Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Are you sure you want to go there? V

The topic that my frequent commenter, Dan Trabue, was hot to debate with me was "feminism" which he defined (essentially) as the quest for equal rights for women. I am (again) not debating it here. What I am thinking about is the concept of rights in general.

I suppose it is likely that all Americans over the age of 15 are able to quote this phrase from the Declaration of Independence. "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." I suppose it is equally likely that very, very few of those Americans have taken a moment to ask, "Why? Why did they (and subsequently do we) hold these truths to be self-evident? On what do we base these 'unalienable rights'?" America is predicated on rights and has, over the centuries, become rights-and-entitlements driven. It seems almost all of us look at life through rights-colored glasses. You know ... "You deserve a break today." Oh, really? A recent commercial on local television assured me that "All Americans deserve a fresh start", referring to their bankruptcy option. Really? All Americans? When the FCC tried to turn off analog television last February, the cry went out. "We have the right to television, and some aren't ready for the transition!" Television is a right? Then you find organizations like the "Human Rights Campaign". Their mission statement: "HRC envisions an America where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are ensured equality and embraced as full members of the American family at home, at work and in every community." Ummm, okay ... let's interpolate. They are the "Human Rights Campaign" who are fighting for the rights of "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people". I would have to assume from these two facts that heterosexuals are not humans ... or have no rights? No, no, don't be ridiculous. We all have rights and we all know what they are and you're an idiot for even bringing up the question.

The U.N. has created a document titled The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It sets out to declare "a common standard" of what they term "inalienable rights" for "all members of the human family". I won't quote it -- there are 30 articles. But I'll give you the flavor of it. Article 1 assures us that "All human beings are born free ..." (Note: The three dots that follow what I wrote there indicate there is more. If you want to know what, look it up yourself.) It seems certainly true that not all human beings are born free. Article 2 says, "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, ... or other status." Really? Without distinction of any kind? All of these rights?? Some of these "rights and freedoms" to which every single living person is entitled without distinction of any kind are "a fair and public hearing" (a private hearing is a violation of human rights -- even in cases such as national security), "the right to freedom of movement", "equal rights as to marriage", "the right to own property alone", "the right to social security", "the free development of his personality" (think about that when you consider sociopaths, child molesters, and the like), "the right to rest and leisure", and "the right to a standard of living". One I found fascinating, considering recent hubbub in various places, was "Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children." Oh? What about home schooling? Has anyone told Germany? Another of the interesting items on their list of universal human rights was this little piece: "The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures." In other words, the U.N. has declared that among other human rights is the inalienable right to ... democracy. All other governments -- monarchy, benevolent dictatorship, communism, etc. -- that are not elected governments violate human rights.

One of the "human rights" listed regarded marriage. "Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses." In one sentence the United Nations declared that God had violated basic human rights. You see, it was God who instituted marriage and the biblical examples of marriages were arranged marriages. It made me think. Since God has violated "human rights" ... what makes us think they're human rights?

The question gets really sticky after this initial examination. The concept of human rights assumes that humans simply by virtue of being humans have basic moral guarantees that cannot be arbitrarily removed because they are based on the fact that the human is human. Wait ... it gets stickier. The basis of human rights is that there is "a rationally identifiable moral order", a moral universalism that is inherent to and applicable to all humans. Do you see the problem yet? You see, one of the basic premises of human interaction these days is the argument that there is no moral absolute. That's a mere Christian myth. Human dignity in Christianity is based on the basic claim that people are made in the image of God, but since we're discarding Christianity as an absolute and, in fact, discarding moral absolutes entirely, we don't have that basis anymore. So ... now what? Since morality is now defined as historical and cultural and volatile, we would necessarily define human rights as historical, cultural, and volatile.

Now, having found that we've carefully and willfully undercut the basis for "human rights", we end up back at the beginning. What rights do we have? What rights are "unalienable"? Having removed the basis of moral absolutism, how do we determine what rights are right and what rights are imaginary and what rights are temporary? After having stirred through that nasty pot of stew, we would next need to determine exactly what "equal rights" means. As an example, the argument has been made that if a test is given to all the members of a fire department and only white fire fighters passed the test, it wasn't "equal rights". The argument has been made that paying some people (like doctors and lawyers) more than other people (like administrative assistants and the cleaning crew) is a violation of "equal rights". Some people would like us to believe (and you will need to decide if they're right or not) that unless everyone has the same thing, it's a violation of "equal rights". So, with little basis for "human rights" and the "reality" that whatever you define as "human rights" is volatile and then moving on to trying to figure out what exactly "equal" means in terms of "rights" (which are in question, remember), well ... you can see you have your work cut out for you. So, for the Christians, let's start here. Go to your Bibles and find, if you will, a basic list of "human rights". Feel free to look anywhere in the Book. It doesn't have to be a "list" in one passage. Anywhere will do. Basic human rights from Scripture ... that's all I'm looking for. Thanks.

35 comments:

Dan Trabue said...

http://www.gotquestions.org/human-rights.html

concordance "Rights"

http://www.biblegateway.com/keyword/?search=rights&version1=31&searchtype=all&limit=none&wholewordsonly=no

Excellent questions, Stan! A topic well worth considering and one that I hope to explore a bit (and research a bit, as I don't know that I've ever really specifically looked to this topic specifically as addressed in the Bible as a whole).

