Original Research

Identity and dignity within the human rights discourse: An anthropological and praxis approach

Daniel J. Louw
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 35, No 2 | a876 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v35i2.876 | © 2014 Daniel J. Louw | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 June 2013 | Published: 06 August 2014

About the author(s)

Daniel J. Louw, Faculty of Theology, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa


The theological discourse mostly focuses on the moral and ethical framework for human rights and human dignity. In order to give theological justification to the value and dignity of human beings, most theologians point to the imago Dei as theological starting point for the design of an anthropology on human dignity. Within the paradigmatic framework of democracy, human dignity and human rights have become interchangeable concepts. This article aimed to focus not on ethics but on aesthetics: man as homo aestheticus, as well as the praxis question regarding the quality of human dignity within the network of human relationships. It was argued that human dignity is more fundamental than human rights. Dignity as an anthropological construct should not reside in the first place in the imago Dei and its relationship to Christology and incarnation theology. Human dignity, human rights and human identity are embedded in the basic human quest for meaning (teleology). As such, human dignity should, in a practical theological approach to anthropology, be dealt with from the aesthetic perspective of charisma, thus the option for inhabitational theology. As an anthropological category, human dignity should be viewed from the perspective of pneumatology within the networking framework of a ‘spiritual humanism’. In this regard, the theology of the Dutch theologian A.A. van Ruler, and especially his seminal 1968 work Ik geloof, should be revisited by a pneumatic anthropology within the parameters of practical theology.


Human rights, human dignity, eschatological identity, homo eastheticus, anthropology, aesthetics, pneumatology


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