Some Theses on Natural Law

In my interactions with Peter Escalante over at Wedgewords, the topic has turned, for the time being, from defining what the Church is to the only slightly less challenging task of defining what nature and natural law is.  Since Peter has asked me to explain my understanding of natural law, I’ve decided to give it a shot…. This is my first attempt to reflect systematically on this question and offer a proper definition from start to finish, so this may turn out to be incoherent or heretical or something.  Feel free to let me know.  I have avoided defining my position via explicit reference to any other theologians because that would pose too much temptation to lazy shorthand, but you are welcome to come in and slap labels on what I’ve said: “Aha!  So you’re just a Barthian Anabaptist Hegelian” or something of that sort, to help me resolve my identity crisis.

To cover such a broad sweep concisely, it was necessary to make this all rather abstract, and as I have not mastered the scholastic art of being simultaneously very abstract and very precise, you may be puzzled as to exactly what I am trying to say at certain points.  Please push me for clarification, and I will try to provide it if possible, though I can’t guarantee it will be:

1. There is such a thing as natural law.  

  a) When God created the world, he intended for it to operate in a certain way, he intended it for a particular destiny.  This destiny was communion with God, not of course in a narrowly-construed way that would simply instrumentalize nature–the beauty and goodness of the creation was an end in itself for the Creator–but such that the goodness of creation’s end, although not reducible into communion with God, is not separable from it either; creation achieves its full potential and perfection when it is ordered toward the love of God.  

b) natural law is, quite simply, that which is necessary for creation to achieve its perfection, to successfully reach the end appointed for it.  When creatures turn away from natural law, they become perverted from their true end and perfection, their created destiny; when they observe it, they are oriented properly toward their telos, the perfection of their own natures in congruence with the love of God

c) natural law is, therefore, implanted in every creature at creation, as an instinct or understanding of its purpose which it freely wills to obey.  

 

2. Natural law is Christologically-determined from the first

a) the original creation, although without corruption, was not perfect; it had yet to be perfected, because it was not intended to be static, but to mature, through a history involving further action by both Creator and creatures.  The state of the original creation, therefore, although congruent with its final end, does not in itself reveal the perfection of nature and the natural law.

b) Christ is the firstfruits over all creation, the one in whom all things consist, the Last Adam who reveals the destiny of the first, the true image of the invisible God who reveals what man, created in the image of God, is meant to be.  For him and through him and to him are all things.  In short, Jesus Christ reveals for us and leads us toward the true destiny of creation.  It is only by union with him and conformity with him that we attain unto the full stature of our humanity.  

c) Therefore, we cannot properly define natural law except by reference to the revelation in Jesus Christ that illumines the true sense of nature.  

 

3. Natural law is knowable in part, but not in full

a) from creation, man had implanted in him an adequate, though not perfect, understanding of the natural law.  His being was oriented toward its proper destiny, but had not yet matured into full understanding of it.  This knowledge was limited thus both by immaturity and by the finitude of the human understanding, which could not perfectly grasp the entirety of the natural law in its first principles and its necessary deductions.

b) at the Fall, man lost full fellowship with God, and with it, his conformity to the mind of God that enabled true understanding of himself and his purpose in the world.  Creation itself was cursed with decay as a result of this dislocation between humanity and God, and thus both humanity and the rest of creation ceased to be oriented toward their true end, but, detached from it, became distorted and no longer conformed perfectly to natural law.  Nevertheless, inasmuch as nature continued, though in a wounded state, natural law continued to govern it.  Man’s knowledge of it was impaired now by his lack of fellowship with God, fellowship which gave insight into God’s creation, and by the perverted state of nature itself, which made it more difficult to read nature’s purpose therein.  Thus, man often errs in his grasp of the natural law, not to mention his will to live in accord with it even when it was grasped.

c) The moral law which God revealed to his people in the Old Testament was a more lucid restatement of the natural law, specified as was appropriate for the understanding of God’s people at that point in history, yet pointing beyond itself to a fuller revelation yet to come of creation’s end and how to live in accord with it.

 

4. Christ is the fulfilment of the law

a) When Christ came, he came as the objective revelation not only of who God was, but of what man was, and what man was intended to be.  Through his life and death, through his teaching while on earth, and through the teaching of the Holy Spirit in his followers, He revealed the true end of creation, and how to live in accord with that end.  That is to say, in his revelation of how men were to live with God, with one another, and with the world (which we could call the “evangelical law”) he revealed the true purpose and structure of the natural law as it applied to humanity in its full maturity.

b) This revelation superseded both the revelation given in creation and discernible in nature, and the revelation given in the Old Testament, not only because it was more direct, but also because it was a revelation of the nature of creation in its full maturity–it was a revelation of the endpoint of history in the middle.  By superseding, it did not overturn or contradict what came before, but rather fully corresponded to that ideal of which the earlier revelations were necessarily incomplete approximations.

c) Although the revelation in Christ is thus the objective revelation of the true natural law, it is still limited in its subjective apprehension.  This is true quite obviously because of the limits of our knowledge–we cannot understand Christ’s revelation either in its full clarity, since we see only through a glass darkly, or in its full extent, because of our finitude.  The long practice of the Church in study and godly living, guided by the Spirit, can help us to grasp the revelation of God in Christ, as well as that in creation, better, but never completely.  More importantly, we are limited in our ability to comprehend, receive, and live out the evangelical law, because we have only tasted of the fruits of the new creation, and still live partly in the old; we are thus still immature where Christ is the fully mature man, and can only receive and live out his revelation to the extent possible in our immature state and the immature state of the world itself.  Again, the sanctification of God’s people through history will lead to a fuller, but never perfect, understanding and practice of the imitation of Christ, until at the consummation, we are perfected in him and attain to the full stature of creation.  

 

58 thoughts on “Some Theses on Natural Law

  1. Hey Brad,I'll keep it brief (but hopefully not curt).If nature/natural law is only and always Christological, then it stands to reason that only Christians are humans/moral. I think you can see the problems with this sort of statement. You've basically got Christianity as a "race" (contrary to Diognetus, Justin, and Augustine). But instead of a single "Christian" culture, Pentecost made all cultures holy. So too with food, dress, etc. To paraphrase the Apostle, "As long as it is filled with thanksgiving, it is good."Christianity has really never had a singular language or law-code. Remi Brague contrasts Christianity with Islam in just this way. Christianity is a "translating" religion, whereas Islam is a "digesting" one. That seems to be a vital distinction for our current political landscape. Otherwise the MSNBC crowd is right to say that Biblicist Christians are on a par with radical Islam. It would also be seriously bad for your professional future if you could only be human or moral in a segregated arena. :)I think it was Richard Hooker who pointed out that grace/revelation must presuppose nature/reason for the simple fact that it uses nature and reason in order to tell its story. The Bible requires a prior natural knowledge of language, grammar, causation, and basic logic (non-contradiction). Chalcedon had a concept of "humanity" before it could make the claim that Christ was truly human as well as truly divine. Nature has got to be knowable "naturally" in order to have a conversation with differing communities/tribes/language-games. I do think you were on target with your joking reference to Barthian-Anabaptist-Hegelian. In conservative American Reformed circles we could translate those names to Van Tillian-Theonomic-Rosenstockian. The concepts are about the same, but the sociology makes more sense to folks from my area. And again, that's not a slur. That's my own theological family tree, actually. But I do think Calvinian-Lewisian-Schaefferean would be the better option.

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  2. Steven,Why would the Christological quality of NL exclude non-Christians? (Justin, after all, equates something like the NL with the "seed of Logos," including Hellenic philosophy as a precursor to Christianity.)

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  3. Steven,I don't know whether what Brad said is in accord with Diognetus, Justin, or Augustine–I think at least scholars like Milbank and deLubac would disagree with that; but surely it is in accord St. Maximos the Confessor, and likewise, with St. Paul of Tarsus–at least as he argues in I Corinthians 15. Your problem only presents itself if we say that the human logoi, which exist in the Logos, are destroyed by the fall. But the fall did not, and cannot have destroyed the human logoi, for if it did, Jesus is not man like us, nor is Man in Christ man, nor is it right for the Son to will to preserve his own life in the Garden; the perfect human tropos which was destroyed by the fall was restored and transcended in Christ. But the human logoi never were damaged, and thus the non-Christian, though without the Logos, is not without human nature. What do they teach them in the schools these days? It's all in Maximos the Confessor.

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  4. Davey,Logos =/= "Christ." That's a very common equivocation in modern theology, but it is quite unfortunate. Justinian seed-Logos is very similar to Lewis' idea that non-Christians religions were imitations of the real religion because of the shared nature (He's big on NL, after all) or Bavinck's notion that Christianity is paganism's fulfillment. All presuppose a very strong notion of nature and its knowability. Logos is pre-incarnate; creational Word is roughly equivalent with "nature." Christ applies to the redemption scene, and it is thus more "grace." The Christological lens posits nature's unkowability apart from special revelation, or so it seems to me.pax

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  5. Mike Farley

    Steven,I don't follow your last point. If the natural law finds its perfect embodiment and fulfillment in the person of Christ, that would not make natural law entirely unknowable to people apart from special revelation. Rather, it would only imply that some aspects of nature are only fully understood in light of God's special revelation. And this is what Brad says. Indeed, his view entails the idea that knowledge of natural law is presupposed by special revelation. It would be meaningless for God to reveal that Jesus is the true Man and the telos of the creation unless we could recognize in him some correspondence with the nature of creation as we know it (however imperfectly).

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  6. Ditto what Mike said. I'm having trouble understanding why the Christological lens and NL must be either/or. I agree with your first paragraph summary of Justin, viz. the "knowability" aspect (even though, for Justin, that reason/Logos has been corrupted by daemonic lies). But I don't see Justin making the hard distinction between Logos and Christ that you do. If we're talking about patristics, that dichotomy looks quite suspicious to me, on my reading of Justin, Irenaeus, et al. My point isn't to say that Logos isn't creational, but rather that Christ (as Logos) is creational, as well.

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  7. Hey Mike,Good to see you again. It is true that the claim that has been made is that nature is "partly knowable." But the problem with that comes in the details. How partly is partly, and how much will morality change once we do this? More to the point, which people will be our interpreters to tell us what changes have taken place? Can natural reason recognize the new "good" as good, or will it have to suspend its prior notion of the ethical? These seem to be fundamental questions.I completely agree with your point about God's revelation requiring a pre-existing intelligible concept of nature. I think this proves the older Prot position.Davey,I'm not sure where the suspicion is coming from. "Logos" refers to the reasonable/creative principle and to the 2nd Person's eternal name/status. "Christ" is eschatological and refers to the Logos' role in redemption. There are certainly parallels between creation and redemption, as both follow from God's character, but there are also distinctions because of the presence of sin in creation. Furthermore, when you actually press what the New Testament says about the "in Christ" state, it is fairly radical. There's no gender, ethnicity, or social classification. People won't be given in marriage, but rather like unto the angels. Only a minority of Christians have truly wanted to push this into the natural state, and those groups were always, by necessity, short-lived.