First, if I may, here's Jefferson's thoughts...

"all men are created equal... endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."

I agree with Jefferson in these regards - that AMONG our rights (ie, this is not an all inclusive list) are life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. These are inalienable, innate rights that we have by virtue of our humanity and these are self-evident.

But does the Bible agree? What does the Bible say about rights?

Now, my first inclination was to suggest that the Bible doesn't talk about "rights" specifically so much, but rather that it implies fairly clearly some basic human rights. But looking it up in a concordance, we can find that "rights" ARE indeed mentioned in the Bible specifically.

We are not to deprive the "poor," "afflicted," "oppressed" and "needy" of their rights are the ones that jumped out to me right away. This is specifically stated several times (Job 36:6, Psalm 82:3, Proverbs 31:5-9, Eccliastes 5:8, Isaiah 10:2, Jeremiah 5:28, at least). These rights are not enumerated in the text but it is quite clear that rights for the poor and needy exist and that they are tied (I think clearly in the context) to issues of justice and freedom and sustenance.

Now, that does not suggest specifically human rights for all people, but I think we can infer (ie, if the poor, oppressed, needy are specifically given rights, I believe in context we can infer that these were rights that the rich and unoppressed enjoyed and thus it was not necessary to spell them out).

Most of the other rights listed were about birth rights, marital rights (which I think is tied to the poor, oppressed, etc, because if women were cast aside - not given their marital rights - they WOULD be poor and oppressed in the context of the day) and the rights of the apostles (found in the NT), which were fairly specific to certain people not more universal rights. Interestingly, the NT is mostly devoid of the use of the specific term "rights."

Lamentations 3:35 references the "rights of humanity," suggesting specifically that there ARE rights, but not enumerating them.

So, right off the top, I think we can see that the Bible says specifically that we most certainly DO have rights as humans.

Agreed?

Dan Trabue said...

Those verses I mentioned above...

God does not keep the wicked alive but gives the afflicted their rights. ~ Job 36

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. ~Psalm 82

It is not for kings, O Lemuel—
not for kings to drink wine,
not for rulers to crave beer,

5 lest they drink and forget what the law decrees,
and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.

6 Give beer to those who are perishing,
wine to those who are in anguish;

7 let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.

8 "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.

9 Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
~Proverbs 31

If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still. ~Eccliastes 5

Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. ~Isaiah 10

Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not plead the case of the fatherless to win it, they do not defend the rights of the poor.

Should I not punish them for this?" declares the LORD. "Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?
~Jeremiah 5

The Lamentations passage reads...

For God does not afflict willingly Or grieve the sons of men.

To crush under His feet all the prisoners of the land, to deprive a man of justice in the presence of the Most High, to defraud a man in his lawsuit-- of these things the Lord does not approve.


On some specifically women's rights, such as they are...

If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as menservants do. If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights.

Interesting. A father (at the time) apparently had the liberty (I wouldn't call it a right, but the ability, at least in this culture) to sell his daughter. But even this slave daughter has some rights. The right not to be sold to foreigners, the rights of a daughter (not spelled out here). If the daughter slave-owner decides he doesn't want to be married to her (ugh!), she still has the right to food, clothing and "marital rights."

These are some general rights which the Bible addresses.

Stan said...

I quoted Jefferson myself. But Jefferson doesn't offer a source. And we know that, for instance, the "right to life" is easily and quickly snatched away by multiple means. A murderer (in many states) loses his right to live when convicted. Millions of unborn babies lose their right to live at their mother's whim. No one is clamoring for their "right to life". In fact, that line of thinking is what made me ask the question. Since we do not have the right to "the pursuit of happiness" if, for instance, "happiness" is brought about by molesting children, in what sense is it an "unalienable right"? In a society (any society) we necessarily limit liberty so we can get along. In what sense, is liberty an "unalienable right"?

In the passages you cited (interesting choice of Bible versions), the actual texts say something ... a little different. (This doesn't fall in the same category of "You see one thing but I see another." None of those references to "rights" actually reference "rights" as we're speaking of them. When we speak of "rights", we speak of entitlements, usually of a legal or moral nature. The passages you listed don't quite mean that. They mean "what is right", "justice". It's a subtle difference, and that's because they are related. When things are "right", they are in accordance with what is good, proper, or just. When they are "rights", they are that which is due to anyone by just claim, legal guarantees, or moral principles.

If, then, the argument is that we ought to serve justice and that people should be treated right, I'd agree that the Bible teaches that repeatedly. Amen! If we argue that the Bible lays down a human right that "all human beings are born free", that one will be harder to assert. The U.N. declaration says, "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, ... or other status." We recognize without hesitation that children do not have the same "rights" as adults ... and should not. (After all, doesn't the Bible say to children, "Children, obey your parents", but does not say to adults, "Parents, obey your children"?) So there is a difference between justice -- that which is right -- and entitlements, the idea that "I have a lot of things coming and no one has the option of blocking me from getting them."

