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Natural Law: A Summary and Critique

Written By
William O. Einwechter

Natural law is one of the more difficult subjects that a person can encounter. Whitehead states: “The concept of natural law is one of the most confused ideas in the history of Western thought.”[1] This is due to the fact that there are various conceptions of natural law, and because even those who are in basic agreement on natural law theory often cannot see eye to eye on the particulars. 

In spite of this confusion, there has been enough agreement among natural law thinkers in the West to make it possible to give a general summary of the natural law position and to identify its major claims.

Natural Law Claims

Natural law proponents consistently make four claims in regard to natural law: 1) there are unchanging principles of law that exist in “nature” (are part of the natural realm) that define for man what is right, just, and good, and which ought to govern his actions; 2) these principles of law are accessible to all men and are discovered by the right use of reason; 3) these principles of law apply to all men at all times and in all circumstances; 4) man-made laws (e.g., those promulgated by the state) are just and authoritative only insofar as they are derivable from the principles of law in nature.[2]

The natural law theory is based on the belief that certain principles of law are inherent in the very nature of things and that men can discern these by means of reason. There is a natural moral order in the universe; a metaphysical realm reached through reason, not the senses.[3] Hence, natural law standards are beyond empirical proof:

Unprovable though these principles are, however, they can be known by man because they are self-evident. They are, so to speak, laws that nature has inscribed upon the heart of man. . . . “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” said the authors of the American Declaration of Independence; the advocates of the natural-law theory take this to be the status of all the fundamental principles of right and justice.[4]

Self-evident truth propositions must serve as their own evidence — if they are true they must be self-evident because no evidence can be gathered from the senses or experience to establish them.[5] Hence, natural law is not perceived through sensory experience, but is intuitively grasped as being true and right by the mind (right reason) and conscience.

Since natural law is part of the nature of things the knowledge of it is accessible to all men through reason apart from any supernatural revelation. God may be the source of natural law, but he has inscribed his moral law in nature and in man (who is a part of nature); hence, there is no need for any further revelation outside of nature itself for the knowledge of the moral law. The natural law theory holds to the sufficiency of nature and man’s intellect (reason) to establish a “just” ethical system for man and society apart from special divine revelation. 

Definitions of Natural Law

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.), the Roman Stoic philosopher, said this concerning the natural law:

There is in fact a true law — namely, right reason — which is in accordance with nature, applies to all men and is unchangeable and eternal. By its commands this law summons men to the performance of their duties; by its prohibitions it restrains them from doing wrong. Its commands and prohibitions always influence good men, but are without effect upon the bad. To invalidate this law by human legislation is never morally right, nor is it permissible ever to restrict its operation, and to annul it wholly is impossible. Neither the senate nor the people can absolve us from our obligation to obey this law, and it requires no Sextus Aelius[6] to expound and interpret it. It will not lay down one rule at Rome and another at Athens, nor will it be one rule today and another tomorrow. But there will be one law, eternal and unchangeable, binding at all times upon all peoples; and there will be, as it were, one common master and ruler of men, namely God, who is the author of this law, its interpreter and its sponsor. The man who will not obey it will abandon his better self, and, in denying the true nature of man, will thereby suffer the severest of penalties, though he has escaped all the other consequences which men call punishment.[7]

Cicero’s description of natural law is based on the speculations of the Greek philosophers, and is a classic statement of the position. It summarizes, in its essentials, the views of many non-Christian and Christian natural law theorists. Significantly, this Stoic concept of natural law was “reflected in the Emperor Justinian’s codification of Roman law, and has ever since been fundamental to an understanding of Western jurisprudence.”[8]

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), the medieval Catholic scholar, sought to reconcile the Greek concept of natural law with Christian theology. Aquinas began by positing an eternal law — the Divine Reason by which God governs the universe — and then proceeded to state that man as a creature has the eternal law imprinted on him and by it derives the natural inclination to proper acts and ends.[9] Aquinas states:

. . . the light of natural reason, whereby we discern what is good and what is evil, which is the function of the natural law, is nothing else than an imprint on us of the Divine light. It is therefore evident that the natural law is nothing else than the rational creature’s participation of the eternal law.[10]

Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), the Dutch jurist, in his influential work on international law, The Law of War and Peace, defined natural law as follows: “Natural law is the dictate of right reason, indicating that any act, from its agreement or disagreement with the rational nature, has in it moral necessity or moral turpitude; and consequently that such act is commanded or forbidden by God, the author of nature.”[11] Grotius held that natural law was universal, unchangeable, and supreme. He wrote: “The law of nature is so immutable that it cannot be changed even by God himself. For though the power of God be immense, there are some things to which it does not extend. . . . So God himself allows himself to be judged by this rule.”[12]

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), the English philosopher, stated in his treatise on politics, Leviathan, that “A law of nature, lex naturalis, is a precept or general rule, found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do that which is destructive of his life. . . .”[13] The law of nature is thus a “dictate of reason.”[14]

John Locke (1632-1704), the influential English political philosopher, asserts that: “The state of Nature has a law of Nature to govern it, which obliges everyone; and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it. . . .”[15] He states that those who transgress the law of nature declare that they live “by another rule than that of reason and common equity” and have renounced “reason, the common rule and measure God hath given to mankind.”[16] Locke contends that the law originally given to Adam to govern his actions and those of his descendents was “the law of reason.”[17]

Charles Rice, a contemporary Roman Catholic scholar, defines natural law by saying:

Morality is governed by a law built into the nature of man and knowable by reason. Man can know, through the use of his reason, what is in accord with his nature and therefore good. Every law, however, has to have a lawgiver. Let us say up front that the natural law makes no ultimate sense without God as its author. ‘As a matter of fact,’ said Hans Kelsen, probably the foremost legal positivist of the twentieth century, ‘there is no natural-law doctrine of any importance which has not an essentially religious character.’ The natural law is a set of manufacturer’s directions written into our nature so that we can discover through reason how we ought to act. The Ten Commandments, and other prescriptions of the divine law specify some applications of that natural law.[18]

In summary, natural law is “the light of reason inherent in us by nature, through which we perceive what we ought to do and avoid. . . .”[19] Hence, natural law, according to its proponents, is “the light of reason,”  “the dictates of reason,” or simply, “right reason.” This Reason is the law.

Natural Law and the Church

Because of the prevalence of Stoic influences at the time of the early church many of the church fathers sought to reconcile grace and revelation with nature and reason, and utilized Stoic concepts of natural law in their social ethics.[20]

During the Middle Ages, natural law was a central part of the church’s social ethics.[21] Henry summarizes the church’s discussion over natural law during this period:

There was little debate over the ontological existence of the natural law, but there was significant debate as to the epistemological basis for perceiving the natural law. Augustine maintained that man’s fall into sin so thoroughly corrupted the imago dei within him that revelation and grace were necessary foundations for the right use of reason. Thomas Aquinas, on the other hand, emphasized the structures of the imago dei which remained intact despite the fall into sin, suggesting that grace and revelation serve as corrective supplements to the right use of reason. While Augustine did not deny that even pagans have some concept of natural justice, he obviously placed more emphasis on the supernatural in social ethics than Aquinas. Generally speaking, Protestant thinkers have generally been “Augustinian” and Catholic thinkers have been “Thomistic” in dealing with the natural law question.[22]

With the coming of the Reformation and a return to the Bible and Augustinianism, the place of natural law in the social ethic of the church diminished (although it retained its prominence among the Roman Catholics, as it does to this day). Even though John Calvin taught that natural law (which he identified as “equity”) was normative in civil law and social ethics,[23] the whole system of his theology led to an undermining of the natural law view on social ethics. Therefore, those who adhered to the Calvinistic system began to move away increasingly from natural law to a more biblical formulation of civil law, culminating in the explicit biblical law perspective of the Scottish Covenanters and English and New England Puritans.

