Monday, July 25, 2011

Is Natural Law Clear Enough To Teach This?

Are there any Reformed folk out there who are willing to say that the Natural Law is clear enough to teach the following:
  • The authority of fathers over wives and children.
  • The sanctity of monogamous marriage.
  • The duty to care for families.
  • Breastfeeding.
  • Primogeniture.
  • The sacrosanctity of envoys and ambassadors.
  • The obligation of promises.
  • Degrees of marriage.
  • The need for witnesses in murder trials.
  • The need for distinction of ranks in society.
  • Prohibition of incest.
  • Prohibition of murder.
  • Prohibition of adultery.
  • Prohibition of slavery.
  • Prohibition of the rule of one man.
  • Respect for the old.
  • Equity in commercial dealings.
  • Religion must be the first concern of governors.


  1. Perhaps some, but certainly not all of the things listed. For example, if I challenged the view of say respect for the old how would you convincingly argue for that based solely on natural law?

  2. Now, the question is whether the natural law which God has placed in man's heart is really this clear.

    That being said, I might be prepared to argue that respect for the old is attested to by nearly every society that has ever existed - Christian or pagan. In one sense, I think respect for the elderly has been upheld out of a sense of selfishness (we all want to be respected when were old), but also most civilizations have recognized that the elderly have great wisdom and are worthy of respect.

    Look at a cross-section of societies. Outside of the Christian/Jewish tradition, the Stoic philosopher Epictetus recognized the duty "to care for parents." In the Hindu literature, it says that "Children, old men, the poor, and the sick should be considered as the lords of the atmosphere." In the Jewish literature, it is taught: "You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord" (Lev. 19:32).

    We should remember that these are laws written on the heart. We have them infallibly preserved in the Old Testament, but we should not be surprised to find that the same commandments which existed prior to Sinai should appear in similar forms in other cultures, which after all, have all come from one man, one family, and ultimately the same religious tradition.

    I have more to say about this later, but I have a sneaking suspicion that there is a new distrust and even an altogether denial of natural law which needs to be responded to.

    Again, however, the question is, is natural law clear? If so, just how clear is it?

  3. Breastfeeding? I'm not opposed to that, but I'm not sure that the Natural Law has anything to say about breastfeeding.

    I would be prepared to say that the Natural Law (as I understand it - my understanding and/or definition might be off) speaks to most of the things on your list, but that particular item seems to be a bit of wild card.

    I'm not exactly sure what your point is, but I will attempt to answer the question you posed in your comment. The Natural Law itself is clear, but fallen man's understanding of it is very flawed, so to him it might look very unclear.

  4. My argument is not against Natural Law or its use. It is a valid and clear form of revelation, but I struggle with the idea that it is the only valid form of revelation that applies to the common kingdom. On the one hand we don't have to proof-text our economics (as some have done), but on the other hand do we really have to ignore the Bible when we live as citizens?

  5. Maybe before I respond I could ask for some clarification. What do you mean when you say "ignore the Bible when we live as citizens?"

  6. Meaning that we must take the Bible off the table when we speak with other members of the common kingdom and only use natural law. That's what perplexes me, am I misunderstanding the position?

  7. Well... the Bible is always on the table. After all, our neighbors and unbelieving friends need the Gospel! When I'm coming to someone and trying to get them to join the Kingdom of God, I can approach them with the Bible AND natural law. This is part and parcel of how we use both revelations with regard to unbelievers.

    The question is, by what standard do we appeal to in order to show how they ought to act in the common kingdom? All government laws are ultimately done at the point of the sword. We do not hold the sword to someone's neck for not obeying the spiritual law of Christ (as found in Scripture). The magistrate compels unbelievers to obey the law which they are under - that is, the natural law. We as their friends and neighbors ought to go to them in love and tell them about their sin and about Christ and about redemption - and in that situation we use the Scriptures because we're inviting them into Christ's kingdom.

    But do we make the spiritual commands contained in the Bible (i.e. repentance, faith, sunday worship), which are foreign to them a part of the laws which they must obey in the common kingdom? Hardly. Rather, we encourage WILLING and joyful obedience and win them over so that they are in Christ and under His spiritual law. If they are outside of Christ, then they stand condemned already because they are in violation of God's law which is written on their hearts. Unbelievers are neither in Christ, nor under the spiritual law of Christ (they are under the natural law of Christ); they stand condemned by the law which Paul demonstrates is written on their hearts. All laws ought to reflect this universal reality.

    Remember that Paul does not, in Romans 1 and 2, condemn unbelievers for not recognizing and obeying the Mosaic law. If they HAD the Mosaic law, they would have been condemned by it. As it stands, however, Paul saw that they had another law - the law of nature, by which God has revealed himself to everyone.

    Nobody questions (at least nobody SHOULD question) that all human beings are under natural law. Now, if all human beings were under the spiritual law of the Scriptures, then why did Paul not condemn the unbelievers by use of the Scriptures? Rather, Paul appeals to the universal law for the condemnation which he declares. That should settle it, in my mind. If PAUL recognized that not everyone stands condemned based solely on the law of Moses, then why should we be any different when we deal with unbelievers?

    Lets remember: we're living in Babylon. We are citizens of heaven, and we're living in Babylon. We want as many people as possible to join the Spiritual kingdom. We are in process between both - there's that already and not-yet tension. Eschatology becomes a factor at this point, but it is important to see that THIS is not Christ's kingdom - Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it was, my disciples would have fought for me."


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