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  8. Also Mike,A sharper point. To the question of "partly knowable"- Which parts, and how do we know? That will really be the rub. I'm fine with denying exhaustive knowledge. It is also the case that we lack such exhaustive knowledge of Christ and redemption. But when it comes to discussions about morality, politics, civics, etc. nature and reason need to be sufficient for natural purposes, else we lose our conscience. That's a more direct explanation of my previous questions.

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  9. Peter Escalante

    Brethren,There is an extra premise in Brad's exposition of natural law here which complicates this discussion. That extra premise is the thesis of "maturity". Of course Jesus is the second Adam; and the perfectly faithful Adam, what Adam was meant to be. But this is a *moral* , personal, covenantal to ti en einai. We have no data of either revelation or reason to suggest that Jesus is a "mature" Adam in some organic sense, which would make the first Adam out to be a germinal or larval phase of the "what it was aimed to be" of human being. Aristotle says you only know a thing by looking at its mature form. If you only saw acorns, you wouldn't conjecture an oak, if you only saw eggs, you wouldn't conjecture chickens. We know we are fallen. But are we exiled existentially, or stalled organically? The classical position is that we are exiled, and morally disabled; Adam was experientially immature, but not organically immature. What he lost was a degree of glory and establishment in the same: he didn't lose his chance to turn from a caterpillar into a butterfly. Adam knew what he lost; he lost his estate, not some future mutation whose outlines he couldn't know. If the heir of a great house committed a crime and lost his estates, we wouldn't say that he didn't know that house. He might well have known every single detail of it, which would make the pain greater. This is the Biblical story: exile from estate, not developmental arrest in a larval phase, from which arrest we are cured by the sudden appearance of an instance of the mature form. Another illustration: we are as sick men in hospital, and Jesus is the healthy man. Sickness and health are not immaturity and maturity. Adam when healthy was *already* the telos of creation; Jesus as second Adam was the healthy man.This is very important. First, because by any account, the Scotistic/James Jordan view of things is merely at best a theologoumenon, and can be used to establish nothing in doctrine. Second, the view can have very bad consequences. As mentioned, we only know what a thing is by the mature form. If we are larval, then we cannot know what the mature form might look like; and how then would you recognize it? This then becomes, as Steven points out, an extremist Vantilian say-so game, in which it impossible to know norms; only the regenerate men secretly participating the "mature form" would know them, and the could be anything. In practice, claims that only the regenerate or only the appointed oracle knows the form of man and the natural law has served revolutionary-gnostic (in Voegelin's sense) or clerocratic pretensions. You know nothing, you only know that the guru knows. Steven's questions go to the heart of this, as does his "direct explanation" in his last comment.So that premise of "immaturity" needs further examination, and is not a certain and common premise. Neither is the notion of further "revelation", as Brad says the Mosaic law points to. What the Law pointed to was fulfillment of known promise, not some substantially new information. Jesus fulfilled the promises of restoration, and by that restoration enabled us to live the spirit of the Law in freedom. He did not reveal new Law, he restored the life necessary to live that law.So once the premises of the "maturity" thesis and "new revelation" are bracketed, what then does the argument look like? More to the point, what then is the definition of "evangelical law"?peaceP

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  10. Brad Littlejohn

    (Note: just as I was going to post this, I saw that Peter had meantime posted. No time to reply to that now, but he does go right to the point, in noting that there is a "Scotistic/James Jordan" presupposition here–that is, that the Incarnation needed to happen anyway, with or without sin–that affects a lot of the subsequent conclusions. All I would say briefly is that I agree that this is a crucial point, but of course it has been argued by a lot more than Scotus and James Jordan, but is a recurrent theological proposal since the Patristic age.)Wow, it looks like we're going to have some great discussion here. Davey, thanks for jumping in, and it's nice to see that (so far at least) we are broadly on the same page. Matt, keep us posted with the Patristic citations; I wish I knew that stuff as well as I ought to, especially Maximos. Mike, fancy running into you here! How'd you stumble on this blog?Now, it seems that, despite my fears of being too vague, I have successfully gotten us to the root of the dispute, as Peter has assured me in an email that "the view of natural law you outline leads straight to really coercive clerocracy, almost as a logical necessity," and Steven seems to agree. I'm going to be interested to see how that critique is parsed out. I may as well say that, although I am less than certain about how precisely I want to state some of these things, the broad outline I have given is not something that I could see myself easily given up, as it seems to be a matter of very fundamental, "what is the Gospel?" questions. I am open to being persuaded that I've messed up in exactly how all this cashes out in terms of political theology on the ground, but I have a hard time imagining accepting that the true sense of nature is not revealed in Christ. Now, Mike has of course drawn attention to the important point that I have clearly granted that the true nature of man and creation is partly knowable, is indeed largely knowable in its immature state, without knowledge of Christ. And Steven has perceptively replied, "To the question of "partly knowable"- Which parts, and how do we know? That will really be the rub." Indeed, that is the rub. And I have no idea how such a question could be answered concisely, in less than a small book, perhaps. At the very least, I'm glad you have acknowledged that that is the question, so you can't continue making the accusation that on my view, "only Christians are humans/moral." No, on my view, only Christians can be fully moral and truly human. Or rather, even Christians cannot be that, since none attain perfection in this life, but inasmuch as they are conformed to Christ, they are able to be truly human and fully moral in a way that transcends either the knowledge or the capacity of the unredeemed. You say, "when it comes to discussions about morality, politics, civics, etc. nature and reason need to be sufficient for natural purposes, else we lose our conscience." Ok, but sufficient isn't complete. I may have, without my contact lenses, sufficiently good vision to drive legally (actually, I don't anymore, but for awhile I did), but that doesn't mean that most of my passengers wouldn't prefer that I wear them–I will see more clearly and drive more safely. Isn't it the same with natural knowledge and Christian knowledge? An ancient Greek lawmaker might be able to draft a constitution "sufficient" for a relatively orderly and relatively just commonwealth. But the clearer lenses provided by the revelation of Christ, who reveals the true purpose of nature and history, will enable a lawmaker to have a much better understanding of what true justice and thriving community looked like. Right? You said, "when you actually press what the New Testament says about the "in Christ" state, it is fairly radical. There's no gender, ethnicity, or social classification. People won't be given in marriage, but rather like unto the angels. Only a minority of Christians have truly wanted to push this into the natural state, and those groups were always, by necessity, short-lived." Hmm…the statement about marriage and the angels is clearly given as a description of the eschatological state. The statements about "In Christ there is neither male nor female, slave nor free, Jew nor Gentile" seem to be given as present-tense statements about Paul's audience, on the basis of which they are supposed to live in new ways. But, contextually, these do not mean an eradication of gender, race, social status, but rather, an overcoming of discrimination or hostility based on these. In Christ, there is neither slave nor free in the sense that slave and free recognize themselves as equals before God and equals in the community of saints, and therefore treat one another as brothers, the slave serving willingly and the master seeking the welfare of the slave. This eschatological statement thus has real-world social-ethical consequences. "Christianity has really never had a singular language or law-code. Remi Brague contrasts Christianity with Islam in just this way. Christianity is a "translating" religion, whereas Islam is a "digesting" one."Well, actually, for much of Christian history, there was one uniting "Christian" or "churchy" language–Latin, which functioned in a similar way as Arabic. And there was the canon law tradition as well. You may want to contest these as relics of popery, but at the very least they challenge your historical statement. I would rather say that Christianity is a "transforming" religion. A vague term, of course, but no more so than "translating" or "digesting." Christianity has always taken up existing cultural forms and achievements, and, inasmuch as they were truly natural, has reaffirmed them and perfected them in accord with the fuller, more mature revelation of nature in Christ (e.g., many aspects of Greek philosophy and pedagogy); inasmuch as they were unnatural and perverted, has chucked them (e.g., gladiatorial games). But its task is not simply to take up pagan cultural achievements wholesale and translate them into the Christian context without significant modifications."I'm particularly puzzled, Steven, by your interactions with Davey. You say " 'Logos' refers to the reasonable/creative principle and to the 2nd Person's eternal name/status. 'Christ' is eschatological and refers to the Logos' role in redemption. There are certainly parallels between creation and redemption, as both follow from God's character, but there are also distinctions because of the presence of sin in creation." This sounds to me like the sort of thing VanDrunen was trying to do, which seemed to me, by divorcing two moments in the history of Christ, to posit a kind of dual personality within the second person of the Trinity and end up with some pretty serious heresies (you can read some of my critique hereand here). Presumably you're not making as dangerous of a move as that, but please do elaborate.

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  11. Peter Escalante

    Brad,I 'm sorry the timing was awry for that comment! I do hope you will address the comments I posted earlier, which identify the extra premises of the original post, and give a case for bracketing those. And while it is true that at least some form of the "maturity" thesis has found defenders other than Scotus and Jim Jordan, it is also true that it is a minority position, and merely a theologoumenon. But I would like to quickly address some of the points you just now brought up. First, however, let me say that I would certainly be the last one to ask you to give up the idea that "true nature" is revealed in Christ. It most certainly is. But it is along the lines of a healthy man showing what true nature looks like, in comparison with sick men, not along the lines of butterfly and caterpillar. On Christ and the commonwealth: both Steven and myself argue, as you know, that recognition of Christ most certainly does spell concrete practical differences. You have seen enough of our disputes with the W2K writers to know that. Most eminently, the fact of justification by faith alone detotalizes the city, abolishes the scapegoating/sacrificial impulse, and establishes as a final development the principle of freedom of conscience. But it's important to note that the pagan philosophers often had a pretty clear picture of what human nature was- this got expressed in themes of the Golden Age, Stoic intuitions of original freedom and parity, and so on. What they saw lacking was the power to really live that vision out: and the hiatus between vision/anamnesis and present possibility was the principle of systematic compromise. What Christ brought was new life, restored life, not so much a new blueprint; as has been pointed out before, one can find most of what the Lord teaches ethically in other rabbis of the time, and much of what St Paul teaches ethically can be found in the Stoics. The difference, and it is an infinite difference, is that Christ, the redemptive work of God, brought in Himself the power to live as men ought to live.On eschaton and ethics: when you say, "But, contextually, these do not mean an eradication of gender, race, social status, but rather, an overcoming of discrimination or hostility based on these. In Christ, there is neither slave nor free in the sense that slave and free recognize themselves as equals before God and equals in the community of saints, and therefore treat one another as brothers, the slave serving willingly and the master seeking the welfare of the slave. This eschatological statement thus has real-world social-ethical consequences" , you are sounding very two-kingdoms! As I'm sure you already recognized when you wrote it. You're in agreement with us here, completely.On Christianity and pagan achievements: I might note here that Greek preceded Latin as the lingua franca of Christians in the Roman Empire, and that it remained so in the East; and Steven, following Brague, is quite right, there was no ecumenical Christian analogue to the use of Arabic by the Muslims, or Hebrew by Jews. Christianity was always officially polyglot. And the canon law was never a single thing (there were and are plural regional codes), and never held anything really like the status halakha did for Jews or Sharia did for Muslims. Brague proves this, but Weber did also long before him. As for the rest, your account of Christian selection of the good and rejection of the bad accords almost entirely with our own account of things. I say almost, because there is still some waffling with "maturity" and "modification". Did the Christians have to significantly modify Roman engineering? or all Roman laws? Clearly not. There were many things which were fine as they were. What Christianity rejected was whatever was idolatrous, and whatever was immoral. There was in all-encompassing category of the "immature" which applied even to everything, nomatter how good it was already. But that aside, I think we're already very nearly in agreement here, and it will be good to work out the implications of that.It is for Steven to address your last point, directed toward his comments to Davey.peaceP

