God's law on man's heart

I’ve always heard it said in the church, that without sin God’s laws are written on man’s heart. So he would know good. Well…I’m confused, what happened to the 1st adam? Didn’t he have God’s laws written on the heart?

The original sin did not efface the law written on our hearts, but it did darken the intellect, and actual sin darkens it further (see Rom. 1:18-25), not to mention the weakening of the will.

That said, Adam had definite advantages, such as the preternatural gifts of knowledge, integrity, and immortality. Integrity meant, for one thing, his passions did not dominate his intellect and will, but were in perfect order. His intellect was brilliant and clear, and his will upright.

So why did he fall? Same question could be asked of the devil, whose angelic intellect was far superior to that of Adam, and who fell purely through his own pride, rather than at the suggestion of another.

Clearly, merely knowing right from wrong is not enough. The will is involved, too. How could a superior being with a clear intellect and upright will fall? I don’t know, other than it having to do with moral freedom and the worth of love chosen.

I’ve never heard it said that without sin God’s laws are written on man’s heart and to tell you the truth I believe it is misquoted because it really does not make sense to me.

When Adam was in the Garden of Eden there was no “law” yet given by God. As understood to be the Old Covenant law or the 10 commandments given to Moses.

Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden and enjoyed His presence and the only rule was that they were not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

So you’re correct in the sense that till they ate, they knew only good. But man fell and the rest is history.

I believe you must be talking about the difference between the Mosaic Covenant when God gave man the 10 commandments written on STONE.

In the New Covenant, where Jesus is the King over the entire world, not just the area where Abraham was the father of a nation, Canaan or Israel, that the law is written on our heart.

Jeremiah 31:31-34

"The time is coming declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel…it will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt…I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts, I will be their God, and they will be my people."

I think you might be referring to this.

Adam, just like the freed slaves from Egypt, and just like ourselves, was unable to keep the law (not written on the heart) because he was tempted to be like God and ate of the tree and knew evil and thus died spiritually and then physically.

With Jesus the law is written on our hearts so our love for Him makes it easier to keep God’s laws and not fall into temptation and sin.

Not sure this is what you want to know - hope so!

God bless you

The first Adam mistrusted God, for whatever reason, presumably because he lacked the wisdom to do otherwise. And presumably, again, he’s gained the wisdom-and the love which would accompany it- since then to turn back to God. The law had been written on his heart, the first of which was simply to love and obey God, a law which he broke. As frangiuliano said, it’s a matter of the will. Later God would give the law to Moses to inform our weakened and hardened consciences. As Augustine put it, “God wrote on tables of the Law what man failed to read in his heart”.

So the sacrament of Pennance will eliminate in time this darked will and intellect?

Habitually living in a state of Grace will diminish our propensity to sin, and may lead to a state the Church calls spiritual perfection, which is the complete aversion to all sin, both mortal and venial. The Church teaches that we may attain this state while here on earth.

Am I the only one who caught this?

It doesn’t get talked about very much these days, but it is a doctrine of the Church that Adam would not have died had he not sinned.

The heresy of Pelagianism taught (among other things) that Adam would have died even if he had not sinned. This idea was contradicted by a Pope (forget which one) and later, with somewhat more authority, by the Ecumenical Council of Carthage in 418:

Canon 1 If any man says that Adam, the first man, was created mortal, so that whether he sinned or not he would have died, not as the wages of sin, but through the necessity of nature, let him be anathema.

It’s only a Canon, so it’s not dogmatic (and, therefore, not infallible / irreformable), but it is doctrinal.

Oh man, I totally misread that. I missed the “t”. LOL Now don’t I feel stupid.

There was nothing to catch.

All mainline christian churches, Catholic and Protestant, believe that Adam and Eve were created to be immortal.

With their sin, death entered into the world. Both spiritual and physical death.

God told them not to eat of the tree or they would surely die.

But they ate of it and did not die. Right away. They died spiritually first - were separated from God - THEN they also died physically.

They also broke their relationship with nature, and each other.

God bless you
P.S. The serpent told the woman You will not die. Satan is a liar and a deceiver.

OOps, Mr. Snaith.

That T was VERY important!

I though YOU should know better!!

Well, explanations could always help someone…

God bless

I don’t know about eliminate, but it certainly helps over time, along with the Mass, the Holy Eucharist, prayer, and the practice of virtue. How much it helps will depend largely on our openness to God and our perseverance.

Well what can I say. I’m pretty tired right now… I’ve been wading through stacks of paperwork for the past week. Finally got on top of it today. Well, serves me right for being cheeky.

I think the “T” that MrSnaith missed was the one in the word “immortal.” Without that “T” it looks like Ad Orientem said that immorality is an advantageous natural gift. Which, of course, would be downright silly (and Ad Orientem isn’t known for saying silly things).

