Natural Law

Natural law — A law or body of laws that derives from nature and is believed to be binding upon human actions apart from or in conjunction with laws established by human authority.

Natural law theory suggests that in the order of the Universe there is a certain objective communication of basic truths that should govern mankind and that these objectively communicated truths can be known by all mankind because these truths naturally resonate with mankind given that they are part of the objective order which communicates these basic truths.

Put in Christian hands, Natural law, as noted in the previous post, should become the authoritative source for the governance of cultures in every realm save the Church realm. In the Church realm God’s revealed Word is to be the source of authority. Natural law is to govern in this way because according to some it is ‘the only available basis of morality for non-Christians, people who do not live within the covenant community and do not share its history and memories.’1

The contrary position to Christian Natural law theory is that God’s revealed law-Word should govern in every area of life. This position does not create the kind of dualism that Radical Two Kingdom Theorists advocate, insisting instead that God’s word speaks to every area of life and not just to the redemptive realm. The contrary position to the implied autonomy of man in Christian natural law theory is called ‘theonomy,’ which is the position advocated in Isaiah 8:20 where we are instructed to repair to ‘the law and to the testimony’ as opposed to other modes of revelation in order to gain insight into God’s mind.

Now as we examine Natural law theory we must first say that we agree with Natural law theory that the moral order of the universe is so constructed that man does look out upon the universe and knows and understands that there is a proper moral ordering that should be followed. Christians would say that this is so for several reasons. First man knows and understands that there is a proper moral order because man, like all of creation around him, is part of God’s general revelation that pronounces that basic moral order. Man is not only a receiver of general revelation that pronounces God’s basic moral order but he is also a sender of that message in as much as he is a part of the creation in which God and His order is revealed. Because this is true when man denies God’s moral order he at the same time denies himself since he himself is a living declarative embodiment of God’s moral order. Second man knows and understands that there is a proper moral order because man is created in God’s image and being created in that image he can not avoid seeing what God shows by way of a proper moral order. Third man knows and understands that there is a proper moral order because God has written His law upon man’s heart.

All of this is true, and we gladly go this far with Natural law theorists. However at this point there is an immediate dividing of ways because while Biblical Christians admit to all this they include another element that Natural law theorists don’t seem to take as seriously as they should. That other element is the noetic effects of sin. Man does know all that we have admitted that he knows but Scripture teaches that man suppresses that truth in unrighteousness. Man does know that message that the moral order is sending but because he will not have God rule over him he holds down that knowledge insisting that he doesn’t know what he does indeed know. It is this truth over which Christian natural law theorists stumble. Man does know at his deepest level that (as one example) abortion is murder and yet man buries that knowledge in concrete all the while insisting that what he knows is that murder is not murder, nor is it wrong when he wants to murder.

Now often at this point Christian Natural law theorists will insist that people who posit the noetic effects of sin to be as extensive as they say it is are exaggerating the noetic effects of sin. “Certainly,” they say, ‘man is not so fallen that he can’t rightly interpret the unchanging laws that exist in nature that define for man what is right just and good by the use of right reason.” They further insist that while man may be dead to spiritual realities that it is an over-reading of the Scriptures to suggest that because of sin man is unable to read non-spiritual truths aright. First, we would note that this is the same kind of objection that Arminians raise concerning man’s will. Arminians object that dead in sin can’t mean dead to the point that man’s will can’t respond. Natural law theorists are arguing that dead in sin can’t mean dead to the point that man’s intellect no longer completely suppresses the truth in unrighteousness. Second Reformed Natural law theorists are forgetting their Van Til. Van Til insisted that fallen man’s mind remained sharp like a saw blade but the problem was that, because of sin, the saw blade always cut at the wrong angle. Man’s mind does indeed remain sharp but he always reads God’s moral order in a way that serves his God hating agenda. Now that fallen man sometimes exhibits felicitous inconsistency by getting some things right is not testimony that he is interpreting Natural law aright but rather is testimony that since this is God’s world it is impossible, short of insanity or death, to get everything perfectly wrong. We would say it is an odd thing for Reformed people to argue that dead in sin means enough life to read Natural law aright and to embrace what they read.

More later on the problems of Natural law theory.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

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