However, the Enlightenment, with its emphasis on the power of man’s reason to discover truth apart from supernatural revelation, led to a revival of natural law thinking in the Protestant church. Deism, operating from an Enlightenment perspective, championed both natural theology and natural law as normative for “reasonable men.” Even those in the church who resisted the heterodox teaching of Deism and retained their belief in miracles and the inspiration of the Scriptures, were often deeply influenced by the rationalism of Deism. This had an impact on their development of social and civil ethics. In principle, they affirmed both the authority of Scripture and the normative power of right reason (natural law). But in constructing their philosophy of law, civil government, and social ethics, the weight of authority was given almost entirely to reason.

John Locke is a good example of those who affirmed orthodoxy but in practice followed the rationalism of the Enlightenment; therefore, for Locke reason is preeminent in civil law and civil government. The influence of Locke and Deism in giving the weight of authority to reason and natural law was pervasive among America’s founding fathers at the time of Declaration of Independence. So even though the founders (most of whom were members of orthodox churches) often spoke of the Bible and the Christian religion as essential to good government and liberty, their epistemology was deeply tainted with rationalism.

The predominately natural law basis of the Declaration and the Constitution of 1787 took root (along with its relative, democratic pluralism) as part of the civil religion of the United States, a religion supported by nearly all the churches.

Later, with rise of the social gospel and modernism, coupled with the popularity of dispensational pietism, evangelicals and fundamentalists largely withdrew from active participation in political and social matters.

The moral decline of America and the increasing intrusion of the state into all aspects of life has led to a recent resurgence of political and social activity by the evangelical church. But on what basis shall the church engage the world in the civil sphere in seeking to promote justice? A principal evangelical answer is natural law.[24] Charles Colson says: “Belief in natural law — whether one believes that law is God-given or exists on a more intuitive level — is the only real basis we have to support moral positions.”[25] David Jones urges Christians to avoid warfare in the public arena by promoting justice through “an appeal to objective moral law,” i.e., natural law, of which there is “a universal awareness.” Jones believes that natural law provides “common ground” for believers and unbelievers to discuss public policy. He contends that the use of the Bible should be avoided, and Christians should “appeal to the broader base of human experience in promoting the public good . . . persuading people reasonably, appealing to a sense of justice held in common by all who bear God’s image.”[26]

Norman Geisler denounces the theonomic perspective on civil law, and argues that the Christian position on social ethics must be grounded in natural law.[27] He contends that, “Government is not based on special revelation, such as the Bible. It is based on God’s general revelation to all men. . .”; thus, civil law is determined by the natural moral law and not the written text of the Bible.[28] Alan Johnson calls evangelicals to natural moral law (NML) as an important aspect of their ethic:

Therefore an evangelical ethic, which is a fully Christian ethic, though it will necessarily be a serious Biblical ethic will never be merely a Biblical ethic. Not all moral obligation is rooted in Scripture. Neither is all moral obligation rooted in NML. It is important to recognize that there are two chief sources of ethical knowledge that must be incorporated dialogically into any serious evangelical Christian ethic . . . especially in the area of social ethics.[29]

Thus, with the revival of evangelical interest in political and social ethics, there has been a corresponding revival of a natural law perspective in the church. The current natural law doctrine of the evangelical church is a mixture of revelation and reason; it recognizes the importance of the Bible for informing our understanding, but allows reason is the principal authority for devising a just social order.

Natural Law and Natural Revelation

The Christian acceptance of natural law finds its entrance through the biblical doctrine of natural revelation. It is on the basis of what the Bible says about natural revelation that Christian thinkers have sought common ground with the Greek and Stoic concepts of natural law, and have attempted to incorporate the philosophy of natural law into Christian theology and ethics.