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  12. Joseph Minich

    Peter/Steven, It is difficult for me to see how one could read 1 Cor. 15 and say that Adam was ontologically "mature." Without trying to ascertain how this affects the doctrine of "natural law," the text seems awfully clear. Adam was a "living soul" and Christ became "life-giving Spirit." The contrast is NOT just between Adam as fallen and Jesus as sinless…but Adam as CREATED and Jesus as NEW creation…since Paul is obviously quoting from a text (the first man became a "living soul") that refers to Adam's pre-fallen condition. Jesus' post-resurrection body is not the same thing as Adam's pre-fallen body. Adam starts out in God's favor but is given a task to complete and offered a "reward" (fogive me for lack of a better term) for completing it. The fall takes him in exactly the opposite direction. Jesus both makes up for our moral failure but also attains new creation as our covenant Head. Can your theological itches be scratched if it is emphasized that there is continuity between seed and oak tree? There is enough continuity between Jesus' old and new body that the tomb is empty. If I am reading Peter correctly, even this causes problems. But I can't see why it would. Even if Adam is meant to "mature," I don't see how that necessarily precludes an access to natural law in the pre-eschatological state. The "natural law" comprises those principles which are consonant with our current state and place in the history of redemption…or perhaps only those principles that apply to all states (glorified as well). In either case, natural law still applies to us in the interim. Have I missed something?

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  13. Steven,You are correct that the logoi of things are knowable outside Christ because the logoi of things are created. But the logoi exist in Christ, and thus what is known when we know things is not the pre-Incarnate Logos–for there is no such person–but the Logos, namely, Christ. It, of course, is a sort of knowledge of Christ which is not dependent on the Incarnation, but, it is, nonetheless, knowledge of Christ.Peter,You are correct that there are other thinkers beside Duns Scotus and James Jordan who believe the Incarnation is the Cause of all things, or that if there was an Adam Created from Earth, there must likewise be a Spiritual Adam. Perhaps even it is a minority position. But surely it is worth mentioning that it is the near universal position of the Orthodox and the Eastern Catholics.But moreover, so far as I can see, the idea that Christ merely restored fallen Adam, rather than bringing humanity to some new undreamed of glory, is distinctly the minority position. It is not the position of Lewis. It is not the position of the liturgy–for it is directly contradicted by the pia peccata–and has been criticized as relying on the distinctive Reformed gloss of the Incarnation.

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  14. -To the point of "fully human"- I don't think that to say to someone that they are human, but not "truly human" is terribly different than to say that they are "less human" or "not human," particularly in discussions about morality and reason. After all, isn't the opposite of truly human "falsely human"? I understand that no one wants to put it in those terms, but it seems hard to escape the implication. The only way that the truly human language works is if it is in the "spiritual" sense. The truly human man comes to see his need for the divine, forgiveness, and the Spirit. Everything is filled with love, joy, and thanksgiving. The orientation of the heart changes. But truth is still truth and good still good. And that's what we're concerned with in this specific discussion, particularly when contrasts are offered forth between Old Law and New Law. Peter has already pointed out the helpfulness of a two-kingdoms interpretation of Paul on "in Christ." We are not engendered or enslaved in Christ, yet in the flesh we remain so, and in the case of disorderliness, we must remain as we are. This is all over the Apostle's writings: contentment, remaining in the calling in which you were found, submission to even harsh masters, etc. The radical import of the new-aeon-in-the-present does not disrupt or overthrow the civic order. Paul even retains gender rules for the ministry, the one place where "in-Christness" should be most external and visible. There are certainly real-world implications, as the man's new heart orders his ways, but prudence will always come in to dictate the what and the how of the changes. -As to Christology and personality, this is an area where there really is much confusion, particularly among the supposed patristic recovery. It is actually a sort of rhetorical gloss to promote non-patristic ideas (as Barnes and Ayres, among others, have shown). "Person" is one of the most obvious examples of this discontinuity. Our modern notion of "personality" has almost nothing to do with the classical use of hypostasis. Jesus' various attributes of spirit, mind, will, and energy are all attributes of his nature/substance. That is how he is able to possess two of them. Thus while Jesus Christ does not have "two persons," he does have two spirits, minds, wills, and energies. He is able to act in one way appropriate to one nature and in another way appropriate to the other nature, all without requiring a second hypostasis. It really is not a problem to talk about various attributes and characteristics which are distinctive of one of the two natures. Chalcedon states exactly this. Now, VanDrunen's problem is that he wants to split the natures along the lines of law and gospel or disinterested reason and religion. He wants the divine nature to be representative of some sort of non-religious "natural order" and the human nature to be reflective of the Church and its mission. That's not a proper use of the extra Calvinisticum at all, which is why VanDrunen ends up looking so different from Calvin. Contrary to this confused notion, both of Christ's natures have concerns in both "kingdoms." Too, the human nature which was assumed was taken from the pre-existing creation (Mary), and thus the incarnation is not itself the new creation. That is reserved for the resurrection, which is also the key to 1 Cor. 15. It isn't talking about incarnation anyway, but rather the new reality of resurrection-life.

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  15. Steven,I agree that "person" does not mean "personality". Indeed, if we make it so, the orthoddox formula becomes a sort of monothelitism–or its modern equivalent monoconsciousnessism.But all things find their coherence in Christ. That's what Colossians says "in [Christ] are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" "All the fullness of Godhead dwells in Him bodily". We do not look to find all good from the divinity of Christ, but from Christ–indeed the divinity of Christ is neither subject nor object, for if it were, it would precisely be a hypostasis. Perhaps this implies a distinction between energies and essences, perhaps it implies a full Lutheran communio. But creation is contained in the Incarnate Word.Second,

    The only way that the truly human language works is if it is in the "spiritual" sense. The truly human man comes to see his need for the divine, forgiveness, and the Spirit. Everything is filled with love, joy, and thanksgiving. The orientation of the heart changes. But truth is still truth and good still good. And that's what we're concerned with in this specific discussion, particularly when contrasts are offered forth between Old Law and New Law.

    "Truly", yes. But truly does not mean good. We are only full humans in Christ, as human nature, from the beginning was oriented toward Him. The distinction between truth and good is very clearly spelled out in Aquinas' Disputed Questions on Truth–something is a true man, or in English, truly a man, if it correpsonds to God's intellectual notion of man. But it is a good man if it corresponds to God's will. That is, if it has achieved its telos. But no one is disputing whether Adam was truly human, but only whether he was a good human. Was he created in possession of his telos, or was He to acheive his telos in the Incarnation. This, and not the question of whether Adam was truly human, was the question Peter answered above "The classical position is that we are exiled, and morally disabled; Adam was experientially immature, but not organically immature. What he lost was a degree of glory and establishment in the same: he didn't lose his chance to turn from a caterpillar into a butterfly." This is where the point of dispute is, not over any silly question about first perfection–to use Aquinas' term.Or, if you would prefer Maximos, who very clearly takes a different approach from yours, and should not be brushed aside with "the only way to…" human nature was not affected by the fall, but the human tropos was. And precisely in the Incarnation, and the Resurrection, the human tropos finds its intended perfection, which Satan was not able to thwart, even by seducing man to sin.

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  16. I didn't make that first point quite correctly. No one has claimed, nor quoted anyone as saying that there are "seeds of theos" or any such nonsense. No one has said that Theos is creational. Rather that there are seeds of Logos, and that the Logos is creational. These are distinctly different claims. While Theos does not equal Christ, Logos has come to equal Christ, though prior to the Incarnation, it was not so. And your language seems to be an insistence that there are two subjects in the Second Hypostasis. It is literally nonsense to say that the divinity of the One Person is the object of certain statements, and the humanity the object of others, as it seems you are doing. Or rather, it is, though concealed behind an adoption of the orthodox language, explicit Nestorianism to say so the Divinity is the object of some statements, and the humanity the object of others.

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  17. That said, Brad's language probably could have been clearer. I don't believe anyone would say that the human essence was changed by the fall, or that the human essence only comes to exist in Christ; rather that the human telos is, from creation, Christ. Though Brad's language was a little sloppy. Anyway, this is what Peter took the debate to be.

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  18. Peter Escalante

    A correction: my third to last sentence above should read, "there was *no* all-encompassing category…"Apologies for any confusion that might have caused.P

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  19. Matthew,You are assuming that your various shorthands are commonly understood and clear positions from which you can then argue to the other contested points. This is not the case. You will really have to back up and explain some of those concealed preliminary arguments. Again, person/nature is a case in point. You are arguing that we cannot speak of nature after the incarnation, but rather only person. We cannot make distinctions, but rather must leave things at the level of the ambiguous. I disagree both on historical grounds and on reasonable ones. It is certainly not the case that the category of nature looses all value or use after the incarnation, and the Patristic theospaschite explanation proves exactly this. As both Gavrilyuk and Weinandy's books show (contrary to modern process and semi-process theology), the ancient notion was that God suffered in the flesh and not in his aseity. Those are nature distinctions. Unless you are willing to go the whole way and say that the divine nature is mutable, then you are in fact using the communication of names, attributing appropriateness to each nature while unified by the hypostasis. This really is the classic doctrine. The other is not. And leaving things at the level of the ambiguous, a style so popular today, really only allows for people to not know. In the name of false unity we actually lose progress. If, on the other hand, you do allow that distinctions are valid and that the divine and created exist in an asymmetrical relationship, then there really is no metaphysical bogey man lurking behind my language.PS- I have not used any language like "seeds of theos." I can't find that in any discussion prior to your rebuttal of it, and so there's clearly a mistake there. It almost seems as though a prior comment was deleted. It was not mine, though.

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  20. Steven,I am not being vague, either intentionally, or unintentionally. I am not arguing that the word nature cannot be used after the incarnation. I am assuming, which is really not at all controversial, that natures are neither subjects nor objects. Persons are, natures are not.I know you didn't say seed of theos. That's my point. If it were a discussion of seeds of theos, or of the relation of theos to the world, your claim that these statements refer to the pre-Incarnate Logos would be on point. But no one has done that. The logoi of things exist in the Christ, according to His divinity, we know Christ because of His humanity, but it is the same Christ. All things find their meaning and their telos in the Son of the Theotokos. I suppose perhaps this isn't enough–one could paradoxically, affirm this, while affirming that Christ with us is meant to point to Christ not with us. But that position is quasi-Nestorian, and is heretical for exactly the same reasons Nestorianism is. Because of the union, the Flesh is transfigured, and filled with divine energies. As Cyril says: "The Word, by nature God and out of Him, that is, out of His Essence, has been made flesh, and is worshiped (as I said) as One and Alone and Truly Son, with His proper Flesh. And the Father is glorified as God, having as Very Son, Him who was begotten from His essence, whom, made flesh, He hath given unto us, in order that having suffered in the flesh He might save all under heaven."Or as St. Paul says: "Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight."

