What is the fatal flaw among the natural law proponents? The natural law proponents have greatly underestimated the power of sin in the unbeliever apart from some form of the influence of the Christian Faith. The Westminster Confession of Faith VI.2 states that in the Fall man “became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body.” Without the influence of the Christian Faith in society, man will be exposed for what he truly is—a hater of Christ and opposed to God and his law.
When I was a child, my family would visit my grandparents who lived on a farm. They had no bathrooms, so we all had the grand experience of using a real outhouse. My mother persuaded my grandfather to build a small bathroom in his house, and he did. However, even with the bathroom in the house, he still preferred to go to that antiquated outhouse. Old habits are hard to break.
In reading an article recently about the topic of natural law, it reminded me of my grandfather’s outhouse. Both outhouses and natural law have been useful in their own day, but now they have become nothing but a blight on our landscape. Yet, people still go back to them as if they were given by God as the standard for all ages.
What is natural law? Basically, it is the belief that man by nature (natural), as being created in the image of God, knows right and wrong (law); and this knowledge is inherent in all men apart from any knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. We may need the Bible to teach us about such things such as redemption in Christ and the Lord’s Supper, but most truths, especially those distinguishing good and evil, men know instinctively. This natural law, apart from God’s law, is sufficient for directing and regulating culture, especially the civil government in creating and maintaining a peaceful society.
The official line of most American seminaries today is that the Bible was given for the church, but natural law is sufficient to inform us of the laws that should govern our society. One of the biblical passages supporting this view is Romans 2: 14-15, “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.” It should be noted that this verse appears in the context of man’s accountability to God and not man’s ability to rule over man. Men may know right and wrong as creatures made in the image of God, but they suppress it (Rom. 1:18-19). Men do not legislate what they stifle in unrighteousness.
Another phrase used by the general populace which demonstrates this view of natural law is the idea of “common sense.” It has long been considered common sense that a man should marry a woman rather than another man, and that sex (or gender) is determined at birth and cannot be changed. “What’s wrong with people today, are they going crazy!” I hear this all the time. The problem however, as we all should know by now, is that common sense without the Bible is neither common nor sensible.
Also, this view of natural law complements the idea of the church-state separation in the United States. Church-State separation is biblical, but religion can never be separated from the State. So, we are told that the Bible is for regulating the church, and natural law is for regulating everything outside of the church. We hear from them that to impose biblical law on secular society is a form of religious tyranny in a pluralistic nation, and if implemented, could only become second to the Holocaust in horrific disasters.
American pluralism (polytheism), is a sacred cow in most evangelical churches. The idea of a Christian nation is anathema among religious pluralists, even though we are still living off the capital of America as a Christian nation. However, I believe that this capital has just run out.
Just as the old outhouse on my grandfather’s farm is not viable anymore, so the parallel concept of natural law, which may have been useful in the past, is not viable anymore either.
Natural law was useful and accepted without debate in Christian cultures of the past, whether in Calvin’s Geneva, Queen Anne’s England, or Eisenhower’s America. The culture was based on biblical law, so men were free to sing the praises of natural law without objection. Natural law stood tall and strong and was viewed in awe like the great tower of Babel. Christians and non-Christians alike sang the hymns of praise to this great wonder, especially as the age of science dawned in the West. Mathematical equations were independent of the Bible (except they really were not because predictability assumes a sovereign God who orders the universe). Enter Isaac Newton, but we do not have enough time for him in this article.
However, people in their own pride forgot that the great tower of natural law had to have a foundation, or it would collapse quickly. All towers do. Man in his pride forgot that with the removal of a distinctly Christian culture based on the Bible as the foundation of a nation, this new secular tower would fall to the ground into pieces like the chandelier in a great cathedral after an earthquake. “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3).
What is the fatal flaw among the natural law proponents? The natural law proponents have greatly underestimated the power of sin in the unbeliever apart from some form of the influence of the Christian Faith. The Westminster Confession of Faith VI.2 states that in the Fall man “became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body.” Without the influence of the Christian Faith in society, man will be exposed for what he truly is—a hater of Christ and opposed to God and his law. How some theologians who have been trained as Calvinists, can promote hope in natural law in the present decadent society, is beyond me. However, they have done so in the past, and we see the results today in our land.
Sinful man will not be restrained apart from the threat of the penalties included in biblical law (the second use of the law), but rather he will be released to revel in debauchery and licentiousness. Without the fear of God’s law in civil society, there is no bottom to the depth of shamelessness that that will befall man. Today, there seems to be little resistance to drag queens reading to children in public libraries. Young people are being groomed as potential sex-partners. Teenagers are being surgically mutilated in esteemed hospitals in the name of transgenderism. Popular evangelical singers are hosting gay weddings.
Reprobates and Christians cannot live in peace with one another because they are at war. Both are today quickly becoming “epistemologically self-conscious,” and the war is getting out of control. Christians have been asleep. We did not see what was coming. American Christians currently are in a self-esteem stupor while our nation drifts toward something worse than Sodom, and while the people are being pacified with bread and circuses.
Not everyone reading this is presently mandated to attend gay celebrations at work. Not everyone must take an oath to uphold CRT. Not everyone is required to pledge allegiance to the rainbow flag. Not everyone has lost their income because of their commitment to the teaching of the Word of God. However, you should realize that they may be coming for you and your children next.
Lastly, we must also understand that where men hate God’s Law, they only bring judgment upon themselves. “All those who hate me love death” (Prov. 8:36).
America is in a crisis today. The evangelical church is in shambles. In addition to expository sermons, preachers need to supplement their preaching by adding a few sermons on the issues of the day like Neo-Marxism, CRT, and inflation. I would not say this unless I had done it myself. Our culture is in decline and the pulpit is still holding onto the sacredness of the natural law, and a faulty view of the separation of Church and State. Instead of sending our people out the door each week to be more than conquers, I am afraid we are sending them out to be doormats for Jesus.
Apart from a Reformation inside the church, the sins of America will probably grow exponentially over the next few years. Expect nothing but an increase in sex outside of marriage, homelessness, depression, drug abuse, and tyranny by civil magistrates. God may soon judge our nation in a more dramatic fashion in real time and space. Older Christians such as I may escape, but may God have mercy on our children and grandchildren.
God save us not only from our real enemies who are outside of Christ, but also from our brothers and sisters inside the church who are bewildered, and who like my grandfather, still go to the outhouse, when something much better is available. Natural law worked in ages past, but today we must preach the crown rights of Jesus Christ over all of life.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.