Now, if we are going to talk in terms of "what is right", the Bible has a lot to say about that. If we want to determine "rights" based on what the Bible says is "right", that's another story. I don't think that would work well to the concept of "rights" because the focus shifts in this direction. In the concept of "rights", I have something coming. In the concept of "right", I am obligated to do right. Different focus. I can see a connection between "rights" and "right", but I don't see in Scripture (as an example) the "unalienable rights" of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan said...

None of those references to "rights" actually reference "rights" as we're speaking of them. When we speak of "rights", we speak of entitlements, usually of a legal or moral nature. The passages you listed don't quite mean that.

Oh really? You base this on what?

I think when the Bible says "Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people," I think it is talking exactly about Rights as we are talking about them. In that particular passage, it is quite specifically talking about rulers who make laws that "deprive the poor of their rights..." WHAT rights is the text talking of, if not basic human rights that ought to be legal rights (in context)?

I've read and suspect reasonably that these "rights" in this context are probably referring to laws (entitlements) spelled out for Israel in the Sabbath and Jubilee codes in the OT. God quite specifically gives Israel laws that guarantee that the poor have a right to food and sustenance, that foreigners have a right to decent treatment, for instance. I'll get to that in another post. But in the meantime, I wonder, what "rights" do you think these passages refer to and based on what?

Dan Trabue said...

You state...

So there is a difference between justice -- that which is right -- and entitlements, the idea that "I have a lot of things coming and no one has the option of blocking me from getting them."

And in so doing, give the impression that you have a negative view of the notion of basic human rights. Is that the case?

What reason do you have for thinking there is a difference between justice and rights? I don't see a biblical (or logical or moral) reason to differentiate.

As to specific rights, I think they are quite clearly suggested in the Bible and can be reasonably inferred even if they're not specifically enumerated (or maybe they are). Let's look.

The OT Law lays down all sorts of laws from God to the nation of Israel. These are rules that Israel are expected to follow. Some of a more cultural/temporal nature and some of a more universal/moral nature.

For instance, from Leviticus...

When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born.

Israel was specifically not to mistreat foreigners, for they had been foreigners themselves. Does this reflect some more universal "right"? The right to not be abused/mistreated/segregated? I would say it is a clear hint. More from Leviticus...

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest... Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.

Why? Why ought we do this for the poor and alien? Is it because they are humans created in God's image and worthy of the right to feed themselves/sustenance? It seems implied to me.

Do not defraud your neighbor or rob him.

Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight.


Why? Why NOT cheat a neighbor or a temporary worker? Is it because they have innate rights to be treated fairly?

Do not go about spreading slander among your people.

Why? Why not bear false witness? Is it because we are expected that people have the right to expect fair testimony about them from others?

Do not kill.

Do not shed innocent blood.


Why not? Is it because people have an innate right to life?

Sure, in all these instances, one could say, "we ought not do these things because God said not to do them." But WHY did God tell us not to do (or TO DO) these things? Just a whim of God or is there something about the human condition that we have innate rights as humans and God's creation? I think clearly, the question of whether or not we have at least some natural, rights as human is answered by the places in the Bible where it tells us not to deprive people of their SPECIFIC rights. Clearly we DO have rights, according to the Bible and I think we can infer...

The right to life (based on the many passages commanding not to kill)
The right to fair treatment (based on the many passages commanding such)
The right to the opportunity for sustenance (based on the many passages commanding such)
The right to impartial and fair trials/testimony (based on the many passages commanding such)
The right to self-determination (ie,the right for us to determine for ourselves God's will and how we will or won't follow it; based on the many passages commanding such - although I have not brought any of those up, I can, if you disagree)

For starters. Is it your position that the Bible does not imply these basic human rights?

Stan said...

No, Dan, you're absolutely right. I've seen how these discussions go with you. "You see it that way and I see it this way and you're wrong and I'm right." There is no exchange of reason, no give and take. So, you're absolutely right. I don't know what I was thinking having an opinion different than yours. You win. I lose. We should all be happy now.

Dan Trabue said...

? Stan, honestly, I don't know what you are talking about ("no Dan, you're absolutely right...").

You asked a question. I answered my opinion. I don't know your position yet, you haven't offered it, have you? I mean, I get the implication that you may be thinking that the Bible offers no notion of rights, but I am not at all sure that this is your position.

You asked a question and I answered it with my opinion. It sounds like I've offended you somehow but I am honestly not sure how, merely be offering my opinion.

For the record, I have not said that you are wrong and I am right. I have stated this is my opinion, what is yours?

Are you hearing me say something that I am not intentionally meaning to say?

Dan Trabue said...

To answer an earlier question...

Since we do not have the right to "the pursuit of happiness" if, for instance, "happiness" is brought about by molesting children, in what sense is it an "unalienable right"? In a society (any society) we necessarily limit liberty so we can get along. In what sense, is liberty an "unalienable right"?

I'd say these ARE inalienable rights and that we DO have them, and everyone else has them, too. The main limitations on these rights is that they end when they infringe upon others' rights.

I have a right to pursue happiness, for instance, until such time as my happiness depends upon someone else's loss of life. At that point, I no longer have the right to pursue that happiness.

This is my basic understanding of Natural Law/Human rights. I suppose that is true for you, too? Or is it? (and I'm just asking for clarity's sake - no implications were harmed in the asking of that question...)

