The Concept of Rights in Christian Moral Discourse (Lockwood O’Donovan)

The entrenchment of rights language in contemporary discourse is beyond dispute. No less  significantly there are indications that the concept of rights is itself passing beyond dispute. The concept of subjective rights, or rights ascribable to individuals and groups, has entered contemporary political and legal currency primarily through the liberal contractarian tradition. Consequently, the meanings of the term ‘rights’ cannot be properly ascertained in detachment from this theoretical context. For these meanings are embedded in a constellation of political-legal, philosophical and theological concepts with a complex history. Thus, to appraise the contemporary vocabulary of ‘rights’ is to appraise the dynamic theoretical complex that has given rise to it. If such an appraisal seeks its standard of judgement in the Bible, then it is bound to proceed theologically.
My impression is that theologians often engage in a naive and facile appropriation of the language of rights.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *