Christopher D. Marshall. Crowned With Glory and Honor: Human Rights in the Biblical Tradition. Cascadia Publishing House, 2001.
This is a splendid little book. Marshall, a New Testament scholar who teaches in New Zealand, provides a concise but thorough account how the Bible and biblically-based theology may strongly affirm a commitment to human rights. In doing so, he shows conclusively that modern notions of human rights such as reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are fully compatible with Christian thought.
Along the way, Marshall does critique Enlightenment-based notions of human rights, but his intent is to build bridges more than pit Christian theological language against human rights language as is lamentably done by some Christians. Marshall’s strengths include a thorough understanding of the biblical message that allows him to provide an outline for a general biblical theology (Old and New Testaments) that serves as the basis for his affirmation of human rights. He helpfully focuses on the big picture in the Bible rather than isolated proof-texts.
Marshall also does a fine job in introducing the general arena of human rights thought as it has emerged in moral philosophy and political realities. In doing so, he gives Christians an excellent primer on the intersection of their theology with the public policy world–and he gives those unfamiliar with theology a good sense of how the Bible can be seen as friendly to their human rights concerns.
Yet another strength is Marshall’s economy of expression. His main text runs slightly less than 100 pages, but he is quite thorough in his discussion (beyond the main text we have 13 pages of informative endnotes and a 9-page bibliography). Certainly he could have said much more (and we could use a large tome on this subject). But what he presents is quite adequate and persuasive–Christians have every business strongly advocating human rights and human rights advocates from outside Christianity have every business welcoming biblical thought as part of their rationale for their advocacy.