This was my first first-hand encounter with Wolterstorff’s work. I have seen him quoted in many books but was glad to finally read him for myself. While this book is part of Baker’s academic branch, it is a good mixture of memoir meets academy. Wolterstorff doesn’t shy away from addressing the philosophy of justice–dealing with such concepts as: reactive and primary rights (and justice), permission-rights and claim rights, inherent rights concepts and right order concepts, etc. I found his chapter on human rights (chapter 20), where he explained the difference between “human rights with the rights that human beings have,” quite fascinating. But while he explores the underlying philosophy of justice, the book is deeply rooted, throughout story, in his own experience of witnessing injustice amongst South Africans, Hondurans, and Palestinians, making the book both challenging (personally and intellectually) yet accessible.
One of the books shining features, in my opinion, was his exploration of how people can use “benevolence…as an instrument of oppression.” This seems to be not only an interesting subject, but a timely one as well.
Wolterstorff’s writing on what scripture (both first and second testament), and the Church Father’s have to say about Justice is well written and informative. Perhaps his most controversial chapter–theologically, at least–is chapter 28 on forgiveness.
I appreciated his ability to bring together not only memoir, philosophy, and justice, but to also cohesively incorporate liturgy and the arts as well. I would be interested seeing him dig a little deeper into prayer, song, and worship as a part of “Christian hope for the righting of injustice.” Perhaps he has elsewhere.
Woltertorff believes that to actively engaged in justice we need to first be awakened, than an emotional response, and finally to be activated to do something. This book attempts to awaken the reader. It succeeds. I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to explore the topic of justice and be awakened to it’s immediate need in the world.
*I received an advanced copy of this book from netgalley