions banning abortion. As I see it, the mettle of our SBC is undergoing a major season of testing. The convention passed the so-called “Resolution 9” in 2019 which affirmed the usefulness of Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality as a tool for studying scripture. The key phrase in the controversial resolution is found in its second "resolved" section:
RESOLVED, That critical race theory and intersectionality should only be employed as analytical tools subordinate to Scripture—not as transcendent ideological frameworks."
I hope readers understand how important I think it is to oppose evils such as racism. If for anything, the reason why I wrote on this topic of articulating a Biblical Worldview of Justice was to lay out how such a worldview aids in combatting such evils, since Scripture itself is sufficient for affirming the equality of value and dignity of every ethnicity. Since we have seen what a Biblical Worldview of Justice looks like, it is for that reason that I can express that the SBC should never had passed resolution 9. Why? Like trying to mix oil and water, critical race theory and a Biblical worldview of justice cannot fit together.
Christians must have a Biblical worldview of justice, based upon the sufficiency of scripture, if they expect to fight evils such as racism and defend the rights of the unborn and defend Biblical marriage. Despite the efforts of some this year to get the Convention to rescind that resolution so as to express a clear statement on the sufficiency of Scripture in fighting evils like racism, such efforts failed. Another, more broadly worded resolution was passed, yet, it failed to decry what should had been the taking down of “Resolution 9”.
Another resolution was proposed by one pastor that would had overtly had the SBC uniformly call for a ban on abortion. Those present at the Convention felt that affirming another resolution against abortion was unnecessary, since the SBC has historically opposed abortion in principle and at different points throughout its history. I am thankful to the Lord that the SBC still affirms its general pro-life stance, however, in the wake of the persistent march of secularism, a fresh clear statement that lays out the Biblical Worldview of justice, with respect to the unborn, would had served to propel the SBC's pro-life commitments.
These are indeed trying times. I pray for our new SBC president (Ed Litton) and leadership, since the next several years could reveal whether or not the SBC will continue to hold the line of commitment to Biblical inerrancy and sufficiency, uphold stances on issues such as I mentioned in today’s post and retain the urgency to win as many souls to Christ as possible.
For those of us who are followers of Jesus, how can we begin to develop and apply the sort of Biblical worldview about justice and humanity taught by Jesus in Mark 2-3?
1. Pray for our leaders, in both church-life and the government. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 - "First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity."
2. Petition law-makers to not vote for ungodly legislation that could become law. The website of “New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedom”, albanyupdate.com, has resources which give the latest news on legislation which impacts major ethical and moral issues of our day.
3. Pursue a Biblical worldview of justice, as Jesus taught. A great resource I would recommend, which I endorse and have signed, is the “Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel”, which is linked here: https://statementonsocialjustice.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/SSJG-FINAL.pdf).