Apologetics declaration-of-independence

Published on May 4th, 2011 | by Bojidar Marinov

17

The Christian View of Rights

In the last several weeks I ran across several comments by well-meaning Christians concerning the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the whole concept of political and legal rights in general. The authors of the comments argued that, as Christians, we are not supposed to argue for human rights; such argument, in their view was taking the focus away from God and placing it on us as men. We have no rights as humans, the argument ran, we have only obligations to God, and our obligation to God is to witness to His glory and His Gospel. When we insist on our political and legal rights, our pride gets in the way, and God is not glorified, neither is His Gospel proclaimed. Therefore, one of the writers said, the Declaration of Independence was not a Christian document, because it was based on a false concept – our rights given to us by our Creator – whereas a Christian document won’t even mention rights but only give testimony to the glory of God.

Now, I won’t argue that the Declaration of Independence is necessarily a Christian document; it certainly is a product of a Christian culture, containing elements that can not be found in any other culture or religion but Christianity, but it is far from I would consider a full-fledged Christian document. But not because of the language of rights. To the contrary, I argue that the language of rights is the most Christian element in the Declaration. I also argue that while the argument above comes from well-meaning Christians, it is a fallacious argument. Rights, political and legal, not only have place in our Christian worldview, they are by necessity an inseparable part of our Christian heritage and of our Christian faith and testimony. Not only rights do not take away from God’s glory and His Gospel, they are a major part of that glory and of His Gospel. A Christian can not witness for God unless he also witnesses for human rights, because human rights are part of the Gospel of Christ. While the argument against rights may have some resemblance to humility and piety, it in fact is a fallacious argument with no Biblical foundation.

To start with, the opposite of rights is not humility, obedience, witness, the Gospel, or God’s glory. Neither of these things reject our rights, and neither of these things is impaired or diminished by the establishment of human rights in the society. The opposite of rights is wrongs. That means, when a society rejects rights, it establishes the legality of wrongs. When wrongs are legal, this is called injustice. We know a society is unjust when it treats its weaker members – the orphan, the widow, and the stranger – wrongly, not according to the righteousness of the Law of God, but according to the false righteousness of the laws of men. A culture where might makes right is a culture of wrongs, of injustice.

It is true that the orthodox Christian doctrine rejects any claims of man towards God. Man has no worth before God, and has nothing to claim when he faces God. Even if Adam and Eve had obeyed God, and if there was no original sin imputed to the generations after them; and even if men did not sin and fall short of the glory of God, they will still remain creatures, wholly dependent on their Creator, and His property by the virtue of being created by Him. Man can not deserve his place before his Creator even if he was perfectly righteous and never committed a single sin. And now, after mankind has sunken deep into sin, man has even less claims on God, having broken God’s Law and deserving only death.

So we as Christians submit to God and let His will control our life. But does that mean we are without rights before God? No, it doesn’t. To claims so would be to claim there is injustice in God. Our rights, indeed, are not in anything we are or can bring to the table; our rights before God are in His very Person, Who is Righteousness and Justice Himself. We do not claim rights before God because there is no need for it: God is Righteousness Himself, and He will always treat us in the most right way. Our claims can not change this fact, and in fact, our claims before God can only lead us to substitute our self-righteousness for His Righteousness. Our testimony of God is not based on His omnipotence to do as He pleases; it is based on His nature to act according to His nature, which is righteous and just. And that’s why in the First Table of the Decalogue – the Commandments that regulate the relation of man to God – the obligations are entirely on the man; God is not expected, by His very nature, to act unrighteously toward man; and therefore man is protected from wrongs by the very nature of God.

But whether one agrees with the concept of our “rights” before God implied in God’s righteousness, the more important part of the argument is our rights according to the Second Table of the Decalogue – the Commandments that regulate our relation to our fellow man. It is there where the Christian doctrine of rights has created a true revolution in culture, a revolution that has transformed the political, legal, economic, and relational realities of Christendom and has made its culture completely different from both older pagan societies it replaced, and modern non-Christian societies.