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  21. Or perhaps I should just say:You are drastically misreading me, and imputing to me positions which I clearly do not hold. Were you to read what I said assuming I know what I'm talking about, rather than assuming I do not, you would see that.

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  22. Michael Hickman

    Mr. Littlejohn,Consider that human nature may have been created with a receptivity to the supernatural that is neither fully intelligible with regard to its substance (i.e. human nature) considered in isolation, nor implies an indetermination of that nature such that one could pejoratively ascribe to it the status of a “larva.” I would like to suggest a distinction between the supernatural, absolutely speaking and the supernatural in a definite respect (or supernaturale secundum quid). In the former category would be things like knowledge of the Trinity or Sanctifying Grace, which come, strictly speaking, from the “outside;” in the latter category would be found the preternatural gifts of integrity such as immortality and freedom from irregular desires. The preternatural gifts of integrity are a “passive potentiality” or capacity (potentia oboedientialis) of human nature to elevation by God to a supernatural state of being and activity. They are a capacity of human nature, but do not develop naturally from “within” that nature. It is this supernatural mode of being and activity that was lost by the Fall: our nature was not abolished, or even wounded in substance, but alienated in the deepest way. And so, with redemption, nor does Christ turn us into butterflies from caterpillars, but elevates our nature to it what it was meant to be in the fullest sense. It is nothing short of saying that we are literally made for life with God. How does this fit with your view?Michael

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  23. Michael Hickman

    PS If it be asserted that the preternatural gifts of integrity equates to a “low” view of human nature, I would ask: what kind of “lowness” is asserted? Is it a lowness of power or ability or manner of achievement? If the former: what powers or abilities is it asserted “should” be possessed by man but are withheld by God?If the latter: what does it say about the conception of the God-man relationship that is assumed when dependence on God is seen as “lower” than independence form God? Promethean, perhaps?

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  24. Or else Steven,Your point only stands if Christ is only in two natures. But though Christ is in two natures, He is also from two natures. It is tantamount to Nestorianism to say Christ is only in two natures. The One Christ is from and out of two natures, not merely in two natures. The uncreated coheres with the transfigured humanity. Like I said above, I don't know if this implies a Lutheran or an Orthodox Christiology. But there is a complete union of the uncreated and the created, though the essence of God remains hidden and unknown.

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  25. Brad Littlejohn

    Well gentlemen, gentlemen, things are getting a bit out of hand. I take a little more than 24 hours away and next thing you know there’s 15 new comments. A few words of moderation are in order. First, please try not to spatter the blog with multiple comments in succession as you add various PSes (this is pretty much aimed at you, Matt). Think about what you want to say in your comment, say it, and be done with it. If you have a really long comment and think it is best broken up in discrete sections (perhaps answering different people), that is another matter.Second, let’s try not to get sidetracked. Now of course the notion of “sidetracked,” in a discussion as broad and fundamental as this, is rather hard to pin down–almost anything in theology, it might seem, is potentially relevant. So we will have to be very disciplined in trying to identify where the crucial threads of the argument are, that will carry it forward to a productive conclusion. For all my disagreement with Peter, I have found him remarkably perceptive at doing this, and so I shall be mostly following his lead, which means I, at least, will not be engaging with everything that is said along the wayside. Although I love Christology, and find the Christological angle on this intriguing, I’m not sure that most of this debate is actually going to help us that much. That may seem like an odd thing to say, since Christology should lie at the root of everything, but that’s precisely the problem. By having pulled this discussion of Christianity and civic life down to the level of natural law, we’ve descended to a very fundamental level, somewhat distantly removed from the particular points of application under dispute. That is helpful, but it means connections can get fuzzy or tenuous at points. If we go down yet another level, to the Christological doctrines underlying a doctrine of nature and grace, then the connections may get too tortuous to follow. Also, whatever the implications of certain Christological statements might seem to be, it is certainly the case that Christian theologians with seemingly identical Christologies have ended up with dramatically different doctrines of civic life, which makes me question just how readily we can draw one-to-one correspondences. I will try to make a few remarks about what seem to me the relevant Christological points in what follows, but I shall leave most of the debate there off to one side. A third moderatorial comment: this whole discussion is perhaps poorly timed on my part, as I will be traveling from Thursday through Monday, meaning that I will be potentially be entirely absent from this discussion for five days. Of course, the fellow I’ll be visiting is almost as interested in these things as I am, so perhaps he’ll think there’s no better use of our time than commenting on blogs, but don’t count on it. With this trip coming up, I am insanely busy for the first half of this week, hence my 28-hour hiatus (oh, what is the world coming to when you have to apologize for 28 hours of blog silence?!), and I will probably only be able to jump in once or twice more for some summary remarks before I leave. With these things in mind, I want to propose that anyone taking part (or currently on the sidelines and thinking about taking part) view this as a long-term discussion. Many of the questions already raised in the course of this discussion (which is itself addressing just one branch of the barrage of questions Peter brought forward at Wedgewords) are very big and merit posts of their own, not to mention long and careful thought (and ideally, a bit of background reading!). Hence, my plan is to touch on many of these fairly cursorily here, and file away several for future posts that will hopefully follow over the coming weeks and perhaps months. Peter has assured me of his commitment to such a long-term discussion, and I hope others will be happy to take part as well. Let’s not fall into the trap (which the high-speed medium of the internet often seems to force us into) of thinking that we must hash out and resolve every question in a fever of uninterrupted debate–any “resolution” that comes out of such a discussion is likely to be short-lived. Now, with all that moderation out of the way, I shall try to engage some of the substance in what follows.

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  26. Brad Littlejohn

    First, Michael Hickman: intrigued as I am by your comments, I must confess that I, unlike Peter, have only lightly dabbled in the world of scholasticism, and of Catholic metaphysics. Hence, although I can follow your terminology roughly here, the precise import of some of it escapes me, so it would be rash to ventue an answer unless you could try to explain it further. (Of course, perhaps my fuzziness has something to do with the fact that I went to a Scotch whisky birthday party this evening, and partook freely of the delights on offer.) On the other hand, if you do explain further, it may prove a sufficiently different paradigm and different bundle of questions from what Peter and Steven are after that we will not be able to pursue it properly just now, given the time constraints I just explained. Briefly, I would also say that I’d like to hear more from Davey, regarding his questions to Steven, and I’m interested in how Steven and Peter would respond to Joseph Minich’s excellent question, which sounds to me uncannily along the lines of a blog post by Peter Leithart on 1 Corinthians 15 a couple years ago. Now, for Peter and Steven–first, one small question. You speak with horror of “clerocracy”–it is your catch-phrase for all that is evil about my position, popery, Anabaptism, etc. That’s fine–we all have such catch-phrases (need I say “Gnostic” or “dualist”? :-p), but I want to examine this word for a moment. It means “rule by the leaders of the Church.” Ok, now this may just be rhetorical sleight-of-hand, but it at least seems significant to me, so I’ll throw it out there: Christ tells us that whoever would rule, does so as a servant of all. Ok, fine then–clerocracy means a polity in which the leaders of the Church conduct themselves as the servants of the whole society. Hm…hard to argue with that. And yet, that is much more like what I envision than any kind of theonomic state of dictator-priests.In reply to a few of Steven’s remarks:"To the point of "fully human"- I don't think that to say to someone that they are human, but not "truly human" is terribly different than to say that they are "less human" or "not human," particularly in discussions about morality and reason. After all, isn't the opposite of truly human "falsely human"? I understand that no one wants to put it in those terms, but it seems hard to escape the implication."Yes, I suppose that it is fair to say that someone who is not “truly human” is “less human,” though “not human” would seem to be unwarranted. You seem to act like to say this makes any kind of fellowship with non-believers impossible, but I don't buy this assumption. N.T. Wright, for instance (hardly a Van Tillian radical), uses language like this fairly routinely, and is nevertheless one of the most effective and appreciated expositors and apologists for the faith today. In any case, it seems like we are all committed to something like that language–if the unbeliever is a deeply broken human being, as he is on your account, then he is in a sense not truly, properly, or fully human. Of course, these words are rather vague, and Peter’s pointed questions about maturity will help sharpen things up. I shall get to them in due course."The only way that the truly human language works is if it is in the "spiritual" sense. The truly human man comes to see his need for the divine, forgiveness, and the Spirit. Everything is filled with love, joy, and thanksgiving. The orientation of the heart changes. But truth is still truth and good still good. And that's what we're concerned with in this specific discussion, particularly when contrasts are offered forth between Old Law and New Law."Can I throw a question out there, that may seem silly? I’ve never entirely understood just what you people mean when you talk about something being “spiritual”–I know this is perhaps just my lack of familiarity with the tradition that Peter is always on me about, but honestly, I find it puzzling at points. There is no spiritual dimension, in the Gospel as I understand it, that does not issue out in a social dimension, no restored relationship with God that is not simultaneously a restored relationship with fellow men, no faith without works. The Christian is transformed “spiritually” into a true human, but in terms of his outward relations, he remains the same. And that rings false to me. Or am I hearing you wrong?"Peter has already pointed out the helpfulness of a two-kingdoms interpretation of Paul on "in Christ." We are not engendered or enslaved in Christ, yet in the flesh we remain so, and in the case of disorderliness, we must remain as we are. This is all over the Apostle's writings: contentment, remaining in the calling in which you were found, submission to even harsh masters, etc. The radical import of the new-aeon-in-the-present does not disrupt or overthrow the civic order. Paul even retains gender rules for the ministry, the one place where "in-Christness" should be most external and visible.There are certainly real-world implications, as the man's new heart orders his ways, but prudence will always come in to dictate the what and the how of the changes." “Does not disrupt or overthrow the civic order,” you say? No, I quite disagree. To reconfigure master-slave relations so that they function as brotherly relationships of mutual concern and free obedience dramatically undermined the social structure of ancient slavery, and indeed eventually led to the abolition of even the outward vestiges of slavery as a legal institution. If citizens start obeying their rulers in fearless freedom and subjection to Christ, overcoming evil with good, this destabilizes the whole system of coercion whereby rulers keep their subjects in line and legitimate their position (see my recent series on coercion). Functioning in the same relationships, but according to new motivations and new rules, transforms the relationships. Of course, you say at the end “there are certainly real-world implications,” so I suppose you can say you don’t deny any of this, but then you qualify it immediately with prudence. Of course I believe in prudence too, but that doesn’t mean no disruption, no dramatic (though long-term to be sure) social and civic transformation as new hearts work their way outward. I will try to sketch where I think the difference lies a bit more precisely in my response to Peter’s remarks on this subject.Now, I was hoping to get to Peter as well, but it is 1:20 AM here, and I am seriously doubting that any replies I typed up at this hour would have the desired clarity and coherence. So I will save them for tomorrow (er…later today), which suits the more relaxed pace I had suggested above.

