- File Size: 193 KB
- Print Length: 59 pages
- Publisher: Acton Institute (March 20, 2012)
- Publication Date: March 20, 2012
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B007MXI6ZE
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #757,217 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
A Biblical Case for Natural Law Kindle Edition
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"Natural law, I have argued, does not necessarily lead to an autonomous human ethic nor to a denigration of the importance of Scripture. On the contrary, Scripture itself teaches a rich theology of natural law. It grounds the reality of natural law in God’s creation of the world and especially of human beings in his own image. Furthermore, Scripture provides numerous examples of natural law that is put to productive use by the devout, both to promote cultural life in the civil kingdom and to enrich and illustrate their distinctive moral life in Christ’s spiritual kingdom."
I realize Dr. VanDrunen used parts of the Bible to demonstrate (or at least attempt to demonstrate) his view. But even a cursory reading leads one to see it's pretty clear there's a forcing of his view from outside of Scripture into the Scripture.
And while a cursory reading can find this pretty readily, it's always best to go into details when saying someone is not really presenting the Bible correctly. So here are a few examples:
[Loc. 83 (Kindle Version)]: "The term [Natural Law] generally refers to the moral order inscribed in the world and especially in human nature, an order that is known to all people through their natural faculties (especially reason and/or conscience) even apart from supernatural divine revelation and that binds morally the whole human race."
Here VanDrunen says there is a moral order known innately to all people, which morally binds them all. But how do we know what the specifics of those moral universals are? Well...eventually we have to discover them objectively in divine special revelation, as VanDrunen does later in his book [Loc 805]:
"In conclusion, the reader might note the range of evils that are prohibited by natural law as described merely in the texts discussed in this chapter [ed. note - consider this statement: natural-law-evils prohibited as described in the Biblical-texts - irony]: murder (Gen. 4), including infanticide (Ex. 1), rape (Genesis 34); violation of the marriage relationship (Genesis 12, 20, 26); harsh treatment of servants (Job 31); slave trading (Amos 1); and judicial corruption (Ex. 18). Even were natural law limited to these, such prohibitions would afford an impressive foundation for a civilized and orderly society."
Just in these two passages of his book themselves there is enough to see that he's advocating completely different views. On the one hand he says natural law is known to the entire world by reason and conscience (which I do grant is true - although I would say those laws are identical to the moral laws revealed in writing to Israel - Rom. 2:12-15). But if natural law were the ultimate case, why then do we have a need to prove the natural law from divine revelation if it's natural to all people? If we say it's because people are fallen and need an objective standard to validate their understanding of natural law - enter divine revelation - then the concept of natural law is relegated to a secondary status and out of necessity must be substantiated by Biblical law - which is to say the authority is of course no longer natural law but Biblical law. If we say reason and conscience are the ultimate case then there's no other standard to validate each own culture's, people's, individual's understanding of what is "natural" - and so natural law turns into complete subjectivism.
But let's grant all that for just a moment. Let's say that all people have this innate sense of the "evils" described above by VanDrunen and that they don't have to be validated by the Scriptures. His next statement is very perplexing, saying: "Even were natural law limited to these, such prohibitions would afford an impressive foundation for a civilized and orderly society."
By who's standard? What about spousal or child abuse? Bestiality? Homosexuality? Incest? Unintentional murder? Are laws for them not also foundational for a civilized and orderly society? Apparently only if those cultures see them as such (while God's law sees the necessity of such laws very clearly, they unfortunately don't seem to have a place in "natural law.")
But now we must turn to how VanDrunen gets his idea of natural law and how he uses Scripture (again, not sure how this doesn't completely abrogate his position in the first place) to prove it.
He seems basically to take everything in Scripture, except where God specifically reveals civil laws, and somehow makes the historical description (rather than the Mosaic prescription) the norm for social laws. There are several faux pas here, but for the sake of time and space, let's limit them to four:
(1) The Christian imposition of God's morals on unbelievers.
[Loc. 597ff]: "Christians cannot rightly appeal to the moral lifestyle set forth in Scripture as directly applicable to non-Christians. Because the redemptive indicatives do not apply to them, the imperatives cannot simply be taken and imposed upon them."