Unlike God, we do not expect our fellow men to always treat us with righteousness and justice. We all know it because every one of us is also a party to the interpersonal and inter-institutional relationships in the society; and we know very well how we fall short of any ideal of perfection when it comes to loving our neighbor. We carry in ourselves the consequences of our sin and alienation from God. We hate, we lie, we cheat, we harm our neighbor, we steal, we envy, we murder, we despise, and we are negligent to the needs of our neighbors. Given the opportunity, we will take advantage of our neighbor’s distress and poverty and deprive them of the little they have. We devise legal systems and then we use them to our own advantage. In short, in the area of human relationships, if left to ourselves, we will violate every single precepts of the Law of God; we will turn into moral monsters.

The Decalogue, and its case application, the Law of God, are given to us to “restrain our madness,” to quote John Calvin. The Second Table of the Law sets the obligations of man to his fellow men by limiting his behavior and also enjoining certain acts of righteousness, justice, mercy, and kindness that set the standard for our behavior, and are also a testimony to God’s character.

What is important to understand here is that every Commandment in the Second Table – and the case laws for its application – has two parties involved: a human and another human. The Commandments decree obligations for each one of them; and the obligation for each one of the parties is a right for the other party. “Do not murder,” says the Sixth Commandment, and this restraint on the murderous nature of the sinful man immediately establishes the right for every man to be secure from assault, kidnapping, insult. “Do not commit adultery” establishes the right of every person to be secure in their most important human covenant, the family. “Do not steal” establishes the right of a person to be secure in their possession of lawfully acquired property; etc., etc. Every commandment that establishes an obligation on man, by default establishes a right for his fellow men to be treated justly. The Law of God, not limited to the Ten Commandments, has specific applications of the Commandments, where every man is obligated to help their brothers in times of distress and poverty. (An example is Deuteronomy 22:4: Your neighbor has the right to your help when he needs it in time of trouble, just as you have the right to his.)

These Commandments and laws are even more important when an individual is confronted by an institution – the church or the state – or when one institution is confronted by another institution. Many of the case laws relate to the powerful of the day, those who for one reason or another – whether economic, legal, or political – are in a position to commit injustice without fear of reprisal. When a person has the state on their side, their power to inflict harm and commit injustice can be unlimited. And yet, God doesn’t change His commandments and laws to suit those in power. Individuals and families under the Law of God retain their rights to be secure from wrongs in the hands of those who have the legal use of the sword. The obligation outlined in the Commandments and in the case laws apply to the state and the church as much as they apply to the individual and the family. And these obligations on the civil magistrate and the church minister to do righteousness and justice are the basis of our Christian theory of rights.

No other religion has this concept. It is no coincidence that Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and many other historical documents establishing the rights of the individuals versus the state have originated in the Christian world. Only in the Christian worldview we have the individual rights protected by an equal obligation on all – individuals and institutions alike – under God. Other religions or philosophies don’t have such a concept. Atheism, Marxism, evolutionism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, natural law, etc., have no such concept; for some of them the individual doesn’t exist as a notion at all; for others, there are no absolute rules binding equally on all men and their institutions. The uniqueness of Christianity when it comes to legal and political theory is in this double principle of social order: equal obligations on all under God, and therefore equal rights of all versus other people and institutions.

Hence my statement above that the language of rights in the Declaration of Independence is the most Christian part of it. Not necessarily the specific rights listed (I would prefer the original formula of Property to Pursuit of Happiness) but the very idea that men have irrevocable rights, under their Creator.

The Throne of God is established on the foundation of Righteousness and Justice. We live righteous lives toward God, and we treat our neighbor justly. When one of these is lacking, our testimony is truncated. The Gospel is not only about going to heaven, and it is not only about living a righteous life; the Gospel includes justice, including social justice according to the Law of God (1 Tim. 1:8-11).

Therefore, it is impossible for us to bear witness for God while excluding the idea of rights. When we reject the notion of rights, we by default establish the legitimacy of injustice; we declare that we as Christians care nothing about the protection of the weak from the injustice of the powerful, and we care nothing for the obligations God has put on all members of our society. When rights are removed from our testimony, then there is no moral compass for any aspect of our society, and especially – and most importantly – for the areas of civil government and justice. When Christians remain silent in these areas, the result is tyranny. And how does tyranny and injustice bear witness to God?

So, the above argument against rights is fallacious; it may have an appearance of humility and selflessness but in reality it is an argument in favor of injustice and lawlessness. As Christians, more than any other group in the society, we must proclaim the rights of all people under their Creator against the tyranny of the state. Our testimony will be truncated if we fail to uphold the standards for righteousness and justice revealed in the Word of God; our proclamation of the Gospel can not omit these standards. To omit them will be to remain silent about an important part of God’s revelation to the world. We must stand up to the powerful of the day and declare the rights of the weak to be secure in their life, liberty, and property. If we refuse to do it, limiting our Gospel to a few spiritualized concepts only, we will in fact side with God’s enemies against God.

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About the Author

A Reformed missionary to his native Bulgaria for over 10 years, Bojidar preaches and teaches doctrines of the Reformation and a comprehensive Biblical worldview. Having founded Bulgarian Reformation Ministries in 2001, he and his team have translated over 30,000 pages of Christian literature about the application of the Law of God in every area of man’s life and society, and published those translations online for free. He has been active in the formation of the Libertarian movement in Bulgaria, a co-founder of the Bulgarian Society for Individual Liberty and its first chairman. If you would like Bojidar to speak to your church, homeschool group or other organization, contact him through his website: http://www.bulgarianreformation.org/



17 Responses to The Christian View of Rights

  1. Jeff Putman says:

    Justice may be defined as “each person receiving the natural results of their own actions.” * People act (or fail to act), and the laws of nature and nature’s God reward or punish those acts. “Social justice” is not justice at all. It is a FALSE LABEL created by the left as an attempt to justify their injustice! They seek to enlist the lazy in their (the left’s) war against the diligent. The left has NO interest in justice. They only want to seize power. “Social justice” is nothing but a means to that end.

    Socialism is the opposite of civilization. Animal behavior is driven mainly by three urges: the urge to reproduce, the urge to hoard, and the urge to dominate. The Bible calls them “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (1 John 2:16) Those urges help the animals in their violent competition for survival. With their limited intellect, that’s about all the animals are capable of.

    Humans, unlike animals, are capable of building and creating. The three animal urges, lust, greed, and pride, are destructive of human potential. The urges need to be restrained. Property is what one creates with one’s hands, and what one obtains by voluntarily trading one’s creations for others’ creations. Property is an expression of a person. Property rights are human rights! To steal or destroy property is to steal or destroy people’s creations.

    Socialism is the codifying of the left’s urge to hoard and dominate. Albert Einstein said, “Our age seems to be characterized by the perfection of means and the confusion of ends.” He is exactly right. The left has greatly advanced the state of the art of their means of seizing power, but they are still striving for the animalistic, uncivilized end of seizing all wealth and power for themselves (hoarding and dominating).

    The best protection of everyone’s right to express themselves by creating property is a system of law that EQUALLY protects EVERYONE’S right to do so. Today’s government is systematically waging war against human rights. A small number of self-described “elites” are gradually (and not so gradually) concentrating all wealth and power into their own hands.

    The best protection of everyone’s well-being is widespread private ownership of all wealth. “Common ownership” is the complete opposite of that. “Common ownership” is a lie. The people don’t own anything. The few “elites” own and control everything, including the people!