So that implies that the law was NOT written on Adam’s heart, which would answer the OP’s question. The law was not written on man’s heart until the New Covenant.

According to the Catholic Church, the Law is already written on the heart of every man:
**1954 Man participates in the wisdom and goodness of the Creator who gives him mastery over his acts and the ability to govern himself with a view to the true and the good. The natural law expresses the original moral sense which enables man to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth and the lie:

The natural law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man, because it is human reason ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to sin . . . But this command of human reason would not have the force of law if it were not the voice and interpreter of a higher reason to which our spirit and our freedom must be submitted.5

1955 The “divine and natural” law shows man the way to follow so as to practice the good and attain his end. The natural law states the first and essential precepts which govern the moral life. It hinges upon the desire for God and submission to him, who is the source and judge of all that is good, as well as upon the sense that the other is one’s equal. Its principal precepts are expressed in the Decalogue. This law is called “natural,” not in reference to the nature of irrational beings, but because reason which decrees it properly belongs to human nature:

Where then are these rules written, if not in the book of that light we call the truth? In it is written every just law; from it the law passes into the heart of the man who does justice, not that it migrates into it, but that it places its imprint on it, like a seal on a ring that passes onto wax, without leaving the ring.7 The natural law is nothing other than the light of understanding placed in us by God; through it we know what we must do and what we must avoid. God has given this light or law at the creation.8

1956 The natural law, present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men. It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties:

For there is a true law: right reason. It is in conformity with nature, is diffused among all men, and is immutable and eternal; its orders summon to duty; its prohibitions turn away from offense . . . . To replace it with a contrary law is a sacrilege; failure to apply even one of its provisions is forbidden; no one can abrogate it entirely.9
But man, beginning with Adam, didn’t always heed that inner law, that voice of God within:
**1962 The Old Law is the first stage of revealed Law. Its moral prescriptions are summed up in the Ten Commandments. The precepts of the Decalogue lay the foundations for the vocation of man fashioned in the image of God; they prohibit what is contrary to the love of God and neighbor and prescribe what is essential to it. The Decalogue is a light offered to the conscience of every man to make God’s call and ways known to him and to protect him against evil:

God wrote on the tables of the Law what men did not read in their hearts.13
The new covenant doesn’t abolish the old; it just perfects it:
1965 The New Law or the Law of the Gospel is the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural and revealed. It is the work of Christ and is expressed particularly in the Sermon on the Mount. It is also the work of the Holy Spirit and through him it becomes the interior law of charity: "I will establish a New Covenant with the house of Israel. . . . I will put my laws into their hands, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."19

Romans 2:14-15 confirms this:
"(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)"

Sorry, had to erase some of your post.

I believe we are not in disagreement. You even quote from Romans, my favorite letter.

How about: “That which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them, For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understook through what has been made.” Romans 1:19-20

Natural law always existed and is included in God’s law. God’s law is stricter, of course. Jesus said that if you hate your brother, you have already killed him - in our heart.

However, some distinction must be made between the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant. Otherwise why would there have to be a new one?

The law of Moses, the 10 commandments or decalogue (10) was written on STONE. The freed slaves, Israelites, declared to Moses that they would keep the commandments. But they could not.

Let’s remember too, that the 10 commandments were also given to show man what sin is. It always existed but was not known to them having been in captivity for about 400 years (well, not really but it would get too long).

The New Covenant allows God’s laws to be written on the heart. Thus we are more able to keep them. I say more able because of concupiscense.

The only covenant in existance back at Adam and Eve’s time were the Edenic Covenant and the Adamic Covenant so, of course the New didn’t exist yet.

Now we could go back and forth with the wording of the CCC but keeping it simple you’d have to agree that a big difference does exist between the Old and New Covenants and that the heart condition would have to be that big difference.

Of course Jesus fulfilled the law. Absolutely the civil law, since that disappeared with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. But also the moral law - but that’s a long topic for a different day. I do not mean to say that the moral law is abolished, the 10 commandments still stand.

However, am I wrong? I can’t remember natural law too well, don’t even atheists believe in the natural law?

So keeping it simple: The Old Covenant - written on stone - difficult to keep law.
The New Covenant - written on heart - easier to keep law.

God bless you

For sure there are distinctions between the Natural, Edenic and Mosaic Laws. And also Canon Law. And, roughly speaking, these laws correspond with the various Covenants God has made with man. And it’s also true that man has been at odds with these laws virtually from the beginning of his creation.

We can also see that there are varying levels of the law. All law governs how we behave. All law does. Even physical and scientific laws. The nature of a law is that it is a rule of behaviour laid down by a competent and legitimate authority. This is why God’s law is the highest, because He is the highest and most competent authority.

