Could somebody explain to me in detail (or link me to somewhere that it is) what exactly Gods Natural Law is? Its something I’ve seen used a lot in arguments, but still something I can’t quite understand. Where does it come from (obviously God ultimatly)? And is it a strict set of laws? Does it have a biblical base?
The natural law is the rule of conduct which is prescribed to us by the Creator in the constitution of the nature with which He has endowed us. It existed before the Bible because human nature existed before the Bible (in fact, it has existed as long as there have been rational natures, which is forever if you count God. I would stick with humans, however). However, it does not contradict the Bible in any way. The ethical rules of the Bible typically reinforce the rules of natural law by spelling them out, because human reason can be weak at times and imperfect. A good example from the Bible would be “Thou shalt not murder.”
Some natural laws are “strict,” in the sense of being primary and binding on everyone. Others are more derivative and may take various applications; for example, fulfilling the responsibility to educate one’s children would mean different things to me and to an Amazonian native deep in the rain forest. But the responsibility to take care of and educate one’s children is still the same.
Natural law also gets contested at times when it gets put into criminal law. Not everything that is ethically immoral necessarily should be criminalized. However, it is still immoral and should be recognized as such (some sexual choices, for instance, are immoral but not criminal). And sometimes it should be criminal (the sexual choice to rape or molest children, for instance).
Natural law argues that these moral rules objectively apply to everyone because they are based on human nature, not on local societal customs. These rules are also not derived from revealed religion, but rather from the rational examination of our human constitution.
For a longer response, go to newadvent.org/cathen and look up “Natural Law.”
Thanks for your responce. Is there any way of veiwing this constitution? Or is it more of an assumed thing?
There’s a good introductory book on it by Charles E. Rice: 50 Questions on the Natural Law. (Amazon, Barnes & Noble)
You might also look at a book written for teens by him (I think) and his daughter: Where DId I Come from? Where Am I Going? How do I Get There?
If you look on the EWTN web site, you can listen to Rice’s series on the Natural Law called, “The Good Code.”
You’ll love Freddy and his crankcase!
Only if you have a heart and soul viewer. It a basic element of who we are as persons. It is the source of feels that something isn’t right when we’ve done, or are about to do, something wrong.
Some aspects of it are more apparent than others. Not to be crude, but for example, the basic rules of physical intimacy and reproduction seem to be spelled out by our physical constitution. The fact that humans naturally desire knowledge (“All humans by nature desire to know,” as Aristotle puts it) is another part of our constitution. So we know that education and gaining knowledge is a natural good to which our constitution inclines us. And so on and so forth. The other posts refer you to other areas of study. Best regards, cpayne
The first few chapters of C.S. Lewis’ *Mere Christianity *is an excellent read on the subject. Really delves into the subject.
Ditto’s on the book and The Good Code.
I had a question on the book and actually tracked down Dr. Rice at a Notre Dame email address. He graciously responded to my question, though I thought it would be a long shot to get an answer.
My favorite line from The Good Code was when Dr. Rice talked with a straight face about St. Thomas Aquinas being in one of his classes, and getting only a B+
I never caught much of “The Good Code” – I probably would have killed myself laughing at that one!
So if we discover natural law based on feelings or consions (sp?) then how do we know whos right? I know within me that murder is wrong, but a soceity that practised human sacrifise may not share this ‘feeling’ which is fairly universal in our own. So if we can really know what Natural Law is definitivly, then we must have some kind of direct record. Or is it really just that sence of immorality? Is it just Gods voice talking to us through feelings?
Yes, basic rules of physical intimacy and reproduction are spelled out by our constitution, but the moral complex ones are not. Gods Natural law seems more concerned with the more complex ones.
That is correct, but Lewis more fully develops his understanding of it in The Abolition of Man.
There is also a little book of Jacques Maritain’s thought in Natural Law: Reflection on Theory and Practice, ed. William Sweet.
Cicero’s De Officiis is one of the most influential works on natural law theory.
And, most importantly, Aquinas “Treatise on Law” (Summa I-II, Q. 90-108 or so.
Robert P. George, John Finnis, Germain Grisez, and Joseph Boyle have many excellent works in the area.
Feelings and conscience are not the same thing. Feelings quite often tell us to do the opposite of what our conscience tells us to do. Conscience is simply another word for “the rational mind” when it is considering questions of right and wrong. It is not a feeling. Yes in a sense it is God’s voice talking to us through our natural human reason even if we have never heard of God, or reject belief in Him. We have a duty to think and form our Conscience by seeking the truth. If we don’t our conscience will be clouded by our cultural environment. Whether we are in an ancient aztec society practising (adult) human sacrifice or a modern rich Western society sacrificing millions of human fetuses.
The natural law or the natural moral law of God is based on a thing acting for which it what created and it acting within its nature. The natural law is NOT the same thing as the laws of nature like gravity or science; that is another completely different subject.
We as humans were created with a rational nature or rational soul, so that we can understand something beyond our senses alone Paul even says in Romans 2:15-16 where he says man knows good and evil as he has “the gospel written on there hearts” that they have a conscience and inherently know certain acts are wrong, like murder is wrong.
Animals on the other hand have what St. Thomas Aquinas calls sensitive souls,(not eternal souls) in that they act within their senses, we act outside (at times) of our strict senses because we are rational beings.
Food may look and smell appealing but we can rationalize that it is bad for us, so we stay away from it. My dog sees food as something that will fill her belly and doesn’t care if it is good for her or not.
Anyway, the primary reason we eat food is nurishment for the food gives us vitamins and sustanance to stay alive. There are secondary and tertiary effects of food too as it tastes good and smells good and I suppose looks good (I’m probably making some people hungry).
So, again the primary function of food being to nurish our bodies, Now if we eat and then go into the bathroom and throw it up then we have just acted in a dysfunctional manner as this is a dysfunction called bulimia an eating disorder because the primary function of that food is nurishment and to throw it up only frustrates its purpose.
And the marital act works the same way as food as its primary function is procreation to propgate the human race. However, secondary functions also apply as it feels good and unites us the couple together. But the primary function is procreation. However if we contracept, we then frustrate the primary function of God’s natural moral law and thus go against what God created us for and against His natural moral law.
Within that Aztec society prehaps they rationally thought that sacrifise was right as their Gods demanded it. Their conscience told them it was right. Surely culture can influence conscience? The way we are bought up has an impact no what our heart tells us is right.
I think this explains it pretty well. So if something clearly has a set primary purpose, then going against this purpose is wrong because God will be annoyed with us.
Exactly. God made everything according to its nature. We being rational beings try to act opposite to that purpose and go against what God designed us for.
I don’t suppose you have any reason why God would be angry with us for using something that didn’t fully furfil its purpose? Why would He care?
Because he loves us and has made us for himself. Part of our true identity as humans is living up to our full potential, however great or small that might be, for any particular individual.