Define Divine Justice

by James Stuart

The three major monotheistic world religions -- Christianity, Judaism and Islam -- all teach that God will reward or punish individuals for following or breaking the moral tenets of their respective holy scriptures. Since this judgment comes from a supreme and omniscient authority, all three religions argue that it constitutes an absolute and divine form of justice.

Christianity

Christianity teaches that divine judgment is a single act on the part of God. Since humans are bound by time, they perceive each judgment as distinct, whereas God, being omnipresent, transcends the boundaries of time. For example, Catholicism teaches that God takes the merits and demerits of all humanity into account simultaneously. Christians believe that, unlike human judgment, which is subjective and flawed, God's judgment is perfect and the subsequent reward or punishment constitutes the Christian definition of divine justice.

Islam

The concept of God, or Allah, as a perfect being necessitates the perfection of his justice. If Allah's justice was arbitrary then he couldn't be said to be perfect and good, and because Islam emphasizes sound and logical thinking, denying that Allah is just is akin to denying his existence. According to this conception of justice, Allah will only hold individuals accountable for their own transgressions. Muslims, therefore, do not subscribe to the Christian notion of original sin, which teaches that human's inherited the burden of Adam and Eve's fall from grace.

Judaism

As with Christianity and Islam, Judaism claims that divine justice is an essential facet of man's relationship with God and it will will be exercised on mankind at the end of the world. According to Jewish scripture, God will resurrect the dead in the end times and judge the wicked and the holy. Individuals who observed God's will and lived moral lives ascend to heaven, and individuals who have unrepentantly broken Jewish prohibitions like murder or adultery must descend to hell.

Karma

Although religions like Hinduism and Buddhism lack a single supreme authority that dispenses divine justice, the concept of karma fulfills a similar function in both religions. Karma can be loosely defined as one's destiny or fate and is generally presumed to be the result of past actions -- either in this life or a previous life. Some Buddhists believe that karma doesn't always arise from our actions, but rather can be a natural causal force that attaches itself to individuals whether they act morally or immorally. However, the most common interpretation of karma holds that individuals who act selflessly receive good karma, while acts of hatred or greed earn bad karma. This karma necessitates positive or negative events in that person's future, ensuring a form of cosmic balance similar, but not identical to divine justice.

About the Author

James Stuart began his professional writing career in 2010. He traveled through Asia, Europe, and North America, and has recently returned from Japan, where he worked as a freelance editor for several English language publications. He looks forward to using his travel experience in his writing. Stuart holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and philosophy from the University of Toronto.

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