Natural Law & Reformed Theology

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Casey

Puritan Board Junior
I consider natural law to be a subject/position amenable to Roman Catholic theology and not Reformed theology. I do not believe John Calvin taught in his Institutes the same sort of natural law that is being espoused today in some Reformed circles, and don't find it in any of the Reformed confessional documents. I am wondering if anyone can offer links to articles or books that cover the topic of natural law historically/theologically as found in the Reformed tradition? Thanks!
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Casey, as I'm one of those apparently ignorant folk who are espousing the dread "natural law" may I ask what it is that makes you think it's not Reformed?

Have you made up your mind before considering the evidence?

rsc
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
Casey, as I'm one of those apparently ignorant folk who are espousing the dread "natural law" may I ask what it is that makes you think it's not Reformed?

Have you made up your mind before considering the evidence?

rsc
I don't think I called anyone "ignorant," and by no means do I claim at all to be an expert on the subject.

I read VanDrunen's A Biblical Case for Natural Law, and I wasn't convinced by any of his arguments. Is there a better book arguing for natural law than VanDrunen's book?

Incidentally, Dr. Clark -- I posted a comment on your blog to which you haven't responded (perhaps you didn't see it? It's an older post of yours). I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts about it. I will quote it here for you:
As I see it, natural law is a big mistake.

I read Calvin to see what he had to say and came to a very different conclusion: When Calvin used the terminology "natural law" he is talking about something very different from what VanDrunen (and yourself) seem to be arguing for.

I reviewed VanDrunen's book here:
http://confessionalpresbyterian.blogspot.com/2006/12/natural-law-biblical.html

Admittedly, my evaluation is way too brief. But, I do explain there why it is wrong to read Romanist natural law theory back into Calvin.

VanDrunen no where in his book deals with the result of the fall on the image of God. I think one of the main blows against his arguments are, simply speaking, the Reformed doctrine of total depravity.

A few questions, if you don't mind:

1. Could you respond to the Calvin section in my paper? (It is not very long.)
2. Could you explain how the "natural law enterprise" is even possible in the light of total depravity? (Seeing that Paul has explained that Christians are "renewed" in the image of God, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness -- which seems to me to prove that unregenerate man cannot attain to a true knowledge, even of a supposed natural law.)
3. Could you explain how a so-called "neutral" natural law can be harmonized with presuppositional apologetics? (Unless, of course, you have no desire to uphold presuppositional apologetics.)

Thank you for your time!
-Confessional Presbyterian
 

yeutter

Puritan Board Senior
Turretin

Who would you consider to be the first major Reformed defender of Natural Law? Turretin?
Jean Calvin studied at Paris; a school in the Thomist tradition. It would be remarkable to find Calvin not clarifying his position if he sought to radically depart from a scholastic understanding of natural law.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Casey,

I saw your comment and ignored it. I'm not sure how to say this, but you need to do a lot more research before you comment publicly on this topic.

No, I'm not going read your paper because you've given me no reason to do so.

I offer serious research based on years of careful study of primary texts in context and in their original language. To this you offer dismissive prejudiced comments because Calvin's view (the magisterial Protestant view) doesn't fit your paradigm.

For those who don't know, David has another much larger volume on this topic forthcoming. The work to which you refer was only one lecture.

Stephen Grabill (sp?) has published a volume on natural law from a reformed pov.

I offer extensive bibliographic leads in the footnote of my paper which, had you read it with any care, you would have seen.

There are some Van Tillians who take a Barthian (NEIN! - there can be no natural law) position viz natural law -- which is passive perverse because CVT was the 20th century's strongest and most penetrating critic of Barth -- and I do not understand that. CVT was not at all hostile to natural law as Calvin defined it and as I explained it in my essay.

There were forms of natural law (e.g., Thomas and Grotius) to which he rightly objected and which are incompatible with Calvin's view.

Casey, if you would read my essay a little more care and with an open mind, you'll see that most of your objections are anticipated.

If you've decided a priori that there is no way that any sort of natural law doctrine could be true, then, of course, don't waste my time and yours.

