Christianity and Human Rights: Past Contributions and Future Challenges

40 Pages Posted: 1 May 2017 Last revised: 29 Jul 2019

See all articles by John Witte

John Witte

Emory University School of Law

Justin Latterell

Emory University School of Law

Date Written: 2015

Abstract

This Article analyzes the historical sources and forms of human rights in Western legal and Christian traditions, and identifies key questions about the intersections of Christianity and human rights in modern contexts. The authors identify nine distinctions between different conceptions of rights correlating with four types of jural relationships, and argue that leading historical accounts of human rights attribute “subjective” rights too narrowly to Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment legal thought. Earlier forms of classical Roman law and medieval canon law, and legal norms developed by Protestant reformers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries shaped Western human rights regimes in historically important ways, anticipating most of the rights formulation of modern liberals. In response to contemporary scholars who criticize human rights paradigms as inadequate or incompatible with Christian faith and practice, the authors argue that rights should remain a part of Christian moral, legal, and political discourse, and that Christians should remain a part of pluralistic public debates about the appropriate scope and substance of human rights protections.

Keywords: Christianity; human rights; freedom; subjective rights; objective right; Bible; Catholicism; Second Vatican Council; rights skepticism; rights critique; Enlightenment; political liberalism; Leo Strauss; Stanley Hauweras; Patrick Parkinson; Helen Alvare; Robert Franklin; prisoners; African-Americans

Suggested Citation

Witte, John and Latterell, Justin, Christianity and Human Rights: Past Contributions and Future Challenges (2015). Journal of Law and Religion, Vol. 30, 2015, Emory Legal Studies Research Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2897547

John Witte (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

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Justin Latterell

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

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