Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Natural Law

[Number one in a series. This was posted originally at Street Prophets - and that is where the comments are]

A few posts I have done, and a book I am reading, are going to spark a series on "natural law". Being introduced to natural law in the first Christian book (the first five chapters are the point here) after I came to Christ hasn't hurt my belief in it; and it is reinforced by the similarities in my views and those that do not believe in Christ - or even the God I believe in.

My reading list (for now) will be:

  • The Abolition of Man, by C.S. Lewis. Budziszewski in the next book says this is the best book on the topic written in the 20th century. Its online, its free, its short - start here.
  • What We Can't Not Know, by J. Budziszewski.
Natural law is important. First, on the moral side of the issue, it does away with the stupidity of Christians saying that atheists and such cannot be moral (or cannot truly love, etc) because they do not believe in God. Second, theologically, it explains Paul's comment in Romans 1:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21 for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools;
and this in 1 John 4:
7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. [There is no implication in this part of 1 John that this is limited to members of the Body of Christ. It is almost a checklist point to choose who to evangelize]
Finally, there is the legal application of natural law. From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
But Aquinas is also a natural law legal theorist. On his view, a human law (i.e., that which is promulgated by human beings) is valid only insofar as its content conforms to the content of the natural law; as Aquinas puts the point: "[E]very human law has just so much of the nature of law as is derived from the law of nature. But if in any point it deflects from the law of nature, it is no longer a law but a perversion of law" (ST I-II, Q.95, A.II). To paraphrase Augustine's famous remark, an unjust law is really no law at all.

The idea that a norm that does not conform to the natural law cannot be legally valid is the defining thesis of conceptual naturalism. As William Blackstone describes the thesis, "This law of nature, being co-eval with mankind and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid derive all their force, and all their authority, mediately or immediately, from this original" (1979, 41). In this passage, Blackstone articulates the two claims that constitute the theoretical core of conceptual naturalism: 1) there can be no legally valid standards that conflict with the natural law; and 2) all valid laws derive what force and authority they have from the natural law.
I have no clue at this moment what the nature and timing of the posts will be; nor what points I am going to try to make. I ask your indulgence because I am really, in this, one of those people in whom a little knowledge will be dangerous. I am going to work this out as I read and write - and get bashed by the loving crowd. Bash gently please (or not - I told someone else to "toughen up" and I will too.)

Next: "Natural Law: It's Source and Discernment"

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How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly