Human Rights Repository

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone– God speaking to Job (38:4-6)

 

The current vision of ‘rights’ held by Progressives (the “anointed”) as contained in a quote from Thomas Sowell, economist:

“The anointed want to eliminate stress, challenge, striving, and competition. They want the necessities of life to be supplied as “rights” ~ which is to say, at the taxpayer’s expense, without anyone’s being forced to work for those necessities, except of course the taxpayers.
Nothing is to be earned. “Self-esteem” is to be dispensed to school children as largess from the teacher. Adults are to have their medical care and other necessities dispensed as largess from the government. People are to be mixed by race and sex and whatever else the anointed want to take into account, in order to present whatever kind of picture the anointed think should be presented.
This is the vision of human beings as livestock to be fed by the government and herded and tended by the anointed. All the things that make us human beings are to be removed from our lives and we are to live as denatured creatures and directed by our betters. (emphasis mine)
Those things that help human beings be independent and self-reliant ~ whether automobiles, guns, the free market, or vouchers ~ provoke instant hostility from the anointed.”

Today I am asking questions. Explore with me the idea of ‘rights.’

 The fundamental notion of Human Rights comes from…random genetic behavioral adaptations, the social constructs of a group of dabbling socio-political philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and John Stuart Mill, or as emanating from Kant’s Golden Rule-like categorical imperatives or as ad hoc thoughts based on current information… or ultimately and essentially from a Sovereign God?

 Let’s start with what we do know about rights and where they emanate from.

Our US Declaration of Independence states that God Himself bestowed our rights and liberties upon us:

“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”.).

 Hold the “self-evident” thought for a second. Before discussing that a priori concept, I think we can all agree that all men are created equal (some people being more equal than others if you accept materialism’s income inequality as a proper test of justice. The concept of collective envy ruminating as social justice which soon demands tyranny, is wonderfully portrayed in George Orwell’s Animal Farm.)

An “inalienable right” defined: a right according to natural law, a right that cannot be taken away, denied, or transferred. In other words, you don’t own the right to rights. They are a priori, naturally occurring.

Where does natural law come from? We understand legal rights as being those rights determined by man-made laws. But natural law, where does natural law come from?

 Some ideas of natural or inalienable rights at the very least dates back to the Greek Stoics – Hellenistic Philosophers were concerned about cosmic determinism and free will. They maintained that proper behavior, not words alone but well-meaning-self-limiting actions, revealed one’s non-predetermined or free will “rights.”

 Later, Catholic law would take up the strophe. Then it passed to the Middle Ages after which it coursed through the Reformation then the Enlightenment and right up to my post today.  I write this post within a God-bestowed natural law and a man-made legal right of free speech. How convenient!

 Are natural rights only generated from reason as Immanuel Kant ‘reasoned’ or are they God-given and then realized? Atheists might prefer man-made reason as opposed to an Intelligent Designer. But the source of their own reasoning is left outside the premises (yeah, I know).

 But, If we start with a Intelligent Designer who spoke the Big Bang into existence and then, as most scientists do, recognize an orderly precisely tuned universe held together by four fundamental physical constants called gravity, the strong and weak nuclear forces and electromagnetism and the thought that perhaps all four constants are manifestation of a single underlying and unifying force then we eventually and evidentially return to an Intelligent Designer.

This Intelligent Designer (ID) decided, that after everything had cooled down from the monstrously hot plasma occurring from the Big Bang, that out of the annihilating ’battle’ between the equal forces of matter and anti-matter, that matter would ‘carpe diem’ –seize the day.

This programmed mismatch of matter over antimatter became our physical Genesis, our physical beginnings. We came forth out of God’s spoken word as Remnants of an exploding universe. And, this genesis is recorded in the elements and compounds that compose our very bodies. But there is more to us than what you see and carry around with you.

 Now, this same Designer wrote the book on His universe – the Holy Scriptures. This book doesn’t lay out the physical constants. The Book assumes them to be already at work.

 It is from man’s earliest recorded philosophy book The Book of Job that we learn about God’s ways with mankind. The discourse between God and man ultimately leads to Job’s sevenfold blessing but not without a lot of hard lessons learned about a human’s ‘rights’ along the way. The Intelligent Designer didn’t have to speak at all but he did speak and made Himself known. He gave Job the right to speak but up to a point. This is natural law in early human drama.

 In Genesis we learn that God gave man and woman the ‘right’ to eat of every tree in the garden except for a certain tree. “Don’t go there,” God said. “That is not your right.” This is natural law revealed in the earliest human drama known to man.

 Boundaries, like physical constants that keep us from spinning out of control, were set in place for mankind. Do most anything but don’t do ‘these’ things I have told you about. You have this right but not this right. There are only God-known reasons for specific dos and don’ts. This is natural law.

 Example: God decided that if the weak nuclear force, this specific one out of the four physical constants, if it varied at all from its constant ‘duty’ it would mean the instant destruction of our planet by the sun. I’m glad God is not fickle. He deals in constants.

