Your View of Natural Law

Discussion in 'The Law of God' started by Casey, Apr 10, 2008.

  1. Natural law does not exist ontologically and is therefore epistemologically inaccessible for all men

  2. Natural law exists ontologically but is epistemologically inaccessible for fallen men

  3. Natural law exists ontologically and is epistemologically accessible for fallen men

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  1. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Well, it depends on which version of natural law you are referring. Is it simply the fact that unbelievers know x is wrong, or is it also the fact that you can, apart from the Bible, meet unbelievers in the public square with an equally discernible set of data on which to construct a social ethic?
  2. Presbyterian Deacon

    Presbyterian Deacon Puritan Board Graduate

    I voted for number 3. I think the Romans passage is helpful here.

    I would like to see a clearer distinction or definition of the difference between natural revelation and natural law made in this discussion. I think that might be helpful.
  3. Presbyterian Deacon

    Presbyterian Deacon Puritan Board Graduate

    :oops:didn't see this before.

    Thank you.
  4. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    No. I would go to the city council with something like the 10 commandments, or I would at least advocate social reform from that biblical framework, even though I may not have full time on the floor to expound the moral law :)

    When I advocate some form of natural law, I'm not going for the Roman Catholic version but the Reformed version articulated by many of the early Reformed theologians, especially the Continentals. It has to be grounded in a Reformed view of man's creation and the covenant of works. None of that Donum superadditum or scale of being stuff... :2cents:
  5. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    How is it not "natural"? It has been the same since the beginning of time. The most interesting thing is that in order to first get to scripture you have to basically use natural law to get there? Without natural law, you could not get people to agree to be bound by it.

    Last edited: Apr 11, 2008
  6. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Well observed. All men have a concept of "good," otherwise the fact that something is "good" would offer no motive for action.
  7. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Again, I am not denying that there exists an objective moral order. Again, I am not denying that it is in some way discernible to unbelievers (though Romans 1 screams that they deny and suppress it, so we should not expect them to act consistent on it).

    I simply have my doubts that "natural law" (whatever that is) is adequate to meet the Christ-hater on neutral, common-ground. The two different cities have two different teloses. While they may overlap on the term "good," they ultimately have two different (and perhaps even antithetical) conceptions of the good.
  8. Casey

    Casey Puritan Board Junior

    This is pretty much my present perspective as well. But I'm hoping to study it all out more, which is why I was asking for bibliographical info a few weeks ago. :book2:
  9. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    The question is not how they act, it is if they are responsible for acting evilly. The answer is completely responsible, because Romans 1 also says that the evidence is crystal clear. Therefore you should be able to call the unbelievers out for acting contrary to reason etc.

    There are different teloses and the unbeliever has the wrong one. The question is should we be able to easily point that out to the unbeliever or not? Or must we become fideistic? Romans 1 points to a clarity that we should be able to point out.

  10. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Is there a connection between natural law and the conscience? Is there a level of existentialism here? Where is the solid connection? Where does judgment come from so man can see it clearly?
  11. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Roman Catholic theorist J. Budidzewski calls it "syndersis." So yes, there is a connection between conscience and NL. The debate is how seared the Christ-hater's conscience is so that he can discern God's moral order.

    The Reformers would say NL is God's law that is written on the heart. That is true and good, but it doesn't really make for neutral apologetics in the public square because given the claims of neutrality being made, the unbeliever will say you are cheating. You are trying to be neutral while importing explicit Chrisitan presuppositions into the debate.
  12. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Whose talking about being neutral? You have a paticular person or model in mind?
  13. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    If the unbeliever cannot discern God's moral order, then how are they inexcusable for the evil that they do?

  14. Casey

    Casey Puritan Board Junior

    It seems to me that a fallen, unregenerate man discerning God's moral order through nature with such precision as to develop an entire ethic is to be distinguished from him being capable of enough knowledge of that order so as to be left inexcusable. Paul isn't saying that unbelievers have enough knowledge to create an ethical paradigm called "natural law," he's saying that what they do know is sufficient to leave them inexcusable.

    It's worth thinking about whether or not the law is written on everyone's heart in the first place (since the fall, that is). In the beginning of Romans Paul says that "the works of the law" are written on their hearts, not the law per se. It seems to me that if you say the law is already written on the hearts of unbelievers (probably in some way this is true, but that's not what Paul says here), then one of the promises of the new covenant is meaningless:
    Jeremiah 31:33. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.​
    It's by the work of the Spirit that the law is written on our hearts. Why would God make a promise for something that all unbelievers already possess? Because of the fall we lost knowledge, righteousness, and holiness -- and I believe included in that is our ability to grasp the law as it had been written on our hearts, at least to a degree.

    But in Christ these things, by the work of the Spirit, are being restored. Paul connects these three (knowledge, righteousness, holiness) to the image of God, which presupposes that the image of God has at least in these three ways been defaced on account of the fall. The "knowledge" (Col. 3:10) is a pre-fall knowledge, and in the context it seems clear that "law" is a part of that knowledge being restored to believers.

