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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

"Is Justice Possible" (J. Paul Nyquist)

TITLE: Is Justice Possible?: The Elusive Pursuit of What is Right
AUTHOR: J. Paul Nyquist
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2017, (176 pages).

What is legal is not necessarily right. What is right is not necessarily protected by the law. Put it another way, just because we have a legal system does not mean we have a justice system With startling stories of unfair imprisonment, abuse of power, lopsided punishment, and lack of fairness in meting out the punishment, we are reminded once again how elusive justice is even in societies that pride themselves about their premier justice systems. Petty crimes get crushing punishments. Suspicions are tied more to skin colour rather than the evidence of the crime. Wrongful convictions get overturned without much compensation. It is entirely human to crave justice for we are born with that inner desire to seek fairness. Distinguishing between social justice and legal justice, author Paul Nyquist focuses on the latter mainly because it tends to be more neglected. He also limits his description to the American scene and seeks to give a Christian response. With the big picture about possibilities surrounding the issue of legal justice, readers can use four key questions to probe the main issue:

  1. What is Justice?
  2. Why is Justice Elusive?
  3. How Should we do justice?
  4. Will we ever see Justice? 

The key reason why earthly justice systems are inadequate is because it does not have the correct starting point: God. For God's justice is holy, righteous, just, and also merciful. Nyquist then defines justice as "the application of God's righteous moral standards to the conduct of man." It is not to reform people nor to suppress crime. It is to uphold God's holy righteousness. He looks at man's role in the execution of justice and gives biblical examples of the various ways biblical characters have imparted justice. God has consistently judged the peoples and nations for their acts of injustice. He then gives us four reasons why justice in our world is elusive. Man makes unjust laws; have limited knowledge of the scope of justice; darkened understanding of life; and implicit bias. Many of the chapters begin with a startling story of injustice, highlighting the unfortunate racial plight of the blacks and hispanics, made more evident in the chapter about implicit bias.  As long as we are enslaved by the limitations of legislation, cognitive knowledge, spiritual darkness, and neurological effects, justice will remain elusive. The key is to get back to God and to obey Micah 6:8 by doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly. He deals with the political and the public arena, giving personal observations about issues such as:

  • Abortion: Roe vs Wade
  • Voting for political candidates
  • Same-sex marriage
  • Slavery
  • Personal liberty
  • Pretrial limbo
  • Overcriminalization
  • Prison Rape
  • Civil Rights
  • and others.
At the personal level, there are other activities we can adopt to increase our efforts toward better justice systems. There are suggestions like prison ministries, helping with released prisoners, donate to legal funds for the poor, and many more. Toward the end, we see a gradual awareness of heaven and the reality of justice systems on earth. Perfect judgement can only come when the Lord comes again. Thankfully, Nyquist concludes with a more positive note. He is aware that the shocking negative examples may lead some people to conclude that the present justice systems are hopelessly flawed. They are less than perfect but there are also good people in the legal system who will make things right. He ends with a heartwarming story of Mr Potchen who in his dire straits decided to rob a bank so that he could go to jail to have a shelter over his head and three meals a day. The judge saw through his plight and intention, decided not to jail him and put him on parole instead. It was an act of mercy upon recognizing the unfortunate set of circumstances that befell Potchen. That story alone moves the book from pessimism to optimism. It also gives us a better glimpse of perfect justice of what would happen when God eventually returns. 

J. Paul Nyquist is President of the Moody Global Ministries and has served in capacities as pastor, professor, and leader of an international church planting missions agency.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Moody Publishers and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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