Breivik, Mohler and justice

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AdaletI read a tweet the other day to the effect of: Anders Breivik demonstrates we live in a moral universe, therefore, construct a worldview which explains this data. It was a worthwhile point, as the whole thing does seem to show that there’s very few people who would try and argue that the wrongness of Breivik’s actions is not just their subjective opinion, or a view that society has chosen to collectively hold, but that they were inherently, objectively wrong, even if he doesn’t think they were.

It seems he’s to receive a relatively light sentence, as the maximum avaiable is 21 years, as Norway got rid of life sentences some time ago. Have a read of Al Mohler’s piece on the relationship of this short sentence to a secular (post-Christian) idea of justice. It is, for the most part, a fairly insightful piece which recognises that we’ve generally lost the sanctity of human life and that when a group removes the Judeo-Christian basis of contemporary models of justice, without replacing it with anything, we get distorted systems which rejects punishment . I’m not convinced by the OT rationale he uses for capital punishment, as in short, we’re not OT Israel, but I think he does make a very good point:

Christianity produces a system of laws and justice that puts a high premium on both personal moral responsibility and the sanctity of human life. For this reason, the punishment of murderers has been taken with great seriousness. Those who take a human life with premeditation were understood to forfeit their own.

The rejection of the Christian worldview and the loss of biblical moral instincts produces a very different system of justice. Norway abolished the death penalty in 1902. Later, the nation abolished the sentence of life in prison, claiming that it was too extreme.

Mohler points out that even the prisons are plush and resemble college dorms. The Norwegian secular view of justice sees punishment as barbaric:

At one point, Theil declares the obvious: Norway “considers the idea of punishment barbaric.”

The loss of the Christian worldview often comes with a diminishment of both personal responsibility and the sense of punitive justice. Add to this the redefinition of human life and its value. The result is a nation that takes pride in a notoriously lax system of criminal justice — a nation that considers punishment itself to be barbaric.

The reasons this piqued my interest, is that I often here from my evangelistic-minded secularist atheist friends that such scandinavian countries are beacons of (atheist) secularity, standing above the the lesser, more religious nations. But it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The secuarlist worldview is not neutral.

The world is watching closely as the trial of Anders Behring Breivik takes place in Oslo. The trial is now an international spectacle. But, much more than Norway’s justice system is on display. That Oslo courtroom is also revealing what remains of an understanding of criminal justice and criminal responsibility when the Christian worldview fades away. The post-Christian condition is fully on display in that courtroom. The man who committed the worst mass murder in Europe since World War II is on trial — and the maximum term to which he can be sentenced amounts to less than 3.3 months for each of the 77 people he murdered.

If injustice makes you angry, if you think it fundamentally wrong – why is that? Could it just be that such a thing as ultimate justice exists?


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3 Responses to Breivik, Mohler and justice

  1. tony c, says:

    Seriously? A religiously charged (I wont say inspired) killing spree occurs and somehow you manage to turn the laxity of Norways penal system into a stick to beat secularism with! Tad shameless wouldn't you say?

    Why not praise the comittment to justice in a system that still wants to find out if the dude has schizophrenia even though their rage must be considerable? Or is it better to be like Texas and fry him like bacon?

    • AndrewFinden says:

      Your final sentence makes me think you didn't read my post too carefully. Never-the-less, if secularists want to hold up the scandinavian states as models of their ideology, I think it's fair game to point out the lack of justice that appears to have served.

  2. @ds_says says:

    This is probably more a comment on Mohler…

    What Mohler get's absolutely right is his title – 'the limitations of justice'. As much as the Norwegian attempt at justice may seem like a farce and leave the victim's family (And the whole world) crying out MORE, a life in prison or the death penalty would still not satisfy. In Norway Breivik may have only 'paid' 3.3 months per person murdered, but if he spent the rest of his life in goal or was executed, he'd still only be paying 1 life for 77.

    All human justice is found wanting … by us (that, Tony is why Andrew's observations are not really beating 'secularism' but beating all forms of human justice with a stick'), which is why I'm glad that justice will be done, when Jesus returns to judge (Acts 19:31).

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