Natural Law: Why limit it in the civil kingdom?

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Casey

Puritan Board Junior
Probably there's a simple answer to this question that I've blanked out on. :scratch:

Presupposing a two-kingdom framework, along with natural law epistemologically accessible to the unregenerate . . .

What biblical basis is there for limiting the natural law ethic in the civil kingdom to the second table of the law?
 

dannyhyde

Puritan Board Sophomore
Probably there's a simple answer to this question that I've blanked out on. :scratch:

Presupposing a two-kingdom framework, along with natural law epistemologically accessible to the unregenerate . . .

What biblical basis is there for limiting the natural law ethic in the civil kingdom to the second table of the law?

Great question, Casey, and one that I have not heard an answer from my former profs and now-colleagues at Westminster Seminary California.

I'll join you in waiting for an answer . . .
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Wow, if Rev Hyde doesn't want to answer this then I'm a bit concerned to answer this myself.

I just read something from Calvin on this and I'll try to dig it up. I don't think there is any reason, though, to assume that you can limit a natural law ethic to the second table of the law - not before God anyway. I think what you're asking, if I read you right, is whether or not the State should punish violations of these first table ethics. Is that correct?
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Probably there's a simple answer to this question that I've blanked out on. :scratch:

Presupposing a two-kingdom framework, along with natural law epistemologically accessible to the unregenerate . . .

What biblical basis is there for limiting the natural law ethic in the civil kingdom to the second table of the law?

I do not think they would give a biblical reason or perhaps even feel the need to give one. They would point to the Wars etc fought over first table issues. Then attempt to argue that such could be avoided if we just do not enforce such things.


CT
 

mvdm

Puritan Board Junior
There is no basis to so limit it. See these excerpts from this article:

CALVIN ON THE LEX NATURALIS, {September, 1998}. R. Scott Clark.

p. 17:

In the Institutes, he equated explicitly natural law with the Decalogue. At the beginning of his exposition, he said that "interior law" (lex illa interior)
"which we have described as written, even engraved upon the hearts of all, in a sense asserts the same things that are to be learned from the Two Tables." In book four, discussing civil polity, Calvin made the same point.


p. 18:

Far from being a conduit of the Classical or Thomist view of the lex naturalis, Calvin made a very sophisticated revision of the concept of natural law by removing it from the Stoic and Thomist corpus of "self-evident" truths and identifying it with the content of the Law revealed in the Garden and in the Sermon on the Mount.


p. 19:

{writing on Olevian}:

He explicitly equated the Decalogue with the natural law.

God willed to exist a testimony of this natural obligation, partly in natural law written on our minds, and partly in the law written on the Two Tables.

For Calvin and his successors such as Olevian, Ursinus, Wollebuis, and later Turretin and Von Mastricht, it was a given that God had entered into a probationary, federal-covenantal relationship with Adam, and that the lex naturalis which God instituted in this probationary arrangement with his impeccable, righteous, and holy creatures is the same law which he codified at Sinai and which Calvin called the lex naturalis. It was part of the warp and woof of the 16th and 17th century Reformed theology to think these things synonymously as components of the creational order.
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
Rich, I'm asking in regard to wherever natural law is intended to govern. So this includes the state but isn't limited to it (according to VanDrunen's definition; see his A Biblical Case for Natural Law, p. 37). Please let me know if you find the Calvin quote.
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
Probably there's a simple answer to this question that I've blanked out on. :scratch:

Presupposing a two-kingdom framework, along with natural law epistemologically accessible to the unregenerate . . .

What biblical basis is there for limiting the natural law ethic in the civil kingdom to the second table of the law?

Casey,

There several issues involved in any natural law discussion:

1. Whose version of natural law are we going to use? Calvin's? The Marquis de Sade's? Hobbs'?

2. How does man come to ascertain what is truly "natural law", and what is something else? For instance, is this done by empirical observation? By scholarly declarations? By rational contemplation? Or, by divine revelation?

3. Depending on which version of natural law we choose, and how we arrive at its requirements, then the issue of how it affects all other areas arises.


