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Posted on Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 11:15 am

Perhaps the most basic tension for Christians who also believe in the constitutional foundation of the U.S. republic surrounds the issue of human rights.

The United States Constitution is the legal foundation of the republic, and the Declaration of Independence is the philosophical foundation of the Constitution. Both are based on the principle of human rights granted not by government but by God. The second paragraph of the Declaration begins by defining the basic concept of human rights: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Rights are the foundation of the entire American philosophical and governmental system. Rights, in fact, are at the center of an American worldview. In the American system right behavior, for both citizens and the government, depends on preserving basic human rights.

And there’s the problem for the Christian. As unpopular as it may be to say, it’s simply a fact that rights have no place in a biblical worldview. Yes, I’m sure you can find Bible translations from the past 40 years or so that include the word, “right.” But the truth remains that in a biblical worldview, rights do not belong to human beings but only to God. God’s will, in fact, is at the center of a biblical worldview. For a Christian, a behavior is not right or wrong based on its impact on human rights; it’s right or wrong based on God’s commandment.

For most of U.S. history the behavior dictated by each worldview–American or biblical–has not looked very different, so it has been easy to ignore the fundamental differences between them. In recent decades, however, the divergence has become more and more obvious. For thirty years I’ve been trying to square the circle and have it both ways. But I’m beginning to wonder if it can ever really be done.

God willing, we’ll look at this issue a little more tomorrow.