    At the moment, this is how I'm understanding all this. :2cents:
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2008
  15. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Westminster Escondido, DG Hart, etc.
  16. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    True, but this is epistemic. "The good" is an ontic common ground. Hence there is agreement in principle that man is to seek what is good, excepting of course the nihilistic theories which have emerged from time to time.
  17. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    And I think that is what I had voted.
  18. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    This? "Natural law exists ontologically but is epistemologically inaccessible for fallen men." If "inaccessible" means "unable to be reached," then I fail to see how #2 accords with "the good" as an ontic reality.
  19. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I acknowledged its ontological validity. I expressed epistemic doubts. Perhaps the question should have been reworded. I am (again) expressing my doubts that NL, in some of its forms, is not sufficient for a social ethic, given the Resurrected and Ascended King Jesus.

    While I could be wrong (probably am), I am simply saying that I as a Christian could not, in good conscience, meet unbelievers in the public square and say, "Let's just meet on neutral terms. Let's find some common-denominator for "justice" and agree on that." Given my views on the righteousness/justice of God in the person of Christ, I could never say that.

    I won't stop others from pressing those claims for NL. Perhaps it might even work (interestingly, most of the successful NL formulations were done within a Christian social environment). But divorced from Christendom, I don't see it working. But history could prove me wrong.
  20. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Okay, I see part of the confusion. I am not defining inaccessible in the same way you are. I don't doubt (never did; seems like I keep saying that in this thread) that Christ-haters have an idea of the good, often perverted, and sometimes do right things. Following Van Til, but not slavishly so, I am saying that they suppress such knowledge (Romans 1). Sure, they have it. They just won't be consistent on it.

    Lacking such a consistency, I have my doubts for a workable social ethic.
  21. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I think your analysis is correct in terms of a systemic approach to ethics -- the two are antithetical; but I don't think it rules out the fact that the natural man functions in terms of natural law. His epistemic uncertainties, relativisms, and inconsistencies are the result of a corrupted imago Dei, and can be demonstrated to be such.
  22. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    The moral law is part of the image of God being made in righteousness and holiness. It was corrupted in the fall for sure, but not completely lost (see for instance Gen 9:6). There is still enough, along with the rest of general revelation to condemn the sinner. With regeneration and sanctification we are renewed after the image of God. :2cents:
  23. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Isn't mankind already building social ethics with it? Rebellious societies cannot explain or justify the good laws they have from their unbelieving systems. They are building on what God created them with, though corrupted by the fall. :2cents:
  24. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

  25. R Harris

    R Harris Puritan Board Sophomore

    Here is my simple definition:

    Natural Law: plagiarisim of biblical truth in an attempt to remove God from the public square. This is the "suppression" spoken of in Romans 1.

    I grow very tired of people like Chuck Colson and Bill Bennett falling all over themselves trying to appease the wicked through natural law argumentation. They really believe that natural man is not at enmity with God (Romans 8) and can figure things out through "rational reasoning" and come to a knowledge of the truth. Pure arminian hogwash!

    Here is a point that Gary North made many years ago: if natural man can figure out right and wrong through natural law alone and set up criminal laws accordingly, then how can natural man figure out the proper SANCTIONS that should be applied to the wrongdoing? I have yet to see a natural law advocate answer the question. Colson at one point disapproved of capital punishment, but then changed his mind because of one heinous crime he became familiar with. Obviously, this is emotionalism, not sound dotrine or reasoning.

    Truth can only be ascertained through the Spirit, not naturalistic inquiry.
  26. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    Be very careful here to avoid equivocation. Others may not defne "natural law" as you do. For Calvin "natural law" was "the law of God which we call moral, is nothing else than the testimony of natural law, and of that conscience which God has engraven on the minds of men, the whole of this equity of which we now speak is prescribed in it." (Institutes 4 xx 16).

    Now I'm no arminian and I have no desire to appease the wicked through natural law argumentation (and I don't think Colson and Bennett do either whatever their views in the Calvinist/Arminian debate may be). But, (following C. S. Lewis and Greg Bahnsen) I can demonstrate to an unbeliever, whom I know is at enmity with God that on his premises there is no real justification for any ethics whatsoever, without some ethical postulates being presupposed. I may not be able to argue an unbeliever into faith, but presuppositional apologetics will at the least shut the mouths of the unbeliever or it may even let him see the extent of the philosophic problem he faces. If you read Lewis' "Surprised by Joy" you will discover that Lewis' discovery of this problem was one of the goads God used to lead him in the direction of Christ.
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2008
  27. danmpem

    danmpem Puritan Board Junior

    :think: I always thought that's what Romans 1 & 2 were about - the whole "they sinned without the law, thus they will be judged without the law" part (I'm paraphrasing, of course). That's just my :2cents:.

    (I'm not trying to sound sarcastic, that was just the first thing that crossed my mind). :duh:
  28. danmpem

    danmpem Puritan Board Junior

    I'm not trying to pick on you here, I just find your input very engaging. :handshake:

    This quote came to mind. Just for clarity, John Piper uses "judicial sentiment" as to mean a sort of counterpart to the conscience. The conscience accuses or excuses a person of something he has done, while the judicial sentiment accuses or excuses another of what that person does to him.

    The part I want to emphasize is the last paragraph; I included everything before it to give some context to what he said (I know how Piper is around the PB :lol:)

    From Desiring God, Chapter 2:
    And I agree with Casey, I don't want to debate any of this - I'm interested to hear input from others on the topic.
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