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Human Dignity

October 20, 2019

Eleanor Roosevelt holding poster of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Source flickr, Author FDR Presidential Library and Museum (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948.  Its drafters appealed to the “common intuition that every person, regardless of circumstances, challenges, privileges, or merits, has an inherent value, equal to that of all other persons” [1A].

The document was, however, a product of consensus.  It represented an attempt to reconcile wildly divergent worldviews by using ambiguous language [1B].

“It is not surprising that much of the fight over human rights concerns our core physical and existential needs…Freedom, understood as the absence of any limitations, represents the pinnacle of our modern ambitions, and anything that stands in the way is branded an illegitimate shackling of the person and denial of human rights.  ‘Sexual rights’, abortion, the elimination of parental rights, and radical sexuality education for children thus constitute the prevalent social issues in dispute at the UN today” [1C].

–Elyssa Koren, UN Counsel, and Paul Coleman, Exec. Dir. of ADF International

Modern slavery, sex-trafficking, religious persecution, and ethnic cleansing demonstrate how far the world is from implementing the ideals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The problem is that ethical and moral obligations do not derive from the natural world [2A].

Charles Darwin believed that morality emerged from the evolution of human social instincts.  Even he, however, acknowledged the shortcomings of this belief.

“If…men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters; and no one would think of interfering.”

–Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, pp. 102-103

“Whichever characteristic we choose to ground human dignity, some human beings will not possess the characteristic at all, and some will possess it to a higher degree than others…” [2B].

–Angus Menuge, Chair of Philosophy Dept. at Concordia University

The Bible does not base human dignity on such variable qualities.

“Human beings are the center of God’s creation and nature…Our creation in the image of God ‘forms the deep ontological foundation of a Christian theory of human dignity, human worth, and human rights’…Our dignity is found in our having been created, that is, on our dependence on God…We have dignity not because we have willed, evolved, or merited it, but because God has graciously chosen to confer it upon us, when he did not need to do so…Because all human beings have been created by God with inherent worth (dignity), no one may decide whether or not another human being has human rights…Ultimately, the proper understanding of human nature, and consequent treatment of each person…depends on love of neighbor.  Human rights are not simply about individual rights claims, but rather ‘what we have a duty to give to, or protect in, others.  Rights thus become an obligation of justice and mercy…’ ” [3].

–Andrew DeLoach, Dir. of the Center for Human Rights at Trinity Law School and of the International Human Rights Program at the Hague

[1A, 1B, and 1C]  Journal of Christian Legal Thought, Vol. 9, No. 2 (2019), pp. 8-10, “The Universal Declaration and the Distortion of Human Rights” by Elyssa Koren and Paul Coleman.

[2A and 2B]  Journal of Christian Legal Thought, Vol. 9. No. 2 (2019), pp. 11-17, “Human Rights and Their Counterfeits” by Angus Menuge.

[3]  Journal of Christian Legal Thought, Vol. 9, No. 2 (2019), pp. 1-6, “Human > Rights” by Andrew DeLoach.


  1. Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote permalink

    “[E]very person, regardless of circumstances, challenges, privileges, or merits, has an inherent value, equal to that of all other persons” — Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone believed that, and behaved accordingly?

  2. Reblogged this on idahodimple.

  3. Isn’t it amazing how that nearly everyone recognizes the need to love one another and treat one another with respect, yet so few will take the one and only fail-safe approach to do so? Long before there was ever an organization called the United Nations, a simple statement was made that if followed would negate the need for any other declarations on human rights and dignity.

    Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40

    If only this fallen race would love God as Jesus reminded the people of His day, loving each other would become automatic.

  4. Great post Anna!
    So many are drawn into the false religions looking for world peace..
    Buddhists and Hindus recognized Jesus for His love of mankind..
    Jesus taught to love one another because love is the root of peace with all mankind.
    The world needs Jesus 🙂

  5. Thank you, Anna for sharing the quote from Andrew DeLoach.

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