Human worth is not valued on a sliding scale. When there are graduations, there lies madness

By Dave Andrusko

Before setting aside time for a Lenten study, the class that I lead was absorbing, debating, and discussing a thought-provoking book by New York Times best-selling author Tim Keller. The Rev. Keller is, of course, a near legendary figure in evangelical circles.

While I was doing some additional background reading, I ran across a keynote speech delivered by Keller at the 2018 National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast in Westminster Hall, London. 

In his remarks Keller quoted from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s July 4, 1965 sermon, “The American Dream.” Keller argued that it is the Christian understanding of the uniqueness of every human being that served as the underpinning for the very idea of human rights.

The fundamental belief that all men and all women are created equal “says that each of us has certain basic rights that are neither derived from or conferred by the state,” Dr. King said in his message. “In order to discover where they came from, it is necessary to move back behind the dim mist of eternity. They are God-given, gifts from His hands.”

Keller cites the following passage which appears early in Dr. King’s message delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church:

You see, the founding fathers were really influenced by the Bible. The whole concept of the imago dei, as it is expressed in Latin, the ‘image of God,’ is the idea that all men have something within them that God injected. Not that they have substantial unity with God, but that every man has a capacity to have fellowship with God. And this gives him a uniqueness, it gives him worth, it gives him dignity. And we must never forget this as a nation: there are no gradations in the image of God. Every man from a treble white to a bass black is significant on God’s keyboard, precisely because every man is made in the image of God. One day we will learn that. We will know one day that God made us to live together as brothers and to respect the dignity and worth of every man.

Secularists, of course, can and do make the same equality-of-life argument on a different basis. And we are so very glad that there are a growing number of  secular pro-lifers.

But, as Dr. King eloquently explained, when we affirm that each of us is made in the image of God, it gives each of us a transcendent worth and dignity that is not dependent on whether someone decides to give us that.

Put another way, our worth is not doled out to us. Our worth is ours by inheritance.

There are many threads that, woven together, make up the fabric of what we call the sanctity of human life. But the principle thread, I would argue, that holds it all together is that we believe with every fiber in our bodies that each and every human being is unique.

Each of us matters. 

None of us is disposable. 

None is more valuable than any other. 

Each of us is unique.

By unique we mean one of a kind –singular–and thus every one of us is irreplaceable.

Back to Dr. King’s sermon, specifically that there are “no gradations in the image of God.” What a statement! Human worth is not valued on a sliding scale. When there are graduations, there lies madness.

The great apologist G. K. Chesterton once wrote, “All men matter. You matter. I matter. It’s the hardest thing in theology to believe.”