Academic journal article Theological Studies

Justice in Love

Academic journal article Theological Studies

Justice in Love

Article excerpt

JUSTICE IN LOVE. By Nicholas Wolterstorff. Emory University Studies in Law and Religion. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2011. Pp. ix + 284. $35.

The just person "justices," says the poet Hopkins, and so too, we might say, "loves." Yet how justice and love fit in a life, and how our loves are just remains a puzzle. In his earlier, magisterial Justice: Rights and Wrongs (2010), Wolterstorff offered a theistic grounding of human rights in the "bestowed worth" of divine love. This new volume follows suit in an erudite and illuminating interpretation of justice in neighbor-love as "care-agapism." Part 1 offers an incisive critique of noncompatibilist varieties of "benevolence-agapism" in the writings of modern-day agapists. For Kierkegaard, Anders Nygren, and Reinhold Niebuhr, neighbor-love not only excludes preferential love; but love itself, in enjoining generosity, benevolent paternalism, or forgiveness, may also "perpetrate injustice" (55). Agapic love, says Nygren, renders the pursuit of justice "obsolete and invalidated" (47). For Kierkegaard and Nygren, agape "trumps justice" (59); for Niebuhr conversely, a "saintly abnegation of interest" only invites victimization. In the "immoral" social order, "the claims and counterclaims of historical existence" prevail. "The pure love ethic found in the Gospels" must wait upon the "impossible possibility" of "God's eschatological triumph" (65-67). …

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