Leithart Comes out Swinging for Natural Law

In an invigorating new post at First Things On the Square, Peter Leithart argues, as one might expect him to, for the importance of Christians being willing to say “Jesus is Lord” and use the Bible in the public square, against any theories of secular natural law that imply the possibility of common, atheological norms for political life.  

But, in what is at the very least a significant shift from his usual emphasis, Leithart grants the basic validity and importance of natural law as a key pillar of theological ethics and Christian public life: 

Natural law theory has many uses. Using its categories, we explore the contours of creation to uncover the pathways the Creator has laid out for us. Natural law reasoning can demonstrate the “fit” between creation and revelation. The fact that women, not men, bear babies is ethically significant, as is the fact that human beings talk but animals don’t. Natural law is rhetorically useful for advancing arguments and purposes that would be rejected out of hand if stated in overtly religious terms.”

The problem comes only when we pretend that we could give meaningful content and force to this natural law without any recourse to revelation, or that we can wave the banner of natural law without waving the banner of King Jesus.  

Though the post is quite short and offers only the merest hints about what this relationship looks like for Christian theory and practice, perhaps it is not too much to see here a good dose of Hooker, for whom “nature hath need of grace and grace hath use of nature.”

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