Christianity’s Contributions: Justice served (Part 3)

Continuing our focus on law and the benefits that Christianity brought to the world, let’s look at individual rights.  Political, economic, and religious freedom stem from an individual’s rights.  Recall that in the Christian worldview, these are God-given, not government-given rights.  (John Locke (1632-1704) would write that natural rights are given by nature, not government, and the government exists to uphold those natural rights. )  The government is there to protect those rights which already exist.  Additionally, no group can give you rights, whether it is an ethnic, racial, or sexual group. Even though today so much is seen through the lens of race, class,a and gender, a group cannot imbue you with rights.  The right of all individual’s to own property, to have a fair trial, and to be paid fairly is something that God bestows.

Included in an individual’s rights is the right to believe or not believe in God.  God doesn’t force anyone to believe in Him; He has given humanity the dignity of free will.  Sadly, this freedom of religion was violated by governments through time.  Christianity was coerced by Emperor Theodosius I in 380 AD.  There were others who did so as well.  Even worse was the torture and execution employed by the Inquisition upon unbelievers in 844 AD.

Much later, Martin Luther would be a Christian forced to withdraw his religious beliefs.  He would not.  He made this statement before Emperor Charles V in 1521: “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason…my conscience is captive to the Word of God.  I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.  God help me.  Amen.”

The concept of freedom of religion is an individual right, one that God gives and one that people can exercise.  Sadly, some nations will not allow that exercise of religious freedom.

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