Friday, February 27, 2009

Natural Law is NOT Our Standard

The Standard of Natural Law. . . a MYTH -From "Ethics 14"
Running time: 53:00
Paul Michael Raymond; 09/07/2008
Download MP3

I have more recently posted a "positive" sequel to this lecture right here.

Happy Birthday Kathy!I Love You!

I've been listening to those lectures I posted on the right sidebar on this page from Paul Michael Raymond. That playlist automatically loads his most current sermons newest to oldest and I just got through listening to "Ethics 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14" on that playlist, which are on the bottom of that list.

I have been trying to get a better grasp on this debate in the Church where some find Natural Law a satisfactory standard with which to formulate our political, social, cultural, and even personal ethics. This natural law idea, or theory, seems to be held by the majority of modern Reformed thinkers from what I can tell, because I hear it coming from many prominent scholars at Westminster, as well as many pastors of whom I otherwise would have tremendous respect.

I have always felt very queasy about using this term "Natural Law" to formulate Christian thought about anything, but I couldn't put my finger on it. So, I am very pleased to be listening to these current lectures from Paul Michael Raymond, because he is saying what I believe to be closer to the truth behind, or the myth of, the Natural Law ethical standard. I am now more convinced than ever that Christians who use this standard and teach this as a proper Christian standard, are breeding destruction and confusion ...big time. They are simply wrong, and they are literally destroying the fabric of society, families, and the Church, by their promotion of this, what I can now call, heresy.

I pulled "Ethics 14" from the audio list on the right and posted it here because so far, it is the best one on that list regarding Natural Law theory and shows how UN-Christian it is to be using this as a standard for anything. I haven't listened to them all yet, but it's the best one so far.

By the way, the natural law theorists from Westmister are, in frustration, refered to as the "natural law in spite of Van Til's philosophy camp". Most Reformed theologians adhere to the philosophy of Cornelius Van Til, but when it comes to answering the complex ethical questions of our day, these theologians will abandon Van Til, and the word of God, in favor of a more comfortable and less offensive position, better known as Natural Law. And I thought relativism was only a symptom of unregenerate thought perpetuated in secular universities and secular culture. Wow, was I wrong.


Sermonwriter said...

In response to the question: "Do you totally disagree with John Calvin's statements in these excerpts found here?:", not at long as I am interpreting Calvin correctly. I believe the majority in the Church in modern times have taken these thoughts of Calvin to an extreme that was not meant. I could be wrong, but I see Calvin here making clear points that so-called natural law IS God's law as written on the hearts of men universally, just as Romans chapters 1-3 indicates, and then imposes the same standard to civil govermment in Romans 13:3-4. Calvin's whole point I believe, is one of equity. He is careful to point out that the standard of all equity, no matter "who" makes a social/civil law, is based on God's standard of equity. Therefore, if these social/civil laws do not conform to the standard of God, they are no longer equitable, nor valid, but are instead, a code of ethics designed for thieves and murderers bent on undermining the very nature of God and man both.

Calvin did not expound on my later point here, but his whole premise would imply such, just as Romans 13:3-4 implies the same. I believe Calvin does make my later points in other writings of his such as in his sermons on Deuteronomy, but his thoughts on "natural law" here, and his thoughts on all men being subject to God there, do not contradict themselves, they are simply 2 sides of the same coin.

I am no expert on Calvin by any means and have only read some of his work in partiality, I am just trying to answer your question to the best of my current ability. I think my biggest problem with "natural law" is how it is embraced by the Church as an "excuse" to judge matters of this life and the heathen world apart from the standard of God. I've seen it consistently in my own experience and to me there is no justification for it other than a sinful desire within the Church to act out of human wisdom and understanding, prefering pragmatism over true equity. This is the core belief and standard of the religion of humanism and should have no quarter within the Church. The only way to combat such heresy, sometimes apostasy, is with the standard of God, not with human wisdom and reason.

Bryan said...

I guess I am confused, because I have gotten a headache trying to sort all of this stuff out. I think I briefly read your ideas for a theocracy but I was skimming a massive amount of info you sent me all at once. I think it would be helpful to have a clearly defined objective on the front page particularly in regards to your view on God's law and how it is different from other people. I guess I want to read your theonomist confession.

But anyways, I have a few questions and comments:

1.How does the church use the doctrine of "natural law" incorrectly ? Can you give me a specific example where the error becomes heresy, particularly in the Reformed Church ?

2.I also read here that you may believe the doctrine of natural law to be a myth. Does this mean that you believe no truth to be self-evident?

3. I suppose I don't see the idea of natural law conflicting with the decalogue. They seem to be in perfect harmony to me. I look at natural law being a term which refers to the truths which are inwardly evident, particularly the 10 commandments.

For me it is as confusing as comparing a traffic law to one of "Einstein's laws". A traffic law, such as, do not drive over 35mph in a particular zone is different than an observed truth about the nature of the universe.

I cannot break the law of gravity at will, like I can a speed law enforced on the highway.

I also know that all men have enough revealed to them by their Creator to have no excuse on the day of Judgement.