    * Actually, justice may be defined as “each person receiving WHAT WOULD NORMALLY BE the natural results of their own actions.” That addition accounts for the injustice of freak accidents.

  2. Jeff Putman says:

    Good article.

    The Bible’s teaching on freedom is found in Galatians. Christ has liberated us from the statutes of the Old Testament Law. That does NOT mean we are allowed to run amok and abuse one another. The point is, we are all commanded to be CONVERTED from the inside out, to be made like God, whose nature is to be righteous and just. That is, we are all commanded to throw away our old, sinful nature and replace it with God’s righteous and just nature. We are to still behave righteously, not because there are statutes telling us to, but because we have been converted into people who WANT to do good and not evil. A converted person DOES NOT NEED TO BE TOLD to do good! It is his nature to do so!

    The comment by aSeattleConservative on May 4, 2011 was very good. Law is made for wicked people, not for righteous. They don’t need to be told. Their nature has been converted. When looking for good examples of civil law, we NEED the Old Testament, which was written for UNconverted people. Converted people “love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength” and “love their neighbor as themselves” by nature. Unconverted people have to be told specifically what to do and not do.

    As American culture has shifted away from Christianity, the volume of law imposed on us has expanded enough to fill large libraries. That’s partly because unconverted people need to be told specifically what to do and not do, and partly because modern law is being written by unconverted people, who use the law as a weapon as they violate God’s law.

  3. Robert says:

    “If we had rights because we are men—if our rights were natural and inalienable—then God himself would have to respect them. But God is sovereign. He is free to do with his creatures as he sees fit. So we do not have natural rights. That is good, for natural and inalienable rights are logically incompatible with punishment of any sort. Fines, for example, violate the inalienable right to property. Imprisonment violates the inalienable right to liberty. Execution violates the inalienable right to life. The natural right theory is logically incoherent at its foundation. Natural rights are logically incompatible with justice. The Biblical idea is not natural rights, but imputed rights. Only imputed rights, not intrinsic rights—natural and inalienable rights—are compatible with liberty and justice. And those rights are imputed by God.”
    excerpt from John W. Robbins, “What Is Christian Philosophy?” (Unicoi, TN: Trinity Foundation, 1994); available at http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=218

  4. E Harris says:

    To speak of human rights is to beg one question: rights before whom/what?

    Relative to each other, we deserve a moral equality. All things being equal, we should be treated about the same. God is no respecter of persons, so we should treat each other as God says we should. He is the Author, Creator, Sustainer. What written and codified book or law should I look to, in order to “guarantee” my rights?

    I know I sound confused here, and maybe I am.

    I don’t doubt that the “Constitution of the United States of America” has done much good (relatively speaking…relative to what could have been / would have been, given how men tend to treat each other). But is it REALLY our “constitution”? …and what exactly IS the “united states of America” but a contract between men, written by men, for men’s own sustenance and subsistence. There is no central worship of God in its frame, except to bolster its own causes. God is a backdrop, a necessary foundation, but is then quite ignored in favor of how we are to treat each other. God is not central.

    This is why I say that the church is above that level of governance. As Reconstructionists know, that level of governance does not save, and does not rehabilitate. It is impersonal, and does not hold sufficient respect for the personal (as even the old testament law did). I’m not making an argument for returning to OT Israelite-style government (as I believe that was the pre-cursor to Christ). I’m saying that a christian’s witness is not with the physical sword, but with the sword of the Spirit…and that has always been the case after Jesus came. Sure, God blesses people, and elevates some. But that does not always mean that the people God elevated (such as America’s Founding Fathers) were doing His Perfect Will.

    It is GOD that truly convicts, makes new, judges. It is our conscience that holds us to anything, in the first place. It is through prayer and walking with Him, and obeying the Spirit of the law that we draw close to God. God is the center of moral law, personal reality, physical provision, and spiritual defense.