According to Scripture, God reveals Himself to man through natural revelation. Natural revelation includes the knowledge of God’s existence, power, glory, and attributes through His works (creation and providence) in the natural realm (Ps. 19:1-6; Acts 14:17; 17:23-31; Rom. 1:19-21), and the knowledge of God’s moral law through man’s mind and conscience (Rom. 1:26-32; 2:14-15). This disclosure is called “natural revelation” because it is truth made known to man through the created realm and is perceived apart from any special revelation from God. This natural revelation is sounding forth its message at all times and in all places (Ps. 19:2-4), speaking of the presence and glory of God and of man’s responsibility to worship God and live according to His moral law. It leaves men without excuse and justly condemns them if they fail to worship God (Rom. 1:18, 20, 25) or carry out “the work of the law written in their hearts” (Rom. 2:15).

The moral law revealed through natural revelation in the mind and conscience of man is usually referred to as “natural law.” Man was created in the image of God in righteousness and true holiness. He was not neutral in his ethical perspective, nor a blank slate upon which experience would write the moral law. Man had the impress of God’s moral law stamped upon his mind and conscience as one made in God’s image. Turretin says that the natural law “is rightly described by common practical notions, or the light and dictation of conscience (which God has engraven by nature upon every individual, to distinguish between virtue and vice, and to know the things to be avoided and the things to be done).”[30] Gill describes the natural moral law given to Adam as follows:

The natural law, or law of nature, given to Adam, was concreated with him, written on his heart, and engraved and imprinted in his nature from the beginning of his existence; by which he was acquainted with the will of his Maker, and directed to observe it; which appears from the remains of it in the hearts of all men, and even of the Gentiles; and from that natural conscience in every man, which if not by some means lulled asleep, that it does not perform its office, excuses men from blame when they do well, and accuses them, and charges them with guilt when they do ill, Rom. ii. 14, 15.[31]

There is, therefore, biblical warrant for a concept of natural law, if (and only if) one interprets that concept within the parameters of the biblical doctrine of natural revelation. Natural law, in that context, is the knowledge of God’s law and of His righteous judgment as imparted to man through the activity of the mind and conscience. The natural law imprinted upon man’s nature is part of the image of God in man and enables him to function as a responsible moral agent.

However, it must be recognized that this concept of natural law is radically different in its presuppositions than the Greek and Stoic notions of natural law. The natural law of the philosophers is a theory of ethics devised by autonomous man to facilitate his rebellion against God and His law-word (Rom. 1:18-25, Ps. 2:1-3). Thus, the attempt to reconcile the Greek concept of natural law with the biblical concept of natural revelation is an attempt to reconcile human autonomy (i.e., the sovereignty of reason) with God’s sovereignty. But the claimed autonomy of Athens cannot be reconciled with the covenantal submission of Jerusalem. All attempts to build a Christian natural law theory on the basis of Greek and Stoic concepts of natural law lead to the introduction of human autonomy into Christian ethics.

Therefore, Christians must not be fooled by the apparent agreement between pagan theories of natural law and the biblical concept of natural revelation and be drawn into a natural law perspective on social and political ethics, even if it purports to be Christian. The Word of God, in fact, calls us to build our knowledge of the moral law, not on natural revelation, but on the foundation of special revelation, God’s written Word.

Natural Law Found Wanting

Scripture teaches that natural law, whether one understands it in the Greek or Stoic sense, as part of natural revelation, or as a mixture of reason and revelation (e.g., Thomism), cannot serve as the standard for knowing the moral law or for Christian ethics. Consider the following: 

1. The fall of man and the resultant curse upon nature make natural law an imperfect and unreliable standard for the moral law.

Because of sin, man’s reason and conscience have been corrupted; therefore, these cannot be reliable sources for the knowledge of right and wrong, justice and injustice. The Bible says that fallen man seeks to suppress the truth of God, in his unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18); that his heart is darkened and full of foolish imaginations (Rom. 1:21); that ways that seem right to him are often the ways of death (Prov. 16:25); that his “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9; Gen. 6:5); that his conscience can be seared (1 Tim. 4:2); that his mind and conscience is defiled (Titus 1:15); and that his carnal mind is not subject to the law of God but at enmity with it (Rom. 8:7).

