“All people, at all times, everywhere, have dignity.”
In part one of this vlog series, Dr. Bruce Rosdahl shares how modern society has neglected the fundamental dignity that belongs to every human being. Rosdahl breaks down the cascading consequences of a changing worldview-a worldview that has redefined personhood and quality of life based on personal opinion as opposed to a Biblical worldview. This change in view and declination of a Biblical worldview has crumbled the foundation on which human dignity stands.
Well, students, we’re going to get right into it today on an area that is pretty challenging, for sure. I’ll begin just– before I do, I should mention that today I am definitely indebted to two books that have been an influence on my thought. And I thought they would be important for you to kind of recognize them before we begin. And one is called Why People Matter that is edited by John Kilner, Dr. John Kilner, who is really addressing how this concept of the image of God interacts with unbiblical worldviews, and what does that mean. He also is author of a book called Dignity and Destiny. You will definitely see the influence of both those books on my presentation today. And so we want to make sure due honor is appropriately there.
Students, today my heart really is broken. And that’s where I want to begin. I’m broken today as I watch a nation, our nation, and our world deny the fundamental dignity of humanity. Now, I recognize this is not a new problem. I’m not naive. We’re not naive. We recognize this really reaches back to the roots in Genesis 3 and the fall. But nevertheless, all around us we see the cascading consequences of a changing worldview. We’ve either forgotten the foundational principle, or we just have chosen not to live it out. And that is that all people, at all times, everywhere have dignity. Can I say that again? That all people, at all times, everywhere have dignity. And I’d like you to say that with me, because that is the heart of our message of my presentation today. Would you say it with me? All people, at all times, everywhere have dignity. I’d like to have you walk with me just for a moment through the pages of our news recently where this does not seem to be the case.
I mean, we just could talk about the resurgence of white nationalist movements within our nation and the world. Our nation watched as several hundred white supremacists, nationalists, neo-Nazis, and Klansmen marched chanting “White Lives Matter,” “you will not replace us, the Jews will not replace us.” Poland saw 60,000 people march in defense of nationalism, each march, every movement denying the fundamental dignity and value of African-Americans and Jews. We could talk about human trafficking. My goodness, over 20 million people are victims of human trafficking around the world. Now, the United Nations reports that 79% is sex trafficking. The majority, somewhere in the 90s, is comprised of men– I’m sorry, of women and girls forced into sexual slavery. And students, this is not just foreign countries around the world, but it’s here in the US, and in Texas, as well.
You may be surprised to know that Texas is second in the nation in regards to sex trafficking, with only California in front of us. Just in October 2017, right here in our DFW area, a sex ring was discovered that were enslaving seven women that was busted in Fort Worth. Women, girls, men, boys treated as a commodity, exploited for selfish pleasure. This is not how we treat people who are created with dignity, people who have intrinsic worth. We could talk about the Me Too movement. Over 17 million women reported some type of sexual abuse since 1990– listen to that. 17 million. Now, I know and I recognize that there’s a huge debate that exists whether the– on the accuracy of all the claims. But let’s be clear, one woman who’s been abused, one woman who has been sexually exploited is too many. I want to say that again. One woman exploited, that is way too many. And the fact that 17 million women would report such a thing is just shocking. The mistreatment of women is a denial of their fundamental dignity as people. And we’re not going to excuse it as locker room talk. We’re not going to call it boys just being boys, this is just kind of the way it is. No, women have dignity. They have rights. They have value. And they must be treated accordingly. This is true in the halls of government, in the boardrooms of our businesses, and the sanctuary of our churches.
It’s also true– and let’s be clear about this– in the privacy of our bedrooms. And this is what I mean. Let us not acknowledge and feign disgust at the mistreatment of women while all the time gazing at pornography in private. I recognize it is not just of women. I recognize it goes both ways. But let’s be clear, pornography degrades women. It makes them into mere objects, and robs them of value. And it goes against the fundamental idea that all people, everywhere have dignity. We could talk about eugenics in Iceland. And I recognize this is not easy stuff. I mean, we got right into it right away this morning. Last year, Iceland made news for the virtual elimination of Down syndrome children. Well, how was this accomplished? Through prenatal testing and abortion. Around 80% of the women who discover their baby has Down syndrome will abort the baby in Iceland. 80%. But Iceland is not the only one. You see– you reckon in France, 77% do the same thing. In the United States, 68% do the same thing. And 98% will abort Down syndrome children in Denmark. You see, the reality is this, that we have determined that people with Down syndrome do not have a life worth living. And it’s defended by a worldview that has redefined personhood and quality of life. It grants human dignity only to those who we deem have value. That is an undermining of the biblical worldview.
