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10 - The image of God: rights, reason, and order

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Jeremy Waldron
Affiliation:
Oxford University
John Witte, Jr
Affiliation:
Emory University, Atlanta
Frank S. Alexander
Affiliation:
Emory University, Atlanta
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Summary

And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

(Gen. 1:26–7)

Imago Dei – the doctrine that men and women are created in the image of God – is enormously attractive for those of us who are open to the idea of religious foundations for human rights. It offers a powerful account of the sanctity of the human person, and it seems to give theological substance to a conviction that informs all foundational thinking about human rights – that there is something about our sheer humanity that commands respect and is to be treated as inviolable, irrespective of or prior to any positive law or social convention.

In this chapter I want to do three things. First, I want to survey some of the difficulties that might stand in the way of treating imago Dei as a foundation for human rights. Some of these have to do with the specifically religious character of the doctrine; the fact that this might disqualify the doctrine in the eyes of secular political liberals. But I shall argue that this objection is perhaps less telling than objections that might arise within the tradition of Judeo-Christian thought. We must not assume that a doctrine that seems, at first glance, attractive as a foundation for human rights is actually capable (in light of its specific theological character and the controversies that surround it) of doing the work that a given human rights theorist wants it to do.

Type
Chapter
Information
Christianity and Human Rights
An Introduction
, pp. 216 - 235
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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