This darkened, carnal, foolish  mind, this defiled conscience is the means of knowing and establishing the moral law? Yes, says the theory of natural law. We say, God forbid! The objective standard of God’s own infallible Word alone can suffice to reveal His moral law.

Furthermore, nature itself is under the curse (Gen. 3:17-19; Rom. 8:19-22). Nature cannot be normative, even in an unfallen world—to make it such is a form of idolatry, worshipping the creature rather than the Creator[32] — how much more in a world cursed by sin. As Rushdoony notes: “For the Christian, however, nature is not the standard, because the world of nature is a fallen world, a world in rebellion against God and infected by sin and death. For a standard, we must look beyond nature to God.”[33]

2. As a creature man stands in need of the Word of his Creator to properly interpret the world and understand God’s will.

Even before the fall man needed positive law (i.e., the explicit commandments of God) in addition to reason and conscience to know God’s will for him (Gen. 1:28-30; 2:16-17). If unfallen man needed the Word of God to understand the moral law, it is certain that fallen man stands in greater need of that Word.

But God’s Word in the form of positive law is not simply a remedy for the fall, it is a necessary part of the relationship between God and man; to advocate the sufficiency of natural law is to introduce the alien concept of human autonomy into that relationship. The serpent said that men could set aside the Word of God and be gods, determining good and evil for themselves. Natural law theory follows that lie.

3. The Bible contains no commands or admonitions for men to seek a knowledge of the moral law in natural law. 

There is no positive law from God to commend natural law to men as the source of knowing God’s will for men or nations. Rather, the Bible is filled with commands for men to seek a knowledge of God and His law through His Word (e.g., Prov. 2:1-9). Given the perspective of the necessity of the Word of God for man and the reality of the fall, it is obvious why God does not call men to use “right reason” and seek out His will in natural law. When the preacher concludes that the whole duty of man is to “fear God, and keep his commandments” (Ecc. 12:13), he is calling all men in all nations and in all relations to obey biblical law; natural law is not based in the fear of God and has no “commandments.”

4. The Great Commission charges the church with the task of discipling the nations in the Word of God.

Jesus said we are to teach the nations to be obedient to all that He has commanded. The proclamation of the lordship of Christ demands that men abandon their autonomy (and, thus, their natural law theories!), and submit to Christ’s Word as the final authority in all spheres of life. It is not the mission of the church to call the nations to observe all things whatsoever the dictates of reason teacheth! There is no warrant anywhere in Scripture for the church to disciple the nations in natural law theory.

5. The prophetic Scriptures picture a day when all nations will seek a knowledge of God’s ways (e.g., His moral law) in His Word and through the teaching ministry of the church.

According to Scripture, a day is coming when “out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:2-3). The triumph of God’s kingdom in the world is depicted here, not in terms of men using “right reason” to discover natural law, but in terms of men repenting of their autonomy and earnestly seeking a knowledge of the law of God as revealed in His Word. 

Natural law has never been a part of the church’s preaching mandate, nor will a discovery of natural law principles among the nations be the sign of her triumph. So why do Christians advocate natural law as the standard for socio-political ethics?

6. The duty of Christians is to overthrow human autonomy and bring all areas of life under the authority of Christ's Word.

We are called to use the “weapons of our warfare” in “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4, 5). Natural law theory is an “imagination” that exalts man’s reason over God’s revealed law-word. Therefore, instead of promoting natural law ethics, the church is called to demolish natural law speculation and bring all spheres of life (including the socio-political) under the authority of the Word of Christ. The church and the world has been spoiled through the “philosophy and vain deceit” of natural law thinking (Col. 2:8) for long enough. In Christ (the true Logos), are hidden “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3) for ethics; these things are certainly not hid in “nature,” to be discovered by man’s reason.

7. Men do not know nor can they agree on the content of natural law. 

Natural law, based as it is in each man’s ability to discern it through reason and conscience, is unwritten law, subjective, and imprecise. In spite of all the untold hours men have spent in the discussion and development of natural law theories, there exists no agreed upon detailed codification of the so-called laws of nature. All that exists are formulations of commonly agreed upon ethical standards that are so general and vague as to be almost useless: “Good is to be pursued and evil is to be avoided.” But what is the good? That is the question! It is amazing how few are the “self-evident“ truths of natural law that men can recognize and agree on!

