On Wednesday, October 18, trial lawyer Matthew Martens was invited on campus to speak to students from Cairn and The John Jay Institute. Mr. Martens has served as a federal prosecutor and defense attorney. Early in his career, he served as a law clerk to Chief Justice William Rehnquist in the U.S. Supreme Court. He wrote and recently published Reforming Criminal Justice: A Christian Proposal.
Mr. Martens began by presenting his end goal for his audience: to convince them that the U.S. Constitution’s form of criminal justice is a Christian form of criminal justice. He added the caveat that this conclusion does not make assumptions about America being a Christian nation with Christian foundations, nor did it presuppose that it is the only acceptable form of Christian criminal justice.
Mr. Martens’ principle point rested in the notion that Christians should care about this as they seek to live out all parts of their lives as Christian—including government systems. While Romans 13 was included as a point of reference in understanding authority in a Christian’s life, Mr. Martens also cited Zachariah 7:9, Exodus 23:7, and Proverbs 18:17 as other references that should serve as the guiding principles when considering how to understand authority as an entity responsible for executing justice.
One of the most crucial points to recognize when it comes to establishing a system of justice is the need for people who are committed to judging accurately, Mr. Martens argued. This necessitates an ability to distinguish good from evil. Mr. Martens posited “to operate a Christ-like system of justice, that system must judge accurately.” But how is that achieved? Scripture only mandates that we seek intentional, accurate justice, leaving us to construct the “how-to” in order to achieve that goal. “How do I ensure that I judge accurately?” Mr. Martens asked. “The answer is due process.” Due process, he argued, is set up in order to maintain a system committed to biblical justice. Unfortunately, Mr. Martens recognized “when it comes to criminal justice, the Constitution is too much a paper tiger.” While due process was created to protect justice, people have taken advantage of weaknesses in the system. Yet, that should not discourage believers.
Ultimately, Mr. Martens concluded that our role as Christians is to uphold and encourage a system in which biblical justice can thrive. As Christians, our entire lives, ideals, and systems of justice should be rooted in Christ—all or nothing.
You can learn more about Matthew Martens here.