A Christian Affirmation of Rawls's Idea of Justice as Fairness -- Part II

Journal of Religious Ethics 14 (2):229 - 246 (1986)
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Abstract

In the first part of this essay (Beckley, 1985) I argued that Christians advocating policies for distributive justice face a dilemma when they simultaneously attempt to be faithful to Christian beliefs and values and respect the liberty of those who do not share their beliefs and values. The dilemma arises if we are morally opposed to enforcing our distinctive morality upon others and yet are unwilling to compromise our beliefs and values in order to accommodate agreement on a conception of justice. A resolution to this dilemma is possible only if, on the basis of their beliefs and values, Christians can embrace general beliefs which justify obligating all persons to a system of distributive justice. I further argued that John Rawls's idea of justice as fairness, as embodied in his fair contract situation, provides a potential basis for resolving this dilemma. Rawls's contract theory is helpful because it justifies a conception of justice on the basis of the general and shared beliefs that persons are free, rational, and equal without ignoring the distinctive beliefs and moralities persons also hold. In this way Rawls intends to justify universal obligation to a system of justice without obtaining full agreement on the good or all other moral values and principles. The question remains: Can Christians, on the basis of their distinctive beliefs and values, affirm Rawls's moral beliefs that persons are free, rational, and equal? If so, Rawls's idea of justice as fairness and the original position which mediates it can provide the grounds for justifying a conception of justice that obligates all, including Christians, without compromising the distinctive features of Christian morality. In this part of the essay I shall argue that the ethical implications of the ideal of Christian love, i.e., uncompromised to accommodate agreement with others, requires that Christians affirm something like the perspective of justice as fairness. I shall first explain why I select love, and more specifically Gene Outka's understanding of love as equal regard, as the basis for arguing that Christians should affirm the idea of justice as fairness. I shall then argue that love as equal regard affirms each of the beliefs that underlie Rawls's original position, even though Christian love requires more than justice. In the second section I shall consider how my argument for justice as fairness is incomplete, limits upon the moral issues to which it is applicable, and what I claim to have achieved in this two part essay.

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