The Issue of human rights is important for various reasons: It's a Christian pursuit and affirms Christian principles (as I discuss below), and it is of great importance for South Africa at present. We should work through the issues, do hard thinking, discuss it amongst ourselves, pray about it and endeavour to influence the present national discussion.
But is it really a Christian pursuit? Why, and what are the foundations? Perhaps some theologians and philosophers could write something about the historic development of this issue? I am merely attempting to make a contribution toward the discussion by giving some thoughts on the possible Christian foundation. This foundation would have two major philosophical branches, which I divide for practicalityís sake. In practice they are complementary: biblical and non-biblical revelation.
Specifically with regard to the first, I mention three possible foundational points:
1. The Implicit and explicit values found in the Creation story
2. The life of Jesus as portrayed in Phil.2:5-7
3. The broken reality of which we are still a part
1. †††† We are created In the Image of God to be fully human. We are ascribed the ability and freedom to choose our dignity, value and worth. We must also affirm our individual and corporate responsibility as our relational character.
2. †††† In the life, words, death and resurrection of the Lord Christ each personís worth, value and dignity is upheld and emphasised. He left behind his own right (and privilege) precisely to obtain a way for us to live as the human beings that we were originally created to be (lots more could be mentioned here). Phil. 2:6-7 is a remarkable insight into Christís active concern for our sin-oppressed state: He, as the privileged, gave himself for us, in order that in Him we might be fully human.
3. †††† It is tragic to see inequality in our broken reality and in this we see, once again, our total depravity! Sin has caused us (also Christians) to dehumanise each other and because of that reality we need to struggle for fundamental human rights!
I believe that the other philosophical branch (the non-biblical data) is perhaps even of greater importance, precisely because Scripture treats human rights as a given. It is part of our created nature. We must discern, by way of creational laws, the rights that every person should have in order to be fully human.
These are only some thoughts. Please comment constructively!
Etienne van Rensburg
Many to Many Issue 3 February 1993