Dr. Thaddeus Williams
What did the Spanish Inquisitors, the Gestapo, the KKK, and the Marxists all share in common? Two things. First, they all believed they were making the world a better place, and second, they all had deep and fatal misunderstandings about what makes us human. Get human nature wrong and you will get justice wrong.
So who’s got human nature right? Allow me to lay my cards on the table. I believe that if you dig deep enough, you can find kernels of insight into the human condition from many worldviews. I also believe that some belief systems are greater than others when it comes to justice. Freedom > Fascism, Democracy > Totalitarianism, Christianity > Communism, for example.
Of the near infinite ways of interpreting reality, I am also convinced that the worldview of Jesus has more true justice-generating power than any other worldview the world has ever known. Who’s got human nature right? Jesus does.
‘But,’ asks the eye-rolling skeptic, ‘what about all of the horrible injustices done in Jesus’s name over the millennia?’
That’s a great question. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in theology to see that hunting heretics, burning “witches,” sending kids to fight crusades, wearing bed sheets to lynch black people, and a thousand other "church"-sponsored injustices are fundamentally incompatible with everything Jesus stood for. In every case, from the Crusades to the KKK, you will find that the perpetrators of injustice rejected one or more of these seven core truths Jesus taught about being human:
1. People, whether as individuals or as governments, are not supreme. God is.
2. People make the world better not by tribal warfare, but by unity-in-diversity relationships powered by the Holy Spirit.
3. People’s hearts are corrupt and clogged with evil. We desperately need supernatural heart surgery.
4. People should love God with our minds, and, therefore, truth, facts, and evidence matter.
5. People’s guilt is extinguished not by their own activism or social group identity, but by finding their deepest identity in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
6. People thrive best not when they invent their own meaning and value, but when they tap into their irreducible value and meaning as God’s image-bearers.
7. People should join Jesus on a mission of liberation, not extermination.
When people have taken Jesus at his word—when they have embraced his insights about the supremacy of God, the brokenness of man, our need for saving grace, for transcendent truth and meaning, for supernatural heart transformation, for a liberating life mission—then real justice happens.
Dr. Thaddeus Williams is an author, a pastor, and professor in Southern California. He earned his Ph.D. in Theology at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam, and holds an M.A. in Philosophy of Religion from Talbot School of Theology. Dr. Williams has lectured in seminaries and churches throughout Nepal, Francis Schaeffer’s L'Abri Fellowships in Holland and Switzerland, along with churches and conferences throughout the United States. He currently serves as Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Biola University and the author of REFLECT: Becoming Yourself by Mirroring the Greatest Person in History The above post is an excerpt from his book “21 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice” (forthcoming 2019).