Christian Dignity and the Overlapping Consensus

29 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2020 Last revised: 18 May 2021

See all articles by Frederick Mark Gedicks

Frederick Mark Gedicks

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School

Date Written: September 7, 2020


This Article rejects arguments by Christian leaders, scholars, and others who lament the secularization of the West and urge Christian dignity as the foundation of universal human rights. It argues instead that only a secular conception of dignity free of Christian metaphysics can create an overlapping consensus in support of human rights.

Part I describes the roots of Christian dignity in medieval theology and status. Part II briefly recounts how the Renaissance and Enlightenment re-centered the end of dignity from knowing God to knowing oneself, while the Reformation’s extension of original sin to the intellect left Catholicism as the primary defender of the medieval dignity tradition in modernity. Part III shows that unprecedented religious difference and moral pluralism in the West make the Christian dignity promoted by religious conservatives implausible as the ground of universal human rights. The theological and natural law underpinnings and the political implications of Christian dignity alienate and exclude unbelievers, non-Christians, and even many Christians, impeding the formation of a stable political consensus supporting human rights. Part IV concludes with observations about why conservative Christians might find the overlapping consensus attractive, and why they might not.

Keywords: human dignity, Christian dignity, Christian theology, universal human rights, natural law, metaphysics, religious pluralism, moral pluralism, conservatism

Suggested Citation

Gedicks, Frederick Mark, Christian Dignity and the Overlapping Consensus (September 7, 2020). 46 Brigham Young University Law Review 1245 (2021), BYU Law Research Paper No. 20-22, Available at SSRN:

Frederick Mark Gedicks (Contact Author)

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School ( email )

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