    I know that I am probably showing a sharp ignorance, here. But time and time again, we see the downward trend of absolutely EVERY human system ever devised. I am beginning to think that the saints already have another way. I read a scripture the other day (paraphrasing): just as the peoples of the earth were slain for Babylon, so Babylon must fall for the sake of the saints. (Babylon is the unrestricted human attitude of coordinated/collective sovereignty, in my opinion. Providing for SOME measure of stability & predictability that is necessary for economy. Babylon turns everything into a system. And Rome was the feet of the statue, that had Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon as it’s head. So Rome was also Babylon.)

    We just have to wake up & realize where to invest our time, faith, and resources. We could re-found another country, just like America…and it would/could take the same exact trajectory. We could abolish a central bank, just to have another one take its place. What on earth are we doing? How can we grab control of our own lives, and our own faith and resources, from the jaws of these institutions (traditions of men) which seem to be created to abuse them!

    These are questions that I ponder, as I think about man-made laws, and how the church is to interact with civil controls. One thing I do rest on: education, and a personal faith in God. Person by person. Articulating Biblical principles LOUDLY. Rebuking the large public structures that seek to enslave people…without trying to build our own permanent fixtures in the place of these large public structures. People move and change. Everything we make will move and change, as generations go forward. How do we walk with a truth that never changes?

    It seems to me that the only answers are quite simple: place almost no hope or faith in human artificial collectives & collective names. It’s probably ‘ok’ to coast on the fumes of yesterday’s victories. But I don’t think that our present victory is going to come with guns. And if it does, it will be house-by-house, city-by-city. We are being betrayed by those at ‘the top’ of the collective known as “America.” And to win (politically) in the short-term, we often have to become very similar to those at the top. Not a good trade-off. America is facing a complete reboot. The people ARE “america”. America as we all think of it/her IS the people. The institution is a gonner, in the short term.

    Win PEOPLE to God. Mobilize on THAT basis. (He that winneth souls is wise.) It is always PEOPLE that run things, and live out their lives. Speak the truth, teach it to everyone we can, share with them the things God gives to us to share with them. To make a collective difference, we have to make a personal difference many times over.

    Those who oppose Christ have their eyes set on a borderless world. The best of the christians will do the same: for that is exactly what the pouring out at Pentecost was all about. WE, Christians, have to start thinking bigger & differently. It’s not about human sub-divisions, so much as it is about the whole and the personal. Humanity is literally destroying itself, as it looks for a proper (and REAL) relationship between the One and the many.

  5. Hudson says:

    One of the problems I see in America (coming from a predominantly atheist country myself) since living here is that the people here, both Christian & non Christian alike do not for the most part recognize the depth of influence Christianity has on their everyday life & freedoms. For example, homosexuals always want others to respect them & their rights etc. but they don’t realize those freedoms they expect are built on a Christian foundation. Same with freedom of speech demands & all the other rights such as atheists claim ….. By their own arguments they are acknowledging the blessings of Christianity in this country, unique & unlike any other in the world. Those generations upon generations that have only ever known America & all it’s liberties have no concept of what it’s like to be severely restrained like many are in this world from all sorts of personal freedoms.
    Yes, no doubt we have all kinds of entanglements around our necks concerning money being extorted by our govt. interference but America knows nothing of persecutions & the humiliation of the sacredness of human life that many other countries experience daily even now. Especially in Africa & Asia.
    As the author has so correctly stated, the commandments ABSOLUTELY affirm inherently that God has imputed value in humans because He has made us & has declared our value in & to Him. To deny this is to offend the one who has made us in His image. To hand ourselves over to criminals, tyrants, despots or anti-god yet well meaning govts (other than soldiers in the call of duty to defend the innocent when attacked) when they oppose God (under the guise of humility) is not our calling & cannot be found anywhere in the scriptures.
    We are called to resist evil & I would have to ask those Christians making this argument if they defend the rights of the unborn? Do they oppose abortion? If they do, they’ve proven their arguments don’t hold water as a fetus has the same God given rights to live as a mature adult. These Christians make these arguments are sorely misguided. Our obligation is defend the rights of all who need defending ACCORDING TO THE BIBLICAL DEFINITION.

