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Rediscovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics (Emory University Studies in Law and Religion) Paperback – October 5, 2006


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Product Details

  • Series: Emory University Studies in Law and Religion
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; n edition (October 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802863132
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802863133
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #919,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Stephen J Grabill is a research scholar in theology at The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty and the inaugural editor of the Journal of Markets and Morality. While this is his first book as a solo author, he was a contributing author for Beyond Self-Interest.

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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By D. Sytsma on December 16, 2006
Format: Paperback
In his letter to Sadoleto (1539), John Calvin denied that the Reformers were innovators, expressed that the desire of the Reformers was to remain in continuity with antiquity, and alluded to the Vincentian Canon (AD 434). Grabill's Rediscovering the Natural Law demonstrates that the Reformed tradition, as it existed from the time of Calvin to the end of the 17th century, made good on Calvin's claim in the area of theological ethics.

This book is both a historical and topical approach to the foundations of ethics in the Reformed tradition. Those already familiar with the historical methodology of Reinhold Seeburg, Heiko Oberman, David Steinmetz, and Richard Muller will find this survey in the history of doctrine a comfortable read. Grabill examines in detail a limited number of interrelated doctrinal topics (natural revelation, natural theology, natural law) as they were formulated by Reformed founders (Calvin, Vermigli) and developed by later successors (Zanchi, Althusius, Turretin).

Perhaps the most illuminating chapter in this volume, however, is the late-Medieval background to the development of the natural-law tradition. Here Grabill summarizes the research of medieval historians William Courtenay, Francis Oakley, and Heiko Oberman to show that the development of natural-law theory in the late-Medieval period should not be read as a monolithic tradition.
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Format: Paperback
1. Introduction
Stephen Grabill (research scholar at the Acton Institute, inaugurating editor of The Journal of Markets and Morality, PhD, Calvin College) explores in this volume the history of the natural law in the Reformation and in the Reformed tradition. The chief issue that he explores is the recent break among Reformed Christians from an ancient natural law tradition that traces its way back from the Middle Ages to the Patristic Age. Grabill argues that this tradition was a part of the early universal church, and that even the leaders of the Reformation never doubted its place in theology. Grabill therefore questions why the Reformed churches have broken from this tradition. He does this by exploring the writings of Reformed theologians from John Calvin to those of our modern day.
Grabill traces the recent shift to the influence of theologians who split from the natural law tradition for epistemological reasons in the twentieth century. These theologians believed that, due to man's fall, reason has been irrecoverably tainted and therefore, the natural law, which relies predominantly on reason, is not trustworthy. They hold instead to the competing school to natural law theology--divine command theory--which teaches that Scripture alone is able to lead man to truth on matters of God and morality.
This volume, which is particularly dense in some sections, reads at times like a research dissertation. The first paragraph of page 175, for example, begins with a sentence spanning eight lines and is broken up by only two commas. The non-theologian lay reader will find occasional passages difficult to digest. For the most part, however, the work is readable, and it is to my knowledge the best scholarship available on the Reformed tradition's view of the natural law.
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