Pursuing Justice: The Call To Live & Die For Bigger Things, by Ken Wytsma
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Press in exchange for an honest review.]
This particular book offers a biblical approach to justice as foundational to God’s ways that seeks to bridge the gap between theological liberals who are a part of the social gospel movement and fundamentalists who have tended to focus exclusively on personal morality apart from any larger social concerns. Both of these extremes, apart from the other, represent a classic satanic false dilemma of orthodoxy versus orthopraxy, when both justice and personal morality are required . The eighteen chapters and 300 or so pages of this book are a very patient exploration of justice in many facets, pointing on the relationship between justice and love and mercy and a detailed explanation of many biblical passages that equate justice with righteousness, pointing to justice as not only the avoidance of harm, but the active action of outgoing love and concern for others, particularly those who are the most vulnerable, like foreigners and fatherless children and the poor.
This particular book manages to avoid many of the pitfalls of its less wary competitors by seeking to avoid guilt trips and presenting only one way for someone to behave in a just fashion, but pointing out the seriousness of the responsibility of living justly in one’s own circumstances based on one’s own gifts, with an eye towards a larger and more complicated picture in which justice (or injustice) can be shown in all walks of live. One of the more poignant stories in this particular book is the story of a man from the Democratic Republic of Congo who came to speak at the author’s daughter’s Oregon elementary school only to be asked questions about fancy clothing and PlayStations, not aware that a rare metal used in the Sony PlayStation led to atrocities and exploitation in the man’s homeland, where the people did not have the PlayStation but suffered so that it could be made. The author dwells repeatedly on issues of slavery (including the horrors of Elmina Castle and the rape of young women there enslaved by Europeans) as well as sexual slavery all over the world (including, sadly, in Portland). This book is full of warmth and empathy, but more than that is seeks action so that we may respond to the imago dei that we see in others as fellow children of the Most High God, in whom burns a passionate longing for justice and mercy.
This book is very excellent, and a great read for those who have a deep longing for seeing how God’s ways are to be practiced in our world. That said, this book is not perfect. One of the minor flaws is the fact that the book shows a flawed theory of multiple Isaiah authors. There are more serious flaws, though. In particular, although this book discusses several passages dealing with the Sabbath (most notably Isaiah 58), it completely fails to recognize the importance of the seventh day Sabbath in showing God as a creator (and therefore pointing to concern for God’s creation as the stewards of the earth, an area this book deals with) as well as the Sabbath in providing the way to lighten the burden on the poor and sick (similar to the way that Jesus Christ continually healed on the Sabbath and the way that the Sabbath continually points to justice and freedom from the burdens of life in a fallen world in God’s word . Although this book rightly points out the problems of gnostic dualism that are present in many aspects of Christianity, it fails to present the Sabbath as a centerpiece of God’s justice as it shows itself in this world. That said, this book gives an idea of justice that ought to encourage those with the knowledge that would take this book further and in an even more biblical fashion. This book should therefore encourage readers who believe that God’s laws are the foundation of His justice, and who wish to celebrate and honor and follow in God’s ways from a heart of love towards God and towards other people.
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