|When We All Say Whooosh Together|
|Sex and Culture|
|Written by Douglas Wilson|
|Sunday, 06 January 2013 17:18|
I appreciate the discussion of natural law going on under the previous post. I'd like to respond to a few of the points made, and develop everything just a tad further.
First, when I say the teaching of Scripture "trumps" natural law, I was doing nothing more than applying a standard rule of hermeneutics within the confines of Scripture -- which is that unclear passages are to be interpreted in the light of the clear ones, and not the other way around. Of course, since the source of all of this is God, there is no contradiction. But there are things which we might take as contradictory (or ambiguous) because of our limitations. When that happens, we are to shine the flashlight at the dark place, not shine the dark place at our flashlight.
Now it is quite true that bombastic, overly-sure-of-themselves interpreters have made the Scripture say things it does not say, and this is a problem. But the problem is always the people, not the text. And it turns out that people have to interpret and apply natural law just as much as they have to interpret and apply the laws of Deuteronomy. You don't get rid of people pride by moving from specific revelation to natural law. If a man full of his own opinions distorts the plain places of Scripture, how much more scope does he have when it comes time to project his own opinions up at the night sky?
I want to say that the created order reveals the true God, and not a false one. Thus, it is the triune God who is revealed. This is not the same thing as saying that the details of the doctrine of the Trinity are revealed, but rather that the true God is revealed, and when we learn more about Him, we discover that He is triune. What is excluded would be false gods -- generic place-holder deities. Also excluded would be gods whose described attributes contradict the attributes of the true God -- a finite Zeus, for example, or the Muslim Allah, who by definition has no Son.
Over the years, I have said that I believe in natural revelation, and not in natural law. My openness to the language of natural law is relatively recent -- say in the last couple of years. Ironically, it may appear that I believe that more "postive law" is revealed in my natural revelation/law approach than some standard advocates of natural law may be comfortable with. This may mollify (or not) some of my friends who are suspicious of any natural law talk at all, because they think it opens the way to Jesus-less religion.
Because special revelation teaches us about natural revelation, certain things follow. If it is the case that natural law falls out of natural revelation by good and necessary consequence, then what Scripture teaches us about natural revelation is a good example of how special revelation can inform and fulfill natural revelation. Scripure does not just teach us what Scripture teaches (about justification by faith alone, for example), Scripture also teaches us what we should have been getting from natural revelation. I don't think this is necessarily the case in every area, but it seems to me that Scripture provides an answer key so that we can cross-check some of our conclusions from natural law.
If, for example, we conclude from our examination of natural law that it is just fine for men to burn in lust for other men, and women for women, the apostle's discussion of what we should glean from "the things that are made" just flat contradicts this. This is why I said that homosexual marriage is a good test case for our approach to natural law. I do not believe that the content of natural law is limited to creating an obligation to worship the true God. That is the root of everything else. It begins there, but it certainly doesn't end there. Note what Paul says these disobedient people know and are unsuccessfully trying to supress. The italics are mine.
"And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them" (Rom. 1:28-32).
That is quite a list, and it goes well beyond an impulse to an undefined good, or a pang of conscience whenever someone begins to approach an undefined evil.
Because of how God created the world, and because of the conscience that is still operative in the heart of man, we are all without excuse. We do not die because we haven't heard about Jesus; we die because of our rebellion against the good things we have heard about. In short, we know what is right, and we know what is wrong.
A simple test will verify this -- the universal understanding of the inverse Golden Rule. We expect others to treat us in a way that we may or may not remember in our treatment of others. Forget the Ten Commandments, forget the Noble Eight-fold Path, forget the Tao Te Ching of Lao-tzu. Just strap an invisible recorder around everyone's neck, a recorder that does nothing but record ethical condemnations of others. Have the recording angel in Heaven distill from our condemnations of others an ethical code, and from that ethical code judge the wearer of the recording device. How do we all fare? Right.
So back to our test case of homosexual marriage. What I want to say, to a legislature that is considering it, that "this isn't right. You know that, and I know that. Let's not do it." Now I can say this with confidence because there are multiple witnesses ranged against our wavering legislator -- the night sky, his own conscience, the jus gentium, the law of Moses, and the Sermon on the Mount. If a strict biblicist takes some of those witnesses off the stand, I think he is mistaken, but I am not going to get worked up about it so long as he appeals to the Lord Jesus for the final authoritative word on the subject -- and tells the legislator that he "may not."
But if a narrow biblicist, in the name of a pious Bible-only sensibility, wants to act like we have nothing to say to the people instituting these monstrosities, then I think we we have found the source of that piety . . . cowardice. Any more of a demonstration of prophetic virtue on our part might bring us into conflict with the adversary.
And, if we meditate on this point sufficiently, it might occur to us to wonder why the few bastions of faithfulness on the Supreme Court (as measured by opposition to outrages like homosexual marriage) are bastions manned by Roman Catholics with the rocks and clubs of "inadequate" natural law theory. We clear our throats patronizingly. Their time would be much better spent if they came down to our Reformed basements workshops in order to study (and debate) these schematic and very detailed diagrams of VanTillian stinger missles that we found around here somewhere. Sometimes we even count down, and all say whooosh together.