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Salvation Is Not a Right

My last post spurred some interesting comments about human rights. One commenter in particular made an astute observation about three inalienable rights in terms of our temporal life.

  • The Right to Life: Relates to your future; lose your life and you lose your future.
  • The Right to Liberty: Relates to your present; lose your liberty and you lose your present.
  • The Right to Property: Relates to your past; lose your property (the fruit of your life and liberty) and you lose your past.

And in the end no one, other than God, can justly infringe upon these rights assuming there is no need to take your life or liberty in self-defense or as punishment, and that your property was justly acquired.

But aren’t terms like “life”, “liberty” and even “property” subject to interpretation and understanding? You’d think the right to life would be fairly straightforward, but for some, animals and trees have more right to be alive than humans who happen to be physically located in their mother’s womb. Along these same lines, a sense of entitlement can lead one to conclude that the right to an abortion is part of a woman’s “liberty” and that your property is not really yours, but actually communal property that can and should be distributed equally.

Kids and young adults might express this sense of entitlement more freely than older adults and this can all relate to how we view salvation. My confirmation students will sometimes say what many adults might often think. An example is when we discuss Original Sin in class. Objections to the dogma may go something like this…What’s the deal with Original Sin? Adam and Eve disobeyed, not me. I didn’t do anything, especially when I was a newborn baby, so why should I have to deal with all the ramifications of Original Sin? It’s not fair!!

The attitude above seems to imply that we are entitled to salvation; we have a right to the free gift of grace and eternal life with God. In contrast, St Paul spoke of salvation as more of a process “So then, my beloved…work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) “Work out” implies a process, and “fear and trembling” implies that it can be lost or never realized.

The following analogy seems to help clear things up in terms of Original Sin and not taking salvation for granted: Imagine your father was an impoverished man who befriended a billionaire long before you were born. They were such good friends that the billionaire made your dad heir to his fortune. One day your father betrayed the billionaire, so he removed him from his will, leaving him in his poverty. Years later your father met your mother and you were born. Eventually, you learned the story of friendship and betrayal between the billionaire and your father. You realize that you would have been next in line for the fortune if your father would have remained a faithful friend, so you say, “My father betrayed him, not me. I didn’t do anything, so why should I have to deal with this poverty. It’s not fair!! The fortune should still go to me.”

The reality is that you never had a claim to the fortune in the first place.

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Ben Butera

Ben Butera is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology and currently a Solutions Development Manager for a global 500 company. In 2010 he was certified as an instructor and Program Leader for his company’s initiative in analytical problem solving and decision making. In 2016 his first book was published entitled "Faith with Good Reason: Finding Truth Through an Analytical Lens". Ben is also co-author of “Two Catholic Men and a Blog”; a blog about Catholic faith and reason. He is a religious education catechist, a husband, a father and lives with his loving wife and three children in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.

15 Comments

  1. Life is a gift. We should treat it that way and do the best we can with the help of God. Our particular circumstances is the hand we were dealt. Deal with it.

  2. • The pursuit of Happiness is interpreted as a right to one’s property as is just. The pursuit of Happiness may also be interpreted as the pursuit of TRUTH. The pursuit of TRUTH, an intangible is also the pursuit of GOD. The TRUTH will set one free. So, the pursuit of Happiness is also the pursuit of freedom in TRUTH. Freedom can only be found in TRUTH.

  3. Life as gift.

    Our parents, our siblings our very life is a gift from God. What we do with this life is our gift back to God. Grace too is a gift. How we interpret that gift and put it to good use for HIS kingdom is a participation in the parable of the talents. The decision to bury this gift rather than reinvest it for the giver of the gift is a free will act. An act that has consequences.
    And in God’s economy, the more we share our talents, distribute our gifts, the more we are given. Salvation then, is a cooperation in love.
    Recognizing the giver and a desire to exchange gifts. Seeing the giver as drug addict, widow, unemployed, beggar, prostitute, aged, unborn in the womb, is the tangible destination for our talents to be multiplied.

  4. I was the person who originated the comment about the three-fold nature of human rights on one of Ben Butera’s previous posts. I should have given my source: Ken Schoolland, a libertarian, “an Associate Professor of Economics and Political Science at Hawaii Pacific University, an economist, academic, author, and political commentator.” There is a simple 8+ minute video of his philosophy – forgive the music background (forewarned is forearmed):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muHg86Mys7I&t=90s

    There is a more detailed 16+ minute video where he speaks of his own view in person:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7qGT7yN5GA

    The problem I have with this style of libertarianism is not the three fold nature of human rights: life, liberty and property. That explanation is correct. But rather I have objection to the absence (or denial) of any role that God may play in this. The view proposed is purely secular and ignores the fact that (1) “Deus hominem in sua imagine et simulacro creavit,” and (2) there is a two fold nature to human responsibility:

    Love God with all one’s being.
    Love neighbor as one’s self.

    Further, the secular nature of this philosophy ignores that fact that while God has no rights (think about it – this is God about Whom we are talking; He needs no rights since He answers to no one and precedes all things), God has all authority and any authority we have derives from Him. For example, St. Paul says in Romans 13:1, “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Thus, absurd conclusions are reached by libertarians: the subsidiary “right to choose” (reproductive rights) and the subsidiary “right to marry persons of the same sex” (equal marriage rights). Libertarians typically recognize no outside authority but only their own internal reasoning. While they say they follow the principle of the non-initiation of force, in practice, by ignoring God’s authority they violate however unwittingly their own ideals.

