The Natural Law
From his Gifford Lectures two years ago, N. T. Wright offered:
To be an image-bearer is more than just behavior; otherwise we put the knowledge of good and evil before the knowledge of God.
The Natural Law: A Study in Legal and Social History and Philosophy, by Heinrich A. Rommen
Why begin a post on Rommen’s book with a quote from N. T. Wright? Forgive the length of the following, from the Translator’s Preface (Thomas R. Hanley) to Rommen’s book:
An extensive treatment of moral problems from the standpoint of the natural law or rational ethics often leaves the impression that ethics, as a branch of philosophy, is quite sufficient to lead a man to perfection and happiness, individual and social. From such a viewpoint the supernatural order, with its elevation of man, divine revelation, and divine grace, all too often takes on the appearance of something artificial or unnatural, something unnecessary and superfluous. Mature reflection, however, will show that such an impression is quite unwarranted. Neither as a science nor as an art is ethics, or the doctrine of the natural moral law in its concrete applications, able of itself to lead man as he actually is to his individual and social good.
Both Wright and Hanley seem to be offering that the Four Natural Virtues (Prudence or Wisdom, Courage, Temperance, and Justice) are insufficient to lead a man to his telos of happiness – beatitudo. It also requires the Three Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope and Love).
However, this does not preclude for non-believers the discovery and understanding of the natural law:
Rational ethics, founded on the natural moral law, preserves, therefore, its independence and value like any other branch of philosophy. In this way it performs the valuable functions of serving as a basis of understanding and agreement between Catholics and all those who fail or refuse, for one reason or another, to recognize consciously their actual and inescapable incorporation into the supernatural order and their call to actual, full, and living membership in the authentic Church of Christ.
Please, no fighting about the dig at non-Catholic Christians….
Now, on to Rommen. He begins with a history of pre-Scholastic thought – as he describes it, The Legacy of Greece and Rome. The idea of natural law is as old as philosophy. Even primitive law held that such laws were unchangeable by human ordinance, and it has the same force always and everywhere within a given cultural environment.
In Western culture, this philosophical concept of natural law first made its appearance through the Greeks. There was a distinction even then – a distinction that continue
Article from LewRockwell