Stan said...

Dan Trabue: "The main limitations on these rights is that they end when they infringe upon others' rights."

Okay. I'm a little confused, I guess. I thought you believed that bestiality was wrong, but you seem to say here that as long as it doesn't infringe on another's right, it is a divine right ... right? (Oh, man, too many "rights".)

Dan Trabue: "I don't know what you are talking about"

It's simple. I told you "None of those references to 'rights' actually reference 'rights' as we're speaking of them." You blocked and parried (sorry, my words, not yours) with "Oh really? You base this on what?" You then told me your view of what it means. I was simply pointing out that your view will not coincide with my view and I'll tell you, "This is what the original texts are saying" and you'll say, "That's not how I see it" and we'll be right back where we are in every discussion. So I just thought I'd beat the rush and agree with you.

Here, let me show you a few examples. Prov 29:7 says, "The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor ..." The King James says, "The righteous considereth the cause of the poor ..." "Cause" is the same word used in Prov 31:9 (and elsewhere). (The word is "judgment, cause, plea".) Isa 5:23 references those "who justify the wicked for a bribe, and take away the rights of the ones who are in the right!" The King James says they "justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!" (The word is "justice, righteousness".) You really should understand that the notion of "rights" was radically different in their day than it is today, so the language will reflect a different perspective. Translators in our day will translate it to our view, but that's not because the language demands it. It doesn't.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan said...

I told you "None of those references to 'rights' actually reference 'rights' as we're speaking of them." You [said] "Oh really? You base this on what?" You then told me your view of what it means. I was simply pointing out that your view will not coincide with my view and I'll tell you, "This is what the original texts are saying" and you'll say, "That's not how I see it" and we'll be right back where we are in every discussion.

Yes, I asked you "based on what?" Is that an unreasonable question?

That's how one person determines another's position and understandings are reached and sometimes we learn from one another and sometimes not.

You seem to have a hostile/frustrated view of doing this, but isn't this how conversation happens? Or am I reading hostility/frustration into your comment that isn't there?

Dan Trabue said...

I guess your bestiality thing is a joke? But, just to address it, I would suggest that natural rights thinking suggests a person has a right to do as he wishes as long as it does not infringe upon the rights of another.

For those who view all of creation as just Raw Stuff to be used by humanity, there may be some credence behind the notion that a human could then abuse an animal thusly.

However, for those who view Creation as a sacred gift of God, then a person's right to do as he wishes would end before he began abusing another creature/creation. We have no natural, inherent "right" to abuse other creatures. We have no "right" to pollute our water or skies. Your right to do what you wish begins and ends with you. When you start harming other people or creation, you have reached the limits of your rights, I think most people would agree.

Do you agree or disagree or have some opinion totally on a different track?

Dan Trabue said...

Stan said...

Prov 29:7 says, "The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor ..." The King James says, "The righteous considereth the cause of the poor ..." "Cause" is the same word used in Prov 31:9 (and elsewhere). (The word is "judgment, cause, plea".)

So, Proverbs says that those who are righteous consider the cause of the poor. What IS the cause of the poor, in your mind?

Isaiah says, in KJV, if you prefer...

To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!

What is "the right" mean to you in that context?

Keep in mind that the OT laws state that the poor must be provided for, that widows and orphans and strangers must be provided for - have the opportunity for sustenance. Do you think this is "the right" to which Isaiah refers? If not, then what "right" is he talking about?

In Matthew Henry's commentary on the passage, he says...

The indictment drawn up against these oppressors, v. 1, 2. They are charged, 1. With making wicked laws and edicts: They decree unrighteous decrees, contrary to natural equity and the law of God...

No people had statutes and judgments to righteous as they had, and yet corrupt judges found ways to turn aside the needy from judgment, to hinder them from coming at their right and recovering what was their due, because they were needy and poor, and such as they could get nothing by nor expect any bribes from.


What do you think of Henry's commentary?

See? We can have a rational conversation about a topic, right? I'm looking at your opinions and thoughts on the topic, I'm asking your opinion of mine and of others. Isn't that how it should be?

Stan said...

Oh, there is frustration (not hostility), but it's because I say "X" and you say "Not X" and never the twain shall meet. If you define "dialog" as "to discuss areas of disagreement frankly in order to resolve them", we've never (as far as I can recall) had a "dialog". Hey, we don't even define terms the same (you know, like "false witness") and when I offer a definition you choose not to use it. So, yes, there is frustration. I don't mind a discussion with people who are serious and willing to examine. I've learned a lot from those kinds of discussions. I've been corrected in those kinds of discussions. We haven't had those kinds of discussions.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan said...

If you define "dialog" as "to discuss areas of disagreement frankly in order to resolve them", we've never (as far as I can recall) had a "dialog".

First, let me apologize for anything that I am doing that you find frustrating. It is not my intent.

Secondly, I guess it depends on what you mean by "resolve." I engage in conversations to get a better understanding of the other person. I'm not trying to convince them that I'm right and they're wrong (although often I DO think I'm right and they're wrong - we all do, don't we?). I'm just explaining my position and listening to theirs. That, to me, IS dialog.

You?

Stan said...

I don't mind a discussion with people who are serious and willing to examine. I've learned a lot from those kinds of discussions... We haven't had those kinds of discussions.

