What does the concept of Christian freedom mean for Europe today? What follows from our shared traditions culturally, morally and legally? How can Europe preserve her centuries-old values? Such are the questions explored by the authors of an English language volume of academic papers, set to be printed soon.
Believe it or not, it is not a matter of faith: Christianity has indeed played a critical role in the development and preservation of both civilization and culture in Europe. Regardless of personal conviction and beliefs, European nations share the heritage of both classical antiquity and Christianity.
After all, Europe‘s core values consisting primarily of Greek philosophy and art, as well as Roman law, were in fact passed from generation to generation by Christianity. To this very day it is Christian culture that defines the way we live, the way we think, and the way we can work with others. Despite this background, however, it is uncertain whether Christianity will remain a significant part of the European culture, or even be a legally protected way of life.
The Hungarian law journal Acta Humana dedicated two volumes (numbers 3 and 4 in 2020) to studies examining the relationship between Christianity and modern human rights, with András Koltay, the Rector of the University of Public Service as the guest editor. As he now addresses in the volume’s foreword, he became convinced during this editorial assignment that the 16 studies penned by authors from various law workshops in Hungary were competent to contribute to a fresh academic dialogue reaching across national borders, as long as an English translation was made easily accessible to foreign scholars. That is how this volume of studies titled Christianity and Human Rights was born. The authors and the editor hope that by publishing this collection it will inspire European scholars to join in the ongoing constructive discussion promptly.
The papers collected in the soon-to-be published volume address a unique area of jurisprudence that certainly requires further research. For if, anyone asked what Christian freedom was, the most accurate answers would likely come from lawyers and religious scholars. The starting point is of course set by the Bible and its interpretations, but functional rules are synthesized from the “core document” mainly by lawyers.
In the legal area of freedom, the traditions of European culture, shared values, law and (Christian) religion are intertwined. It is becoming increasingly clear to scholars who researched this subject that Christianity played a critical role in developing the legal concept of freedom in Europe. There is of course the popular opinion, according to which individual freedom is exclusively the achievement of the Enlightenment, and that in fact it was created in opposition of the restrictive doctrines of Christianity. Scholars meanwhile point out that the recognition of human rights and the equal dignity of all people are rooted in Christianity, since a believer’s life is framed in the certainty that all people are the children of the Father and therefore every person has an inherent dignity that is sacrosanct and indelible. Thus, the idea of the individuum being valuable stems originally from Christianity.
When free, the citizens would like the state to remain always “value neutral”, while they preserve their own personal beliefs and family traditions. In other words, the state ought to respect the different beliefs and choices that appear within society. At the same time, scholars find it just as important to note that overdoing the secular arguments is an exercise in futility, since Christianity can never be fully banished from the state. For if we were to dispose of our religion-based values and thereby dampen our own diversity, we would thereby narrow the individual’s opportunities to choose. Reducing the value choices available to people is unacceptable- not only according to statutory law.
Therefore, the studies in this volume focus primarily on the problems of various freedoms (human dignity, freedom of religion and expression, etc.) on the basis of the concept of Christian freedom. They reckon that a thorough examination of issues related to freedom, conscience, human rights and religious freedom is important not only in order to understand the past, but also to make decisions for the future—whether in a nation state or in the community that is the European Union.
Local readers with an interest in academic works addressing human rights theory may have already encountered these writings on the pages of the Acta Humana. These studies, translated into English and compiled into a book, are now available not only to Hungarian readers but also to social science scholars abroad—enriching the literature on the relationship between Christianity and human rights.
The book will be shortly printed, but it is now available in an electronic format from our Webshop.