 Well, man’s free will, unlike gravity, is free to transgress some of God’s prescribed boundaries. So, knowing this beforehand, God wrote things he wanted his people to know in stone – the Ten Commandments. This is natural law.

 “Thou shalt…” is not a warranty list of dos and don’ts that would keep the manufacturer happy and out of the picture if you practiced them. This list is an acknowledgment of our natural rights within prescribed boundaries, within constants. This list is the first Bill of Rights and it is not open-ended. It is constrained by justice in dealing with your fellow man.

Something to think about: “We hold these truths to be self-evident…”

Self-evident truth? Like the four physical constants that scientists have discovered and then verified and now count on to be the same day after day?

As stated above, mankind is endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that are self-evident. Truths, inalienable rights, natural law…self-evident. Sound familiar?

The Apostle Paul wrote about self-evident truth in Romans Chapter 5:

Romans 5:18

For the wrath of God is unveiled from heaven against all the ungodliness and injustice performed by people who use injustice to suppress the truth. What can be known about God, you see, is plain to them, since God has made it plain to them. There are, of course, things about God which can’t been known and seen: namely, his eternal power and deity. But ever since the world was created, they have known and seen in things that he has made. As a result, they have no excuse: they knew God, but didn’t honor him as God or thank him. Instead, they learned to think in useless ways, and their unwise heart grew….they did not see fit to hold on to a knowledge of God, God gave them up to an unfit mind, so that they would behave inappropriately. (emphasis mine)

 “They learned to think in useless ways…”

 Johns Stuart Mill proposed that truth and virtue originate from unconventional wisdom and by living as a non-conformist also known as his ‘experiments in living. Mill didn’t reflect on the Big picture.

Self-centered individualism and thinking in useless ways with unwise hearts while refusing acknowledgment of God have become the ‘constants’ of our souls. It has made us self-indulgent and ‘preachy’ about Human Rights while denying the self-evident truth.

  At all times we are free to acknowledge God and discourse with Him or not. God’s grace as revealed in Jesus’ death and resurrection allows us to have a discussion with Him about our sin. The natural law is still in place but be we are now able to abide by it using the Constant power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not come, as he said, to destroy the law and the prophets. The natural law he planted as a cornerstone is still there.

 Man’s pride, his ‘right’ to be atheistic may keep him from discourse with God, but God is Constant. He is righteously faithful to his word.

 It is important to note that the single underlying, unifying assumption behind the list of “Ten” is that mankind has been given freedom to do whatever he wills, even fly, (but only within the constants of physics).

 We all agree that Man was created with natural rights ~ a freedom to act. But after the Fall man’s rights lost their constant factor, their electromagnetic compass needle which always pointed toward God.

 Inalienable rights are great but to be of any meaning they need the boundaries and the foundation cornerstone of natural law already in place whereby we align our lives with self-evident truth.

 Without that compass needle or the cornerstone our ‘rights’ have become “values”, values that ‘search’ much like valence electrons looking for a place to park in a hook-up culture. One’s identity is no longer elementary and stable. And, our human rights crusades end in cruel and foolish anti-human jokes such as Global Warming.

 The idea of Human Rights. Does it come from…random genetic behavioral adaptations, a French philosopher, from ‘experiments in living,’ ad hoc thoughts based on current information, an inordinate desire to “want the necessities of life to be supplied as rights” or from an Intelligent Designer who set them in place in order to show His love for us?

 A nation that returned to God would be a nation that returned to Intelligent Design, to its cornerstone… and to its right mind. And, Human Rights could then be lazar-aligned from a fixed place in the universe.

 Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker?
Job, 4. 17

 

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.
Job, 13. 15

 

“Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble.

They spring up like flowers and wither away; like fleeting shadows, they do not endure.
Job, 14. 1

 

Miserable comforters are ye all.
Job, 16. 2

 

“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion’s belt?

Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs?

Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?

“Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water?

Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?

Who gives the ibis wisdom or gives the rooster understanding?…

Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?
Job, 38. 31-41

 

 “Look at Behemoth, which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox.

Job, 40. 15 

 

“So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning.”
Job, 42. 12

The Tree of Life Envisioned

Recently I viewed Terence Malick’s The Tree of Life. It would be difficult for me to adequately describe the effect this movie had on me, the emotion and reflection evoked from me as a Christian parent who has lost a child.  This movie operates, more than any I have ever seen, on an intimate meaning-of-life level while the breadth of its vision enables us to direct our eyes away from ourselves and out into the vast cosmos. And in doing so, synchronicity with creation is summoned.

 Life’s deepest and most pressing questions, the universal “whys” behind all of life are posed using the simple narrative of the lives of the O’Brien family of five. Underlying the film’s basic premises of wonder and questioning is the ancient wisdom book of Job, for me the touchstone of the film.  I believe that each viewer’s prior contemplation of life’s deepest questions would certainly individualize the film’s impression on the viewer.  Without individuation, though, the movie is just an amalgam of exceptional pictures and music – a mood piece. I see The Tree of Life as being a spiritual movie and not a religious documentary and therefore I believe it will affect each viewer differently.

