inalienable rights and the doctrine of total depravity

I’ve been thinking about our country. I love it.

I love the constitution and all the freedom-loving ideals that founded it. When I hear the Declaration of Independence read aloud it gives me chills. But a couple phrases in it are quite opposed to Christian ideology. Jefferson writes, “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…”

Rights. This is the word that gives me trouble. Do we really have God-given rights? As Christians, don’t we believe that we are entitled to nothing…that life itself is a gift? Every breath I take is evidence of God’s mercy; every moment it is his right to crush me, if he choose, for the unbelievable audacity I have shown by sinning against a holy God.

And if we do believe that we have rights, what does this mean for salvation? God’s sacrifice of His only Son on the cross looks small, trite, perhaps even unnecessary, to one filled with their own self-important rights. Our depravity and our need for a Savior diminish as our rights increase.

Yet, depravity is a reality. We are utterly depraved. In desperate need of a Savior.

And because God has shown his outrageous grace to us by sending His Son to die for us, to reconcile us to Himself, we are then indebted to protect the life that He lovingly creates. No, it is not the right of the unborn to live, it is pure grace that they have been created. But it is our duty to protect and defend that life. Life has supreme value because it was created in His image, not because it was endowed with His rights.

Do you think this understanding of rights has had an effect on the Gospel in America? My hand has been tipped, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

5 thoughts on “inalienable rights and the doctrine of total depravity

  1. Abigail –
    Good thoughts – I totally agree. I got into a discussion not long ago about this word “rights”. The topic was universal healthcare and the throwing around of this idea that every American has a right to healthcare. My argument was along a similar train of thought – whether you’re for or against it, you can’t argue that we all have the “right” to it. Where did this right come from? And where was it before doctors and drugs existed? Did God grant Moses the right to a prescription drug plan like he has supposedly granted all of us? Or should we view it as a privilege and/or something to be earned?
    Anyway… I appreciate your line of thinking.

  2. Abigail:

    Great post. I agree with your theology and think the notion of rights — as against God and each other — is killing us. It places us solidly in the center of the universe in our own eyes and fosters “justified” selfishness. I do think, though, that your comments on abortion highlight why Jefferson was at least largely correct in the context in which he wrote, i.e., the proper role of just government. God has established certain rights for people by commanding that a man not murder, not steal, and the like. If my neighbor has no right to take my life, I have a right not to be killed by my neighbor. And government is ordained by God to protect — not trample — those rights. I suppose the question then is whether and to what extent a Christian may resist a government that sanctions the unjust taking of life, property, etc. in light of the scriptural instructions to turn the other cheek, love our neighbors, and submit to government as authority ordained by God. Does it matter whether the rights being violated are ours or others? Fodder for another blog post maybe . . .

  3. Abigail,
    Wonderful post. Of course, the inalienable rights of which Jefferson spoke–life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness–life is the only one mandated by God. Since we are made in his image, we have no choice except to protect innocent life. How can we do otherwise? Political liberty and happiness pursuing are not mandatory in God’s economy. Liberty in Christ? Of course. Pursuit of joy in Christ? Required. But polically, those don’t fly in my judgment.

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