Equality: The buzzword of the 21st Century. On this word, arguments and debates ensue. Friendships and familial connections are severed. Could this all be a misunderstanding? Is this merely a lack of defining terms and understanding the logical outcome of beliefs?
Mortimer J. Adler in his book, Six Great Ideas, fleshes out the dimensions of equality. In it, he lists the character of subjects, modes of predication, and qualifications linked to the predication. What he gives us is the broad concept of equality and applies it. I must confess that this was a mental workout for me, but worth the effort in understanding this heated buzzword.
Superiority or inferiority has to do with equality. Most people’s reaction will be to automatically favor the superior–but this does not have to be so. It could simply be a difference. Here is where Adler comes to the rescue. He shows us the difference between personal and circumstantial equality.
Differing between the concepts of equal and unequal will fall into two different spheres: that of people and that of everything else besides people. Personal equality has to do with people. Circumstantial equality has to do with everything that effects people.
Hang in there!
Focus now on Personal Equality (think: people). Under this category, there are further subdivisions: Endowments and Attainments. Endowments are what people are born with and attainments are what people can acquire and develop throughout their lifetime based on their endowments.
People scream and shout about equality until they are blue in the face, but it is simple: We will never be equal with each other. It is a simple fact that some people are born smarter than others. From conception, we are already unequal.
The million dollar question is: “Is God unjust for creating people unequal?”
In a previous post, we explored God and Equal Opportunity. In it, we show that God has designated certain people for different roles. All human beings are intricately woven and made into the Image of God (Gen 1:27). We are all created equally in His image. Adler’s term is personal equality–what we are endowed with by our Creator as human beings. It is true, however, that God has made each person different with different capacities. There is no injustice on God’s part for creating us this way and therefore we should not shake a fist at people when they are upset that we aren’t equal. This point is the bedrock of the equality controversy. People are dissatisfied with what God has given them: endowment speaking and attainment speaking.
Isaiah 45:9 lays the law down and shuts up the argument. “Woe to the one who argues with his Maker– one clay pot among many. Does clay say to the one forming it, What are you making? Or does your work say, He has no hands?” God gives and God takes away. Our job is to be content with what He has given us, work hard for His glory, and gives thanks to Him in all circumstances. There is nothing new under the sun and there is a time for everything.
Adler’s insights written in 1981 clears the fog from the cultural confusion.
For Further Discussion:
Mortimer J. Adler’s Chapter on The Dimensions of Equality