Every year, we celebrate the contribution to our country by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's leadership of the civil rights movement. One can see photos with his most memorable quotes all over the Internet, and this is a great thing. 

But what is the foundational basis for civil and human rights? 

That was our discussion topic Monday Night in honor of MLK Day. 

We discussed the Trolley Problem to introduce the questions: Do humans have value? Do their abilities give them value? Do their potential abilities give them value? What grounds human value?

Treston profiled Dr. Peter Singer as an example of a utilitarian ethical philosophy.

Savannah profiled Dr. Martin Luther King Jr to put the day into context and to reveal that he grounded human value in God.

Dr. Williams unpacked the Biblical case for human value. Here are several relevant Bible verses:

We are made in God's image:

  • So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. [Genesis 1:27 ESV] 
  • "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. [Genesis 9:6 ESV]

We are not accidents of nature:

  • “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.” - King David [Psalm 139:13 ESV]

We are commanded to love God AND one another:

  • "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he [Jesus] said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ... And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”[Matthew 22:36-37, 39 ESV]

Scripture says we are made in the image of God.

In what ways does scripture describe mankind that are analogous to the way scripture describes God?

  • Rational creatures (Come let us reason together - Isaiah 1:18)
  • Creativity (God creates and we create. He out of nothing, we reorganize. Gen 11:6)
  • Moral (Moral categories apply to us and to God. He is the standard of goodness. We were good in Adam but we fell - goodness broken. Mat 5:48)
  • We are valuable. (Capital punishment - Genesis 9. We have life and that life is VALUABLE BECAUSE man is created in the image of God. Man is an Image Bearer, and we are to “see God’s image in each other”. Mat 25:40)

And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' [Matthew 25:40 ESV]

And this very strong basis for the value of human beings is in stark contrast to a materialist world view.

  • In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference. (Richard Dawkins, “God’s Utility Function,” Scientific American, November, 1995, p. 85)

There is nothing uniqely valuable to humanity in an atheistic world view. 

That doesn't mean they are ambivalent to human suffering. It does mean that they have to invent their own value function, and human worth is reduced to a preference, not an absolute.

On a materialist world view, at best, it is morally preferrable to fight against racism, but it is not morally obligatory

Whereas in Christianity, it is not a choice. It is an obligation to love one's neighbor regardless of race, sex, national origin, or even enemy status.

  • For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. [Galatians 3:27-28 ESV]
  • "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I [Jesus] say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, [Matthew 5:43-44 ESV]
  • "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he [Jesus] said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ... And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”[Matthew 22:36-37, 39 ESV]

Although the Church and Christians have fallen in this respect on many occasions. The Grace of God in the face of these failings encourages us to try and try again. This same grace is available to you, too.

Come join us Monday nights 6:30 PM to 8 PM in CFS 123 on the SHSU campus in Huntsville, TX.