Saturday, July 30, 2011

Where Have All The (Natural) Lawmen Gone?

A few days ago, I posted a list and asked if Natural Law was clear enough to teach these things. Specifically, I wanted to know if there were any Reformed people who would affirm that Natural Law can offer any accurate guidance for the civil realm. The list included things such as duty to care for families, the obligation of promises, and also included the prohibition of murder, slavery, adultery, tyranny, and incest.

This list was compiled by Harro Höpfl in his book The Christian Polity of John Calvin. The list is a selection of things (often very specific; though not necessarily comprehensive) which - according to Hopfl - Calvin believed were informed by "'nature' or 'natural sense' or 'reason'" (p. 179-180).

I was so struck by this list because Reformed theologians today seem to be embarrassed of any sort of affirmation of so much clarity in natural law - especially of the sort Calvin was wiling to affirm. To many it smacks of inclusivism, liberalism, or rejecting Scriptural authority. To many, natural law doesn't matter at all, since all we really need to do is bring everyone - believer or not - under the rule of Scripture (in which case, natural law can go the way of the dinosaurs for all we care - am I right?)

Is it really such a "radical" idea that men ought to be held to the standards which God has placed them under? (Don't forget to add the 'R' to the 2K!) Perhaps what really needs to happen is for Reformed thinkers to develop a renewed interest in and appreciation of natural law. It is a part of our heritage - it's in our bones and sinew. Our forefathers believed in it (think Turretin, especially), and though it is hotly debated how natural law was to be applied to the civil kingdom, it wasn't always an embarrassing thing to acknowledge that men have in their hearts the knowledge of right and wrong as a clear standard by which the common kingdom could be held to by its own citizens.

Instead of a sermon, let me end with a question: whose fault is it? What happened to Natural Law, in other words? Do we lay our complaints at the feet of Van Til? Kuyper? Bahnsen?

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