This weakness of natural law is explained by Brame: “Men who claim the ability to identify ‘natural law’ apart from the written Word understate the importance of an unchanging written standard and grossly overestimate our ability to agree on fundamental issues. These assumptions suggest that man’s mind and will are not radically affected by the Fall, but the historical record suggests otherwise. . . .”[34] Furthermore, law that “is not rooted in explicit commands of Scripture would be at best abstract, vague, and esoteric. It could neither guide legislation and adjudication nor check abuses by government, and could be rapidly captured and perverted by an elite,” and can offer no objective basis for determining the appropriate sanction for violations of the law.[35]

Natural law ultimately leads to relativism,[36] because the standard of law is the subjective dictates of reason; so the positive law of the state becomes relative to what those in power think is just and right. An unwritten natural law cannot effectively restrain or guide those who govern, and thus it leaves us with what Archie Jones calls “pragmatic, seat-of-the-pants lawmaking.”[37]

In contrast to the abstract, unwritten, and imprecise natural law which has to be unveiled by man’s fallible reason stands the Word of God. The Bible gives the revelation of God’s moral law with the precision of written law. Biblical law is perfect, objective, comprehensive, detailed, and infallible (Ps. 19:7-12), giving man all the knowledge he needs to answer all the moral question for every sphere of life (2 Tim. 3:16-17); it is the only sound basis for ethics and for building a just and lasting civil order.

8. Natural law theories (even Christian versions) surrender the absolute authority of God’s Word to interpret the moral dimension of life.

Natural law’s insistence on the ability of human reason to discover moral law apart from divine supernatural revelation exalts man’s mind and conscience over God’s Word. The fatal danger of natural law epistemology is that it makes God and His Word unneccesary for the knowledge of moral norms. Since the object of knowledge is inherent in the natural realm and the means of discerning this knowledge is man’s own unaided reason, what need have men of God (except as a distant, impersonal first cause) and the Bible? 

Since natural law makes the active presence of God through His Word unnecessary for ethics, it also tends to makes God and the Bible irrelevant. This fact helps elucidate an earlier observation that the theory of natural law was devised by autonomous man to facilitate his rebellion against God and His law-word; natural law theory is part of man’s suppression of the truth (Rom. 1:18). The sad thing is that when Christians advocate natural law instead of biblical law, they unwittingly aid that rebellion.

Conclusion

Rushdoony states: “From the beginning, man, in trying to understand what law must be, has been seduced by the concept of natural law as against the biblical insistence on supernatural law.”[38] May God be pleased to end that seduction among His people so that they may be equipped with the infallible Word of God, “the sword of the Spirit,” as they go forth to expand the kingdom of God and establish justice in the earth.

Natural law may seem to suffice for those who have no higher vision than the restoration of “family values” or “traditional values” to our culture. But for those who understand the rebellious autonomy inherent in natural law theory; for those who desire to bring every sphere of life under the authority of God and His Word; for those who long to see the crown rights of Jesus Christ acknowledged by all — including presidents, governors, senators, representatives, judges, and “we the people” — natural law theory must be firmly rejected. In its place, there must be an explicit biblical standard for law and ethics; the standard declared by Isaiah: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20).

1. ^ John W. Whitehead, The Second American Revolution (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), p. 181.

2. ^ William Halverson, A Concise Introduction to Philosophy (New York: Random House, 1976), p. 356.

3. ^ J. N. D. Anderson, “Law,” in New Dictionary of Theology, eds. Sinclair Ferguson and David Wright (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1988), p. 377.

4. ^ Halverson, A Concise Introduction to Philosophy, p. 357.

5. ^ Clarence Carson, Basic Economics (Wadley, AL: American Textbook Committee, 1988), p. 12.

6. ^ Sextus Aelius was a noted consul, jurisconsult, and author.

