Self-Evident Truths & Inalienable Rights

When the Founders declared independence, they debated the document that Jefferson drafted. All the debate centered around the specific charges against the king. No one raised any objections or questions about the opening paragraphs.

The second paragraph, in particular, spoke of self-evident truths—beliefs that everyone in the room held to without needing some type of external evidence to bolster those beliefs. Self-evident truths are obvious; they are implanted by God Himself in each person. The Founders identified at least three self-evident rights that people possess: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These were granted by God; therefore, government could not take them away arbitrarily. That’s why they are called inalienable. Yes, someone may lose all three, dependent on his behavior [murdering another person means you may have your life taken from you by the state; theft may result in your imprisonment, which would also impact any pursuit of happiness]. But the state cannot take these away without a sound reason.

That paragraph does say that these are not necessarily the only inalienable rights God gives; it says that they are “among” the rights. So that leaves the door open to other inalienable rights that may be self-evident as well. What those other rights might be must be understood within the context of the 18th century when the Declaration of Independence was written. They would have to somehow be connected to basic rights that all people accepted as self-evident. The key to knowing them, during that era, was knowing the Bible and the God who granted them.

We have changed the formula in our day. Now we have concluded that government is the source of rights. We have made some things into self-evident truths and inalienable rights that the Founders never would have imagined. You might recognize some of them in this recent political cartoon.

How have we come to this? I hate to sound like a broken record, but I will repeat: we are at this point because we have rejected God as our source. We no longer think Biblically as a society. The only solution is to return to that Biblical basis and renew our thinking. We must break up the new foundations that are being laid and place the historic Christian faith once again as our cornerstone.