 Without going into too much of the narrative detail, detail which may deprive you of the movie’s impact, here is my initial impression of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life:

 Though I was ready for the usual exceptional visual imagery – Stanley Kubrick’s movies come to mind – that is part and parcel of Malick’s cinematic talent (see also his Days of Heaven) I was blown away by the large scope of the movie:  creation, the meaning of life, the existence of suffering, nature and grace and the Creator. 

One of the visual and emotional pleasures of this movie is that the images are offered to us in prolonged time frames – there are no frenetic montages matched to every blink of the eye. The absence of the modern movie restlessness allows us to contemplate the force of those images. We are then able to react with deeply held authentic feelings and at the same time not feel the need to immediately dispose of those feelings so as to be ready for the next emotional roller coaster ride of images. In this way the movie parallels life:  creation and real life takes place over time.  I believe the movie honors the fact that God takes time to accomplish His purposes – in the universe and in the saga of our lives. And, as the movie depicts, we do not understand God’s ways but, as I have seen, God, who is outside of time, uses time to reveal His Nature and His Grace to us.

 Malick rolls out before us a grand sweeping chromatic scroll of the universe. The visual imagery, often shown in natural lighting is enhanced with beautifully evocative musical selections including works by Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Smetana’s The Moldau River, Preisner’s Lacrimosa, Cassidy’s The Funeral March and Górecki’s Sorrowful Songs Symphony. Such music invokes us to come present to the spiritual within our souls.

 The awe-inspiring and overwhelming dynamic universe centers around and is grounded by a tree in the backyard of a family’s home in Waco Texas, circa 1950s. Using a minimalist script this family of five provides creation’s human narrative: father (emblematic of nature), mother (emblematic of grace) and their three young sons.  The father, the mother and Jack O’brien, the eldest son and main character give us our viewpoints. Later on in the movie Jack’s character is played as an adult by Sean Penn. The adult Jack becomes an architect who creates buildings derivative of his own hard-edged “nature”.

 Within this family life narrative we see birth, growth, maturation, anger, relational distance, death, sorrow, loss, envy, survival, strife and sin. Along the way the ever pressing questions of life are whispered to our ears using voiceovers.

 As I mentioned the display of the immensity and dynamism of the created universe provides the backdrop for these most important issues of life, questions that this family of five and certainly any sane person on earth ponders at some point in their life:  Where is God?; Does God see what is happening?; Does God care? Are we left on our own? What about evil? What about the loss of a child? Why is there suffering?

 After the death of her son Mrs. O’Brien asks, “He was in God’s hands the whole time, wasn’t he?” “If God is good and cares about us, why does he make us suffer?”  Throughout the movie we are engaged to ponder these hard questions and to once again look through a glass darkly for the answers.

 Watching this film I was also reminded of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and the philosophical lessons Smerdyakov learned from Ivan, regarding the impossibility of evil in a world without a God.

 In depicting some of the range of God’s creation we see vast spatial distances which hold myriad galaxies and we also see, looking through other end of the telescope, intricate microcosmic details.  We are reminded that the Creator God is ever beyond our finite comprehension. For this reason I am thankful that Malick chose to countenance theism and not a Woody Allen-type nihilism that turns its back on God and mocks Him every time.

 The movie begins by referencing the oldest piece of wisdom literature in the world, the book of Job. The stage is set with God responding to Job who had cursed the day he was born after being overwhelmed with trouble, suffering and loss.  From Job 38:4, 7:

 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation … while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

 Throughout the movie there are other paraphrased Scripture references including Job 13:15, “I will be true to you whatever comes.”

 I believe I also heard a paraphrased reference to Paul’s letter to the Roman church during a scene where Jack is praying: “I know what I want to do but I can’t do it.”  Also, there is an oblique reference to Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church regarding the character of love:

  “There are two ways through life:  the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow. Grace doesn’t try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things. The nuns taught us that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end.” Mrs. O’Brien, The Tree of Life

 Beyond the infusions of Scripture, I saw revealed man’s unconscious need to bump up against someone bigger and stronger than life itself. And though we are infinitesimally small compared to the enormous universe we matter to God.  In another wisdom book of the Bible, the Psalms, the shepherd boy David speaks in awe of God’s intimate knowledge of His creatures,

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”

  The film doesn’t seek to answer the questions of life but only poses them offering up grace as the consummate reconciler. As a believer in Jesus Christ I am transformed daily by God’s grace.  Just as important, I am forgiven and reconciled with God because Jesus Christ was nailed to another tree – the cross. His resurrection now provides me access to the Tree of Eternal Life. I know the One Who is the Answer.

A tree of life was planted in the garden long ago…

  “Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”…

 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

 

While we ask God “Where are You in all of this?”, God is asking us “Where are you?”