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  27. Brad,Sorry about the sequence of posts.If I may say so however, Steven I did not appreciate the sort of answer you. The assumption that I in fact do not know what I am talking about, and that I am arguing for an intentionally vague position was not warranted, and was not appreciated. Treat me like an equal, don't talk down to me.

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  28. Brad Littlejohn

    If you feel that way, Matt, it would be more effective a) not to sound so defensive, and b) not to post un-proofread posts with sentence fragments like, "Steven I did not appreciate the sort of answer you."

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  29. About the typo, yeah, I know. I have trouble proof-reading in the com-box. And then I decided not to try and correct it for the sequence of posts trouble.On the other point, I didn't mean to come across as defensive. Sorry I did. Communication is hard in comments.

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  30. Michael Hickman

    Mr. Littlejohn,It’s true that we would have to detour into other areas in order to go further into the view of St. Thomas. Moreover, I don’t want to distract from the conversation that you already have going with others here. So I will wrap up with a couple of comments that I think might be relevant and upon which you can reflect at your leisure (months and months hence?) if you choose:I think for your present purposes, it is well to point out that the Thomistic idea that Fall resulted in the loss of the preternatural gifts of integrity, as opposed to a real wound human nature per se, preserves the intelligibility of the natural law. For if there was not this original elevation by God of man to a supernatural activity and being (which was a “passive capacity” of man’s nature, and therefore did not involve an alteration of human nature in the elevation) then the Fall must involve a real substantial (in the technical sense) damage to human nature.In the view of St. Thomas, the natural law is only partly knowable after the Fall because man’s intellect is darkened through ignorance, concupiscence, mortality (all the result of the loss of the preternatural gifts). It is a “subjective” ignorance, so to speak. In the view where nature itself is wounded, then, it is a question of how can we know a thing (i.e. human nature) that has been partially destroyed by sin? The ignorance of natural law in this case is both subjective, presumably, and also “objective.” This defect or indetermination introduced into human nature has led many Protestants to simply discount natural law doctrine as otiose.As I think you will see in your investigation of natural law, the question that will always be lurking is that of the intelligibility of nature, which is properly the province of philosophy. You see, natural law is only secondarily a civic or political issue. The questions of the metaphysical status and composition of nature, what the natural law is per se, how we know it (epistemological considerations) all underlie and inform (consciously or unconsciously) our positions on natural law. In a word, one’s ethics depends on one’s metaphysics.Unfortunately, the major heresiarchs did not occupy themselves with these questions in any systematic way. This would seem to reflect on their estimation of reason and its relationship with faith. Where are the proofs of God’s existence? Where are the discussions of the one and the many, or how universals are intelligible to the intellect? As you probably know, Luther, for his part, even denies that the soul is the substantial form of the body in his Babylonian Captivity letter (the fundamental premise of Aristotle’s entire ethics) and had the metaphysics, physics and ethics of Aristotle thrown out of the Heidelberg curriculum.The upshot of this is that, in order to delve into the real questions of natural law, you will probably need to read the Catholic philosophers and theologians. As an aside, I agree with the folks at Wedgewords that the Reformers advocated the natural law insofar as the civic realm was concerned and even in individual “ethics” to some degree. However, unlike St. Thomas (or St. Bonaventure or Duns Scotus) because they were not philosophers as well as theologians (and therefore did not provide metaphysical epistemological accounts of their positions) there is not the coherence of thought that is able to deal with the apparent problems and inconsistencies that arise in their positions with regard to the relationship between the natural and the supernatural.Lastly, an added difficulty for someone attempting to understand natural law is that, as ever, people’s awareness and thinking are formed to a great degree (at least initially) by the times in which they live. Our age has been formed, among other significant ways, by the methodological exclusion of the concept of teleology or final causality (which is the most important concept in the natural law) from the status of “knowledge” and thus it has faded from the accepted “paradigm” of the time. Thus, while we tend to bandy the about term “natural law” and even more technical terms like “substance,” we usually have only pat definitions at our disposal. To really understand even this latter concept, for example, is rare achievement involving much labor and reflection and, in some sense, a revolution in consciousness. Finally, as an important reminder, it must be noted that St. Thomas fundamentally transformed the natural philosophy of Aristotle (and all the Greeks for that matter) by penetrating to the existential basis of nature as created by God from nothing (this is “The metaphysics of Exodus” and I’d recommend the Gilson’s The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy on this account). Best Regards,Michael

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  31. Brad,I think you probably are familiar with the "spiritual" aspect of man, but since it has been the object of such critique over the 20th cent., you find it odd that we're emphasizing it again. Essentially I would say this- There is a category, found in both the Bible and in the philosophers (though with some difference), of "spirit," "soul," or "heart" which is distinct from the body. This aspect is most analogous to God's own spirituality and is in several places exalted over the body. This is done even by the words of our Lord, "Do not fear those kill the body but cannot kill the soul." Prov. 17:10 shows us that mere bodily discipline will do no good to those who do not have a right spiritual state. That this "spiritual" aspect of the Christian life is even distinct from externals is shown by Paul when he flatly declares "…the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." That verse woke me from my "incarnational" and "sacramental" slumber. Then Psalm 51 came back into my mind boldly stating, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart." David doesn't seem to be nearly as interested in the sociological benefits of ritual (there are plenty) as he does the sincerity of the worshiper.Thus I would say that the "spiritual" kingdom is that which deals with the attitudinal direction of the heart, as well as the direction of faith and hope. It is directly united to Christ by faith and the Holy Spirit. Of course, this always ends in action. Faith is a busy little thing, as Luther put it. And the heart does direct a man's ways. But it is not wholly identified as the works themselves. The tree produces fruit, but the fruit does not necessarily create the tree. Now, the question of transformation is the big one. I'm still something of a Kuyperian, myself, allowing for various qualifications (and not retaining his anti-philosophical disposition). It is true that the new heart makes things change. Slavery is a good example. But the essential point is that it is a gradual and voluntary change lead by persuasion. The Bible cannot be used to support any quick abolitionism or revolution. You are right to say that the slave and master, in Christ, will begin relating to one another in a new way. But they do not immediately drop the slave/master relation itself. The New Testament is clear that it is allowable for a Christian slave to remain a slave. Paul says that if the slave is able, then he should gain freedom, but if he isn't (it., the master doesn't go along with it, money isn't right, etc.) then it's perfectly allowable to remain in the condition. On the whole, Paul seems to prefer folks retaining their station in life (1 Cor. 7:17). Persuasion is the tool here. The Christian sword is the Word, and thus to wield it, you use speech. Speech doesn't immediately cause revolution, of course, but instead rhetoric works on man's heart and mind, hopefully convincing him that he himself desires and wills the change. I like to use the recent movie Inception as an illustration of this. The protagonists have the task of planting an idea in someone's mind without letting that person realize that the idea is foreign. After one's soul is reoriented, then he willingly reworks his body out of goodwill to his neighbor, love, and gratitude.All of this works, though, apart from violence, dismantling of nature, or even really "undoing" any of the essential elements of creation. We are all for removing that which should not be there, and the clash that does occur is only that of a man in love with the vice. The Christian amputation, if you will, manages to leaves the limbs in place.