    • One of the problems I see in America (coming from a predominantly atheist country myself) since living here is that the people here, both Christian & non Christian alike do not for the most part recognize the depth of influence Christianity has on their everyday life & freedoms.

      I have the same experience, Hudson.

      • Harmon Gottlieb says:

        America’s so-called ‘Christian-influenced’, political freedoms evaporate when agents examine your baby’s diaper for bombs (fecal profiling?), Sen. Charles Schumer proposes no-ride lists for rail travel (in advance of no-drive lists?), and security personnel brutally seize former CIA agent, Ray McGovern, standing silently with his back to Hilary Clinton as she pontificates upon freedom of speech in America. That’s because these “freedoms” are bonded to sin, and have absolutely nothing to do with freedom in Christ Jesus:

        “So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free… Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage (Galatians 4:31; 5:1).”

  6. Harmon Gottlieb says:

    The claim, “I argue that the language of rights is the most Christian element in the Declaration [of Independence],” doesn’t bother to explain why or how “the language of rights” is Christian.

    And 1 Timothy 1:8-11 is no proof-text for the idea that “the Gospel includes justice, including social justice according to the Law of God.” Paul, in the preceding verses (5-7), warns Timothy about swerving from doctrine and speaks of the “vain jangling” of those “desiring to be teachers of the law.” In the passage following (vs. 12-14), he (as someone “who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious”) uplifts the grace and love of the Lord Jesus while saying nothing related to “social justice.”

    Most significantly, Paul’s teaching about the relationship between law and Gospel is an outright repudiation of “human justice” eisegesis: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified (Galatians 2:16).” He confirms the Christ-centeredness of the working faith of the justified in his letter to the Ephesians, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (2:10).”

    The claim, “A Christian can not witness for God unless he also witnesses for human rights, because human rights are part of the Gospel of Christ,” is a departure from “the grace of Christ unto another gospel (Galatians 1:6).” Scriptures expounding the Gospel simply do not include mention of, or reference to, human rights. The claimant, in fact, is guilty of the charge he brings against the ”argument against rights.” His Gospel of Christ with its side order of human rights has “no biblical foundation.”

    ‘Human Rights Theology’, like “Liberation Theology,” is an ideology-based attempt to infect, with political meanings, the Gospel of Him, “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Tim.1:9,10).”

    Pagans, atheists, humanists, socialists, feminists, etc., command secular organizations promoting “human rights.” Their non-Christian dedication to the ideal moves them to embrace the rights of perverse sex styles, and of animals. The campaign to establish the ‘personhood’ of the great apes (GRASP), for example, indicates how comfortably the noble pursuit of rights can sit within the evolutionist worldview.

    All “human rights” become state-enforced instruments, and (as Americans are currently experiencing) can be ignored, suspended, or outlawed. The legal health of social justice and human liberties, however, has no effect upon the Holy Spirit’s working of faith and belief in individual Christian believers–the American Bible Society reports at least 15,000 converts a day in rights-challenged China.

    Scripture describes how these souls belonging to Christ are delivered into true freedom: “Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free… If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed’ (John 8:31,32,36).”

    There is, finally, no banner of human rights flying over the beatitude, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake (Matthew 5: 11).”

  7. Jeff S says:

    “Christ, not man, is king” Oliver Cromwell.

    Excellent article sir.

    That line is the closing scean in the 1970 movie Cromwell. This is probably one of the greatest movies made about mans rights and the nature of man and abuse of power when they get to much of it.

    The Constitution needs to be understood and applied, and the 16th and 17th amendments should be revisited the same way the 18th was.

