On the walls of the Jefferson Monument there is a quote by Thomas Jefferson that states “ I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” There is an insatiable desire within every human for true ultimate justice – consider the following scenario’s.
Scenario #1: For an hour or more you have been stuck in traffic. The line creeps forward ever so slowly. It is obvious that there has been a horrible accident or a massive construction project but people are civil as the merge and inch forward. Leaving a reasonable safety zone in front of the next car, you near closer to the break-point. All the sudden you glance into your side mirror to see a driver in a white sports car driving along the berm and then veer in front of you forcing you to slam on your breaks to avoid a fender bender. Something within you causes you to bristle and then seethe with anger as you glare at into the white Audi R8’s tail-lights just in front of you. What is more insulting is he was flipping you off while he was making his quick cut-off maneuver edging just in front of you and the hundreds of others who are patiently waiting in the merge lines.
Scenario #2: You are watching a television program called NBC Dateline when you see Stone Phillips interview the convicted mass murderer Jeffery Dahmer. He calmly confessed to killing and mutilating seventeen people. During his trial in Wisconsin, he confessed to murdering 15 victims and was convicted. Perhaps even more disturbing are the gruesome facts he discloses. He calmly admits to torturing and cannibalizing some of his victims. Like many serial killers, Dahmer lured them into his car or home only to murder them in cold blood. His fixation with sexual gratification and then his obsession to kill was growing as time went on. As you hear of the gory details and his twisted deviant behaviors each account only gets more depraved as you watch in absolute horror. It is sickening and horrifying. What is most gripping are the interviews with some of the victim family members. His sentence of 15 life terms seems to be so minimal compared to his unspeakable depraved acts. How could those poor families ever find peace? What causes a person to become a serial killer who practiced such despicable and twisted behaviors? How can there ever be a true sense of ultimate justice?
There is within the human soul is a longing for justice. No matter if it is a desire for personal justice or human justice we all have this instinctive desire for things to be ultimately made “right.” C.S. Lewis stated
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I gotten this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying tat the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning; just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.[i]
Lewis makes a grand case for the existence of God using the moral argument from our universal human longing for justice. Why would we have a sense of injustice if there was no such thing as justice? Lewis’s primary point and argument makes the case that since there is a universal desire for justice there is within the soul of every human being an innate understanding that there is one who will ultimately make things right or just. Penalizing those who perpetrate evil and exonerating those who are innocent. We all have a longing to be in a place where there is no evil or evil doers. Scripture has conveyed this idea – that there is an ultimate destination of no evil in a place called paradise or heaven. It is a place where evil does not exist and perfection is the norm. Evil can never penetrate heaven because if it did… it would no longer be paradise. We all long for a day and time when we experience ultimate justice. As Peter Kreeft has stated, Heaven is the heart’s deepest longing. [ii]
There is just one big problem.
Some believe that God does not exist. Consequently, there is no heaven or hell and there is no such thing as an ultimate judge of right and wrong. There is no one who can or will hold anyone definitively accountable. When the end comes….. nothing. Our longing for ultimate justice is simply a pipe-dream or fairy-tale according to the Atheist. In fact, the only thing that really counts is the here and the now. If atheism is true, one has to wonder what is the point of anything? Is there any meaning beyond my own self-gratification and fulfillment at that particular moment? Under the Atheistic belief system it is plausible that one might seek to be a kind person, a humanitarian or a good citizen because it may make one feel good at the point of time. It also plausible that another person might seek to be a bad person, one who commits atrocities or a common criminal acts and they too do those things to make themselves feel good at the moment. Other than “social stigma” – it does not matter. In fact, one could make a case that if one does not do what he believes is in his own best interest and makes himself feel good over a larger interest supremely – he is not fulfilling his ultimate duty. If this view is true then in the end one must ask, is there really any difference between Mother Teresa and Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, Hitler, or Jeffrey Dahmer? The Atheist must answer no.
The traditional orthodox Christian view is that there is a God who is all-knowing, and the epitome of pure unbiased justice. Further, at some point in time there is a promise that there will be a final judgment, a time when nations, leaders, and all people will be held accountable for good and evil thoughts and deeds (Matt 25: 31-46). Nothing will escape the point and time of final justice and all forms of “unrighteousness” will be judged (Romans 1:18, 14:12). God’s very nature demands and requires ultimate justice (Gen 18:25, Ps 50:6). So the natural longing that we have for justice to take place is within our soul because as humans we were made and designed in God’s image and likeness. It is fully natural for us to have this longing and hope.
In the end, we all face our demise and death will visit us. What do you believe? What are you willing to stake eternity on? There really is no middle ground. Will there be a time when ultimate justice is dispensed by a Supreme all knowing God who is obligated to fairly and righteously judge humanity or is their nothing beyond the grave that holds people accountable in terms of ultimate justice? This is just one of the big questions of life all people must answer one way or another. If you have never thought through the implications of this question perhaps it is worth some time to ponder.
[i] Mere Christianity: C.S. Lewis; Book II, Chapter 1, pgs 45-46 Touchstone Book, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 1980
[ii] Heaven, The Hearts Deepest Longing; Peter Kreeft, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, California, 1980.