Rev. Danny Hyde is a minister in the URC and is sympathetic with the R2Kt virus. Over a year ago, he reviewed fellow virus simpatico Dr. David VanDrunen’s book “A Biblical Case for Natural Law, Studies in Christian Social Ethics and Economics,” Number 1, ed. Anthony B. Bradley (Grand Rapids: Acton Institute, 2006).
Chapter 2—Natural Law and Human Nature
VanDrunen makes his starting point not the oft-repeated texts in discussions of natural law in Romans 1:19-20, 2:14-15, but the image of God. This pedagogical turn is commendable as it lays aside the preconceived objections of those opposed to natural law and enters this subject in a fresh way.
Everybody agrees that man is created in the image of God. Everybody agrees that the image of God in fallen man puts him in a position that so that, on a ontological level, he knows God. Everybody agrees that this knowledge of God that is inescapable leaves fallen man without excuse. What the R2kt virus people and Natural Law lovers fail to deal with is that fallen man is using his epistemological gifting in order to suppress and deny what he can’t help but know due to the fact that the ontological fingerprints of God always remain upon him. The appeal to Natural law on the basis of the image of God in man refuses to deal with the reality that that image is irreparably fallen save by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. The mistake of R2kt virus people and Natural law lovers is to think that general revelation can be read accurately and successfully without presupposing special revelation. Man does indeed bear the image of God but without being renewed he will, with his fallen epistemological gifting read natural law in such a way that God is left out of the equation.
Hence this approach does nothing to lay aside preconceived objections.
“VanDrunen, then, moves away from any abstract doctrine of natural law to its source, saying, “The foundation for speaking about natural law is not nature but the creator of nature, God himself” (8). Since God is righteous and just, our creation in his image means in the beginning we by nature had the capacity for righteousness and justice. Natural law is not something outside of God found through independent reason, but is the way God “wired” us according to the very nature of God himself.”
Yes, God wired us ontologically in this fashion. But as a result of the fall we are using our epistemological software to suppress our ontological hardwiring. If that suppression mechanism is successful in keeping the reality of God at arms distance then clearly it is successful at keeping what God’s Natural law communicates.
Those who advocate this position have a view of the consequences of the fall as less than total. Natural law advocates sound like those that contend that while the fall was really really bad it didn’t leave man hostile to God.
This is also evidenced by the classic Reformed idea that Ephesians 4:24 and Colossians 3:10 show that salvation in Christ is a re-creation of the original image of God, in righteousness, holiness, and knowledge. This seems to create a problem, though. If redemption is re-creation, then sin has obliterated the image and therefore natural capacity to do righteousness, holiness, and know God. As bad as the fall has affected us, fallen man nevertheless still in some sense continues in the image of God (Gen. 9:6; James 3:9). Appealing to Romans 1:18-32, VanDrunen states that rebellious, sinful man is inexcusable before God, whether Jew with special revelation or Gentile with only creation. All men know God exists and that there are certain moral absolutes. In fact, Paul even speaks of one sin as “against nature” (1:26 cf. 2:14-15).
The fall didn’t obliterate the image of God in man ontologically speaking. Man can never be anything other than the creation of God. But the Fall did obliterate man’s epistemological acceptance of being in the image of God. As a result of the fall, man is a schizophrenic being. He remains in the image of God. Ontologically he cannot escape that knowledge since his very existence and self-consciousness is part of the general revelation that declares the God that he is suppressing in unrighteousness, but epistemologically he swears up and down that he has escaped the knowledge of God. Hence, while God faithfully communicates Himself through Natural law fallen man is doing everything he can to jam the reception. Natural law cannot be a means by which to govern a “common realm” if only because it does not take seriously what the fall has done to fallen man’s inclination to tune out God’s Natural Law airwaves.
The Apostle well speaks of sinning against nature but that doesn’t mean that fallen man will confess that what he is doing is sinning against nature. Indeed, a Natural Law formulated by a homosexual fallen man (cmp. Rmns. 1:26) would conclusively prove that Natural law teaches that homosexuality is according to nature.
Chapter 3—Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms Doctrine
Another line of argument on natural law is that God rules over all things, but in two different ways: he rules the civil kingdom (Calvin)/kingdom of the left hand (Luther) as creator and sustainer of temporal, earthly, and provisional matters, while he rules the spiritual kingdom (Calvin)/kingdom of the right hand (Luther) as creator, but especially as redeemer of the eschatological kingdom.
But Calvin understood that the Magistrate was answerable to God. Turretin insisted that the Magistrate was responsible to enforce both tables of the Law. The Puritans had the idea of the Holy Commonwealth. An idea they supported from Scripture. All of these agreed with the idea of two Kingdoms but they all did not advocate it the same way that those in Escondido are advocating it.
While VanDrunen’s cursory survey of the two kingdom’s doctrine in the history of the Church is helpful, the rest of chapter 3 is incisive. Reading like a primer on classic covenant theology, VanDrunen traces these two kingdoms through Old and New Testaments. After the Fall, God called Adam and Eve as his redeemed people and despite cursing the elements of creation mandate of Genesis 1:26-27 these things would continue in the world.
The task of Adam and Eve in the Garden was to have dominion over their world. After the fall, Noah is given the same commission to be fruitful and multiply and so have dominion. The chastisement that God visits upon His old covenant people is due to their idolatry and their failure to take Godly dominion. There is no place in Scripture where the command to have godly dominion in all the earth is ever revoked. Indeed, our Lord Christ reminded His disciples that “all authority had been given Him in heaven and earth.” In light of that they were to take His dominion forward into all the earth and into every area of life to teach the nations to observe all things that Jesus had commanded them.