Christianity, Culture

The Upright Judge

Psalm 75:2: “When I choose the proper time, I will judge uprightly.”

I’ve been bingeing lately on a true crime show called “Forensic Files.” The point of every episode is, “Ain’t science grand!” And I can’t disagree. There is more science used in the solving of the crimes in these shows than just DNA evidence, but the discovery of DNA and the developments of understanding how to utilize this discovery in solving crime is one of science’s hugest advancements of this century and the past one, I would say. Man on the moon was impressive, but for practical, everyday, life-changing results, the moon-landing can’t top the discovery of DNA. I’m sometimes astonished that people are still willing to risk committing crimes in the DNA age.

One possible takeaway from these shows could be that science triumphs over all, but that would be a false premise, even though I believe it’s one many people have accepted. The infallibility of “science” is modern dogma. But it’s a false religion. For one thing, as I’ve talked about in earlier blogs, when we use the term “science,” we usually mean, “scientists,” and we must realize that scientists, as humans, are far from infallible.

For instance, one of the most interesting of these “Forensic Files” episodes was the one where a doctor faked DNA evidence. We tend to think that DNA evidence should be indisputable, and it usually is, but that attitude led investigators away from the truth in this case. A doctor accused of a crime surgically implanted a small piece of tubing with a patient’s blood under his skin at the spot where blood would normally be drawn. Then, he voluntarily gave a blood sample for testing his DNA, but because it was voluntary, he had the say over how he would be tested. And of course he insisted on having blood drawn from his arm. He pulled the same trick three times, and he would certainly have gotten away with it if his accuser hadn’t been extremely persistent. She knew what she knew, and she knew that the “science” just couldn’t be infallible in this case. She hired a PI who broke into the doctor’s car and nabbed a chapstick found on his seat. She paid for a DNA test from the chapstick which produced a different DNA result than the blood tests. Long story short, the truth was eventually discovered and the man charged and convicted.

Fascinating! But it’s not just this case that demonstrates the fallibility of even DNA evidence. The obvious weakness of DNA evidence is faced in every case where the perpetrator is unknown to the victim or otherwise not a likely suspect. If there’s no DNA match on the other end to compare to the DNA at the crime scene, investigators are no further ahead.

Although all the credit is given to science in these shows (with maybe a nod tossed to the hard work of investigators), I can’t help but notice how often “luck” has played the biggest role in the cases where the crime is random: the off-chance of someone who saw something and reported it or the seemingly-insignificant detail that somehow cracked the whole thing wide open.

Being a disbeliever in “luck,” this aspect of crime-solving has me thinking philosophically. In my worldview, it wasn’t “luck” but “providence” (aka: God) who shed light on the truth in these cases. In fact, in my view, it was God who created DNA in the first place and created brilliant brains who discovered and learned how to decipher it.

But time and again, the questions occurs to me, “If the results are really in God’s hands, why doesn’t the truth get revealed every single time? Why are some crimes never solved (in this life, that is)? In fact, if God is concerned about seeing justice done, why doesn’t He step in sooner and stop the evil in the first place? Why are there so many episodes of these shows? (There are an unbelievable number.) Why is the evil so rampant and allowed to continue?”

I’ve done my best to tackle these questions in earlier posts (my best attempts boiling down to the very emotionally-unsatisfactory, “God’s ways are not our ways,” answer). But regardless, if there is a One True God who is the God of the Bible, then this God is deeply invested in seeing justice done. That’s what we’re told in the Bible. He cares about truth. He is the light, and in His light, we see light. He is the ultimate judge, and when He chooses the proper time, He’ll judge uprightly, knowing all there is to know.

We’re also told in the Bible that we’re to care about truth and justice and do our best in those areas. But we don’t know all there is to know.

Do you ever despair of really finding out the truth? Does it sometimes feel like a hopeless quest to you? I know it often feels hopeless to me. In this situation or that situation in our world, sometimes I shrug. Who knows what really happened?

Those who set up our modern “system of justice” did their best. They instituted all kinds of checks and balances. And it’s possibly the best of the flawed justice systems the world has ever seen. But we all know its flaws. There are many, many examples of the innocent going to prison for years till new evidence (often DNA evidence) freed them. Then we can maybe all think of cases where we personally (and general public opinion probably agrees with us) believe that the guilty were set free. If even science and DNA evidence isn’t infallible, how much more fallible is our reasoning on other kinds of evidence? The courtroom is likely our best bet for unearthing the truth of a matter, but our best is still feeble.

My belief in a God who does know it all is the one thing that keeps me from despair in this area. If the God of the Bible is the One True God, then I’ve arrived at two important conclusions based on what we read about God in the book He’s allegedly responsible for: 1—If I need to know it, I can know it. And… 2—If I need to know it, and I’m willing to know it, I will know it.

There’s a lot of truth I simply don’t need to know. In fact, if I can’t know it and there is God who gives me all I need, then until I know it, I don’t need to know it. This would be a tough sell if I were, say, the family member of a victim of an unsolved murder. How could I say to people in this situation that they don’t need to know (at least at present) what happened to their loved one? I probably wouldn’t say it (to their faces), but there is a difference between “want” and “need.” We can’t always spot the difference. But I have to stick to, “If I need to know it, I can know it.” And only God really knows what I need to know. And when.

But if I need to know it, and I can know it, and I’m unwilling to know it, that’s on me. So… 2—If I need to know it, and I’m willing to know it, I will know it. I think this is also true based on the character of the God of the Bible. Timing may enter into the equation. The “I will know it” may have to be followed by “eventually.” But if I can know what I need to know and I don’t know it, I have to take the position that it’s because I’m not willing.

Romans 1 tells us God’s standard of judgement. That standard is not based on what we don’t know. It’s based on what we do know. Or could and should know. The problem is Romans 1:18. This verse talks about those who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Romans 2-3 lets us in on the uncomfortable fact that this group includes all of us. But the Bible is full of examples of those who repented of this suppression, so the good news is that the repentance of our unrighteous suppression of truth is available to all the willing. Then, the parable of the sower, the seeds, and the soils and the parable of the talents (Matthew 13, 25) teach us that if we embrace truth instead of suppress it, our grasp on truth grows and we’ll be given more and more of it.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been comforted by reminding myself of my two conclusions. They keep me from the despair that would otherwise overwhelm me at the seeming-unavailability to us of truth and justice. Yes, truth does matter. Justice matters. Evil and evildoers need to be exposed and judged. But I’m comforted by believing that when He chooses the proper time, God will judge uprightly. There must be an eternity if the perfect justice we should all long is ever to be a reality. We know perfect justice is not the stuff of earth. But even in this life, the part we need to play in this process of knowing truth and acting justly, we can fulfill. If we’re willing.

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This is the middle post in a series of three on related topics. See last post for thoughts on the media and the 2020 election as related to the subject of this post. Next post will continue the subject of this one.

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