Natural Law?

Not open for further replies.


Puritan Board Junior
What say ye? Is natural law valid for use in the "public square"?

See this article in the March/April 2006 issue of Modern Reformation to see what I mean:
Natural Law & Christians in the Public Square

How can believers and unbelievers begin to discuss controversial subjects in the public square? The author explains why natural law provides a significant amount of common ground and a framework for both believers and unbelievers to use when considering law and public policy.

Or this book, also by VanDrunen, A Biblical Case for Natural Law.

I wrote a short review of this book and may post it on my blog . . . :detective: . . . but only after some hashing around here! :lol:


Puritan Board Sophomore
Have you read my review in the latest issue of the Mid-Americal Journal of Theology 17 (2006): 354-60?


Puritan Board Junior
Okay, here's my attempt at a review of VanDrunen's book:

Natural Law: Biblical?

I realize my "evaluation" section is a bit skimpy and could be beefed up a bit!

Perhaps this can get some discussion going. :)


Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I think that probably not many here have read the article or book referenced.

I'm not a big fan of natural law as a material or philosophical (or theological) category, but I do believe in natural revelation, which can exhibit law-like character. I don't adhere to common-ground style apologetics. Unbelievers sometimes hold to universal principles, but hold them either as ultimate or posit some other unknown, impersonal foundation. So, their occasional intersection with Christian views (given their misunderstanding of the nature of reality) is coincidental.

We have had more philosophical posters here more frequently in the past.


Iron Dramatist
Is natural law relatively popular among the Reformed recently?

I believe it is gaining some ground, if you take what Stephen Grabill says seriously in "Rediscovering Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics", a book which is In my humble opinion quite poorly argued. His statement is that Reformed thinkers are starting to embrace Natural Law again, after decades of knee-jerk reaction (the gist of Grabill's words, not a quotation) against Karl Barth, who was deadset against the idea of natural law. This is one place where I agree with Barth (one of few notable places!).

Grabill takes the position that Calvin held a fairly open view towards natural law, and that post-calvinists went far beyond Calvin's statements in the Institutes. I'm not sure how Grabill sees Calvin's Institutes as embracing natural law in the Aquinian vein, but.... oh well. Like I said, poorly argued.

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
I've argued that Calvin did have an extensive doctrine of natural law. I disagree a little with Stephen (he criticizes me a bit in his PhD diss, but I think his criticisms are a little unfair).

He aligns (like many others) Calvin more closely to Thomas than the evidence allows. As I keep reminding folk, I don't know of any evidence that Calvin had a copy of the Summa. There are, to my knowledge, no citations of Thomas in the Institutes.

When Thomas says "natural law" he means the Decalogue and lots of other material that's hard to quantify or qualify. It's "ratio" which touches on his neo-Platonism which a lot of folk just ignore. Calvin doesn't know anything about our intellect intersecting with the divine intellect.

When Calvin says "natural law" he means the Decalogue as did Bucer, Luther, Melanchthon, and others.

The Reformed tradition did elaborate on these themes, but in ways that are fundamentally sympathetic to Calvin's approach. Thus, from a Reformed pov, Barth was wrong. He rejected natural law because he rejected creation. He was, in that regard, a sort of gnostic. He is no friend to Reformed theology or ethics on this point. As a historical matter, Brunner schooled him.

I think David VanDrunen's forthcoming work on NL will be a good supplement to Stephen's.

Not open for further replies.