  8. Don Confalone says:

    Man has no worth before God,

    So, God created something that has no worth to “HIM” I know that I love making things that have no worth to me, what fun. I can constantly belittle this thing I created, tell it what a worm it is and then create creatures that sit around me forever and tell me how great I am, because all that matters is my own glorification.

    His property by the virtue of being created by Him.

    And this says it all, property. We are not friends of God, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Philos, brothers, loved ones. Your “GOD” is soooo far from Jesus it amazes me. Since God is “HE” this is why MEN have always considered women and children their property. Feurbach was absolutely correct, MEN have created “GOD” in their own image and Jesus shot it down. Why else would calling “GOD” “she” make us feel that we are degrading “GOD”. Jesus had to know that the woman caught in adultery was oppressed by the MEN. Why else would he not condemn her. If Jesus meant that we cannot carry out the negative sanctions required by “GOD’S” law because we not without sin, then we cannot implement “GOD’S” law at all. Jesus knew what was up.
    “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that BELONGS to your neighbor.”

    “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that BELONGS to your neighbor.”

    I must ask you directly Mr Marinov, did GOD believe that a wife was a man’s property or not?

  9. John McGrew says:

    Dear Mr. Marinov,
    I’d like to point out that human rights predate the commandments, back to creation itself, as Moses says, “for in the image of God created he him.” The dominion mandate establishes the basic human rights and responsibilities of life and property, the commandments support and protect those rights. As far as the pursuit of happiness goes, I submit that it is nothing more nor less than the right to do what I will with what is my own, endorsed by both Christ and Peter. Of course, statists of different strains seem to believe that it is the right to do what they will with what belongs to others.
    Sincerely,
    John

    • John, the point is good, with only one small correction:

      “…human rights predate the codifying of the commandments…”

      The commandments were there from the very beginning. they were only given in a written form on Mt. Sinai. God didn’t have one moral character before and another after Mt. Sinai. The only difference is that on Mt. Sinai the commandments were specifically codified. So, no, human rights do not predate the Commandments, they are established by the Commandments. You can not define rights without the Commandments. If the Commandments were not in effect even before Mt. Sinai, from eternity, then Cain did not violate any right of Abel.

  10. Splashman says:

    Excellent article, Mr. Marinov. Thank you!

  11. aSeattleConservative says:

    8But we know that (A)the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully,

    9realizing the fact that (B)law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and (C)rebellious, for the (D)ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and (E)profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers

    10and (F)immoral men and (G)homosexuals and (H)kidnappers and (I)liars and (J)perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to (K)sound teaching,

    11according to (L)the glorious gospel of (M)the blessed God, with which I have been (N)entrusted.

    • E Harris says:

      Beautiful article, Bojidar. I always find this topic to be little nebulous. I feel like something still needs to be articulated or “pinned down” for me to have a good grasp of the biblical law/grace/freedom/institutional order “thingy”. So I feel the need to explore, a little bit.

      I think we are all searching for how to distinguish our faith, from the faith that a statist has. Statism has two arms: the hard arm of prideful men, and the soft arm of those who have no self-control and are dependent on the hard arm to uphold them or secure them. I am looking for the battle lines, and I am learning more about where I stand and need to stand.

      God’s commandments are like a fence. They tell us the boundary lines. They lets us know what actions lead away from God and are (truly) abusive toward God’s image (in people). Since our conscience can sometimes be blunted… we sometimes need external reminders (words and maybe civil restraints).

      We should never forget that those in obedience to the law OF GOD, are walking ABOVE the level of external government. (It is the disobedient who walk beneath the level of the law…and are subject to its constant review…and they feel this…and that is what makes them edgy, fearful, and raising their marxist-fists, fearful of authority.) But saints are called to walk in the perfect will of God, in the realm of God’s own empowerment and personal creativity. Saints are all called to be perfect as God is perfect…and God empowers us to obey Him perfectly. This perfection is not a rigid static order (such as man would create). God’s perfection is a kind of freedom. God created the ability to choose, and placed Adam in a garden where he was free to develop the future in any number of creative & life-giving & life-affirming ways (with one minor exception). The consequence of choosing the exception, was bondage to sin and death. I can only assume that if Adam had eaten of the tree of life, first… that he would merely have added more LIFE to his existing state of freedom to choose and explore.