We haven't? I am serious and I am willing to examine. When you have offered links, I've tended to look them up, if I'm not mistaken (although you haven't offered many links, have you?).

When you have offered your opinion (or the opinion of others, like when you offered the various commentaries on "woe to you who are rich..."), I have examined what you have read, tried to make sense of it. Sometimes, I have said, "I agree with this part..." when I have agreed. Other times I have asked, "what do you mean by...?" when I haven't understood. And I have offered my opinion for your consideration.

Where in all of that have we not been serious or willing to examine?

I am unsure of your thinking on this point.

Stan said...

There is something fundamentally different in the biblical texts from our concept of "rights". If you look back up there where I made my first comment about your verses, I said, "This doesn't fall in the same category of 'You see one thing but I see another.'" I wasn't saying "No, Dan, you're wrong." But there is a fundamental difference between what the Bible is talking about as opposed to what we think of as "rights". We think of "Mine!" We think "I have my rights and you can't take them!" And then we have this ever-creeping sense of what is "rights". We've shifted from "right to life" (all the way to "the unborn have no right to life") to "right to cellphones and TV". (No kidding. I've heard these arguments.) We have the UN's declaration of basic human rights that, in many cases, don't even make sense.

What is the Bible talking about when it talks about "right", "cause", "judgment" (translated in some versions as "rights")? It's not talking about what's mine. It's talking about what's theirs. God warns us to be careful to do what is right for poor people or for women or ... you get the idea. We think of "rights" as our just due. The Bible looks at "rights" as the proper treatment of others. Nothing in there says, "Mine!"

Here's the ultimate irony. Having stripped off any reference to God (like the UN version), they argue "inalienable rights" without any genuine basis. They argue, for instance, that "a fair and public hearing" is a basic human right. Based on what? They can't use the Bible. (I can't find it in mine anyway.) They aren't allowed to reference God on this. So on what are these rights (remember, inalienable rights) based? There is no answer.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan said...

But there is a fundamental difference between what the Bible is talking about as opposed to what we think of as "rights". We think of "Mine!" We think "I have my rights and you can't take them!"

Indeed, some of us do (just talk to anyone about limiting their "right" to drive as much as they want and see them yell).

But I don't think that all of us do. I don't think serious philosophers/thinkers are doing this. I don't strive to do this. Are YOU thinking that is what Rights mean? I don't think you are.

So, the fact that some people have a misguided idea of what rights are does not mean that the Bible is not talking about rights, as more correctly understood, yes?

I don't think the reality that some people view rights poorly is support for the notion that the Bible is talking about something different than most rational people think of as rights.

And you are correct about the ever-creeping sense of rights (again, people view the "right to drive" as Holy in our nation). But I'm still not sure how that affects our conversation.

I see what you're saying "God warns us to be careful to do what is right for poor people," but I think the text goes way beyond that in suggesting that the poor have some basic rights (justice) that is due them.

Do you disagree that the context is that the poor have a certain amount of justice that was due to them as human beings? Isn't that what you mean when you talk about Human Rights?

Do you disagree with Henry's commentary about Isaiah that the wrong here was the political machinations to "hinder [the poor] from coming at their right and recovering what was their due"? They were due a certain amount of justice, a certain standard practices in regards to have sustenance and that was their right, as human beings - you disagree?

Dan Trabue said...

Here's the ultimate irony. Having stripped off any reference to God (like the UN version), they argue "inalienable rights" without any genuine basis. They argue, for instance, that "a fair and public hearing" is a basic human right. Based on what?

Rational thought? Natural law theory is not dependent upon a Bible to make sense, if I'm remembering my philosophy correctly.

"For Thomas Aquinas, natural law is that part of the eternal law of God ("the reason of divine wisdom") which is knowable by human beings by means of their powers of reason."

Aquinas appears to have accepted that there are laws that are knowable based on reason alone. I agree.

Do you disagree?

Dan Trabue said...

You know, perhaps it would help if we begin with some definitions. You ask at your post's conclusion...

So, for the Christians, let's start here. Go to your Bibles and find, if you will, a basic list of "human rights".

So, I guess it is reasonable to have a common understanding of what you mean by "human rights,' Yes?

If you don't mind, would you define what you mean by that?

In the meantime, here is Merriam's definition...

rights (as freedom from unlawful imprisonment, torture, and execution) regarded as belonging fundamentally to all persons

Amnesty Interenational says...

Human rights are basic rights and freedoms that all people are entitled to regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, language, or other status.

Human rights include civil and political rights, such as the right to life, liberty and freedom of expression; and social, cultural and economic rights including the right to participate in culture, the right to food, and the right to work and receive an education.


I agree, in general. These are the correct definition of human rights. I might define it as the notion that all humans - by nature of their very humanity - ought to be able to expect certain behaviors, treatments, conditions from others. These rights are endowed by God, innate to our humanity. That is, it is a basic human right to be allowed to live. It is a basic human right to be able to determine one's own future (not have it imposed on you by others).

For instance.

How about you?

Stan said...