As to Calvin and Thomas, I deal with that in the paper linked on my site. Start here.

rsc
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
I saw your comment and ignored it. I'm not sure how to say this, but you need to do a lot more research before you comment publicly on this topic.
But then, why allow comments on your blog at all? You say you saw it and ignored it? That's an interesting way to handle the situation.

As a matter of fact, that's why I asked you these particular questions on your blog, and why I just recently asked here on the PB if someone could point me to more resources.

Honestly, I find this response of yours perplexing.
 

turmeric

Megerator
I'm looking for a middle way - because I talk to lots of people and I'm studying to be a paralegal, so lots of my instructors are lawyers and I'm having to learn to speak like an intelligent person. They're mostly liberals and theonomy definitely won't fly! Besides, I think it's a misunderstanding of eschatology. So Van Drusen explains this more thoroughly? If I had money enough and time...but I will try to read this.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
I had Gerald Bray's book on The Doctrine of God in my hands earlier this year. He took *a* natural law doctrine to task. Is he Barthian?

On one hand, if the natural law adherent acknowledges his presuppositions and what he is bringing to the table, I don't have a problem, per se. But acknowledging presuppositions sort of takes away the "neutral ground" (no one is looking at objective data).

Okay, I read(ing) Budizezski (sorry for the spelling). Funny thing is that he argues *against* neutrality from a NL perspective. Well, if that's the case, many of my problems disappear (not all, though).

But I am sensing internal tensions in some guys, though. Some will say that we need to formulate natural law doctrines apart from God's revelation, and then others, maybe in the same camp, will say that we need to formulate legal theory only on *general revelation." Well, which is it?

And the Barthian ad hominem needs to stop. I, and others, are trying to work through this without the extra rhetoric.

At the end of the day, I don't lose too much sleep about it. If natural law is from God, and the magistrate should enforce it, then by definition, the magistrate should enforce God's law. In essence, a theonomy! (Sorry, I was having fun with that one).

But all the above was theorizing. Let's get practical. Given that NL = moral law on the heart, how should we punish said offenders? How is the punishment not too severe/lenient? How does one *know* that? Not trying to be ornery here. Just working it through.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Casey, as I'm one of those apparently ignorant folk who are espousing the dread "natural law" may I ask what it is that makes you think it's not Reformed?

Have you made up your mind before considering the evidence?

rsc

Dr. Clark, it seems as if you got up on the wrong side of the bed or something. In Casey's first post, no one was called ignorant etc, unless you wish to say that whenever someone expresses the view that another has something wrong is equivalent to calling the other person, ignorant.

Casey has simply put forward the view that the natural law expressed in Van Drunen's book is different from the natural law expressed by Calvin.

But hey, he simply has a closed mind and should be ignored????

CT
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Another note is that a fruitful line of thought might be look into how the Reformers' view of Theocracy and their view of Natural law is related. It definitely was not contradictory. It seems that some might wish to drop the Theocracy but still claim that the Reformers view of natural law is maintained. Intuitively that seems to be very problematic.

CT
 

Theogenes

Puritan Board Junior
Dr. Clark (Gordon H. that is) writes "The theory of natural law commits a major logical blunder when it tries to deduce a normative conclusion from descriptive premises...The is never implies the ought." From "Essays on Ethics and Politics", p.102.
This is similiar (but in the opposite direction) from Luther's criticism of Erasmus' schoolboy blunder of writing that the oughtimplies the can. The bottom line for natural law theory is "Description doesn't imply prescription". The Marquis de Sade took natural law theory to it's absurd conclusion - "what is, is right" and therefore could justify his brutality towards women. Why, oh, why do Reformed people embrace sola Scriptura when talking about salvation but then abandon it when considering a theory of knowledge or ethics?!? Let me answer my own question. Because that way of thinking is part of the fallen sinful nature. Right from the garden of Eden when Eve chose empiricism over revelation ("she saw that the fruit was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes and desirable to make one wise, she took and ate of it's fruit and gave to her husband who was with her and he ate" Gen 3:6) Law is God commanding and we know that by His revelation to us. Could Adam have known not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil by natural law, by just looking at it? No! God commanded him not to eat of it. Let us abandon the Romish theory of knowledge (empiricism) and it's derivatives natural law/natural theology and embrace the epistemology of the Bible, revelation. :deadhorse:
Jim
 
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