The Weight of Judgment
Christianity and the Criminal Law, eds. Norman Doe, Dick Helmholz, Mark Hill, John Witte, Jr. (London: Routledge), Forthcoming
17 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2020
Date Written: December 10, 2019
Criminal judgment inevitably entails mistakes used to justify violence. Is participating in judgment consistent with following Jesus Christ? This essay argues that Christians may participate in governmental judgment, but only with the faith that God uses human judgment, inherently rebellious, for good, and with hope in the coming kingdom that will put an end to judgment altogether. This essay frames the question by critiquing two answers proffered by the western Christian tradition, the “two-kingdoms” theory and the view that Christians must remain completely separate from secular government. It then argues that governmental judgment is best understood as an accommodation God makes to human frailty, to correct wrongdoing, in light of humanity’s rebellion against God. It is a stop-gap for a season while humanity rejects God’s rule, not an eternal aspect of human society with God. Christians may therefore participate in governmental judgment with eyes wide open to its failures and with a commitment to approximate truthfulness, exercise mercy, and suffer its imperfection in hope.
Keywords: law, theology, Christianity, judgment, legal ethics, political theory, criminal law
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