Personally, I think the "law of nature" refers to the way God created the world. Nature simply means that way things are (phoo-say in Greek). For a biblical creationist, God made the world with the 10 Commandments built into all areas of life. Thus, marriage, family, worship, dominion, procreation, sabbath, freedom, work, etc. are all part of the way God created the world. Each of these things is built into the 10 commandments.

That said, I'm an unsure as to the hows and whys of 2-kingdom theologians. Some merely seem to appeal to "common-sense" Americanism: separation of church and state and other non-reformed ideas.

Cheers,
 

Backwoods Presbyterian

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Edward Fisher in The Marrow of Modern Divinity pg. 26 in the footnote says:

The law of the ten commandments, being the natural law, was written on Adam's heart on his creation; while as yet it was neither the law of works, nor the law of Christ, in the sense wherein these terms are used in Scripture, and by our author. But after man was created, and put into the garden, this natural law, having made man liable to fall away from God, a threatening of eternal death in case of disobedience, had also a promise of eternal life annexed to it in case of obedience; in virtue of while he, having done his work, might thereupon plead and demand the reward of eternal life. Thus it became the law of works, whereof the ten commandments were, and are still the matter. All mankind being ruined by the breach of this law, Jesus Christ obeys and dies in the room of the elect, that they might be saved; they being united to him by faith, are, through his obedience and satisfaction imputed to them, freed from eternal death, and become heirs of everlasting life; so that the law of works being fully satisfied, expires as to them, as it would have done of course in the case of Adam's having stood the time of his trial: howbeit it remains in full force as to unbelievers. But the natural law of the ten commandments [which can never expire or determine, but is obligatory in all possible states of the creature, in earth, heaven, or hell] is, from the moment the law of works expires as to believers, issued forth to them [still liable to infirmities, though not to falling away like Adam] in the channel of the covenant of grace, bearing a promise of help to obey, (Ezek 36:27), and, agreeable to their state before the Lord, having annexed to it a promise of the tokens of God's fatherly love, for the sake of Christ, in case of that obedience; and a threatening of God's fatherly displeasure in case of their disobedience. (John 14:21), "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father; and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him."—(Psa 89:31-33), "If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, my loving kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail." Thus it becomes the law of Christ to them; of which law also the same ten commandments are likewise the matter. In the threatenings of this law there is no revenging wrath; and in the promises of it no proper conditionalty of works; but here is the order in the covenant of grace, to which the law of Christ belongs; a beautiful order of grace, obedience, particular favours, and chastisements for disobedience. Thus the ten commandments stand, both in the law of works and in the law of Christ at the same time, being the common matter of both; but as they are the matter of [i.e. stand in] the law of works, they are actually a part of the law of works; howbeit, as they are the matter of, or stand in, the law of Christ, they are actually a part, not of the law of works, but of the law of Christ. And as they stand in the law of Christ, our author expressly asserts, against the Antinomian, that they ought to be a rule of life to a believer; but that they ought to be a rule of life to a believer, as they stand in the law of works, he justly denies, against the legalist. Even as when one and the same crime stands forbidden in the laws of different independent kingdoms, it is manifest that the rule of life to the subjects in that particular is the prohibition, as it stands in the law of that kingdom whereof they are subjects respectively, and not as it stands in the law of that kingdom of which they are not subjects.
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
One biblical defense that may be pointed to is Rom 13. In speaking of the role of civil authorities says...

9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

One could bring up the fact that the first tablet laws are not mentioned, neither is the greatest command of loving God.
So it could be argued that fulfilling the civil law has to do with our interactions with our neighbor, not with God.
 

mvdm

Puritan Board Junior
One biblical defense that may be pointed to is Rom 13. In speaking of the role of civil authorities says...

9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

One could bring up the fact that the first tablet laws are not mentioned, neither is the greatest command of loving God.
So it could be argued that fulfilling the civil law has to do with our interactions with our neighbor, not with God.

Calvin's commentary on this passage, beginning with verse 8, makes it clear that we cannot bifurcate our duty to love God from our duty to love neighbor. The latter presupposes the former. Further, he is addressing the Christian's response to the magistrate, not the extent of the magistrate's duty wrt the 2 tables of the law.

