“Putting All Things to Rights”

“The gospel of the true God, then, unveils the covenant faithfulness of this God, through which the entire world receives health-giving, restorative justice.”  (1998)

“The sense of covenant faithfulness and the sense of things being put to rights, held apart within both reformation and enlightenment thought as ‘theology and ethics’, or ‘salvation and politics’, were not far removed in the mind of a Jew like Paul. Just as the Messiah was destined to be Lord of the world, so, and for the same reasons, God’s covenant with Israel had always been intended as the means of putting God’s world to rights. When, therefore, God’s righteousness was unveiled, the effect would be precisely that the world would receive justice: that rich, restorative, much-to-be-longed-for justice of which the Psalmists had spoken with such feeling.”

(Above two quotes are fromPaul’s Gospel and Caesar’s Empire presented at the Center for Theological Inquiry, reprinted in Reflections, vol. 2, 1998.)


Excerpts from Evil and the Justice of God  (InterVarsity Press, 2006)

God’s Justice Project Within an Unjust World

“God’s justice is not simply a blind dispensing of rewards for the virtuous and punishments for the wicked, though plenty of those are to be found on the way. God’s justice is a saving, healing, restorative justice, because the God to whom justice belongs is the Creator God who has yet to complete his original plan for creation and whose justice is designed not simply to restore balance to a world out of kilter but to bring to glorious completion and fruition the creation, teeming with life and possibility, that he made in the first place. And he remains implacably determined to complete this project through his image-bearing human creatures.”  (64)

(Context of God’s Justice Project: the trajectory of Hebrew developments and covenantal promises from Genesis to the prophets, culminating with more nuanced visions of justice as described in Job and Isaiah 53.)

“The evil that humans do is integrated with the enslavement of creation. This is seldom a matter of one-to-one cause and effect, but there is a nexus, a web of rippling events that spreads out from human rebellion against the Creator to the out-of-jointness of creation itself. In the same way, when humans are put back to rights, the world will be put back to rights.”  (72)

Practices Based on God’s Promise of a World Set Free of Evil

Approaches to criminal justice have “swung between two extremes,” with locking up the ‘evil’ ones on one side or, on the other side, blaming the ‘evils’ of society for everyone’s offending behaviors. “But neither of these embodies the imperative of the gospel. What we urgently need, and what, thank God, is coming to be in some wiser corners of the Western world like New Zealand, is an embracing of restorative justice. Within such a vision, the whole community is committed to naming evil for what it is and to addressing and dealing with it, not by shutting people away from the embarrassed eyes all around, but by bringing together offender and victim, with their families and friends, to look hard and openly at what has happened and agree on a way forward. That is a hard but healthy model, corresponding to what happens in healthy marriages and healthy individuals. It has about it both the mark of the cross (looking evil in the face and letting its full forces be felt) and the hope of a world in which all is known and all is put to rights.”  (123-4)   (see also p. 149 on criminal justice)

“Deliver us from evil” and the Role of Forgiveness

In the final chapter, Wright recommends three books on forgiveness which were helpful to him:

“The command to forgive one another, then, is the command to bring into the present what we are promised for the future, namely the fact that in God’s new world all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well….The tough, many-sided offer of forgiveness should be the ultimate aim as we think about the problems of global empire and international debt, of criminal justice and the problem of punishment, of war and international conflict. In each of these spheres there is a task of naming evil and finding appropriate ways of resisting it, and at the same time working toward remission, reconciliation, restitution and restoration.”  (160)

“Part of the answer to the prayer “Deliver us from evil” is that we learn to forgive ourselves, both for our own sake and for the sake of those around us.”  (163)

“When we understand forgiveness, flowing from the work of Jesus and the Spirit, as the strange, powerful thing it really is, we being to realize that God’s forgiveness of us, and our forgiveness of others, is the knife that cuts the rope by which sin, anger, fear, recrimination and death are still attached to us. Evil will have nothing to say at the last, because the victory of the cross will be fully implemented.”  (164)


(kintsugi artwork)

“Justification is ultimately about justice, about God putting the world to rights, with his chosen and called people as the advance guard of that new creation, charged with being and bringing signs of hope, of restorative justice, to the world. Let’s put the justice back in justification; and, as we do so, remind ourselves whose justice it is, and why.”   

(From the conclusion to New Perspectives on Paul10th Edinburgh Dogmatics Conference, August 2003)

compilation of quotes by Ted Lewis