rightsBy Stephen Anderson

Human rights, civil rights, environmental rights, women’s rights, the right to equality before the court, the right to life, the right to own and carry a firearm, the right to a fair and speedy trial, the right to choose to join a labor union, the right to rest and leisure, freedom from torture or degrading treatment, freedom of belief and religion, freedom of the press—all of these and many more have been counted in various places and times, both ancient and recent, as rights due mankind.

The establishment, protection, and perpetuation of rights is a matter of both personal and national, even international, concern. It is also a matter of particular consequence for believers. Our theology must determine our behavior toward and defense of rights, both natural and human.

Natural vs. Human Rights

In a discussion of rights, a distinction must be made between natural and human rights. These rights have been labeled differently by various philosophers and schools throughout human history. John Locke referred to them in the 17th century as natural law and natural rights, with natural law emanating from the Divine, and natural rights from the privilege or claims an individual was entitled to. No matter their label, with limited exception they are recognized as the primary means of understanding our rights.