All law, moreover, must agree with all higher laws, otherwise such lower laws are pretending to have greater authority than they actually do. Such pretension leads to the violation of true law, which is God’s law, and therefore sin.

You will notice there are different degrees of oversight that these various laws have over human behaviour. I believe the level of progressive oversight looks something like this, ranging from the least oversight to the most:

  1. Edenic Law
  2. Natural Law
  3. Canon Law
  4. Mosaic Law

Edenic Law was simple; there was only one command: do not partake of the knowledge of good and evil. I generally take that to mean, “Do not sin.” But how could they sin, if there were no other stated laws? The answer should be manifestly simple: God’s law was already written on their hearts. Adam and Eve had friendship with God. They had no inclination to sin. They were simply inclined to goodness, to obedience. They didn’t need to be told “don’t do this, or do that.” They did not sin because they didn’t want to, and they did good because they wanted to, not because they had to be told.

After they sinned, however, their natures were damaged. They became inclined to sin. And with each passing generation, they became more deeply wicked. This is why the Mosaic law was given. It governed every aspect of their lives. It was especially concerned with cleansing laws, and how to make one acceptable before God.

But, the heart of man was still inclined to sin. The Mosaic Law was intended to reform man, but the result was only an outward reformation, a reformation of behaviour, but not of the heart.

When Jesus came, He exposed this hypocrisy. He lived a righteous live according to the Mosaic Law, but not because He HAD to, but because He WANTED to. And in this, He was alike to the first Adam in his original creation.

In the Canon Law of the New Covenant, cleansing laws have been done away with, as we have received the Sacraments to accomplish this, and no longer by our own power, but by allowing God to cleanse us. We still have laws to govern our behaviour, but they are broader, less specific. They are more like principles to live by, whereby we have the ability to judge for ourselves how to act under various circumstances. It does contain specific laws, to be sure, but these are far and away fewer than those of the Mosaic Law.

We also have access to Sanctifying Grace in the New Covenant. This is due to Christ’s own sacrifice. And with that Sanctifying Grace, we are made more like Jesus, less concupiscencial and desiring more and more to please God from our hearts. We, once again, have friendship with God.

It is not like Eden, though. We still suffer the effects of concupiscence. So we still need Canon Law. But the transformation that the Holy Spirit renders in us makes us less and less in need of that Law. Canon Law is designed to draw us out of concupiscence, rather than just kind of dealing with it, as it is.

Simply stated, the law of God that is written on the heart of man is that same law that was given to Adam in the Garden: “do not partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Do not sin. Do not harm our relationship. Live in harmony with Him who created you. Live in harmony with each other. Live in harmony with creation. This is what I created you for. This is our conscience. This is the simple law that governs all laws that have come after it.

Love God with your whole being. Love each other as yourself.

Adam and Eve simply broke this law, even though it was written on their hearts.

Well, yes, the Old Covenant teaches us that, while the Law is holy, spiritual ,and good, and man is obligated to obey it, man cannot obey it. And the New Covenant reveals the reason and provides the answer. Man can’t obey the Law because he is not spiritual in a sense; man is made for communion with God, from Whom he’s been separated since the fall…and, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Jesus came to reconcile man with God, to atone, bringing about “at-one-ment”, so that God may truly become our God again (Jer 31:34), and so then He may do a work in us (Jer 31:33.

IOW, man doesn’t need to prove his righteousness or holiness first of all in order to have communion with God, rather *man must have communion with God first of all in order to be righteous/holy. *So we approach God with faith, in response to grace, in response to His calling, and we become forgiven and cleansed in the waters of Baptism. Made new, grace restored- communion with God restored- so that He may dwell within as was always intended-as is the right and just order of things. He is the source of our holiness, not ourselves. Once the inside is cleansed the outside will be clean as well.

At the very beginning of human nature, God gave Adam the particular law which would keep Adam in the original friendship relationship between humanity and Divinity. Humanity, because the "whole human race is in Adam ‘as one body of one man.’ " (*CCC *404) In addition, at the very beginning of life in the Garden, Adam was “subject to the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom.” (CCC 396) Consequently, Adam, from square one, understood the possibility of personal sins in addition to Original Sin by the original human.

Information source. CCC 404;*CCC *396; CCC 356; *CCC *1730-1732; *CCC *390; *CCC *360; Note: read CCC 20-21 for the explanation of small print. Genesis 1: 26-27 is the Divine Revelation that human nature is immediately both spiritual and material. Spiritual as in a rational thinking soul and material as in a decomposing anatomy.

When one looks very carefully at Catholic teachings, one discovers that both Adam and Eve’s human nature has a conscience aka God’s laws written on the heart. The heart in biblical language can signify many wonderful concepts.

Links to the universal Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition


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