Help me out here, Dan. Where in the Bible do you find the right to "freedom of expression"? Where do you turn to locate "the right to work" or education? I'm particularly interested in anything you can point to in the Bible that would guarantee "political rights" (given that no one in biblical history had "political rights").

You see, here's the problem. While on one hand you argue that it is a basic human right to be allowed to live, you also argue for the right of mothers to choose to kill their babies. Now, you did say you were against abortion, but not so much that you would consider the woman's right to choose less important than the baby's right to live. Now we're stuck. You see, I thought you said they were "inalienable", and here basic human rights are being ... alienated.

Thomas Aquinas argued for natural law. Fine. Dandy. Questionable. What I mean is that if you approach it from God's perspective, it makes sense. If you approach it from Darwin's perspective, it is irrational. Why would one blob of biochemical material have "rights"? See the problem?

Here's the thing. I believe there are "human rights". Finding those obscure, genuine, biblical human rights and separating them from the array of "rights" we carry now (like the UN's list) is very, very difficult. (You know, like "political rights".)

Dan Trabue said...

I know I've asked a lot of questions, but would you mind trying to answer a few more of them? I'm still not clear on your position.

What is your definition of human rights (so I know what I'm looking for in the Bible)?

Do you agree with Aquinas on the concept of Natural Rights ("that which is knowable by human beings by means of their powers of reason."?

Do you disagree that the context (of Isaiah 10) is that the poor have a certain amount of justice that was due to them as human beings? Isn't that what you mean when you talk about Human Rights?

Do you disagree with Henry's commentary about Isaiah that the wrong here was the political machinations to "hinder [the poor] from coming at their right and recovering what was their due"?

So, the fact that some people have a misguided idea of what rights are does not mean that the Bible is not talking about rights, as more correctly understood, yes?

Dan Trabue said...

Stan asked...

Where in the Bible do you find the right to "freedom of expression"? Where do you turn to locate "the right to work" or education? I'm particularly interested in anything you can point to in the Bible that would guarantee "political rights"

? I have not stated (yet) that there is a freedom of expression within the Bible. I have not stated that there is a right to education. I have not stated there is a right to political rights. So, why are you asking?

I may get around to some of those, but so far, I've suggested these rights:

* The right to life (based on the many passages commanding not to kill)

* The right to fair treatment (based on the many passages commanding such)

* The right to the opportunity for sustenance (based on the many passages commanding such)

* The right to impartial and fair trials/testimony (based on the many passages commanding such)

* The right to self-determination (ie,the right for us to determine for ourselves God's will and how we will or won't follow it; based on the many passages commanding such - although I have not brought any of those up, I can, if you disagree)

Stan said...

Dan Trabue: "So, why are you asking?"

You quoted Amnesty International:
"Human rights include civil and political rights, such as the right to life, liberty and freedom of expression; and social, cultural and economic rights including the right to participate in culture, the right to food, and the right to work and receive an education."

Then you said, "I agree, in general. These are the correct definition of human rights."

You see, this is where I run into problems with "human rights".

Dan Trabue: "I know I've asked a lot of questions, but would you mind trying to answer a few more of them? I'm still not clear on your position."

No, I don't think so. I answered some (most). Unfortunately I didn't do it in the format "You asked x and I answer".

Something that you're so very well known for is running down rabbit trails. The post is about this idea and we end up debating that to death. I asked about a biblical source of rights and you want to know what I think about Aquinas and Matthew Henry's commentary. I already answered that I thought the Bible references human rights, but you aren't satisfied with that answer and want to chase down other trails. It has been a long day and I'm receiving too many private complaints ("Why do you keep up the argument with Dan?") and I think I'm done.

Jim Jordan said...

This was an excellent post, Stan. You nailed what I think is the most detestable thing about the United States: the blending of rights with entitlements. It's really the Prosperity Gospel in practice.

By the way, I sense a level of deconstructionism in Dan's responses. To be constructive, Dan, you created a false premise on at least one occasion when you wrote:
"However, for those who view Creation as a sacred gift of God, then a person's right to do as he wishes would end before he began abusing another creature/creation. We have no natural, inherent "right" to abuse other creatures."

Without defining "abuse" this is totally unclear. By the authority God gives man in the Bible it would not be abuse to kill an animal to eat it. To kill it for fun, yes, but not if you eat it. If you classify all harm to animals as abuse then you are assuming animals and humans are equal.

Dan--"The right to life (based on the many passages commanding not to kill)"
Kill is inaccurate. The Bible commands us not to murder.

Dan--"The right to fair treatment (based on the many passages commanding such)"

The fair treatment is defined by what? The Bible's instruction on natural rights; the inalienable rights that Jefferson wrote about. I think what Stan is saying is that "rights" like the "right" to choose to abort your child or the "right" to gay marriage are misnomers and I agree. They are entitlements. A right to fair treatment is not a guarantee of success in all one thinks is "fair".

Since you started out discussing feminist ideas on equality, I'd add that there are limits to how equal a man and a woman can be. An apple and an orange can be treated equally but they are never equal. The tragedy of modern feminism is the inclusion of a "right" to abort your child so that women can be as free of children as a man can be if they choose. Natural rights are imperative. In this instance, children are murdered when natural rights are replaced by unnatural rights.

starflyer said...