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  32. Brad Littlejohn

    Heh, now it's the other way around…while I'm typing up my response to Peter, Steven comments. Again, it is too late now for me to interact with Steven's statements tonight, but I am particularly encouraged by his remarks on transformation and slavery, which persuade me that our positions are in fact closer at this point than I suggest below in response to Peter. So I will definitely want to revisit that point in particular.I should also note that I did not mean to drop the Christological thread altogether, as I don't think it's completely irrelevant, but, it seems that I did drop it by accident, and there may not be opportunity to pick it up again.So, to address Peter’s comments (again, in somewhat cursory fashion, hopefully to be built upon ere long). My first question pertains to this remark: “First, because by any account, the Scotistic/James Jordan view of things is merely at best a theologoumenon, and can be used to establish nothing in doctrine.” Can you explain what you mean by this more? If I understand you correctly, you are saying that it is an idle theological speculation that can’t meaningfully contribute to our understanding one way or another. But, on the other hand, it seems like it is a theological decision that makes an enormous difference in our present discussion, as your following comments about Jesus being a healthy man among sick men, not a mature man among immature men, seem to suggest. Now, on to that point:"There is an extra premise in Brad's exposition of natural law here which complicates this discussion. That extra premise is the thesis of "maturity". Of course Jesus is the second Adam; and the perfectly faithful Adam, what Adam was meant to be. But this is a *moral* , personal, covenantal to ti en einai. We have no data of either revelation or reason to suggest that Jesus is a "mature" Adam in some organic sense, which would make the first Adam out to be a germinal or larval phase of the "what it was aimed to be" of human being.Aristotle says you only know a thing by looking at its mature form. If you only saw acorns, you wouldn't conjecture an oak, if you only saw eggs, you wouldn't conjecture chickens. We know we are fallen. But are we exiled existentially, or stalled organically? The classical position is that we are exiled, and morally disabled; Adam was experientially immature, but not organically immature. What he lost was a degree of glory and establishment in the same: he didn't lose his chance to turn from a caterpillar into a butterfly. Adam knew what he lost; he lost his estate, not some future mutation whose outlines he couldn't know. If the heir of a great house committed a crime and lost his estates, we wouldn't say that he didn't know that house. He might well have known every single detail of it, which would make the pain greater.This is the Biblical story: exile from estate, not developmental arrest in a larval phase, from which arrest we are cured by the sudden appearance of an instance of the mature form. Another illustration: we are as sick men in hospital, and Jesus is the healthy man. Sickness and health are not immaturity and maturity. Adam when healthy was *already* the telos of creation; Jesus as second Adam was the healthy man."This is a good rebuttal, and I had acutually thought of the acorn/oak counterexample shortly after I posted. Although it may sound like special pleading, I think I would like to solve the difficulty this way. You know how creation scientists argue that God created the world with the “appearance of age”–just as Adam wasn’t created an infant, so nature had grown trees, formed canyons, weathered mountains, etc.? Well, I’d like to invoke something like that line of reasoning, though on the more metaphysical level we are discussing. No, I don’t want to say that nature and mankind were created in a “larval” form, to develop into something completely and unimaginably different. I want to say they were created with a certain measure of maturity, at adolescence, we might say. Adam had all the basic capacities that were intended for humanity, but not in their fully developed form. By looking at an embryo, you are right, we will know very little about what mankind is or what it’s intended for; but by looking at a 12-year-old, we can gain some idea. However, the ideas we will form will be inadequate and provisional, and will need to be dramatically revised when a full-grown man does arrive on the scene to give us an accurate vision. And that’s what Christ did. But even on your healthy man/sick man metaphor, I have questions. Setting aside for a moment what Adam may or may not have been like in the pre-fall state, let’s talk about the fallen world, and natural law as it operated there. Because you and Steven are quite adamant that natural law remained basically knowable by Greeks, Romans, Babylonians, etc., so much so that Christianity, when it came along, could just slip into the shoes of these existing civilizations and go merrily on its way with little discomfort. So let me adopt for a moment your healthy man/sick man distinction. Now, if for as long as you remembered, you’d suffered a sniffly, runny nose, and so had everyone around you, you would naturally assume that that’s simply what noses did–it might be inconvenient, like belly button lint, but it must be natural. How would you know it was a sickness, and how would you know what health was like? Or, since I just mentioned “slipping into shoes,” let me just quote J. Budziszewski on this point: “[the Fall] does not deprive us of our nature . . . but our nature is not in its intended condition.  For natural law, this is no insignificant consideration.  If we had never seen healthy feet, it might have taken us a long time to discover that broken feet were broken – to reason backwards from their characteristics even in their present broken condition, to the principles of their purpose and design, to the fact that their condition deviates from that design.  In the meantime we might have taken their broken condition as normative.  Even if we grasped that something was wrong with our feet, we might have understood what it was.  We might have thought that feet are bad by nature, or that they are good but corrupted by shoes.”It thus seems to me that, even if Adam was no less fully human than Christ (and I, like Minich, find it hard to maintain that in light of 1 Cor. 15), then fallen man cannot reliably understand what is “natural” without reference to Christ. So, explain why you think he can.—-"What the Law pointed to was fulfillment of known promise, not some substantially new information. Jesus fulfilled the promises of restoration, and by that restoration enabled us to live the spirit of the Law in freedom. He did not reveal new Law, he restored the life necessary to live that law.""Most eminently, the fact of justification by faith alone detotalizes the city, abolishes the scapegoating/sacrificial impulse, and establishes as a final development the principle of freedom of conscience. But it's important to note that the pagan philosophers often had a pretty clear picture of what human nature was- this got expressed in themes of the Golden Age, Stoic intuitions of original freedom and parity, and so on. What they saw lacking was the power to really live that vision out: and the hiatus between vision/anamnesis and present possibility was the principle of systematic compromise. What Christ brought was new life, restored life, not so much a new blueprint; as has been pointed out before, one can find most of what the Lord teaches ethically in other rabbis of the time, and much of what St Paul teaches ethically can be found in the Stoics. The difference, and it is an infinite difference, is that Christ, the redemptive work of God, brought in Himself the power to live as men ought to live."Heh, with your remarks about detotalizing the city, abolishing the sacrificial impulse, establishing freedom of conscience, it sounds (though it’s probably just a coincidence) like you’re just summarizing Leithart’s argument in the final chapter of Defending Constantine–if so, that’s a great ploy to try to win my agreement. 😉 There’s a lot that needs to be carefully discussed at this point, but for now just one question that may get to the heart of it. “The hiatus between vision/anamnesis and present possibility was the principle of systematic compromise,” you said. Ok, this seems important. What you seem to be saying is that pagan social and political ethics were predicated on the basis that the ideal human form of life was completely unreachable, and therefore norms were drawn at the compromise level of reality as they expected it to be. It’s as if the blueprint was known, but was deemed completely unworkable, and was scrapped in favor of a much more modest plan. Now, into this setting comes someone showing that the ideal is not quite so unreachable, someone who gives the power to his followers to attain much closer to it, and who creates a community that is called to live out something much closer to the ideal, who, in short, enables us to actually build according to the blueprint. Suddenly, new norms are imaginable, and the blueprint that was discarded as irrelevant becomes relevant. There is a great difference between Stoic sages that privately taught ethical ideals that were rarely embodied in social ethics, and Christ who created a community that was tasked to make those ideals its very lifeblood. Thus it seems to me that the “new Law” while composed primarily of information already known, was, by virtue of the new context created by Christ’s work, dramatically new in its ramifications.—-"But, contextually, these do not mean an eradication of gender, race, social status, but rather, an overcoming of discrimination or hostility based on these. In Christ, there is neither slave nor free in the sense that slave and free recognize themselves as equals before God and equals in the community of saints, and therefore treat one another as brothers, the slave serving willingly and the master seeking the welfare of the slave. This eschatological statement thus has real-world social-ethical consequences" , you are sounding very two-kingdoms! As I'm sure you already recognized when you wrote it. You're in agreement with us here, completely."No, I think you misunderstand me. Because, as I told Steven, this has dramatically disruptive effects for social structures built on subjection, intimidation, conquest, and competition. Yoder calls it “revolutionary subordination,” and that’s as good a term as any. Paul is not saying, “Slaves, obey your masters, because slave-master relations are irrelevant to the Gospel, being a matter of the temporal, not spiritual kingdom, so you’re every bit as much a slave as you ever were” (which is how I take you to be reading him). No, he’s saying, “Slaves, obey your masters, not because you have to, but out of joyful service to Christ, thus transforming your relationship to your master into a brotherly one, and in time, transcending it altogether.”—-"As for the rest, your account of Christian selection of the good and rejection of the bad accords almost entirely with our own account of things. I say almost, because there is still some waffling with "maturity" and "modification". Did the Christians have to significantly modify Roman engineering? or all Roman laws? Clearly not. There were many things which were fine as they were. What Christianity rejected was whatever was idolatrous, and whatever was immoral. There was in all-encompassing category of the "immature" which applied even to everything, nomatter how good it was already. But that aside, I think we're already very nearly in agreement here, and it will be good to work out the implications of that."Perhaps my account could benefit from a better distinction between nature, broadly considered, and human nature, particularly human social nature (which is that dimension of human nature in which our distinctive humanity chiefly lies). The reason that Roman engineering could be adapted without hesitation is that this concerns man’s relation to inanimate nature pure and simple. While I would want to maintain a sense in which all of nature comes to completion in Christ, and is maturing eschatologically, I think it is clear that, when it comes to the natural world, most of the changes are much less significant–it is more a matter of a changed relationship of the parts to the whole, than a change in the structure of the parts. So math, engineering, biology, etc.–while I think that a Christian perspective has a unique and often transformative insight to bring to these subjects–can be readily undertaken by pagans in a way that Christians can adopt wholesale. But, I’m not so sure about Roman law. And in fact, it is not true that Christians happily adopted Roman law. One of the things Leithart discusses in Defending Constantine is the many ways in which Constantine overhauled the Roman legal code in light of his new faith. Subsequent generations were to make much more dramatic changes. Christianity, for instance, considerably revised the understanding of property present in Roman law. And the same goes even with divinely-authorized Old Testament laws. When Christ came, he transformed our understanding of man, and called human community to maturity, to a fuller and richer way of living together. Thus, Christianity necessitated a rather more dramatic shift in the “humanities” and particularly in law and ethics, than in engineering, for instance.

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  33. Joseph Minich

    Fellas, Does natural law need to be epistemically accessible to be a valid category? That is to say, can we argue that the ethics of unbelievers are simply part of their structure…but have no reasonable place in their theoretical constructs (given their rejection of the Creator)? This is analogous to how crazy deluded persons spend most of their lives moving around in the world as though their delusions were not true. Why? Because they're hardwired that way. Similarly with unbelievers, does natural law need to be a "standard" that can be accessed by unaided reason, or can it just be a description of human structure as such? This would emphasize the ontological character over the epistemic accessibility of natural law. Right epistemic reflection of natural law (or natural anything) depends upon God's speech to us. Certainly natural revelation is a form of speech (Psalm 19)…but scripture (and Christ Himself) have a hermeneutical priority without having "more authority." Even Adam depended upon the speech of God to understand His task in the world. When sin distorts our consciousness and implies our rejection of the Creator, the natural "structure" does not change (including the ethical standards)…but distortions can occur. Our conscience can be too sensitive or not sensitive enough. While natural law still exists as structure, our epistemological access to it is fuzzy…even while we live it out in every day life. Again, the analogy to the insane person is helpful here and consonant with the biblical depiction of a sinful person. We require God's redemptive activity and revelation to uncloud the fog of our conscience and also to make us put on the spectacles of special revelation to rightly grasp natural revelation. Again, this does not mean we have no access to natural revelation…anymore than we lack access to the 3-D movie theater screen without the glasses. We might even be able to tell something of what is going on. But without the glasses…the picture is distorted.

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  34. Steven,I'm really confused by your recent post on "spiritual".I'm confused for two reasons. First, it seemed you were saying truly human language just works in the "spiritual" sense, not in the full sense–with spiritual being a relatively radical reduction of the full sense. But now you tell me that "spiritual" means the whole man, or the core of the man, or his most important part. I have trouble understanding what the sentence "truly human language works only if we restrict ourselves to the fundamental part of man." means. Indeed, the argument seems to run the exact opposite way. If the truly human argument applied to man spiritually, the argument should run: "Though superficially there is no difference between the Christian and the non-Christian; that similarity only penetrates to the tent of the flesh. Indeed, in his innermost being the Christian has been made after the image of Christ, not Adam. Spiritually, that is in his core, the non-Christian is not truly human."But second, reason and morality, precisely, are not fleshly aspects of man, but spiritual. So, so far as I can tell, it doesn't make sense, at all, to say that "truly human" language can be applied spiritually, but not to the realm of reason and morality. That's like saying medicine only affects us physically, but does not affect our bodies. The Spirit is the reasoning and moral part of man.

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  35. Peter,I was looking over an earlier post of your (in Brad's comments). You had said:

    Aristotle says you only know a thing by looking at its mature form. If you only saw acorns, you wouldn't conjecture an oak, if you only saw eggs, you wouldn't conjecture chickens. We know we are fallen. But are we exiled existentially, or stalled organically? The classical position is that we are exiled, and morally disabled; Adam was experientially immature, but not organically immature. What he lost was a degree of glory and establishment in the same: he didn't lose his chance to turn from a caterpillar into a butterfly. Adam knew what he lost; he lost his estate, not some future mutation whose outlines he couldn't know.

    Is not the classic Eastern position precisely that Adam was stalled organically–indeed is not one of the most persistent critiques the Orthodox raise against the Westerners that we claim Adam was exiled, rather than stalled.There is, however, some required precision that summary of the Eastern position glosses over. Adam did not have a larval essence. And he did lose his estate. And he fell to a significantly worse estate. But that estate which he lost was only supposed to be temporary. The estate itself was larval. The point of the Incarnation is to restore the originally planned estate, namely, union with the Divine Energies, and active enjoyment of the light around God–I believe that's Maximos terminology–to be accomplished, even had there been no fall, through the Incarnation.

