In GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS AS OPPOSED TO “All These Rights”, I promised a post in response to All These Rights at AMUSING NONSENSE. One reason I postponed the task is that I did not know where to start. How do we convince someone of a truth that should be self-evident?
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (from here)
We have become and are still becoming a secularized society. Secularists would have us throw off the supposed unreasonableness and religious nature of Christianity. They would have us justify everything within a secular context, a context that presupposes God is irrelevant to the discussion. Yet most of us still claim to believe in Jesus Christ. Therefore, I wonder. If we were created to glorify God, what makes us think God would create a universe where He is irrelevant?
Because we choose to ignore what our nation’s founders thought self-evident, secularists seem to be winning the argument. So let’s back up. What does ” self-evident” mean in practice? When we begin a proof in mathematics, don’t we start from an axiom or two?
1. a self-evident truth that requires no proof.
2. a universally accepted principle or rule.
3. Logic, Mathematics. a proposition that is assumed without proof for the sake of studying the consequences that follow from it.
Consider that third definition, “a proposition that is assumed without proof for the sake of studying the consequences that follow from it.”
When Americans still considered the fact of their rights were God-given self-evident, government existed primarily to protect their rights. Was America then a land of fairy tales? Did everyone live happily ever after? No. As people are wont to do, Americans still debated, argued and fought. That included fighting over the definition of rights. To free the black race — allow blacks the ability to exercise their God-given rights — required a bloody civil war. Therefore, we know the consequences of accepting the self-evident truths offered up in the Declaration of Independence did not solve all our problems. However, it seems we have forgotten — or chosen to ignore — the alternative, of not believing God gives us our rights. So lets consider the matter. If we do not consider our rights God-given, what are the consequences?
If There Is No God
Does the universe follow logical rules? Imagine living several thousand years ago. Most people farmed and produced their own food, and nature cooperated poorly. Sometimes people starved. Occasional droughts alternated with occasional floods. Mysterious plant diseases and insects reduced every harvest. People died young, sometimes for no apparent reason.
WHY? Desperate for answers, people worshiped idols, hoping that because of their worship their god would give them some control over their lives. Their harvests would not fail, their children would not die, their enemies would die at their hands in combat…..
If there is no God, then no Guiding Hand has determined logical rules with which this universe must comply. God is not Truth. No truth is sacred or absolute. What matters is what we choose to hold most dear to our earthly salvation.
- Is it sex? Is the opposite sex available for our pleasure?
- Is it self? Do we have what it takes to get what we want?
- Is it stuff? Do we have enough wealth to buy what we want?
- Is it state? Will the government keep its promises to us and give us what we want?
If there is no God, there is no All-Seeing Spectator who judges each of us. We can appropriately define right and wrong in relationship only to our individual/identity group’s point of view. There is only one check on our behavior, another human being who disapproves. Therefore, what we must worry about are prying eyes and listening ears. We must do in secret whatever might shame us in public, or we must eliminate the disapproving.
If there is no God, then the strong and clever determine the “rights” of the weak. That is, might makes right. We obtain our “rights,” our “right” to do what we wish, because we have the power to make it so.
So what would ameliorate our behavior? Why are most men usually willing to respect the rights of others? Is it the fact most people believe in God, or is each one of us the embodiment of reason? Have we logically deduced the problem that arises when we harm the interests of our neighbor? If we don’t respect our neighbors rights, no one will respect our own? Or is it the moral law, that sense of right and wrong that each of us carries in his heart? Do we recognize in each other a being akin to our self? Don’t we know how we would feel if someone abused us?
What Are Our God-Given Rights?
Most people at least pay lip service to the concept of Human Rights, but in this era we Americans differ greatly on their origin and nature. In TWO TREATISES OF GOVERNMENT BOOK II, John Locke observed:
The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another’s pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another’s uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for our’s. Every one, as he is bound to preserve himself, and not to quit his station wilfully, so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.
From such arguments we obtained that famous statement in the Declaration of Independence, that bold assertion we each have certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Latter, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote these words from a jail in Birmingham, AL.
How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. (from here)
We should also observe that King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail provides a fascinating example Christian political activism. In his quest to defend the God-given rights of minorities, others, especially those “moderates” sitting on the sidelines should consider what King thought of extremism.
But as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was not Jesus an extremist in love? “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice — “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ — “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist — “Here I stand; I can do none other so help me God.” Was not John Bunyan an extremist — “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist — “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist — “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” So the question is not whether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice — or will we be extremists for the cause of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime — the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth, and goodness, and thereby rose above His environment. So, after all, maybe the South, the nation, and the world are in dire need of creative extremists. (from here)
What are our God-given rights? Why is the question of love so important? Why must we be extremists for love? When we violate the rights of another, God defines that as a sin.
Consider the Ten Commandments. With one exception, the fifth commandment, the commandment that requires us to honor our father and our mother, the commandments list things we must not do. Yet Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments as something we must must do. We must love God with all our heart, mind and soul, and we must love our neighbor as we do our self (Mark 12:28-34).
How Do We Know Our Rights Are God-Given?
Without sin, we have no need for rights, and without God sin has no meaning. With that in mind, please consider this excerpt from an old post.
There is a famous statement in the Bible that explains the problem we face when we try to maintain our freedom.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
Out of context, this verse may not necessarily be understood. When we think of freedom, we automatically think of freedom from oppression. When Jesus used these words, he meant freedom from sin, not freedom from mere oppression. Jesus explained.
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
Because we are heirs to our fleshly wants, we cannot escape from our sinful nature without God’s help. Jesus offers us that help. Those who accept Jesus’ help He can in time free from sin. When enough of us accept Jesus, only then can we live in a society freed from oppression.
Free societies exist only to the extent men accept God’s offer to free men from sin. (from here)
As odd as it may seem, Jesus defined the sinner, the one who would deprive another of their rights, as a slave. When we hate God or our neighbor, we are enslaved to sin.