Calvin writes on v. 8:

But some are here impeded, and they cannot well extricate themselves from this difficulty, — that Paul teaches us that the law is fulfilled when we love our neighbor, for no mention is here made of what is due to God, which ought not by any means to have been omitted. But Paul refers not to the whole law, but speaks only of what the law requires from us as to our neighbor. And it is doubtless true, that the whole law is fulfilled when we love our neighbors; for true love towards man does not flow except from the love of God, and it is its evidence, and as it were its effects. But Paul records here only the precepts of the second table, and of these only he speaks, as though he had said, — “He who loves his neighbor as himself, performs his duty towards the whole world.”
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
One biblical defense that may be pointed to is Rom 13. In speaking of the role of civil authorities says...

9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

One could bring up the fact that the first tablet laws are not mentioned, neither is the greatest command of loving God.
So it could be argued that fulfilling the civil law has to do with our interactions with our neighbor, not with God.

Calvin's commentary on this passage, beginning with verse 8, makes it clear that we cannot bifurcate our duty to love God from our duty to love neighbor. The latter presupposes the former. Further, he is addressing the Christian's response to the magistrate, not the extent of the magistrate's duty wrt the 2 tables of the law.

Calvin writes on v. 8:

But some are here impeded, and they cannot well extricate themselves from this difficulty, — that Paul teaches us that the law is fulfilled when we love our neighbor, for no mention is here made of what is due to God, which ought not by any means to have been omitted. But Paul refers not to the whole law, but speaks only of what the law requires from us as to our neighbor. And it is doubtless true, that the whole law is fulfilled when we love our neighbors; for true love towards man does not flow except from the love of God, and it is its evidence, and as it were its effects. But Paul records here only the precepts of the second table, and of these only he speaks, as though he had said, — “He who loves his neighbor as himself, performs his duty towards the whole world.”

The Geneva study note states on v.9:
For the whole law commands nothing else but that we love God and our neighbour. But seeing that Paul speaks here of the duties we owe one to another, we must restrain this word "law" to the second table of the ten commandments.
And those defending the idea that the civil magistrate is only to enforce the second table could argue that they are only required to enforce the duties that one human owes another; and that the Church is the instrument that enforces the duties that we owe to God.

Also consider that it is only in special revelation that we are told how to honor God, worship Him, etc. General revelation does give even the non-Christian the more general and "civic" moral responsibilities.

If this were not the case how could pagans exhibit moral ethical decisions as in ...
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. (1Co 5:1)


Our Lord's own words could even be used to show a distinction between divine and civil authority...
They said, "Caesar's." Then he said to them, "Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." (Mat 22:21)
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
So if someone like David VanDrunen, or another WSC professor, were to give a reason for applying only the second table of the law to the so-called "civil realm," what would it look like? Any further answers besides those that have already been given?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
So if someone like David VanDrunen, or another WSC professor, were to give a reason for applying only the second table of the law to the so-called "civil realm," what would it look like? Any further answers besides those that have already been given?

I'm loath to give a generalisation, but the book providing a so-called reformed critique of theonomy generally espoused principled pluralism. Personally I have never been able to work out how the State can be said to possess the authority to establish multiple religions when it receives its authority from the one only living and true God.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
So if someone like David VanDrunen, or another WSC professor, were to give a reason for applying only the second table of the law to the so-called "civil realm," what would it look like? Any further answers besides those that have already been given?

I'm loath to give a generalisation, but the book providing a so-called reformed critique of theonomy generally espoused principled pluralism. Personally I have never been able to work out how the State can be said to possess the authority to establish multiple religions when it receives its authority from the one only living and true God.

I would think that the response would be that they are not establishing multiple religions but instead allowing multiple religions to exist freely because otherwise we will fight. That would assume that we cannot rationally establish Christianity as the truth or that even if we could, some would not accept it and we still would have a mess.

CT
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I would think that the response would be that they are not establishing multiple religions but instead allowing multiple religions to exist freely because otherwise we will fight. That would assume that we cannot rationally establish Christianity as the truth or that even if we could, some would not accept it and we still would have a mess.

Yes, but any religion protected by law is "established." It is of course interesting to observe that this idea is never consistently maintained, because when Mohammedans seek to exercise freedom of religion and slay the infidels, the State steps in and positively persecutes them.
 
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