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  36. I'm afraid I don't have time to read in depth what I'm sure is an excellent discussion above, but would instead like to raise a question that doesn't seem to have been discussed (from a quick word search) relating to this comment:natural law is, therefore, implanted in every creature at creation, as an instinct or understanding of its purpose which it freely wills to obey. What is included as a "creature"? Are you only referring to animals? Are plants or bacteria also creatures and if so do they have an instinct or understanding? Perhaps there would be a conception of instinct that may still apply in these cases. What about non-living creatures? Does a mountain or an ocean, a lithium atom or a black hole have an instinct or understanding?

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  37. So perhaps I should explain why I think the points on Maximos the Confessor are important.I believe he is relevant to the discussion–or rather relevant to Steven and Peter's answers–for the following reason:When Brad or I say that human nature is determined by the Incarnate Christ, and that the Garden was an intermediary state, we are saying something we learned from Leithart and Jordan, who in turn got it from Schmemann, who being an Easterner, is Maximian. Though we may use terms that are common in English, and thus usually symbolize Augustinian concepts, the concepts we are attempting to symbolize are in the Maximian tradition, and our motivations are coming out of the Maximian tradition, at however many removes.As such, it seems like merely a verbal disagreement and not anything like an internal critique to examine our words as if they symbolized Augustinian concepts. Thus Peter's argument that Adam did not have humanity in a larval form presupposes an Augustinian conception of humanity. But, at however many removes, we are, on this point coming from a Maximian understanding of humanity, and there are ample resources within this tradition to answer that criticism.Second, Maximos serves as a useful counter-example for many of the Thus Steven will say that "The Christological lens posits nature's unkowability apart from special revelation." Perhaps if we only admit an Augustinian understanding of humanity this is correct–I'm not qualified to judge. But it is clearly not true in general, as Maximos the Confessor has a highly developed theology which, in some sense, defines humanity Christologically, but definitely does not posit nature's unknowability apart from special revelation. Maximos the Confessor's theology provides a neat and easy counterexample to this claim.

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  38. Brad Littlejohn

    I see that Peter hasn’t jumped back in yet, which makes my task a bit easier to wrap up with a few brief comments before I head out of town. By all means continue the discussion while I’m gone, and I may well still be able to jump back in a bit. I hope to come back Monday to find my statements thoroughly deconstructed by Peter. And I’m going to have to find a way to goad Davey Henreckson to engage in this discussion properly. First, Michael: thanks for that summary. I think you are quite right to say that, while the Protestants picked up natural law concepts, they (because of their hostility to much of the scholastic tradition) lost a lot of the philosophical rigor and coherence in the way these concepts had been developed by Thomas, Bonaventure, Scotus, etc. Of course, on the other hand, I think that they opened up the pages of Scripture afresh to let the Spirit blow some of the dust and cobwebs out of the cupboards of scholasticism. Thankfully, there have been many in this century working to recover a clear conception of what the medievals were up to, such as Gilson and de Lubac (both of whom I have read), and more and more Protestants are being attentive to them. I try to read Catholics just as often as I read Protestants, but I certainly don’t yet feel like I have a satisfactory grasp of the intricacies of the medieval nature/grace discussions to triangulate my own views precisely with respect to them. Most of my understanding comes from de Lubac, with whom I am very much in sympathy, though I know his interpretations are certainly contested by some.Second, Matthew, you are probably on to something about the difference in Maximian and Augustinian paradigms going on here. I think of myself as in many ways Augustinian, but the Maximos-Schmemann-Leithart genealogy makes sense as an explanation of some of the Eastern tint in my thinking. Not to mention that I’ve read Schmemann a great deal myself, and am still very much influenced by Nevin, who came to be more Eastern than Western in his orientation at many points. So, I may well have a Maximian anthropology without knowing it. I will have to go study him to find out, I guess. As it is, I would have to say again that I’m not familiar enough with him to triangulate my position with respect to his. I believe you that it’s very relevant, but I don’t know enough to engage the points of relevance properly.Third, I would say about the Christology, as I have been meaning to say from much earlier on, that Steven seemed to miss the point somewhat when he said that the one person of the incarnate Christ does not prevent two wills, energies, etc. My concern is not (at least not directly) with the relationship of natures in the incarnate Christ, though surely that is relevant. By all orthodox accounts, the one “person” in the incarnate Jesus Christ is the pre-existent person of the Logos, the eternal Son. Now, given that (on my understanding at least), the Son’s work is not accidental to his person, but expressive of his person, it seems to me to posit a rift in the Logos to suppose two fundamentally discontinuous works–the Logos creates and sustains creation in his pre-incarnate state, and is the guarantor of nature, and then in his incarnate state, he does something fundamentally different, which we call grace. In this latter role, he is “Christ,” but he is not “Christ” in his continuing role as sustainer of nature. This seems theologically risky to me, though perhaps the problem is only with the sharp rift VanDrunen puts between these two roles, so that neither can infringe upon the other. You said that you’re still something of a “transformationist” so perhaps the two works of the Logos are in much closer continuity for you–the latter as the bringing to completion of the former. But you and Peter have sounded like you want to say that the first work of the Logos is complete in itself, and the second work represents an altogether different office. Of course, you will probably respond that this is a fairly classical understanding; to which I can only respond that I think Barth’s (and Nevin’s, for that matter) challenge to the classical understanding at this point is very compelling.Fourth, Joseph: yes, I think this is a good point. I have never understood why accepting that there is such a thing as nature, teleology, natural law and all that–which I happily do as a realist over against nominalism–entails the knowability of that law for fallen man. Of course, I happily grant a great degree of knowability, but I don’t see the rationale for granting as much as Steven and Peter seem to want to. One thing to add to your account: you said, “While natural law still exists as structure, our epistemological access to it is fuzzy.” In my initial description, I implied that there was a structural deficiency after the Fall as well that comes into play. What I mean by that is this: in an unfallen world, not only would the integrity of man’s reason enable him to rightly know the world, but he would be able to look out at the world and the relationships between various creatures, and say, “Ah, this is what’s natural.” After the fall, not only is our reason distorted by our divorce from God and our fallen desires, but when we look at the world around us, we look at a world in which the harmonious relationships between the various parts, and between the whole and God, have been disrupted to a considerable extent. Thus, even if we had the full integrity of our reasons, we would be looking at distorted data, and thus would not be able to always rightly discern the “natural”–this is the “broken foot” analogy I used above.Fifth, Byron, good question. I suppose the simplest thing to do would be to remove the notion of consciousness from my description–all creatures follow the natural law by virtue of their implanted teleology, but some (animals to some extent, humans more fully) do so consciously, others do not. I like, though, to use consciousness as the paradigm for the unconscious teleology, rather than vice versa. E.g., Aristotle can speak of the rock “desiring to reach its proper place of rest”–the ground. We moderns laugh–of course the rock desires no such thing. But I’d rather use personalism as our paradigm for creation (recognizing it is often only metaphorical) rather than impersonalism.Steven, I have to run out the door right now, but I’ll get to your remarks a bit later–my wife says there’s internet on the bus.

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  39. Michael Hickman

    Brad,With regard to point five above, perhaps a helpful note of precision: in my understanding, neither inanimate creatures nor non-rational (i.e. non-human) animals participate in the natural law. For example, St. Thomas defines the natural law is the “rational creature’s participation of the eternal law.” Now irrational creatures do participate in the eternal law by way of “similitude,” as they are providentially obedient to their Creator, the Divine Reason. However, the natural law is a "measure” taken by the practical intellect of man for purposes of right action. The key is that true law requires reason (it is a “dictate of reason”). This would seem to rule out both unconscious and non-rational "conscious" creatures from participation inthe natural law. I When it comes to non-human natural life, I find it is helpful to speak, as did the Holy Father John Paul II, of a “biological order” rather than a natural law. Michael

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  40. Joseph Minich

    Brad, I appreciate your addendum to my statement. I think you are right. To say THAT natural law is imminent in a structure is not to say that the structure itself is not distorted (and consequently our ability to glean accurately from it). I think of how many evolutionary ethicists (sp?) look at the violence inherent in the animal kingdom and glean that this is the "natural order of things" or Freud drawing lessons about basic human nature from the variety of current sexual drives, etc. Not that there is no insight in each of these cases…but it is not a complete picture. That said, when I refer to "structure," I was thinking primarily of "built-in" conscience…not necessarily a thing imminent within created structure generally. Truth be told, I'm not sure what that means. Ethical good is personal…and so I can only imagine it at the intersection of things and AGENTS. With respect to order in the creation and right and wrong with respect to it, I think we'd still want to say that what makes creation what it is and right and wrong what they are is not affected by the fall (even if the context and outward form changes). The fall is an addition into the created order, and its distortion is an "adding-on-top-of" the thing of creation. Whatever distortions it makes are either by its addition to what is essential or its negation of the accidents of creation. Actually, though, these are the same thing. Sin is parasitic and can only exist by taking the accidents of creation and distorting them in relation to the essentials. It virtually cannot get rid of the ethics which are a part of the order because it depends on them. This clouds the picture…and especially our ability to see it…but it leaves the thing as such untouched. In relation to the larger conversation, however, I'd want to emphasize that this distortion does not make natural law useless (you haven't implied this). But I want to again underscore that I am only questioning whether it is best to speak of natural law as clearly accessible by reason or approximately accessible by conscience. Paul's statement in Romans 2 about the relationship between conscience and the law seems to imply the latter. Yet Paul still thinks that possessing the revealed law is an advantage and it brings upon a stricter judgment. Things are "clearer" with it. And finally, I think we need to factor in the fact that Adam needed special revelation before the Fall. Man has always been "spoken to." The mediate testimony of nature and the conscience has always been a supplement but not a replacement for the immediate communication of special revelation. Or said better (and scratching my real itches)…the one does not have a primacy over the other. A Reformed natural theology (or theory of natural law) will not start without special revelation and get to it eventually…but always keep both together. This doesn't mean that rejection of special revelation makes natural revelation inaccessible…but it cannot but distort our relationship to it (in what way and how much is another question). Furthermore, it seems to me that this factors in some of the Christological concerns above. Jesus is "the Word" and principle and pattern of creation. Special revelation has a unique relation to Him and without it man is not able to be what He is destined to be. Specifically, natural revelation does not reveal the "eschaton" to Adam…but the special revelation of his task does. The pattern implicit in the spoken word is ultimately realized in eschatological union with the living Word. Marriage was a picture of that union even before the fall.

