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Let us turn there now, focusing on the early Christian tradition.

Christianity is inconceivable without taking seriously its Jewish roots and evolution in the early centuries of the Common Era.

Jesus, his disciples, and the apostle Paul were all Jewish.

Only gradually did Christianity achieve an independent religious life, though always indebted to the Hebrew Bible (incorporated in the Christian Bible as the Old Testament), the tradition of prophecy and revelation, its liturgy animated most centrally by the Psalms, and the Jewish tradition’s ethical monotheism with its saptiential tradition (from the Latin ‘sapientia’ for wisdom) as found in the Book of Proverbs with its guidance on avoiding evil and pursuing the good.

Contemporary versions of the divine command theory seek to avoid the charge of arbitrariness; for example, Robert Adams links morality to God’s character (loving) and Linda Zagzebski to God’s motivations. The second way that many Christians assert a theological foundation for ethics is by claiming that the best—perhaps only–grounding for human dignity and universal human rights is that God creates all persons in God’s image or that God loves all persons (see, for example, Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Justice: Rights and Wrongs) When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (CLICK HERE for link to PDF) was being debated during the late 1940s in the United Nations, the committee Chair–Eleanor Roosevelt–got tired of listening to philosophers and theologians argue about the grounding of human rights, and insisted that they simply come up with a consensus on a coherent list of human rights, and then agree to disagree about their foundation.

That is why it is called “A Universal Declaration of Human Rights” rather than a “Declaration of Universal Human Rights” (there were abstentions but no vetoes during the final vote).

This claim has been developed in at least two different ways, the first being what is called “The divine command theory of ethics.” One version of this theory is to claim that only God’s will makes things right or wrong; it is sometimes stated as “X is good (or obligatory)” just means “God approves of (or demands) X.” Divine command theorists admit that, of course, atheists and others can use moral ideas without realizing their foundation; people can use a building, for example, without giving a thought to its foundation.Most of them agree that through reason and natural law humans can know some and maybe even most of morality, but claim that scripture provides distinctive features and emphases for moral and spiritual life.Love for all, including one’s enemies, in the sense of self-sacrificing agape, is perhaps the most commonly cited distinctively Christian ethical teaching (see, for example, , eds. Other teachings include an emphasis on calling to discipleship and stewardship (see, for example, Douglas Schuurman’s Vocation: Discerning our Callings in Life), to mercy and forgiveness, and to economic justice.In this light, Christianity is monotheistic, professing belief in an all-good, powerful Creator who made a good cosmos in which sin has entered through disobedience.Some of the changes between and emerging Christianity and rabbinic Judaism are subtle.

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