How Do We Explain Human Rights?

plaatje-christopher-human-rights

I have often asked myself why human beings have any rights at all. I always come to the conclusion that human rights, human freedoms, and human dignity have their deepest roots somewhere outside the perceptible world. These values . . . make sense only in the perspective of the infinite and the eternal.
– Václav Havel,
Former Czech President

When man is reduced to a mere animal—when the force of one’s worldview logic demotes humans to mere biological machines—morality and human rights die and power is all that remains. This has happened with every communist regime, and happens with all governments as they get increasing secular. It cannot be otherwise.
– Greg Koukl,
The Story of Reality

It’s exceedingly difficult to see how we move from a valueless series of causes and effects from the big bang onward, finally arriving at valuable, morally responsible, rights-bearing human beings. If we’re just material beings produced by a material universe, then objective value or goodness (not to mention consciousness or reasoning powers or beauty or personhood) can’t be accounted for.
– Paul Copan,
Passionate Conviction

It is impossible to develop a secular account of human dignity adequate for grounding human rights.
– Prof. Nicholas Wolterstorf,
Yale University

Making A Difference

images

In early 2014 Christianity Today published a cover story on a sociologist named Robert Woodberry, who had wondered why some countries take to democracy so well while their next-door neighbors wallow in corruption and bad government. Painstaking research led him to conclude that missionaries made the difference. They taught people to read, built hospitals, and gave a biblical foundation for basic human rights. He concluded,

“Areas where Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on the average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in nongovernmental associations.”

– Philip Yancey,
Vanishing Grace

You might have the wrong premise

Tim Keller copyIf you believe human rights are a reality, then it makes much more sense that God exists than that he does not. If you insist on a secular view of the world and yet you continue to pronounce some things right and some things wrong, then I hope you see the deep disharmony between the world your intellect has devised and the real world (and God) that your heart knows exists. This leads us to a crucial question. If a premise (“There is no God”) leads to a conclusion that you know isn’t true (“Napalming babies is culturally relative”) then why not change the premise? 

–Tim Keller,
The Reason for God

Racism, rights and phobias

Ravi Zach[T]he defender of sexual freedom sees a parallel between what is seen as anti-gay prejudice today and racial prejudice as it was practiced at its lowest point decades ago. Here, a word game has entered the vocabulary. Relativist convictions are supposedly prejudice-free, while absolute convictions are branded as phobias. Any stigma can lick a good dogma, it is said. With that verbal deconstruction of a worldview, all questioning of sexual freedom is castigated as a phobia. Quite amazing that atheists are not called “theophobes” or that those against Christians are not called “christophobes.” Pejoratively, the counter positions have been appended with phobias till we may have a whole new polyphobic dictionary.

But that is the lesser problem. I contend that equating race with sexuality is actually a false premise and an unfortunate analogy.‎ In the matter of race it simply doesn’t matter how I feel about it; my ethnicity transcends my preferences or inclinations… Why is this analogy unfortunate? Because it moves the debate from what is right to what are one’s rights. Ironically, the political party now most aligned with arguing for rights was once the same party that argued against the emancipation of slaves because of the slave-owners’ “rights.” In that case, those rights were overruled by what was right. Interesting that a new word wasn’t coined then to describe those who made moral arguments against the slave-owners’ rights as “slaveophobes.” Thankfully, essential human worth and moral reason trumped existential and pragmatic preferences and by God’s grace, what was right was deemed to be right and the slave was freed.

–Ravi Zacharias,
How Wide the Divide: Sexuality at the Forefront,
Culture at the Crossroads