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  41. Peter Escalante

    Brad,There are many points here to address now, so I will deal with only the most pertinent, and only in outline. Rather than deal with them all in one post, I'll pace them. 1. "Maturity" and "health". There's a lot of hand-waving going on here, which I'd deal with specifically in a moment. The basic point is this: you need to be clear about what "partial" means when you say "partially knowable", and you need to specify the degree of maturity. Otherwise there is no way to know what you're talking about, and these unspecified qualifiers serve simply as a way to avoid dealing with the question.Our point is that the natural law and divine order is knowable after the Fall, to a degree a) sufficient for natural knowledge of God (viz, that there is One cause of all, our origin, and for Whom we are), a) sufficient for civic order/civic righteousness. What is not given in postlapsarian nature, even with common grace, is power of pleasing God or loving neighbor as we ought. We are not able to not sin, and thus must be justified by God. by grace alone.The problem all along with the other views presented here is that first, as mentioned, it is difficult to know even what is being said, and second, it appears that the natural law might be something other than what we know. If original creation (even its telos, ex hypothesi) is *that* different, and only the regenerate know it, how would you counter, say, claims that the evangelical law demands community of wives? You run into Kierkegaard's problem, when he was challenged to distinguish himself epistemologically from the "prophet" Adler. Gnosticism is the idea that truth is generally unavailable, that knowledge of the way things are is dependent upon special revelation, because things are in "reality" quite other than they appear. And this is our basic question here; how is your view different from this? and no adverbs, please; no "partly", "not entirely", and so on.. Now, onto the supposed Christological support for this sort of gnosticism.First, the doctrine of Christ is what is found in the Word of God, which Word has been reliably interpreted in ancient councils, whose simple definitions were meant more to guard than to develop speculative systems. What the Word teaches is that Jesus Christ came to save man from sin, and to restore man to God. My earlier point about Scotistic theologoumena is simply that you can't use theologoumena to decide a question; it might be legtimate pious opinion, but it's still just pious opinion. What is solid is the Word, the basic doctrine.The doctrines of Maximos are those of a private theologian, whose exegesis veers far from the grammatical-historic method which alone is the responsible method. If someone really wants to say that our bodies in their present three-dimensional form are "garments of skin" given after the Fall, and you really want to say that even deeper aspects of human constitution were granted in prevision of the Fall, and further, that justification is separation from the world of sense and passion altogether, effected in part by our own autopurgative strivings. and that Christ took on not simply the guilt of sin, but took on sin itself precisely by allowing Himself to be born in the manner following from sin, that is, bodily, then I wish that person well, but it would be very hard to have a conversation with him, for there wouldn't be enough first principles in common at that point. I think Maximos' (or Nyssa's for that matter) Alice in Wonderland cosmos is one of the more entertaining literary productions of late antiquity, but the only people taking it seriously whom I can myself take seriously are Athonite ascetics, who actually do take it seriously- and therefore aim for "the bodiless life in the body".Maximos is no touchstone. Neither, finally, is Augustine; but Augustine has much less fantasy, and much more warrantable exegesis.What this gets down to is the need for a clear account of whatyou think is and isn't knowable. All this "knowable only through a Christological lens" sounds very pious, except that its meaning is almost entirely unclear; "only" has already been (unclearly) qualified, because it turns out that the natural law is partially knowable, though what part hasn't been stated; and the question is still being begged of what Christ is. We say he is the redemption and restoration of man, whose telos is worship and dominion. You seem to want to say that redemption is the telos of man, which then makes creation equal to sin. Or rather, the *real* creation hadn't happened yet when man fell, but got a chance to finally happen in the work of Christ. This is the heart of the question.But you asked me to explain how man can know the natural law without reference to Christ, and so I will. The answer is simple. First, man's nature was complete in outline in Eden, and after the Fall, enough of man's nature remains that he can discern the shape of its actuality, which is not to say that he can fully attain it. This knowledge available by nature is a knowledge of the Logos, since man is the image of that Image, and the Logos is the pattern of the whole world. But knowledge of the Logos in this respect, is not the same as knowledge of the mystery of Redemption, which is the divine response to the Fall. This is not to make two persons of the one Word, but rather to call attention to obvious distinctions. Paul says that the Gentiles knew the natural law, but were ignorant of the mysteries of salvation. This is still the case, where men haven't heard the Gospel truly presented. Once Christ is known, the natural law is most definitely known through Him, because this man is then known as the Word of Creation, and in Him all things cohere. But the natural law doesn't thereby become something other than it was before one recognized Christ, the particular Son of David who saved us from sin.peacePA note on Schmemann: people often mistakenly take him as quintessentially representative of some "Eastern" tradition. In fact, like most educated Russians of his time, the piety he drew on derived a great deal from Lutheran and Jesuit pietism (long before Schmemann, Tikhon was a devoted reader of Arndt and Hall), his thought was heavily influenced by West European philosophy, and above all his account of liturgical development is quite Protestant, and could have come right out of Sohm. Its Protestantism was correctly assessed by Protopresbyter Pomazansky.

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  42. Peter,I was wondering if you could help me understand something about the relation between general and special revelation. Related to this comment:"If original creation (even its telos, ex hypothesi) is *that* different, and only the regenerate know it, how would you counter, say, claims that the evangelical law demands community of wives? "I can think of at least two examples where the problem runs the other direction: i.e., where people allege that scripture contradicts what natural law appears to say. 1) Gay rights activists use what are functionally natural law arguments for the permissibility of the homosexual lifestyle (i.e. they derive pleasure from the actions and they don't see any harm in it); 2) critics of scripture have from time immemorial pointed to the Canaanite conquest, especially (in the modern era) the infanticide involved in it, as a violation fo teh natural law against murder (and one would think that for a pro-life person this argument would be even more potent).I guess my question is along the lines of: while your example is a good one where we would want to say natural law could correct an immorality putatively based on special revelation, are there not also situations where special revelation could correct false perceptions of natural law? And if so, I think perhaps the views of some people in this thread might fit in with that idea.Thoughts? am I crazy?Blessings,Andrew

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  43. Brad Littlejohn

    Hey gents,So it turns out there wasn't internet on the bus…and as I'm using my friends' computer now, and it's very late, I will not, in fact, be able to post any remarks to Steven today. Which suits fine, since Peter posted and I can reply to him at the same time, though that may be awhile. Briefly I would say to Peter that his post appeared to basically say, "There's nothing I can reply to, because you haven't made any specific or clear claims." On the contrary, I think that in my last substantial reply to you, I tried to be fairly concrete, and offered several specific claims or suggestions that I would appreciate your engaging with.

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  44. Peter Escalante

    Andrew,This first example you give is not any kind of natural law argument, since the criterion of the good is not pleasure. That is simply an argument from passions, and even pagan contemplators of natural law rejected that kind of argument. So there is no ersatz or deceptively apparent natural law in play in the appeal to pleasure, there is merely a notion of nature very different from what natural law presupposes.On the second point: the supposition of the Scripture is that God is the giver of life, and that it is not murder for him to take it. The question of the Biblical herem is a very difficult one, but as the story is told in the Bible, there is no violation of natural law on the Israelite side; it is rather the Canaanites who had violated natural law to a very great degree; and the author of nature chose, according to the books, to use an artificial means- invasion- rather than a natural catastrophe to restore the order of things. Again, a difficult matter to be sure, but no surprises. The case of Abraham and the binding of Isaac is a much more striking example of a possible contradiction; but even here, since the question was one of Abraham's faith in the giver of life to be able to keep His promise to make Abraham a father of nations through the child of promise, there is no suspension of everything we know to be ethical here either.peaceP

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  45. Peter Escalante

    Brad,I did say I would be pacing the reply, so as not to write one giant post. Although what I write above does apply at the level of principle- that is, I need to see clearer definitions and parameters- you have indeed given a number of concrete examples, which I'll be replying to later tonight. peaceP

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  46. Peter,If it is a theologumenon that Christ would have been Incarnate even without the fall, it is likewise a theologumenon that Christ would not have been incarnate given the fall. If Maximos position that from the beginning human nature was predestined to reach its telos in the Incarnation, then the contrary that from the beginning man was realized, and Christ merely restores that state is likewise a theologumenon. And you cannot use it to argue against a particular theory of natural law. Which is precisely what you have done, and is precisely why Maximos is relevant. Maximos need not come up. However, if you presuppose an Augustinian, or perhaps it's Protestant, or Calvinist, understanding of human nature and the Incarnation, and then use that presupposed position to argue against certain understandings of Natural Law, Maximos becomes relevant. He becoms relevant precisely because you have presupposed that his anthropology and Christology are false. You arguments are simply "no, that isn't the typical Western view." Which, though true enough, is not relevant. That Maximos provides a framework in which such an understanding makes sense, at least partially, proves that they are within the pale of tradition.Regarding Schmemann: You are correct that if I were to attempt to take him as a paradigmatic Easterner, I would misunderstand both him, and the East. However, that was not my claim. My claim is that he is Orthodox, and as such is, at least partially, in the Maximian tradition. This is true. He may be something of a synthesis of East and West, but that would not affect my claim. Unless you want to argue that he is not, as all Russia is, between East and West, your point, though true, does not affect my point. But surely he is at least as influenced by, if nothing else, the Liturgy, as by the Westerners he read.

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  47. Mike Farley

    I have returned very late to this discussion. Peter, you wrote: "You seem to want to say that redemption is the telos of man, which then makes creation equal to sin."Hardly. The implicit assumption is that the resurrection of Jesus is only redemptive and not also the glorification of the original creation. Which begs the question re: the completeness of the original creation.I agree with you and Steven that people are fully human and can know a great deal about what being human entails morally/ethically apart from special revelation. I think there is some equivocation going on about the kind of knowledge that the incarnation and resurrection impart about the creation and the nature of man. It might well be true that people without special revelation have the capacity to know in some intuitive or abstract way what a fully mature human life is like (in the moral and spiritual sense of "mature"), but it is another kind of knowledge altogether to encounter the One who has and continues to live such a life in the body in real history. By analogy, one can "know" a sculpture by looking at pictures of it in a book, but one has a new kind of personal, embodied knowledge of the thing by seeing the real scripture in person and being able to touch it and interact with it in a fuller way. One would be able to recognize that the sculpture is the same one in the pictures because one already had a knowledge of it before. But who could dispute that there is a kind of personal, embodied knowledge that one would acquire by really encountering the real three-dimensional thing in person?Likewise, to encounter the living Christ–either in the body as the disciples did or in the more indirect way that we must do so through Scripture and the Spirit of Christ given to us by Christ through the church–is to encounter the fully (morally and spiritually) mature human being in a more direct, focused manner. One can recognize Jesus as the telos of creation only if one already has a kind of knowledge of what is it to be human, i.e., what the formal and final causes of human beings are (perhaps most of which could be tacit, unformulated, and incomplete at a theoretical level). However, the incarnation and resurrection make explicit what previously was only tacit. Thus, true humanness (in the moral and spiritual sense) is realized in history and made more clearly knowable by the person of Jesus. Indeed, because Jesus is the only human being in history who has ever attained full moral and spiritual maturity and the only human being who has entered the state of glorification that is the destiny of the whole creation, the knowledge we attain about our own humanity by knowing about Christ and by knowing Christ in direct relationship surely enhances what can be known via natural law in a fallen world. I think this is why so many people are converted by reading narratives about Jesus in the gospels and hearing the person of Christ preached. There is an often an "Aha" experience of recognizing that this particular man has realized the way human beings should live in a way unlike any other. That "Aha" moment of synthesis is grounded in what we already know (in some combination of tacit and explicit knowledge), but the synthesis of the particulars in the person of Christ makes those tacit particulars come into focal awareness and understanding in a new way.Blessings,Mike

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