What are Human Rights, and Where do They Come From?

Has anyone else noticed that – at least in the minds of many – our list of “basic human rights” has expanded in recent years? I’m thinking specifically about the ongoing debates over healthcare reform, gay marriage, and the availability of contraception and abortions. For example:

“Affordable healthcare is a right, not a privilege.”

“Everyone has the right to marry the person they love, regardless of sexual orientation.”

“Allowing religious institutions to opt out of providing health coverage for contraception is a violation of women’s reproductive rights.”

These kinds of statements are rampant, yet we seldom hear anyone stop to define exactly what they mean when they say something is a “right”. Clearly they don’t mean legal rights, at least not as the law is currently written. They seem instead to be appealing to something more fundamental to our human existence.

The next obvious question: Where do these rights come from?

“Think of this great flaming phrase: “certain inalienable rights.” Who gives the rights? The state? Then they are not inalienable because the state can change them and take them away. Where do the rights come from? [Jefferson and others] understood that they were founding the country upon the concept that goes back into the Judeo-Christian thinking that there is Someone there who gave the inalienable rights.” -Francis Schaeffer

Unfortunately, I suspect that much of what’s being defined as “human rights” these days is really nothing more than the personal desires of the individual making the claim. Isn’t it just a LITTLE absurd, after all, to suggest that every human is born with the right to an affordable, government-approved health insurance plan? Surely this must come as shocking news to the billions of people who haven’t been raised with our entitled first-world mindset.

Perhaps in a few years we’ll be arguing over the “basic human right to a smartphone”…

See also:

It Is Human Nature That People Are Corruptible

The Federal Gov’t Isn’t #1 In Our Lives

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The Problem with Liberal Theology

‎”I would repeat that liberal theology is only humanism in theological terms.” –Francis Schaeffer

In certain liberal churches, there is a tendency to accept the idea that there are “many ways to God”. The idea that there isn’t anything particularly special about Christianity, and the many kind and generous Muslims and Hindus of the world have found their own way to God and should be left to themselves.

I assert that this isn’t a sign of love, or acceptance, or tolerance. It’s a sign of cold indifference.

“I don’t think Christians know what they mean when they proclaim Jesus as Lord of the world. That is a massive claim. If you took that seriously, you would probably have to be a fundamentalist. If you can’t be a fundamentalist, then you should give up Christianity for the sake of honesty.” –Gerd Lüdemann, a former liberal Christian

Many of these same churches also hold to “progressive” views on issues like homosexuality, cohabitation, and the sacredness of human life. Passages of the Bible that are deemed offensive are either ignored or creatively reinterpreted. Rather than confronting sinful behavior like Jesus commanded (Matthew 18:15-17…also see Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11), openly sinful lifestyles are accepted – even celebrated – as normal among the congregation.

In the end, these kinds of churches cease to resemble anything like historical Christianity. They become social clubs.

On his blog, Andrew Collins contrasts this with the Evangelical approach:

“Many Evangelicals, if they’re honest with you, don’t like what the Bible says about things like God’s sovereignty, hell, or homosexuality, but they choose to believe them anyways. These Christians have a unique freedom to admit that their own perspectives, even their own moral sensibilities, may be a little tweaked. As such, they seek an external standard by which to correct themselves….what sort of relationship can you have with a personal God if He does not contradict your beliefs, assumptions and sensibilities every once in a while? If you find that your God is always exactly who you want Him to be, could it be that you haven’t found God at all, but rather created a god in your own image?(emphasis mine; read the full post here)

Most recently, we’ve seen examples of liberal writers and theologians advocating for various forms of Universalism and denying the existence of hell. I’ve been getting a little carried away with the quotes – so I’ll close with an excellent video from Francis Chan addressing this issue. For the “short version” watch the two-minute segment starting at 3:32.

Francis Schaeffer Quotes

Francis Schaeffer would have celebrated his 100th birthday in January. I’m obviously a couple months late with this, but here are a few quotes in remembrance of a life well lived.

Francis Schaeffer

“Think of this great flaming phrase: “certain inalienable rights.” Who gives the rights? The state? Then they are not inalienable because the state can change them and take them away. Where do the rights come from? [Jefferson and others] understood that they were founding the country upon the concept that goes back into the Judeo-Christian thinking that there is Someone there who gave the inalienable rights.”

“In passing, we should note this curious mark of our own age: the only absolute allowed is the absolute insistence that there is no absolute.”

“Humanism, man beginning only from himself, had destroyed the old basis of values, and could find no way to generate with certainty any new values. In the resulting vacuum the impoverished values of personal peace and affluence had come to stand supreme.”

Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world.”

“But if I live in a world of nonabsolutes and would fight social injustice on the mood of the moment, how can I establish what social justice is? What criterion do I have to distinguish between right and wrong so that I can know what I should be fighting? Is it not possible that I could in fact acquiesce in evil and stamp out good? The word love cannot tell me how to discern, for within the humanistic framework love can have no defined meaning.”

“There is no place for love in a totally closed cause and effect system.”