Rights and God

Someone in California who has been watching the Redux videos e-mailed me a question and I thought I’d post the response for others to dialogue with etc. as it is kind of a unique subject.


I believe that we (humans, saved or unsaved) do not have any rights from God (by rights I mean that there is no way that God is required to treat us).  Rights are for making sure that humans don’t take advantage of other humans. What do you think of the logic of this statement?


Sorry to be long in getting back to you… Easter week was pretty crazy!

Your logic is pretty sound.  In fact, it’s the same logic that Paul uses in Romans when he says the potter has the right to do whatever he wants with the clay.

Here is how I would put “our rights” as it pertains to God:

  • We have a right that God remain just
  • As such, we have a right when God makes a promise that he will keep the promise (this one gets abused when we misapply scripture like the Proverb “if you raise a child in the way they should go, they won’t depart from it.” – this is a proverb, which is different than a promise)
  • This right, is why the prophets in the OT were able to count on the Messiah and why we in the NT are able to count on grace in Christ through faith.  In other words, there are conditional covenants and unconditional covenants in scripture.  As promises, God is duty bound to uphold his side of conditional covenants should we uphold our side and he is duty bound to always uphold unconditional covenants as his name is on the line.

Human Rights, which are what you talked about in terms of being between people, are predicated upon human responsibilities.  These responsibilities turn on our being given commands by someone in authority – creating responsibility.  They also turn on individuals having value, worth and dignity in and of themselves, which comes from the Imago Dei – the image of God in both men and women creating value.  I have a right for you not to deprive me of life or property etc. because you have a responsibility not to take my life or property.  Your responsibility gives me a right.  My responsibility, in turn, gives you a right.  These global responsibilities undergird global human rights.

If human rights exist, God would be responsible not to be capricious in his commands as well as being responsible to maintain his own holiness (dignity) and character such that “the image of God” remains meaningful.  Again, we don’t have a right to God not being capricious in his will or inconsistent in his holiness, but if he was, we might be justified in rebelling.  Tyranny is a form of unjust rule or unjust exercise in authority.  If God was a tyrant, he could compel our submission, but not our worship or adoration.

Again, we don’t have a right to demand this of God, but we do have a right to demand this of God if we are to obey his command to worship him.  The rub with this, however, is we too often think circumstances we don’t understand constitute folly on God’s part.  See Moses’ brother Aaron and his challenge of God’s plan in placing authority on Moses.  Faith comes into play when we trust what we know of God and act in obedience even when we have doubts and fears about his will.  See Jesus in the garden struggling with the cross as the supreme example of obedience despite weakness.

Having said all that, we have a right for God to remain true to who he has revealed himself to be – benevolent, just and supreme. In that, we have a right to expect God to honor his word and his covenants. This then, is the ground of walking by faith rather than sight.

Again, for God to ask us to walk by faith, we have a right to expect God to have character, consistency and capability. For if God proved unfaithful and untrustworthy, then faith would be empty.  Again, this isn’t an “inherent right,” but a “derivative right” grounded in God’s promises.

It would take a book to unpack all this and answer the counter-arguments, but hopefully this helps answer your question a bit.



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