Romans 1
20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

However, if someone was to say that a certain thing was true because it is self evident such as "all men are created equal", I could see how someone could force laws upon people as being divinely ordained, but could it be universally accepted ? I suppose the general population tries to push homosexuality upon us as a norm.

Is this happening within the Reformed Church?

I am pretty sure that Calvin never separated the idea of natural law from the law of God written on the human heart, or the decalogue. At least that is what I have read from other Reformed essays, which quote him. I have read his view on equity as well.

4. I don't think Gary North has Calvin's view of the law correct. From what I read/heard about Calvin, Luther, Augustine, Aquinas on the law. His essay doesn't jive as well as some other ones I have read. I have read another essay in particular which made more sense about how Calvin's view of the law differed from Aquinas and Luther and another on how Calvin's view of law was adopted and used in government.

5. When you say modern church who are you talking about ? Who in particular is taking Calvin's ideas to an extreme ?

Bryan said...

Oh also in regards to your post, I suppose I should listen to the audio.

Sermonwriter said...

P.S. Bryan said...I think it would be helpful to have a clearly defined objective on the front page particularly in regards to your view on God's law and how it is different from other people.I guess that's part of the problem with this debate. It raises tons of questions and challenges so much of what we know that it is very difficult to put in a simple paragraph and at the same time, expect that the readers of that paragraph will really grasp what it is you're trying to convey. I have posted my own personal objective on this page, when I first started this blog.

As far as short and simple definitions of what is behind my objective, I think the following 2 statements from Greg Bahnsen sum it up the best:

"The place or function of God's law in the moral philosophy of the Christian."And"Theonomic ethics, to put it simply, represents a commitment to the necessity, sufficiency, and unity of Scripture. For an adequate and genuinely Christian ethic, we must have God's word, only God's word, and all of God's word. Nearly every critic of theonomic ethics will be found denying, in some way, one or more of these premises." (He made a joke here)

Bryan said...

After listening to the audio, I am not sure if the way that pastor defined natural law is consistent with the historical definition that I have read.

I could see how the definition he had would lead many into error. Is that the definition everyone has ? I have read another one.

I agree with Calvin's view of the law but not the way Gary North summarizes his view.

Do you think the New Covenant is new law like Aquinas ? Or do you consider the New Covenant to be the fulfillment of those OT typological foreshadows ?

According to an essay I read, by Horton, Luther and Calvin both differed with Aquinas his view of the New Testament.

I think the idea of natural law and sola scriptura work together in Calvin's theology pretty well.

I know that no relativist could change God's law just like they couldn't change the law of gravity.

They may have a poor understanding of those laws, but whatever God wrote on a man's heart as law is not up for redefinition.

Another question I have for you is do you reject the Two Kingdom view ? I would assume you do.

Sermonwriter said...

Again Bryan, it sounds like we are in agreement about how we interpret natural law. It's just that I have heard (certain pastors we both know), say in so many words, that natural law runs autonomous to God's law, and especially as it applies to unbelievers. This is the schizophrenia I'm talking about. They are not being consistent unless I am totally misunderstanding what they are trying to say.

I think the description of natural law in that audio was a historical example of how the church was seduced by a different kind of natural law then that expressed by the book of Romans and by Calvin. The natural law described by Pastor Paul there sounds like it was a concept devised by Diests. And this would make sense as Deists have left God outside, seperate, and with a hands-off policy concerning His creation, let alone His Law. This makes me think that many, many, Christians, as well as Reformed pastors, have more of a Deist's concept of natural law rather than a Christian one.

As far as the New Covenant being new law, absolutely not. God has always been consistent in His decrees ever since creation, and they will always be the same. In the new covenant as you know, the law was fulfilled in Christ, and I believe continues to be fulfilled in the Church as it goes through this world with the witness of the righteousness of Christ and His commandments and grace. (That was probably a horrible way to describe this theologically, but I'm trying here.)

To answer your question about the Two Kingdom view, you're "probably" right that I would reject it. The problem is, I've never read Augustine on it or anyone else in any depth. On face value it sounds completely contrary to scripture and also sounds like another great catalyst for philosophical schizophrenia encouraging Christians to think and live in 2 separate that is "earthly", and one that is "spiritual". I think the Gnostics had a similar problem. And again, this sounds more like Deism than Christianity, not in every respect, but in important respects nevertheless.

This sounds inconsistent with our call to pray, "on earth as it is in heaven", and the fact that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. Those "other" kings and lords are NOT heavenly or spiritual, they are temporal and earthly. This brings the so-called two kingdoms into it's proper is ALL under the Lordship of Christ and cannot be compartmentalized. Hope that makes sense.

I suppose the only "2 kingdoms" I could agree upon, would be those who obey the Lord, and those who do not. This does not mean, however, that there are some that are not under his Lordship. He is seated at the right hand of the Father, right now, which gives Him authority over all mankind, right now. That's how I am seeing this anyhow.

Sermonwriter said...

By the way Bryan, I can't thank you enough for all your comments and questions on this topic. You've really helped me to have a deeper understanding of this subject.

For instance, I had not even guessed yet that there just may be 2 different concepts in Christendom of natural law. You may come to different conclusions than than I have, but I am learning a lot regardless. So thanks man!