So does God then have two sets of moral standards - one for the believer and one for the non-believer. And how does one reconcile the view that the believers' views cannot be applied to unbelievers when God specifically "commands all people everywhere to repent..."-Acts 17:30...?!?!? Is this not God Himself applying and "imposing" His morals on unbelievers?
(2) Abraham and Abimilech
VanDrunen presents an unusual inference when he states: "Abimelech's appeal to things that should not be done manifests the reality of some sort of common moral knowledge, standard, and responsibility" [Loc. 647].
Correction: It technically only points to Abimelech's own understanding of the objective morality - not necessarily the correct "common moral knowledge, standard, and responsibility."
Furthermore - and this is where he makes me nervous with his use of Scripture. VanDrunen goes on to say: "Once again, the appeal is not made to the stipulations of the Abrahamic covenant but to a common moral standard and mutual responsibility" [Loc. 662].
Nowhere would a Biblical exegete say appeal was here being made to the Abrahamic covenant as such, but rather to God's universal, unchanging, moral law - the details of which are written on the hearts of men and can found objectively identified as such in the Law.
The problem is that while VanDrunen tries to make Abraham the bad guy in all this, Scripture is very clear: Abraham never apologizes for what he did. God is about to hold Abimelech himself responsible for adultery and/or rape (and accompanying capital punishment - Deut. 22:22ff). And it's only when Abraham prays for Abimelech that his kingdom is restored. Abraham is never made out to be the one who brakes one of God's natural laws. Rather to the contrary, Abimelech is shown to be the one who's in danger of doing so (consequently this particular natural law lines up with the Mosaic law - as all natural laws do - see Rom. 2:12-15).
(3) The Judgment of Tyre
[Loc. 769]: "It is constructive to note the basis upon which [Tyre is] condemned. No appeal is made to the Mosaic law or covenant, but at one point the prophet says, 'Because she sold whole communities of captives to Edom, disregarding a treaty of brotherhood, I will send fires upon the walls of Tyre that will consume her fortress' [Amos] (1:9-10)."
Isn't it interesting that capturing and/or selling people as slaves is prohibited in the Law (Ex. 21:16)? And yet somehow this isn't what Amos (the Mosaic-Law Jewish prophet) had in mind in his indictment against Tyre?
(4) Babylon's Law, Persia's Law, or the Law of God?
Speaking again of VanDrunen's odd concept of "natural law," [Loc. 492]: "When the people of Israel interacted with those living outside these bounds, they dealt with them not according to the principle of cultural particularity established in the Mosaic covenant but according to the principle of cultural commonality established in the Noahic covenant. .... Daniel also provides a helpful exilic example: He received a Babylonian education and faithfully served several Babylonian and Persian Kings."
The only way to get away with this notion is for VanDrunen to disregard the fact that Daniel especially tried to urge the King of Babylon to rule according to the Law of Moses : "Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity." (Dan. 4:27)
And the fact that Ezra was specifically commanded by Artaxerxes to carry out God's Law in all the territory beyond the river (not just the borders of reconstructed Israel), particularly with regard to God's civil demands (Ez. 7:25-26).
How are these facts so completely overlooked?
Overall, this book just doesn't make sense. VanDrunen wants to show "from Scripture" that the "Scriptural norms" are not needed in order for the world to know the moral standards of justice - because they know them innately. Meanwhile, the Bible over and over again shows us not only that the Scriptural norms for personal morality and societal justice truly are given to all through general revelation (Rom. 2:12-15 - yes they do know them innately) but also that the only way to truly hold people accountable and execute true justice is by the objective Word of God - which gives the unfallen, divine direction and interpretation to these innately known laws.
Otherwise its left up to the "intuition" of each culture, society, or individual to "intuit" himself what is the will of God. When in actuality, not only is His entire moral Law given by general revelation (Rom. 1:18-32), it was written down to be the objective standard by which to judge all other naturally-reasoned-by-fallen-man laws (Deut. 4:8; cf. Ps. 19:7ff).
In my estimation, this book does not make a case for "natural law," certainly does not make a "Biblical case" for natural law; and it's very questionable as to whether this book really makes any case at all.