THE JUSTICE OF GOD
This article analyzes the views on God’s justice of Albrecht Ritschl, Hermann Cremer, Karl Barth, and
ungel, which presuppose that God’s essence is love and that the justification of the sinner
reveals God’s justice. Four problems with this approach are discussed: its essentialist framework; its
understanding of God’s divinity as love; its neglect of other forms of God’s justice; its one-sided interpreta-
tion of the biblical notion of justice. On the basis of the variety of God’s just acts in relation to a variety of
people, an alternative understanding of God’s justice is proposed, in which God’s attributes are under-
stood as distinct identity-defining properties of himself.
In this paper, I would like to explore a new understanding of God’s justice, because
I think the predominant view on God’s justice in contemporary theology is flawed in
some important respects. I begin by analyzing the current approach to God’s attrib-
utes in general, and to the concept of divine justice in particular. In the second sec-
tion, I argue that the current view poses some serious problems that cannot be
resolved in its own conceptual framework. Therefore, in the last section, I propose
an alternative framework and attempt a new understanding of God’s justice. Before I
do this, I make two preliminary remarks about the character of talking about God.
First, to say that God is just is to give a description of God. But God cannot be
described in the way objects of this world can be described. God is a mystery which
remains incomprehensible for us. God is semper maior than anything we can think
and say about him. Therefore, a complete and exhaustive description of God’s attrib-
utes is impossible. But a partial description is not by definition an inadequate
description. A description of a property is adequate if it does specify enough central
aspects of that property to enable us to distinguish that property from other proper-
ties. An incomplete description can be adequate. Therefore, the fact that no complete
description of God’s properties can be given does not imply that an adequate
description of God and God’s properties is impossible.
Protestantse Theologische Universiteit, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam, NETHERLANDS
Jan Muis, “Can Christian Talk about God be Literal?,” Modern Theology 27, no. 4 (October 2011): 601–2.
2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Modern Theology 34:3 July 2018
ISSN 0266-7177 (Print)
ISSN 1468-0025 (Online)