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Biblical Natural Law

For many of us in the Protestant Tradition, the idea of “Biblical Natural Law” may seem like an oxymoron. However, that is not the case for the one of the newest offerings published by Oxford Press and written by Matthew Levering. Here we have presented to us a “theocentric and teleological approach” to the idea of natural law. It is his contention, working within the Catholic tradition, that natural law is actually quite biblical and can be substantiated from the texts of the Old and New Testament.

His work is quite thorough and deep. He delves well into the literature and, in particular, the Catholic tradition. He, however, does not completely ignore the Protestant tradition. In fact, one can see Barth’s influence on him in his attempt to set forth a “theocentric” approach. This means, far as I can tell, that his view of natural law is not one which is autonomous. That is, a view of nature which is quite independent of grace or teleology (i.e., that God designed man and has ordered him to a fulfillment of human flourishing in eternal life). So, for Levering, natural law has its origins always and everywhere in God.

It is interesting, especially to note for our readers here, that Levering does not interact at all with David Van Drunen’s work on Natural Law and the two kingdom theory. Yet, it seems, many of their conclusions are similar. There also seems to be some significant differences as well. For instance, Levering does not have a doctrine of total depravity, like that you might expect to find in Van Drunen. Also, the doctrine of common grace is missing. In this way, all grace which seems to bring about positive human flourishing is seen as special grace, rather than common. That is problematic, on so many levels (which we cannot get into here).

Nevertheless, the volume provides a wonderful entry way into the world of literature on the subject of natural law, and Roman Catholic prolegomena. It really is a volume which needs to closely and carefully dissected and evaluated, especially in the light of work being done on Natural Law in the the orthodox Protestant (read: non-Barthian) Tradition.

 

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