Now, we could also talk about abortion and sex-selective abortions. You know, I know for this generation today a lot of times we feel like, well, that’s so passe. But let’s be clear, there are still 40 to 50 million abortions around the world. 40 to 50 million a year around the world. And in some countries, sex-selective abortion is still an issue. You go, well, what is that? That’s where families have decided that they prefer a boy over a girl. And it never goes the other way. You see, the answers– I mean, the issue is this, that a baby girl is just not wanted in some of these countries or granted the same dignity as a boy. So what’s the answer? You abort her. And you know, let’s just try again till we get the boy that we want. And what does that say about the intrinsic dignity of women? But you know, it’s not only the unborn children who suffer. How many stories have we heard and how many stories do we have to hear about parents abusing their children? Of course, recently we have the couple in California, as you know, chaining their kids to their beds, starvation, beatings, and horrors beyond imagination. We watched– the story captured the news for so long about Sherin Mathews, who was left dead by their family at a culvert just here in Dallas area. It’s estimated– and of course, the statistics are hard to demonstrate in every area, but somewhere in the neighborhood of 700,000 children were abused last year in the US. 700,000. Students, children are people, too. Children were created in the image of God. They are valuable. They have dignity. And we’ve lost sight of that.
So where do I stop? My goodness. We could talk about euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, cloning. We could add to the mix genocide. We heard about that recently. What about the use of torture techniques, religious persecution around the world? We could discuss poverty and politics and refugees. And do I even dare add the fact that the 20th century has been called the most bloodiest century of all times because of our modern war techniques. Students, all around us what we see is a world struggling to find a reason for dignity in people. Now, what has led to this demise? I think you recognize that I would not be intellectually honest if I tried to suggest there’s just one answer. It is just far too complicated for that, and I recognize that. But what is certain is that the decline of a biblical worldview is part of the problem. It has crumbled the very foundation on which human dignity stands. Let me say that again. A biblical worldview is going to provide a very foundation from which we find human dignity and value. Every justice movement, every social agency, Christian or not, religious or not, all of them defend human rights. And what do they appeal to? They appeal to human dignity, that there is a uniqueness in humanity that should be protected and cared for in some fashion.
Even our own Declaration of Independence assumes that people are– you know the words– endowed by their creator with inalienable rights. But that dignity, the uniqueness of humanity is in peril in a world that no longer affirms a creator. I mean, think with me just for a moment. What does it mean for humanity if the image of God does not exist? Then who are we? What becomes of human rights if people have no intrinsic value? If value is something that is given by the state or we confer as a society or it’s developed somehow naturally, then can it be taken away? How do you defend gender equality or race equality from a naturalistic perspective? And who says the weak shouldn’t be oppressed? Who said they should be protected? Maybe they should be eliminated. The fact is, students, our world is struggling today at the most fundamental levels to defend an objective value of all people.
To be sure– and I don’t want to overstate the case, but not everybody agrees with Nietzsche. He was convinced that the death of God meant that life is now meaningless and purposeless. Not everybody agrees. But I will tell you this. When you read the literature– and we’re talking about the sophisticated literature, not just popular literature. We’re talking about philosophers and ethicists wrestling with this question. They do have answers. They have ideas that they propose. But the more they seek to find human dignity apart from God, the more it’s like nailing Jell-O to a wall. It’s getting nowhere. I mean, let me just use as an example naturalism. If you’re not familiar with the term, naturalism basically posits that there is no ultimate reality beyond the material world. Hence, naturalism. What’s nature, what’s here. So it rejects the existence of a creator who endows humanity with dignity. So it searches to find human dignity in a world that is devoid of any transcendent design or purpose. And that’s the struggle. You see, Darwinian evolution has forced many to conclude, even of its artist supporters, and I quote, that humanity has no unique special value. Put in other words, there’s nothing special about us. We’ve just evolved just like everybody else has. And yes, we’re different, but we’re not unique. There’s not special dignity to us.
In fact, in short, humanity is no different, no more special than any other animal. I think you may be overstating it there. I encourage you to look and read the arguments of Peter Singer and others, who will actually give more credence and value to certain animals of higher cognitive ability than they will of humanity. And it’s one of the reasons why Singer will defend that you’re not even a human till at least about 30 to 45 days after birth. So infanticide is no big deal. It’s not a problem ethically. Now I know this sounds a little alarmist, but I remind you what CS Lewis said. The abolition of God leads to the abolition of humanity. When you take away the very foundation that gives you and I and every other person in this world dignity, then where do we end up? In fact, Kilner warns us this. And I’d like you to look at this on the screen because this is really kind of my heart today, my concern. Kilner warns us that the problem today is that many people have a life outlook that is incapable of supporting their conviction that people matter. They’re not even aware that there’s a contradiction in the way that they believe. Certainly, they want to defend their individual rights and value, but they don’t want to extend it to other people– we will march for my rights, but forget anybody else– not recognizing that that worldview is actually undermining human dignity and value for all of us.
