The Idea of Justice in Christian Perspective -- By: Jan Dengerink

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 39:1 (Fall 1976)
Article: The Idea of Justice in Christian Perspective
Author: Jan Dengerink

The Idea of Justice in Christian Perspective

Jan Dengerink

[Dr. Jan Dengerink is a Professor for Reformed Philosophy at the Universities of Utrecht and Groningen, the Netherlands, under the auspices of the Stichting Bijzondere Leerstoelen voor Calvinistische Wijsbegeerte. This article has been translated from the Dutch by Robert D. and Ali M. Knudsen.]

Nowadays we are confronted, anew and in an insistent way, with demands for justice, by all kinds of political and social organizations, by ecclesiastical institutions and action groups. In all kinds of ways, in particular by way of media such as the newspapers, radio, and television, attention is focused on those who truly or in imagination are discriminated against—peoples and races, the economically underprivileged, victims of totalitarian regimes, women oppressed through the ages, homosexuals, children burdened with parental or school authority, the workman who has been abandoned to the arbitrary decisions of the industrialists, etc. All of these are groups which, rightly or wrongly, have been thought to have come by way of all kinds of historical processes into what is in essence an inhumane situation.

This call for justice, both individual and communal, is very closely linked with the entire struggle for emancipation that during the last decades has spread like a tidal wave throughout the world. At its heart is the idea of the complete self-determination and the expression of the unique identity of peoples, societal groups, and individuals, together with the idea of the complete equality and equal worth of all peoples and/or individuals.

At the same time, it is remarkable that this striving towards self-determination and self-expression, towards equality, has often been paired, as if by an inner necessity, with explicit totalitarian tendencies. That is very clearly the case with a large number of decolonialized states in Asia and Africa. These totalitarian tendencies form a common front with the struggle to

establish national identity. In establishing this identity, the new governments do not restrict themselves to national politics. This identity is supposed to embrace the entire range of human existence, to extend to all of the so-called “sectors” of national life: nurture and education, culture, industrial life, etc. As a result the governments have occupied themselves very intensively with all of these “sectors,” even claiming for themselves absolute authority over them, without inquiring at all whether there were intrinsic limitations to their authority. Of itself, to be sure, this is understandable; because the new governmental authorities, having been brought up within traditional tribal patterns, were n...

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