The core moral notion of modern Western society, that permeates our ethical discussion, is the notion of rights. It is little noticed that in the midst of moral discourse individuals raise all kinds of questions about viewpoints with which we disagree, but never do people question the ground rules or the presuppositions of the debate-- the presupposition that something exists called inalienable rights. Most assume that rights language is the common ground in moral discussion because rights actually exist. Other than a handful of individuals (e.g. Alasdair MacIntyre, many years ago) who has ever asked the question, "Is there such a thing as rights?" Even Christians assume that rights exist and form the basis of moral discourse. Rights language provides everyone, whether they are Christians or Muslims or Hindus or atheists, with a common language for ethical and legal discussion.
But is the concept of rights problematic for Christians? Just what is a right and how does one decide what is and is not a right? Is it biblical? Has the notion of rights contributed to the loss of the decisive nature of Christianity? Has it undermined the significance of Christian doctrine for moral reflection?