Recently we had a short essay on “distributive justice” accepted by Light and Heat Ministries. You can find the piece here. The point was one we’ve made many times in this blog: that “distributive justice” does not mean redistribution of existing wealth on the basis of need, but that each participant in a common endeavor receives output in strict proportion to the relative value of his or her input. Redistribution may be essential as an expedient in an emergency, but it is not a solution to growing wealth and income gap, or to widespread poverty.
Naturally there were some objections. At least one commentator objected that, according to his understanding of God’s law, redistribution is, in fact, a solution, and one mandated by God’s command. The rich, because they clearly obtained their wealth dishonestly, are not entitled to keep it. The State should redistribute existing wealth on the basis of need, and the world would run perfectly, as God intended.
The commentator revealed that he and we are coming from two different paradigms. He seemed to assume as a given that anyone who is rich became so dishonestly. The rich have obviously broken God’s law. It is therefore proper to divest the rich of their presumably ill-gotten gains.
These assumptions raise three key questions that must be answered, not merely taken as assumptions. We’ll address the first one today, and the other two in subsequent postings.
One, how do we know that what we want enforced is God’s law? This is a trick question.
The answer is that we can only accept something as divine revelation on faith. We cannot know it by knowledge.
As far as relations between human beings as human beings are concerned, God’s law is a matter of opinion. The law, however, whether human or divine, requires a fact, not opinion.
Within the confines of human society, then, we are limited to man’s law, not God’s. True, human law must be based on God’s law to be just, but human law is based on God’s law mediately, that is, indirectly. Human law is “mediated” through human nature, created in God’s image and likeness. Human law is therefore based immediately (directly) on human nature, but only mediately (indirectly) on divine Nature.
That being the case, it is grossly improper for any human being as a human being to claim either to enforce God’s law, or demand that it be enforced with the coercive power of the State.
The bottom line here is that, in human terms — and this discussion is clearly framed within the parameters of human society, not relations between God and man — we cannot state with the required level of proof (or proof at all) that what we demand enforcement of in such cases is actually God’s law.
Proof is a certain conclusion drawn from reason and empirical evidence; it is a demonstration that something is manifestly true. Faith, however, applies to that which is not manifestly true, and therefore not subject to proof, that is, establishment of something as a fact.
This creates not a paradox, but a contradiction: how can we claim to enforce God’s law, or demand that God’s law be enforced, when we do not know with the required level of certainty that what we demand to be enforced is, in strict point of fact, actually God’s law?
Nor is that the only problem, as we will see in tomorrow’s posting.