Now consider a legal doctrine such as the Declaration of Human Rights in the charter of the United Nations. This declaration, adopted on December 10, 1948, by the UN General Assembly without a single dissenting vote, asserts rights common to all people on earth.13Everyone has the right to freedom of conscience. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of governments. Each adult person has the right to marry a person of the opposite sex through free consent and to form a family. No one shall be subjected to torture or inhuman punishment. All are equal before the law. Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and property. There shall be equal pay for equal work. These ringing declarations are a standing indictment to tyranny and oppression everywhere.

Yet the universalism of this declaration is based on the particular teachings of Christianity. The rights in the declaration are based on the premise that all human lives have worth and that all lives count equally; this is not the teaching of all the world’s cultures and religions. Even so, it is entirely appropriate that a doctrine Christian in origin should be universal in application because Christianity articulates its message in universal terms. As Paul writes in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Here Christian individualism is combined with Christian universalism, and the two together are responsible for one of the great political miracles of our day, a global agreement on rights held to be inviolable.