What Must Be True for Ultimate Justice to Exist?

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 02/23/2022

Those who recognize, through their experience of the world, that justice isn’t merely a matter of preference (see yesterday’s post) but, rather, is objectively real should ask themselves, what must be true for ultimate justice to exist? Here’s what R.C. Sproul says in Surprised by Suffering (summarizing Immanuel Kant’s argument):

[Kant] argued that for the moral sense of duty to be meaningful, there must be such a thing as justness. For justness, or right and wrong, to be meaningful, there must be justice. Thus, justice serves as a necessary condition for moral obligation to be meaningful….

If ultimate justice is to be had, the first requirement that must be met is this: we must survive the grave. If we do not survive the grave, and if justice is not served perfectly in this world, then justice is not ultimate and our sense of moral obligation is a meaningless striving after the wind. If ultimate justice is served, we must be there to experience it….

A second necessary condition for ultimate justice is the presence of an ultimate judge. But no ordinary judge will do. For ultimate justice to be ensured, the judge must have the proper characteristics.

First of all, the judge himself must be perfectly just. If there is a moral blemish in the judge’s character, then chances are his judgments will be tainted and our quest for perfect justice will fail….

For perfect justice to be ensured, the perfect judge must have perfect knowledge. In a word, the perfect judge must be omniscient lest some relevant detail escape his notice and distort his verdict….

If a perfect decision is rendered, it still must be carried out…. For perfect justice to be carried out, the judge must have the power necessary to see that justice is truly served. He must have enough power to withstand any attempt to disrupt the flow of justice…. Therefore, the perfect judge must have perfect power. He must be all-powerful, or omnipotent….

Nothing less than a morally perfect, omniscient, immutable, eternal, and omnipotent God can insure that our moral sense of obligation is meaningful. No God, no justice. No justice, no ultimate right and wrong….

Therefore, Kant argued for the existence of God and for life after death on practical grounds. He maintained that we must make these two assumptions if justice is to have any basis.

Kant realized that such practical considerations do not “prove” the existence of God. He was saying only that if life is to be meaningful, there must be a God who ensures justice. These considerations prove only that if my sense of right and wrong are meaningful, then God must exist. [Emphases added.]

Many who don’t believe in the existence of God care a great deal about justice. It’s only with fear and trembling that I call them to consistency by pointing out how their concern for justice can’t be sustained by their relativism and/or atheism, because for every person who realizes, “By Jove, the reality of justice as a meaningful concept points to objective morality and the existence of God!” you’ll have at least one other person who concludes, “Well then, I guess justice doesn’t really exist after all.” The logic can be followed in either direction and still be internally consistent (though the second contradicts our experience of reality), and I would rather share a society with inconsistent atheists who care about true justice than with consistent atheists who reject the idea that justice is a meaningful concept.

However, I don’t think pragmatically withholding the truth in the interest of creating a better society is ever the right thing to do. Instead, we ought to challenge people who hold this inconsistency, speaking the truth clearly, and then leave the response in God’s hands. He may use our words to bring about repentance, or he may use our words to harden their hearts for the purpose of revealing his righteousness in judgment. We can’t know what will happen, but we can trust him to carry out his own good purposes through our efforts.