Pastor Timothy Keller has written a series of articles on justice and race that includes: “The Bible and Race” (March 2020), “The Sin of Racism” (June 2020), "A Biblical Critique of Secular and Critical Theory" (August 2020), and “Justice in the Bible” (September 2020). Taken together, they form an insightful and cogent treatment of the thorny issue of race and racism, racial inequality and social justice, and how to view these hot button issues from an informed biblical perspective. A culturally-engaged pastor and solid bible teacher with a Doctor of Ministry from Westminster Theological Seminary, Tim Keller offers a robust biblical alternative to mainstream views on social justice.
You can read his third article on biblical justice here:
Drawing on Tim Keller's discourse, I agree with him that "... biblical justice is not first of all a set of bullet points or a set of rules and guidelines. It is rooted in the very character of God and it is the outworking of that character, which is never less than just." Keller cites Herman Bavinck in arguing that biblical justice is both retributive and reparative—punishing evildoing and restoring those who are victims of injustice—even though God's restorative justice is more prominent in Scripture than His retributive justice. The themes of biblical justice work themselves out in four facets: radical generosity, universal equality, life-changing advocacy, and asymmetrical responsibility.
Keller recommends twelve actions that one who is biblically-informed may adopt in their work for justice in our world, including starting with the church; working in the world; adopting hopeful patience; with informed listening; giving clear witness; being political but not partisan; liberating the conscience; going local; embracing complexity; learning from Christians of colour; tackling the elephant of "systemic racism"; and transforming power.
Reflecting on my own experiences of struggle against injustice both in Australia and Singapore, I could not help but identify with much of what Tim Keller is saying. There are many relevant events and experiences I could recount, some involving systemic racism while others involve personal confrontations with bullying behaviour or unfair treatment by those holding power and authority.
One salient experience comes to the fore—my experience with university managerial bureaucracy. Lacklustre leadership with scarcity of moral rectitude constitutes a fragile and insecure state of affairs. In such a situation, hiding behind the facade of rules and policies and procedures, especially shifting rubbery criteria, is an easy way out. A spirit of legalism often hides a deeper spirit of fear. This is not unlike the Pharisees of Jesus's own day. Unprofessional and unfair appraisal methods relying more on hearsay and gossip than factual assessments create an oppressive cloud of injustice. Unwillingness to entertain alternative ideas despite public display and rhetoric of innovation betrays the real agenda of conservatism and political cowardice.
Taken together, unfair judgements and bullying speech demonstrates a form of social injustice that requires both reparation and retribution from a biblical perspective. In writing this piece of reflection, I give voice to a situation of injustice which, though it might never be brought to light or ever made right, will give caution to myself and others to be mindful of systemic brokenness. Sadly, there are and will continue to be many instances of injustice in our world for which little if any reparation from the world is to be expected or forthcoming.
Yet, we must continue to work for justice, to speak truth to power in love, and to await the final retributive justice to come—from the One in whose hands only is found the final and perfect justice. This is resistance of the biblical kind, a conscious intentional resistance rooted not in sinful reactivity but in the wisdom of God. On that day, all tears will be wiped away and all wrongs will be made right. All wicked bullies will meet their just punishment, and all oppressed victims of wickedness will be vindicated and recompensed in exactly the right measure.
We eagerly await that day, even as we stand as witnesses to Christ for His rivers of justice to flow into this groaning pain-strickened world.