“We must realize that the popular phrase ‘social justice’ is not merely a variant of justice—like civil justice or criminal justice. It is not the kind of justice one obtains when one’s property has been damaged. Or the kind of justice one sees when a robber is sent to jail.
“Social justice has nothing to do with justice as we know it. It represents a break with the Hebrew-Christian tradition of our ancestors and the rule of law.”
And for that matter, with the tradition of Classical antiquity: with the Greco-Roman tradition of law and justice; and even with the tribal laws and codes of justice of our Celtic and Germanic ancestors, which were nothing if not pragmatic and rooted in tradition.
This superb essay dates to 1988, but it is as relevant now as it was then – indeed, even more so. Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest!
“Traditional justice assumes a fallen, and permanently imperfect world where law is needed in order to encourage virtue and limit vice. For this reason, traditional justice relies on moral structures: family, civil force, church, constitution—in order to maintain just order. Since man is fallen, it recognizes that mere abstractions and ideals cannot govern man; but personal relationships, social duties, and civil authority, informed by Scripture and the Holy Spirit, must restrain his evil.
“Traditional justice is an unending process and is profoundly anti-Utopian. There will never be a point on this side of eternity when law will not be needed. The best world that the traditional justice view can create is a world where human beings are safe and free to conduct themselves together in an orderly fashion, pursuing their God-given gifts, and restraining their sinful tendencies. It is not a perfect world—it is a world with warts. But it is a world where one can be happy, productive, free, and content… even if it is a world where one must inevitably suffer and die…
“The world of social justice [in marked contrast] is of necessity revolutionary; for it must restructure the old traditional justice order by means of suspending the old duties and right relationships. And it must be coercive, for it must do this with or without the consent of those whose incomes are to be redistributed; and whose children are to be instructed in the new order.
“The worldview is Utopian. Justice is the creation of social structures which achieve the ideal state. The best world imaginable, and therefore attainable, is one of socialism, egalitarianism, and salvation through social structures. The aim of social justice is the establishment of the millennium—without God.
“Traditional justice, on the other hand, will eschew visionary millennialism. It will support the establishment of a moral, non-coercive society which defends the family and the dignity of property rights. Social justice, according to the values of traditional justice, is merely institutionalized injustice.”