And again, I recognize this sounds so alarmist and Chicken Little, the sky is falling, my goodness, but history has taught us what can happen when we don’t acknowledge human dignity. If all people, at all times, everywhere don’t have dignity, well, just consider for a few moments what we can do. My goodness, we could spend days and weeks talking about examples, but let me just give you a few here for a moment. What about the eugenics of a case called Buck versus Bell, 1927? You may not be familiar with it, but in 1927 our Supreme Court actually approved eight to one the forced sterilization of individuals deemed– and I quote– feeble-minded and imbeciles. Now, think about it. This is a legal case. The court is deciding that certain individuals are imbecilic and feeble-minded. And Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr– and some of you will recognize that name if you know your history, because he has certainly supported the eugenics movement– he actually wrote in defense of this practice, saying, you know what? We have an obligation to eliminate the defectives from society. See, rather than allowing these individuals the right to procreate and to negatively impact society– and again, I quote– society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. Oh my goodness. That we would have a court that would decide who has dignity and value and worthy of procreating and those who do not. Now, I don’t want you to miss the rationale that they are definitely saying that these people do not have the image of God and are of equal value. Over 70,000 people have been subjected to forced sterilization simply because they were deemed defective.
Well, what about people who were considered, you know, less civilized than us? Certainly not as evolved. It’s an unfortunate reality in our own history that we declared Native Americans as not bearing the full image of God. And you may not be aware of that. See, we said Native Americans do not bear the image of God like white Americans do. And this is not just a white/African-American, white/Native American issue, we’re talking about all people, everywhere with dignity. But in this case, we decided that Native Americans do not bear the image of God. And they said that directly. Once again, Oliver Wendell Holmes, arguing in the New England Society Orations, said that there is an inferior race that deserves– and I’m almost embarrassed to use these words– they deserve to be, in his words, rubbed out. How do you just rub out people? We’re not talking about some word on a page that you just erase, we’re talking about people. You go, well, my goodness, Rosdahl, maybe you misunderstood him. Well, listen to what he says. “And so the red crayon sketch is rubbed out, and the canvas is then ready for a picture of manhood a little like God’s image.” Of course, he meant his image. Not Native American image. I don’t think it’s going to come as a surprise to you that the same arguments were used that enslaved and mistreated so many African-Americans because we denied that they also carried the image of God. And I recognize that some of this is offensive, and I apologize in advance. But you need to hear it directly that some justified slavery by arguing that black men and women did not bear the image of God equal to white Americans.
In a book which I was shocked the first time I ever saw it, in a biblical defense of slavery, you see, one of the problems, if you can defend that the Bible does not believe that all people– Hispanic, Asian, African-American, Native American, Middle Eastern, Indian whoever you want to put– that all people have the image of God, if you’re going to deny that, then what do you do with the Noah account? Oh, but he had a solution. And this is where I apologize how offensive this is. It’s not a joke to me, students. He actually argued that if you want to see and know where African-Americans came from, where black people came from, they were part of the animals on the ark. So go ahead, domesticate them, beat them, enslave them. They’re not really made in the image of God. And Charles Carroll’s book, which has been popular for over 100 years, called The Image of God, first published in 1900, argued that, if white was created in the image of God, then the Negro was made after some other image.
Now, if you understand why this is so important in terms of the image of God, you recognize that a key issue for the abolition of slavery and the mistreatment of any people and the issue of civil rights was founded on the issue of the image of God. And you know this. I mean, listen to the Gettysburg Address as Lincoln appealed to the proposition that all men are created equal. It was a commitment that every person has the image of God in them. We could listen to Martin Luther King Jr, who called the nation to put away hatred and injustice and live out the true meaning of these words. What words? “That we hold these truths to be self-evident.” Come on, you know it. “That all people, all men are created equal.” And he argued, if you look at his address on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he argued for the image of God in every person. And I love this part. He didn’t argue just for one race or one group of people, he said, because he understood directly, that if we deny the dignity in anybody, we deny it in ourselves, as well. And he said that our destinies are intertwined, our freedoms are intertwined. To deny dignity to anybody is to deny it for us all. And he wouldn’t let us do that. So we could talk about– we’ve talked about maybe denying it based on race or intelligence or inferiority or some other issue, but you might be surprised to know we also denied this based on gender. (Continued in Part 2)
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