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A Secular Theology, Part 3

January 28, 2018

Demonstration for Planned Parenthood, Author The All Nite Images from NYC, Source flickr at (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

In an article from the Journal of Christian Legal Thought titled “The New Dignity”, Roberta Ahmanson makes this stark observation:

“Planned Parenthood executives bargain to sell aborted body parts, Bruce Jenner strikes a pose across the cover of Vanity Fair…and California Governor Jerry Brown signs a law allowing doctors to kill.

All in the name of dignity [1].”

Underlying all these events, as Ahmanson points out, is a radical change in our culture’s understanding of human dignity.

Professor Emeritus George Kateb of Princeton describes this new view of dignity as grounded in man’s ability to defy nature, to go beyond natural limitations and recreate himself.  That runs counter to the inalienable quality with which the Declaration of Independence described us as being “endowed by our Creator”.

Ahmanson defines the new dignity more precisely (if more prosaically):

“Dignity is no longer so much about who or what we are:  it is about what our unfettered will can do, and what it can forbid others to do.”

Freedom and Limits

Andrew DeLoach in “Our Cultural Counterdream” explores the pursuit of unconstrained freedom further.  DeLoach is especially critical of the law for supporting this pursuit.  He concludes that the desire to abolish all limits, in fact, arises from nihilism – a sense of boredom so extreme it finds no value in the norm.

DeLoach explains the Christian understanding of dignity this way:

“The imago Dei [image of God] is given freely to us so that, in response, we would be a living gift to others.  We are more truly human – and more truly free – when we trust in the Creator to orient our desires and actions according to the limitations He has given for our good.”

Technology and Dignity

Finally, Stephen Kennedy in “Data and Dignity” examines the impact of technology on human dignity.

Compelled to provide increasing amounts of information about ourselves to strangers, we discover that our social security number, driver’s license, bank account and credit card numbers, viewing history, purchase preferences, and medical records are being sold to commercial agents, used in social science research, hacked, delivered to government agencies, reviewed by insurance companies, shared with cellular networks, and otherwise disclosed without our knowledge or consent.  The possibilities for abuse are innumerable.

Kennedy sees this process as dehumanizing.  There is little or no liability for the misuse of our data.  Instead, it is employed to objectify us.


God does not, of course, see us as data bytes.  His love is redemptive and transformative.  It takes into account the fact that human beings are flawed and fallen…whatever they might prefer to believe.

“The world is trying the experiment of attempting to form a civilized but non-Christian mentality.  The experiment will fail; but we must be very patient awaiting its collapse; meanwhile redeeming the time:  so that the Faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us; to renew and rebuild civilization, and save the World from suicide.”

-TS Eliot, “Thoughts After Lambeth” (1931)

[1]  All articles discussed in this series can be found in Vol. 7, No. 1, Fall 2017 Edition of the Journal of Christian Legal Thought, published by the Institute for Christian Legal Studies (a joint ministry of Regent University School of Law and the Christian Legal Society).


From → Christian, Faith, Religion

  1. “Andrew DeLoach in “Our Cultural Counterdream” explores the pursuit of unconstrained freedom further.”

    Another word for unconstrained freedom is anarchy. From Google’s dictionary *with my emphasis*:
    a state of disorder due to absence or nonrecognition of authority.
    “he must ensure public order in a country threatened with anarchy”
    synonyms: lawlessness, nihilism, mobocracy, revolution, insurrection, disorder, chaos, mayhem, tumult, turmoil
    “conditions are dangerously ripe for anarchy”
    absence of government and *absolute freedom of the individual,* regarded as a political ideal.

    Not, I think, what would be good for us!

  2. Reblogged this on idahodimple.

  3. Informative, enlightening, and thoughtful post Anna. I’ve often contemplated this issue of what actually happens to all of the information being gathered about us. As “Orwellian” as this may sound,I would not be surprised to learn that in some gigantic data repository there exists a DNA profile of each of us. A profile that will ultimately be used in the application of a mark, without which no one can buy or sell.

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