Thursday, May 6, 2010

Nothing worse than "rights"

If one wants to discuss Christian theology, or the Christian life, one must completely abandon any reliance or usage of the idea of "rights". Think about what a "right" is. It is something that you can demand from another - you must give this to me, to must allow me to do this... it is my right.

The Christian life is not one where we demand our own way. We are not to lord it over one another as the Gentiles do. Rather, we are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. To claim a right is to demand to be serve, to demand to have your own wants and desires satisfied. In what way is this a Christian approach.

Now, granted, the thing that got me thinking about this was the issue of women's ordination. Too often that discussion is laced with talk about "rights". Well, Scripturally speaking, no one, man or woman, has a "right" to be a pastor. Some men are called - but there is no right that one can demand.

But we live in an American culture where we think of "God Given" in conjunction with "rights" - where our civil ideas of justice are infused with quasi-deistic jargon that gives out selfishness a religious sheen.

Watch yourself, o Christian! See if you are demanding your rights -- and if you are, make sure it is not out of selfishness or greed, but a desire to show love to your neighbor. Hide not your selfishness under the guise of "rights".


Christopher D. Hall said...

Dude, you are so un-american...and so Christian.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

As I grow, I seem more and more how my own culture is at war with Christian values and ideals. This is not to say that _____ culture isn't, but my own culture attempts to bind me to the ways of the world as much as any other - Lord have mercy upon me!

Carl Vehse said...

Unless one is raising the (false) claim that a Christian life is no longer to involve participation or responsibilities within the Kingdom of the Left, or the Kingdom of the Right, the issue of "rights" is not one that can be so casually dismissed, especially with an "un-american" reference.

First, the concept in the Declaration of Independence of "unalienable rights," itself based on the "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God", serves as the basis for the people of a nation to abolish a despotic form of government and establish a new free and independent form of government, is based on Scriptural principles. These are discussed in more detail by William Blackstone in his Commentaries, "Of the Nature of Laws In General."

Two hundred and fifty years earlier, the Lutheran Confessions had also recognized the doctrinal validity of "unalienable rights," in discussing one of these rights: "And because this creation or divine ordinance in man is a natural right, jurists have accordingly said wisely and correctly that the union of male and female belongs to natural right. But since natural right is immutable, the right to contract marriage must always remain. For where nature does not change, that ordinance also with which God has endowed nature does not change, and cannot be removed by human laws." [Ap.XXIII.9]

"...abandon any reliance or usage of the idea of 'rights'"

To the contrary, the Lutheran Confessions continues to state [Ap.XXIII.12]: "Moreover, a natural right is truly a divine right, because it is an ordinance divinely impressed upon nature. But inasmuch as this right cannot be changed without an extraordinary work of God, it is necessary that the right to contract marriage remains, because the natural desire of sex for sex is an ordinance of God in nature, and for this reason is a right."

Later, the Confessions restate [Ap.XXVII.51]: "We have said above, however, concerning the marriage of priests, that the law of nature or of God [natürlich oder göttlich Recht] in men cannot be removed by vows or enactments."

Within the Kingdom of the Right, the doctrine of Church and Ministry also recognized that Christians have rights, Although Loeheists will no doubt disagree, pastors and congregations who voluntarily signed their name to become members in the Missouri Synod agree to the recognition of "rights" by both pastors and congregations as noted in C.F.W. Walther's Kirche und Amt, Thesis IV on the Church and Theses VII, IX, and X on the Ministry.

For a discussion on another right, one can read C.F.W. Walther, The Congregation’s Right to Choose Its Pastor (Concordia Seminary Publications, trans. Fred Kramer, 1997, pp.57-59).

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


When someone tells you that you cannot be married - a discussion of rights is fine. When a DP tells a congregation "You can't call this person cause I don't like him" a discussion of rights is fine.

These are things that are clearly granted from God, for both spouses and pastors are given by God and not to be denied by man.

But, in the Church you have no "right" to be heard. You have no right to have things done your way. You have no right to have the Pastor preach on topic X that you want him to. You have no right even to marry one who does not want to marry you or have one as your pastor who declines your call. In general, our rights are limited, and as a rule of thumb, quite often in the Church what people spout off as their "rights" are nothing that is fundamentally their due - quite often it is just the selfish desire for control and lordship over another.

If a pastor says, "I have my rights" - I worry for the congregation. If a congregation says, "We have our rights" - I worry for the pastor. We are an abusive, sinful lot, desiring our way to the detriment of those whom we ought to be serving - Lord have mercy upon us.

(P.S. The radical "Waltherians" of today would make Walther vomit -- the division of duty between pastor and congregation is often forgot in vain attempts to "Lord" the rights over another)