Looking for Bedrock: Accounting for Human Rights in Classical Liberalism, Modern Secularism, and the Christian Tradition
Campbell Law Review, Vol. 33, p. 609, 2010-2011
32 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2011 Last revised: 29 Apr 2012
Date Written: 2010
The concept of human rights can be traced back for centuries. Discussion of individual rights can be found in the writers of late medieval times but as Western Europe moved into the early modern period, an additional and somewhat broader emphasis on rights can be found among the political theorists of the Protestant Reformation. Later yet, a rights-based approach became central to several strands of Enlightenment understanding of political order.
Yet, consensus on new human rights has become increasingly difficult and implementation a contentious matter. A a reason for these progressively more intractable challenges results from the failure to grapple with the very grounding of human rights. Human rights theories abstracted from real human beings with their thick historical, moral, and theological conceptions of life are insufficient. The more abstract the ground for human rights, the less traction it has for concrete individuals. Harmony on a single account for human rights is not feasible in this pluralistic age but candid discussion of the competing presuppositions -- including those arising within religious traditions -- can prove helpful. This Article presents one such account in terms of the Christian doctrines of the creation of human beings in the image of God and the divine delegation to humans of authority to rectify wrongs.
Keywords: human rights
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