Stan said: While on one hand you argue that it is a basic human right to be allowed to live, you also argue for the right of mothers to choose to kill their babies. Now, you did say you were against abortion, but not so much that you would consider the woman's right to choose less important than the baby's right to live.

And then Dan T. said: I may get around to some of those, but so far, I've suggested these rights:

* The right to life (based on the many passages commanding not to kill)


But...never really addressed what Stan said. That's because he does support a mother's right to kill her baby, which seems to contradict his view of "right to life". Dan, if I'm wrong about your view, I apologize. Correct me in this way...state "I'm pro life and support the baby's right to life, and am therefore against abortion"...and then add something like "except for instances where the mother's life is in danger", or something like that. But please don't dance around the issue with TONS of words and shock that we don't understand you. Just say those words. Because if you can't do that, you CANNOT proclaim to support life. Unless you're going to try to explain to all of us that a baby is not a full human being until it is born. So...are you truly "pro life"?

Dan Trabue said...

Starflyer, your question requires me to go off topic and Stan does not appear to be posting my ON-topic comments, so I doubt that he'd post an off-topic one. You can ask Stan if he wants to chase that rabbit, but I've already been chided (incorrectly, I believe) for bringing up off-topic comments, I'll pass on going further down that road and further frustrating Stan, at least not without his permission.

Stan said...

Dan, answer if you want. I brought up the same sort of thing (without response).

Dan Trabue said...

I brought up the same sort of thing (without response).

I did not know that a response was necessary. You did not ask me any questions and, as it was off topic, I did not address the comment.

I'm sorry if I'm not following the rules of your blog. It feels like to me I'm being criticized for staying ON topic - offering up some Human Rights I think are found within the Bible, looking at what other traditional commentaries have to say on the text in question, asking for a clarification of Human Rights since that was part of the question - these ALL seem to be on topic, to me, and entirely harmless, reasonable comments.

And then I get a response from you saying that you and your readers are "Frustrated" at my comments. I am just astounded, at least on this particular post, I thought my comments were very topical and polite and reasonable.

Then, when you bring up abortion and question my views on it (which is not the topic of the post), I did ignore it, trying to honor your desire that I not chase rabbits. Can you understand why I'm confused at the brusqueness with which I'm being approached?

From my point of view, this was a friendly conversation about a very interesting topic. And it still is, as far as I'm concerned.

Stan said...

Actually (and only I know it, apparently, because I know what I was thinking when I wrote the post), it is precisely the topic.

You affirmed "right to life" as a basic, inalienable human right. My point, in fact, is "By what authority are rights conferred?" and "In what sense are rights 'unalienable'?" You (most everyone) would argue that "right to life" is "unalienable". Okay ... but we already admit this isn't true. Certain criminals receive the death penalty. Mothers choose to kill their babies in the womb. All of this is legal stuff, so apparently "the right to life" is not unalienable. So ... now we have a confusion going on about what is and is not a "human right".

(That's why Starflyer's question and my comments were actually on topic.)

By the way, the frustration of my readers is not solely in this line of comments. There was a whole bunch of stuff going on at once and most of it was off topic (on other posts) and sounding confrontational rather than a friendly discussion. That, of course, would bleed over to how this conversation would be perceived. So don't take the frustration of my readers as on this topic. It's much more general than that.

Dan Trabue said...

You had asked in your post:

Go to your Bibles and find, if you will, a basic list of "human rights".

I did so, eventually offering this opinion:

so far, I've suggested these rights:

* The right to life (based on the many passages commanding not to kill)...


You responded to that comment, saying:

While on one hand you argue that it is a basic human right to be allowed to live, you also argue for the right of mothers to choose to kill their babies. Now, you did say you were against abortion, but not so much that you would consider the woman's right to choose less important than the baby's right to live.

Now, my answer was to your question (What human rights do we find in the Bible?) I think the right to life is implied in the Bible and said so. Since there was no question here and since it did not have anything to do with the topic (what rights do we find in the Bible?), I didn't address it.

Since some would like me to address it, though...

* I believe that all humans have as an innate and God-given characteristic, the right to life. That is, the right to not have someone wrongfully take their life from them.

* Now, there may be some conditions where a life may be taken, but it may not be wrongfully taken. IF we are just talking Biblical positions, for instance, some would argue that it would not be "wrongful" to take the life of a murderer, that this is a Just reason to take a life and not a conflict of the innate right to life. If I'm not mistaken, some here would agree that there are sometimes when taking a life is not in conflict with the right to life. Yes?

[As a note, I'll often ask questions like that at the end of my point to confirm that we are on the same page and understanding one another. It is a part of having a meaningful conversation, it seems to me. It helps, then, when we answer the questions of others when they are seeking confirmation that they are understanding one another.]

Dan Trabue said...

* Assuming you agree: Now we have agreement that there is a general Right to life, but that there may be exceptions to that. Times when taking a life is not a crime. That it's the WRONGFULLY taking of a life that is the violation of the right to life.

* One of the exceptions to that rule (for me, at least) come in end of life questions. IF a person is elderly, sick, in horrible pain and is ready to pass on, but their body is hanging on, causing them great anguish, I don't think it is WRONGFUL taking of life for them to stop eating, for instance, in order to hasten their departure from this world. I might not advise it, but I don't think it wrongful. Taking that another step, if someone had told their spouse that they did not want to be kept alive in a vegetative state should it come to that and that loved one honored the sick one's wishes and "pulled the plug" I don't think that is a wrongful death.

