Type: Review
Pages: 4 | Words: 971
Reading Time: 5 Minutes

“Christianity and Human Rights” by Nicholas P. Wolterstorff is a representation of the author’s ideas on the interaction of Christian religion and human rights. The connection between these two notions is quite problematic and challenging. The author managed to explain and describe all the complexity of the problem in his own understanding.

The book itself is rather philosophical and thought-provoking. There are numerous hypotheses and new terms. The author makes use of philosophical ideas of Locke and Hobbes. He develops his ideas coherently and manages to answer the main question: why Christians, Protestants in particular, are opposed to the idea of natural human rights. There are many theoretical explanations and generalizations.

Nicholas P. Wolterstorff states that the connection between religion and human rights has always been problematic. Thus, it became so in the twentieth century. The reason for such situation was the way the Christians reacted on every signal or idea of natural human rights. However, such attitudes were mainly typical of Protestants. The argument for that was the “Declaration on Religious Liberty” which was based on the connection between religious freedom and natural human rights.

Moreover, it is a fallacy to consider that such ideas were widespread due to philosophers and politicians of the Enlightenment. Such concept was founded in the Early Middle ages and was further developed. There were numerous debates whether Christian religion has anything in common with the idea of natural human rights. The author of the book explains the notion of natural human right as “a legitimate claim to that “something”. So, to have a right means to be dependent on something. The rights are closely connected to duties. After numerous discussions of the Principle of Correlativeness it appeared that rights and duties are the same notion.

Duties and rights are similar as both have shadow sides. The shadow side of the first one is guilt and the second one is being wronged (Wolterstorff ,44). Moreover, the right has a trumping force. To understand this the author explains prima facie rights as rights that are possibly prevailing in many situations, and ultima facie rights, the rights that always put all things under consideration together.

This theory is very interesting and complicated at the same time. The author of the book describes its use on practice giving examples. However, it appeared to be an unsolved question to me — who or what defines these rights and how we are treated by others? Why somebody has the right for some kind of treatment, while the others do not? This question remained a mystery to me.

However, I agree with the author that the main point about the rights is worth. So, if you have worth, you are respected and treated well. If you do not have it, you are disrespected and have fewer rights.

Natural rights differ from general rights. They are not regulated by any laws or norms. The notion of human rights is far more complicated and is not the same rights that humans have. Human rights are what they are only because they are given to a human being. Human rights should be studied as prima facie rights (Wolterstorff ,45) Finally, human rights are not the same as universal rights.

In addition, the author approaches the main challenge of the book — why Protestants are opposed to the idea of natural human rights. There even the movement agapism appeared. According to it, Jesus spoke of love to our neighbor and this love meant to be kind-hearted and compassionate, which is different from justice ideas. God’s love and forgiveness has nothing to do with justice. Justice remained in the Old Testament and was replaced by agapic love in the New Testament. However, I may not agree here with the author. I think that, apart from love and kindness Jesus spoke of, he taught us to do justified deeds. I think that justice proceeded in the New Testament as well. Of course, I agree that love is not blind as justice and love may incorporate justice.

The author develops his ideas further and introduces the notion of possessive agonistic individualism. According to it, the peculiarity of rights lies in the fact that we express our claims towards others. So, it is common to aggrandizement which is not typical of the Christian beliefs. Moreover, God’s rights towards people are natural rights. These should not be confused with natural human rights. Furthermore, people have natural obligation towards each other. As I have an obligation to someone, than somebody has an obligation towards me according to the Principal of Correlatives. It means that people have obligations to each other. So, according to Christian gospel, we have natural rights to each other. Some of them are human rights.

As a final point, the author states that all human beings carry magi dei as they were created after God’s likeness. There is no justice or love for some humans. Justice is for everyone. God does not divide it on us. So, Christians were against universalizing of rights. But, the studies and analysis of the book shows that there is a very close connection between Christian religion and the notion of natural human rights.

To sum up, the author succeeded in resolving one of the main oppositions in contemporary social life. He explained and gave examples of a close interconnection between Christian gospel and the idea of natural human rights. Of course, such interpretation contributed significantly to current relations of Christian beliefs and the ideas of natural human rights. I think that it facilitated the pressure between two opposite camps: the Protestants and those who develop the idea of natural human rights. I found the book at the same time complex and exciting. While reading it, I had a strong desire to solve this puzzle together with the author. Numerous theories and new terms interlaced with comprehensible examples which made it easier to understand.

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