7. ^ Francis W. Coker, Readings in Political Philosophy (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1938), p. 151.

8. ^ Paul B. Henry, “Natural Law,” in Baker’s Dictionary of Christian Ethics, ed. Carl F. H. Henry (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1973), p. 449.

9. ^ Thomas Aquinas, Treatise on Law (Summa Theologica, Questions 90-97) (South Bend, IN: Regnery/Gateway, Inc.,  1979), p. 15.

10. ^ Ibid., pp. 15-16.

11. ^ Coker, Readings in Political Philosophy, p. 411.

12. ^ Ibid., p. 412.

13. ^ Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, in The English Philosophers from Bacon to Mill, ed., Edwin A. Burtt (New York: Random House, 1939), p. 163.

14. ^ Ibid., pp. 173-174.

15. ^ John Locke, The Second Treatise on Civil Government in John Locke on Politics and Education (New York: The Classics Club, 1947), p. 78.

16. ^ Ibid., pp. 79, 80.

17. ^ Ibid., p. 101.

18. ^ Charles Rice, 50 Questions on the Natural Law (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), pp. 27-28.

19. ^ Henrich A. Rommen, The Natural Law (Indianapolis: The Liberty Fund, [1936] 1998), p. 160.

20. ^ Henry, “Natural Law,” p. 449.

21. ^ Ibid.

22. ^ Ibid.

23. ^ John T. McNeil, ed., John Calvin on Political Duty (New York: The Liberal Arts Press, 1956), p. xvi.

24. ^ Although evangelicals often do not use the term natural law, it is evident that most give natural law an all-important place in their approach to social ethics. They speak of biblical principles in regard to the state, but they emphatically reject biblical law as the standard of civil law. They hold to a Christian version of natural law that allows the Bible to inform man’s reason in determining the most prudent course for civil government; but since they reject biblical law, the primary authority is with natural law by default.

25. ^ Charles W. Colson, “Self-Evident Truth,” Jubilee (February 1992).

26. ^ David C. Jones, “Neither Warfare nor Withdrawal,” In Covenant, vol. 10, no. 2 (Spring 1995), p. 6.

27. ^ Norman L. Geisler, “Natural Right,” in In Search of a National Morality, ed. William Bently Ball (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1992), pp. 114-119. Geisler has recently co-authored a book that strenuously argues that the Moral Law common to all men (i.e., natural law) is the only basis for legislating morality in civil law. See, Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, Legislating Morality (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1998).

28. ^ Norman L. Geisler, “A Premillennial View of Law and Government,” Bibliotheca Sacra vol. 142, no. 567 (July-September 1985), pp. 257-258.

29. ^ Alan F. Johnson, “Is There a Biblical Warrant for Natural-Law Theories?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, vol. 25, no. 2 (June 1982), p. 197.

30. ^ Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 3 vols., trans. George M. Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1994), 2:3.

31. ^ John Gill, A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity (Paris, AR: The Baptist Standard Bearer, [1839] 1989), p. 312.

32. ^ John W. Robbins, “Some Problems with Natural Law,” Journal of Christian Reconstruction, vol. 2, no. 2 (1975-1976), p. 21.

33. ^ Rousas J. Rushdoony, Law and Liberty (Vallecito,CA: Ross House Books, 1984), p. 24.

34. ^ J. Robert Brame III, “Whose Natural Law?” in The Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God (Marlborough, NH: The Plymouth Rock Foundation, 1992), p. 23.

35. ^ Ibid.

36. ^ Rousas J. Rushdoony, The Politics of Guilt and Pity (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1970), p. 122.

37. ^ Archie P. Jones, “Natural Law and Christian Resistance to Tyranny,” in The Theology of Christian Resistance, ed. Gary North (Tyler, TX: Geneva Divinity School Press, 1983), p. 112.

38. ^ Rushdoony, The Politics of Guilt and Pity, p. 99.

This article is a slightly revised version of the article that originally appeared in The Christian Statesman, vol. 142, no. 1, January - February 1999.