* Taking that a step further, if the spouse never specifically said that he would not want to be kept alive artificially and that situation arises and the spouse has to make a decision, I think it is hers to make and not a wrongful death. It COULD be, to be sure, if she was merely being selfish or wanted an insurance claim or some such, but it would not necessarily be wrongful.

* Abortion comes closer to coming to that category for me. A hard decision based on the particular circumstances of that particular family where a woman is pregnant and the family has to weigh the best interests of the mother AND child and make a decision as to what to do. Now it may NOT be a correct decision, but that has to do with motive. It's a tough call and ultimately, I want that call to be the family's, not governments.

* Having said that, I do fear that too many abortions are made for bad medical reasons, for selfishness' sake, not for health sake. Now I can't prove that, but it is a concern. I would be very open to striving to tinker with the laws about the medical procedure of abortion to strive to discourage so-called "abortions of convenience," but I would not want to criminalize the procedure because I think it is a legitimate medical procedure in at least some cases.

Dan Trabue said...

All of that is ONE way I look at abortion, but there is another angle, for me.

It seems to me that "abortions of convenience," if they exist, are immoral, wrong. Aborting a fetus merely because a baby would be inconvenient or because it's a girl or for other less savory reasons strikes me as wrong. However, I am not 100% sure on the topic.

I THINK that a fetus ought to be considered a human being, but I don't know for sure that morally it IS a human being. That is my hunch, but I don't know that I can prove that hunch.

It's like this: I disagree with the notion of the personal automobile. I think everyone having their own car and driving it everywhere they go is immoral and wrongheaded and, well, stupid, on MANY levels. I think they are an affront to God's creation. Therefore, I don't drive very much (my family has one car that is mainly my wife's - who does not feel as strongly as I do on the topic; I tend to walk to work, church, etc).

I feel pretty strongly about it, BUT I am not 100% sure that it is immoral in every case. In fact, I think it probably isn't immoral in every case, it's just the cumulative effect of having millions of drivers that is most disturbing.

The thing is, I'm not 100% convinced it is always immoral. Therefore, I don't strive to criminalize cars. I disagree with it, but I recognize it is a gray area and, therefore, don't force my less-than-certain opinion upon everyone.

Abortion is like that, for me. My hunch is that in many cases, it is wrong. I'd like to see much less of it. But I'm not at all convinced that it is always wrong - in fact, I don't think it is always wrong. That being the case and not being a fan of BIG gov't making our decisions for us, I leave it to the hands of the individuals involved.

There you have it how I can believe that life is a basic human right and yet not be opposed to abortion.

Stan said...

Assuming a "right to life", in what sense is it "unalienable"?

Dan Trabue said...

I was getting ready to ask why you kept using "unalienable," but I see the place that I first quoted Jefferson used that term. Someone's typo, I suppose, sorry for repeating it.

Or, I guess NOT a typo. I checked and found...

"The final version of the Declaration uses the word "unalienable." Some earlier drafts used the word "inalienable," which is the term our modern dictionaries prefer. The two words mean precisely the same thing."

So, no need to scare quote unalienable.

At any rate, you asked...

Assuming a "right to life", in what sense is it "unalienable"?

Well, let's check out the definition, always seems like a good starting point to me.

incapable of being alienated, surrendered, or transferred

I would guess that what Jefferson meant (and it's just a guess, I've not read any studies on it or anything) is that the right to life is innate to human beings - that it can't be forcibly separated from them without due cause. That would be my guess as to what Jefferson thought.

What do you think?

starflyer said...

Dan, that didn't quite do it for me. Let's say you were walking to work, because it's immoral to drive everywhere (don't take offense, I just got a chuckle out of that one), and you came across a woman dumping her baby in a dumpster. When you confronted her about it (and I assume you would), she say's "bug off, this is a family matter".

Would you not call the police? Well, what is the difference? Oh, the baby is now 2 hours outside of the womb. You see, all of your arguments above neglect the fact that there is a child involved. The ONLY argument that might have made any sense at all is if it was a "mother or child" decision - in other words, one life or the other - the mother's life was in danger. (I'm not condoning that exception, merely pointing out that one as being one that would have people on both sides struggling with). Other than that, what logical argument is there to terminate the LIFE involved?

Lastly, you said you have a hunch it's a human being, but cannot prove it. Don't you think you'd rather err on the "it is human" side? I mean, if the fetus really is human...wouldn't God be rightfully enraged at all of the killing of the unborn? After all, as you say...what sin did the infant commit? C'mon! Stand up for them in this issue like you do in the Sin issue. At least then you'd be consistent!

Dan Trabue said...

SF said:

that didn't quite do it for me.

Sorry, it is my reasoning, nonetheless. Best I can do. Feel free to disagree.

Would I rather err on "it is human" side? Yes, and for that reason, I can't imagine having an abortion unless the baby would be born in horrible pain or perhaps if it threatened the life of the mother.

But I am not convinced enough to force my opinion on others, not unlike my position on cars.