Weblog of a Christian philosophy student

Weblog of a Christian philosophy student. Please feel free to comment. All of my posts are public domain. Subscribe to posts [Atom]. Email me at countaltair [at] yahoo.com.au. I also run a Chinese to English translation business at www.willfanyi.com.

Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Saturday, January 01, 2011

What does it mean for people to be equal?

What does it mean for people to be equal? There aren't any two people in the world who have equal abilities in every respect. Some people are more intelligent, some people are better looking, some people have more wealth, status or power, and so on and so on. So what does it mean for people to be equal?

Equality doesn't mean that I pretend I'm as fast a runner as Usain Bolt so that everyone is equal when it comes to short distance running ability (Usain Bolt is the fastest short distance runner in history). Equality doesn't mean that I and my friends create a socially acceptable delusion whereby, for the sake of equality, we all pretend that we're as fast as Usain Bolt.

So believing in equality has to include a sensible acknowledgment of differences in people's abilities and gifts.

So if equality doesn't involve pretending that people have equal abilities, then what does it mean?

I think equality refers to the way that you process someone being relatively better or worse at something than yourself. It refers to how you choose to act on the fact that people have different abilities.

I think the Bible gives a good explanation of this view here:

Gen 1:27 "And God made man in his image, in the image of God he made him: male and female he made them" (everyone is equally made in God's image).

Rom 2:11 "For one man is not different from another before God" (because everyone is equally made in God's image).

1 Co 4:7 "For who made you better than your brother? or what have you that has not been given to you? but if it has been given to you, what cause have you for pride, as if it had not been given to you?" (everything we have outside of our own choices is a gift from God).

The Bible makes it clear that every good thing we have that's outside of our own choices we received from God (we also receive grace and the rest of our choices are heavily influenced by what God gave us), James 1:17. And what abilities and gifts we received from God we received not because God liked any of us more than anyone else (as we're all equally made in His image), but purely because it fitted more with God's plan for us to receive what we received.

So if someone is better than someone else because of their choices, then maybe there's a reason for boasting there - unless someone's better choices are a result of God's grace, because then they were a gift from God (grace is a gift offered freely to all). But if someone is better than someone else because of what's outside their choices, then they shouldn't boast about it, because everything outside our choices was given to people without God liking anyone more than anyone else.

This means acknowledging differences in people's abilities as long as that difference isn't used to attack someone in some way. Because you can't attack people based on a gift that you received from someone (in this case God), when the gift wasn't intended to privilege you over them.

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Blogger Like it or not, in-joy! said...

I do not practice any religion and have my own philosophy on life but I would just like to thank you for posting this. Keep it up.


Blogger Heavens said...

Sounds very Luther to me. He called this the "Great Exchange:"

"This is that mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ's, and the righteousness of Christ not Christ's but ours. He has emptied himself of his righteousness that he might clothe us with it and fill us with it; and he has taken our evils upon himself that he might deliver us from them." – Martin Luther

Blogger Will G said...

Thanks Like it or not!

Heavens: Interesting... thanks for your comment. I think the root of it is that Christ said that 'if it is possible for there to be any other way to save people, then do that' and currently Christians and people of many other religions try to get 'saved' by repenting and doing the right thing. If that could work there was no need for Christ to die. So the atonement must 'fix' this problem somehow - with grace. But although our evil is poured onto Christ, He never endorsed it so Christ never became a sinner himself...

Blogger Tobias said...

I think you're on to it when you mention the image of God in every human being. It seems to me "equality" is a measure of value, not function.

As you mention, we are clearly not all equal in abilities. Bob is stronger than Jim, but Jim is smarter than Bob. But maybe Sam is stronger and smarter than both Bob and Jim. But they all have equal value deriving from the image of God in each of them--equal because of what sort of being they are, not because of what degree of function they can perform.

My 2 cents, anyway. :-)

Blogger Logan said...

Yeah, in my opinion (goes along your ideas) people are not more this or that. They're equal. Differences aside,we all share the bio, the mind and the spirit. We are assembled in a production line, but at the same time, we're hand-made, customized. That's what's so special about humans. No one should proclaim themselves as better. Only different. God Bless ;)

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