    So while Ken Schoolland’s Philosophy of Liberty hits the target with respect to human rights, it ignores the Authority which bestows those rights and to which we are all subject. Thus, as Ben Butera pointed out, Salvation bestowed by God is NOT a right but a free gift which (if we are to truly accept it) requires repentance and conversion.

    One last thing about that English word Authority. It derives from the Latin Auctoritas which means:

    “Ownership; right to authorize / sanction, power; decree, order;
    authority, influence; responsibility; prestige, reputation; opinion, judgment.”

    In a very real sense, having created us, God is our author (author -> authority -> think about it) and owns us whether we like it or not. Therefore, if we have a right to life, liberty and property, then it is because He gave us such rights, a point ignored by secular Libertarians.

  5. God, The Supreme Sovereign Being, as a Trinity of Persons has rights, human and Divine. In our time God has been denied his right to freedom in the public square without due process of law, having been indicted for offending an atheism. God is being denied his Fatherhood, as creator, of his innocent children, as all men are being denied fatherhood of their seed in abortion.
    The intangible TRUTH becomes tangible in Jesus Christ, WHO is the TRUTH.
    The distribution of private property and making private property communal is a matter of informed consent of the owner of the property and the virtue of his charity. Communal property is a matter of separation of church and state. Considering salvation and inheritance, both must be sought. The disinherited must petition God for wisdom and grace and salvation.
    This is a very well thought out approach to explaining original sin.
    The child in the womb is a child of God. The state cannot lay claim to the person’s soul nor to the unalienable human rights innate in the person, body and soul. The state is instituted by the sovereign personhood of the citizen to safeguard our innate human rights. Why would the voters elect Godless officials to govern our God-given rights?

  6. The intangible TRUTH becomes tangible in Jesus Christ, WHO is the TRUTH.
    The distribution of private property and making private property communal is a matter of informed consent of the owner of the property and the virtue of his charity. Communal property is a matter of separation of church and state. Considering salvation and inheritance, both must be sought. The disinherited must petition God for wisdom and grace and salvation.
    This is a very well thought out approach to explaining original sin.
    The child in the womb is a child of God. The state cannot lay claim to the person’s soul nor to the unalienable human rights innate in the person, body and soul. The state is instituted by the sovereign personhood of the citizen to safeguard our innate human rights. Why would the voters elect Godless officials to govern our God-given rights?

  7. The Supreme Sovereign Being, God, in the Trinity of Persons has rights as a Person. The Person of God was denied His place in the public square without due process of law, because atheism was imposed. The Creator was denied His Fatherhood of the children of God. Fatherhood is denied to the father of aborted children.

  8. Well, I have really messed up. OK. “(equal marriage rights)” The Libertarians have no idea what the joy of life is experienced in the virtue of chastity in marriage. So they wallow in the addiction to sodomy. All addiction is a violation of the free will and freedom of man.

  9. If God has no personal rights then, from Whom do we, the people get out endowed personal rights? If God has no personal rights then the image and likeness of God in man will have no personal rights.

  10. Rights are bestowed or granted. Who is above God to bestow rights to God? That is cognitive dissonance. God has all authority, not man. God needs no rights. Man without authority (except that which comes from God) needs rights. God by His authority and not by rights bestowed is entitled to public acclaim and worship. Get it?

  11. “So then, my beloved…work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) “Work out” implies a process, and “fear and trembling” implies that it can be lost or never realized.”

    St Paul continues, “for it is God who is producing in you both the desire and the ability to do what pleases him.

    This is the paradox of grace and free will that is also illustrated by many other texts.

    Turn to the Lord (Hos 14:2)
    Turn back, turn back from your evil ways (Ez 33:11)

    Turn us, O God of our salvation (Ps 85:4)
    Turn me, and I shall be turned (Jer 31:18)
    Turn you us to you, O LORD, and we shall be turned (Lam 5:21)

    Make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! (Ez 18:31)
    A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; (Ez 36:26)

    The heart of the mystery is that, in some sense, both Creator and creature are enacting the creature’s existence.

  12. LUCIUS QUINCTIUS CINCINNATUS
    “Let me say this another way. God does not have rights. God is right. Period.”
    God is right. Period.
    When Jesus Christ became the Son of Man, Jesus Christ’s God-given human rights were denied to Him and the Son of God was murdered. God is right and God has rights. God is existence and God exists. God is love and God loves.
    Jesus said: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”. Jesus redeemed and presented all creation to His Father. “God is a community of persons in communion” Father Wade Menezes EWTN.
    Man denies the Personhood of God and the Justice to how man must approach God. Man knows these rights endowed by “their Creator” and man has denied these civil rights to God.

  13. I think, Mary De Voe, that perhaps we are getting tripped up over semantics. As much as Jesus was true man – true human being – human rights may apply. But those rights are bestowed by God. I hesitate to go further because I understand neither the Trinity nor the Incarnation. I just know that God Himself precedes all humanity and is humanity’s creator, so to speak of human (or civil – how I hate that term) rights applying to God seems wrong to me. He is all Authority, but He did become incarnate as Man and to men do human rights apply. I need to think on this. I am no Thomas Aquinas.

    Ok, gotta go to neutrons ‘R us. Will discuss later.

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