      I find it interesting how we always end up focusing on the law. It’s almost as if, in trying to counter state-ism, we are consumed with trying to reinforce something that doesn’t need as much help being reinforced (as we assume it does). It’s almost as if we are obsessed with codifying things (laws) that God already codified by His strength… in nature and human conscience. Christians frequently end up focusing on the intangible moral fence that surrounds the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…rather than focusing on the freedom we have in Christ, and what it means to truly embrace the tree of life! I hear much more about the knowledge of good & evil than I do about what the “tree of life” means! We ignore that God created us FOR FREEDOM.

      We frequently turn aside, and fall short of the mark…but God still loves us and offers us more grace to enter into the flow of His perfect will. His perfect will is actually above the law, and we are called to walk ABOVE the level of mere external must-do righteousness. We must be ABOVE the level of mere requirement. We must walk in grace and abundance… giving all… and allowing GOD to articulate our boundaries. I truly believe that those who need a written law…will gravitate toward some form of rigid order, such as statism. Those who follow God with the honesty of their hearts…will find that God delights in being personal. Those who are personal with God will find that they don’t have to be nearly as concerned about rules and fences…because…God has already solved that problem for them in their own hearts. Once God has already healed & restored, what use have we of a physical written law (or of a human teacher) when we already know & follow! When the full has come, that which is in part passes away! It is a growth process.

      We keep trying to articulate an order, and create frozen statist institutions. But I cannot seem to “pin it down.” Its as if this path keeps going further and further in, out, up. It’s as if God’s order isn’t as much about abject obedience (as to a human state authority) as it is to steer us toward a personal relational WALK with our Creator, such as Adam enjoyed…before he hid. All God-ordained institutions are personal & relational. With one exception: the sword which separates good from evil.

      While we should always be watchful, lest we stray into evil… can’t we progress beyond the level of defining the fence, beyond the level of taking up our crosses, and FOLLOW HIM who walked on the waves.

      As for rights… you are totally right in saying that they come from God’s character, that is invested in His Creation with Him as sustainer. None is good but God alone. We respect GOD when we respect the good in His Creation. And God defines the boundaries and priorities of what is Good. Not all good things are of equal importance. Even God DESIRES that mercy triumph over judgment. Both are good…but God has a priority even within Himself. Judgement is at the outer periphery – pushing out at the outer darkness. The Bible itself does not use the language of rights. But it does use the language of righteousness, and of good. And of having confidence in the Lord, standing and resisting evil temptation when it comes. We are called to walk ABOVE the level of the heathen and their impending judgment.

      The Bible is less of a system, and more of a path. It has a Genesis in God, and it’s end is God…and God is a Person (Hebrews 1:3). It just blew my mind when I began reading Reconstructionist literature about how our worldview isn’t a “system” per-se…but that we are, in fact, studying a living GOD. And that all of our thoughts about everything are either biased toward trusting Him, or away from trusting Him. If a system or a system of codified rules is what we are seeking…we are seeking death – and that is not trust.

      The world’s idea of law is impersonal. God is very personal… He is too personal to enjoy an Egyptian or Babylonian-style government. He only uses them when he needs to, as corrective measures against the possibility of even worse rebellion. We are now (as the church) called to walk and coordinate ABOVE that level, and ABOVE those ways (of the forceful sword). We are children of the light. Before God can get us to where He can relate to us in freedom, as He wants to… He does have to discipline us into an army that knows how to stand and resist subtle scheming temptations. His righteousness, goodness, perseverance (expressed in His people through the centuries) will weed out the tares from the wheat.

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