Updated: May 20
September 27, 2019
It's too bad our talks together never explored the issue of morality and justice... As I would have enjoyed hearing your thoughts on right and wrong. You and I both at the time lived on a sort of moral auto-pilot - coasting, in effect, through early adulthood upon the values of our upbringing. To challenge these outright would come later...for me at least.
My own moral paradigm was grounded upon the values of a Christian world-view. Though I was not raised with any religious upbringing, I somehow adopted as true some moral assumptions which are easily traced back to Christian dogma and belief. One of these is the curious idea of vicarious redemption, as witnessed in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the behalf of all of us. This curious concept suggests that a scapegoat, in the form of God's only son, might be loaded up with the sins of everyone and then sacrificed to God as a final, grand and ultimate blood offering; an offering to end all offerings; an offering so great as to wash away the guilt, not only of Original Sin, but of any and all other sins we might perform; and not only for those who were alive in Christ's time, but for every human who would ever exist. Of course, there is a price we must pay to enjoy this blanket protection, a payment in the recognition of Jesus as God and savior, and in the sincere acceptance of His gift. A seemingly small cost for the undeserved gift of absolute forgiveness of any and all sins, no matter how terrible; all sins being washed clean through the simple act of saying yes to God. I was raised to believe this concept was good, and generous, and beautiful, and loving, and just.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16
This gift might indeed be good for those who receive it, and generous on the part of God, but is it just? I think not.
Justice is defined as "decisions and behavior according to what is right or wrong" and a just system of morality should demonstrate, foremost, a concern for the well-being of people In accordance with right and wrong. The Bible's old law - the law of Moses - does indeed take a stab at this and probably succeeds when viewed from the perspective of a Bronze Age people trying to codify behaviors designed to produce a more secure and stable society. For this reason, the moral foundations of the Jewish people - and Christians and Muslims as well to the extent that they recognize and observe the Old Law - are indeed just, even if we may not always agree with the laws from the perspective of our own modern values and cultural norms.
But what about the covenant of the New Testament? What about the deal struck between God and humanity whereby all sins are forgiven for the mere price of acquiescence to God's existence and our overt and willing request of salvation through grace? Is this system in any way just?
The concept of vicarious redemption utterly erases the Christian value of free will. For, what good is freedom if every choice but one leads to salvation? Christianity then, is bankrupt of justice at its core.
God's grand gift of salvation through Christ almost utterly erases the good efforts made by the Jewish people to codify a legal system of right and wrong, complete with consequence and penalties. This is what just justice is. The recognition by people of what constitutes good and bad behavior and then the setting up of a system of jurisprudence to administer the law among the people. Christ's offer of complete forgiveness of all sins utterly bypasses such a system and provides instead a get-out-of-jail free card for anyone willing to pay the price of belief. The system of moral justice on offer with Christianity then, is one in which a serial killer such as Ted Bundy - who murdered thirty woman and girls - is now enjoying paradise in the company of Jesus, while an innocent girl and victim of the Holocaust such as Ann Frank is burning in eternal hell-fire. This is not a sound concept or system of justice. And those who adhere to such an offering are doing nothing more than accepting an easy out to the hard challenge of tackling the moral questions of right and wrong in the open and public marketplace of ideas.
My name is Kurt Bell.
You can learn more about The Good Life in my book Going Alone.
Be safe... But not too safe.