Other Worldviews

A Society Where Justice Is Grounded in Preference

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 02/22/2022

In R.C. Sproul’s Surprised by Suffering, he comments on the implications for justice when a society rejects objective morality:

If there is no such thing as right and wrong, if there is no such thing as moral obligation, then there is no such thing as justness. If there is no such thing as justness, then ultimately there is no such thing as justice. Justice becomes a mere sentiment. It means the preferences of an individual or a group. If the majority in one society prefers that adultery be rewarded, then justice is served when an adulterer receives a prize for his adultery. If the majority in a different society prefers that adultery be punished, then justice is served if the adulterer is penalized. But in this schema, there is no such thing as ultimate justice because the will of an individual or of a group can never serve as an ultimate moral norm for justice. It can reveal only a preference.

And of course, this subjective view of “justice” as preference is exactly what many people assume these days when they accuse those who argue in terms of objective principles of making power plays—that is, they accuse them of hiding their true goal (i.e., maintaining the structures of power from which they benefit) behind nice-sounding words and “principles” that are merely being used to manipulate people into going along with their preferences.

These people have bitten the bullet of the loss of meaningful justice in a world without God, and they have turned it to their advantage, using it as a cudgel to discredit the arguments of those who have preferences different from their own. But of course, they excuse themselves from the charge of illegitimately using words and arguments to maintain their own preferences.

No society can continue long in this manner. If the inconsistency doesn’t tear the nation apart (with one set of rules for one side but not the other), consistency would make things even worse, for if everyone were to accept the idea that “principled” words are merely power plays, then arguments would cease to be attempted at all. No idea can be examined for truthfulness if there is no truth. Persuasion makes no sense if no one cares about comparing an idea to an objective standard. When an entire culture is given over to the idea that morality is relative (what Greg has called “The Primal Heresy”), the only way to promote one’s preference is by power plays. And so the claim made by those who say arguments are merely power plays ends up leading directly to mere power plays.

The lack of belief in objective morality—something that can only be grounded in the character of an objective God—is a poison that will ultimately destroy the ability of ideologically diverse people to live together. If this is to turn around, it must do so one person at a time, at the worldview level.

This is where you come in. Do our culture’s difficulties seem impossible to fix? They’re not. Since our issues can be traced back to false worldviews, you have what you need to make a difference: the truth. Arguing for the truth of Christianity not only saves souls (according to the work of the Holy Spirit), but it also transforms societies as people become conformed to truth and act accordingly. And even greater than doing good to your neighbor (both for their salvation and their society), your speaking the truth does what we were created to do: It glorifies God. The implications of your doing the simple yet steady work of an ambassador for Christ, speaking to one person at a time, with evident care for the truth, are incalculable.