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John Rawls' ‘A Theory of Justice' and Jewish Heresy

Posted On: Dec 2, 2019   |   Posted By: Tablet Magazine

John Rawls' ‘A Theory of Justice' and Jewish Heresy

John Rawls's undergraduate senior thesis, A Brief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin and Faith, has given us an invaluable new perspective on his intellectual formation. The young Rawls, who planned to become an Episcopal priest, spent his Princeton years immersed in neo-Orthodox Christian theology and dedicated his thesis to an exploration of its themes. It was in this essay that Rawls first developed his idea of “moral arbitrariness,” and it is significant that he did so in the context of a fierce attack on the Pelagian heresy.
The theological issues involved in this dispute go back, as we have seen, to the very beginnings of the Christian church. Early Christians confronted a question of theodicy: how can we vindicate the justice of an omnipotent God, given the terrible suffering we see all around us-and given His apparent intention to punish many of us with eternal damnation? A natural way of answering this challenge would be to insist upon the radical freedom of human beings. God, being good, has created...

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