Series - CivLib

The Biblical Origin of Individual Civil Liberties: Two Competing Views (Part 3)

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Marx’s and Engels’ Economic Solution

Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) proposed that the human problem was borne of class struggle and the resulting oppression of one class by another.35 That oppression was expressed through four epochs of world history, all representing the struggle between oppressor and oppressed: (1) primitive and communal, (2) slave, (3) feudal, and (4) capitalist. Marx and Engels argued that a fifth era—a socialist and communist epoch—would resolve the issue once and for all, bringing in a golden age of equality and justice. This solution was rooted in the view of all history as economic history, thus the problem was an economic problem, and the solution was likewise an economic one. That solution was “summed up in the single sentence: abolition of private property.”36

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The Biblical Origin of Individual Civil Liberties: Two Competing Views (Part 2)

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Filmer’s Assertion of Scriptural Divine Right

Robert Filmer (1588-1653) describes and opposes a common seventeenth-century view, that “Mankind is naturally endowed and born with Freedom from all Subjection, and at liberty to choose what Form of Government it please: And that the Power which any one Man hath over others, was at first bestowed according to the discretion of the Multitude.”14 He characterizes the view as popularized by divines to minimize the king’s authority and facilitate the Church’s increasing influence and power.15 By contrast, Filmer suggests, “the Scripture is not favourable to the Liberty of the People,”16 that desire for liberty was the cause of Adam’s fall, and was consequently as dangerous for moderns as it was for Adam.17 Filmer assigns motive to Adam (desire for liberty), employing a theological hermeneutic, going beyond what is written, and effectively supporting the divine right view by that one supposition. Nothing in the Genesis text nor later texts dare assign motive to Adam. Rather the accounts and later commentary (including nine direct NT references to Adam) simply provide the historical facts of what occurred.

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The Biblical Origin of Individual Civil Liberties: Two Competing Views (Part 1)

As presented to the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics, September 16, 2020, with the title The Biblical Origin of Individual Civil Liberties, and Two Competing Views on Their Legitimacy and Implementation.


The Declaration of Independence makes the audacious claim that “all men are created equal … endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” This assertion of origin is rooted in a Judeo-Christian worldview—or more precisely, a Biblical one—and has been embraced by America’s founding fathers and their philosophical progenitors. In contrast, Plato’s ideal of Republic and its implementation in contemporary Marxist theory is rooted in an opposing understanding of the origin and scope of human rights. These two competing socio-political systems underscore the significance of human origin for practical aspects of societal structures and daily life within those constructs.

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