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Divine Natural Law Theory

Divine Natural Law Theory

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Published by Nigel Lo
Natural Law has been fundamental in the drafting of laws throughout the century. This article discusses how Natural Law requires a law giver or author in order to give effect to its transcendental nature.
Natural Law has been fundamental in the drafting of laws throughout the century. This article discusses how Natural Law requires a law giver or author in order to give effect to its transcendental nature.

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Published by: Nigel Lo on Jul 09, 2013
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11/22/2013

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DIVINE NATURAL LAW THEORY 
Copyright 2013 © Nigel Lo
1
 International Magis Society Publications
INTRODUCTION
It is vitally important for any champion of natural law theory to trace and understand itsorigins. Natural law is a system of law that is purportedly determined by nature, and thusuniversal.
2
Classically, natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze human nature—bothsocial and personal—and deduce binding rules of moral behavior from it. In legal theory, onthe other hand, the interpretation of positive law requires some reference to natural law. Onthis understanding of natural law, natural law can be invoked to criticize judicial decisionsabout what the law says but not to criticize the best interpretation of the law itself. Somescholars use natural law synonymously with natural justice or natural right (Latin
iusnaturale
), while others distinguish between natural law and natural right. This essay discusses3 different areas relating to the concept of morality and argues that this universal approach tolaw characteristically determined by human nature, must exist with the presence of a Godtraced to its origins. This essay also discusses the impact of Christianity and how it hastransformed natural law and the world.
1.0 CHRISTIAN NATURAL LAW THEORY
Some early Church Fathers, especially those in the West, sought to incorporate natural lawinto Christianity. The most notable among these was Augustine of Hippo, who equatednatural law with man's prelapsarian state; as such, a life according to nature was no longer  possible and men needed instead to seek salvation through the divine law and grace of JesusChrist. In the Thirteenth Century, Roman Emperor Gratian equated the natural law withdivine law. A century later, St. Thomas Aquinas in his
Summa Theologiae
I-II qq. 90-106,restored Natural Law to its independent state, asserting natural law as the
1
 
 Nigel Lo is the Founding President of the International Magis Society. He is an Associate Director at
Red  Earth Human Rights Research Department 
and the Non-Executive Director of Nexus Blackstone LeadershipCentre. He was the first Malaysian to be awarded the
 Long Tan Australian Defence Force Leadership Award 
 bythe Australian Department of Defence for his advocacy in social justice and leadership development.
2
 
Leo Strauss, "Natural Law".
 International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences
. (Macmillan, 1968)
.
 
rational creature's participation in the eternal law.
3
 Yet, since human reason could not fullycomprehend the Eternal law, it needed to be supplemented by revealed Divine law.Those who see biblical support for the doctrine of natural law often point to Paul's Epistle tothe Romans: "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the thingscontained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shrew thework of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.
4
The intellectual historianA.J. Carlyle has commented on this passage, "There can be little doubt that St Paul's wordsimply some conception analogous to the 'natural law' in Cicero, a law written in men's hearts,recognized by man's reason, a law distinct from the positive law of any State, or from what StPaul recognized as the revealed law of God. It is in this sense that St Paul's words are taken by the Fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries like St Hilary of Poitiers, St Ambrose, and StAugustine, and there seems no reason to doubt the correctness of their interpretation."
5
Humans are capable of discerning the difference between good and evil because they have aconscience.
6
 There are many manifestations of the good that we can pursue. Some, like procreation, are common to other animals, while others, like the pursuit of truth, areinclinations peculiar to the capacities of human beings.
7
.To know what is right, one must use one's reason and apply it to Aquinas' precepts. Thisreason is believed to be embodied, in its most abstract form, in the concept of a primary precept: "Good is to be sought, evil avoided."
8
St. Thomas wrote:
There belongs to the natural law, first, certain most general precepts, that are known to all;and secondly, certain secondary and more detailed precepts, which are, as it were,conclusions following closely from first principles. As to those general principles, the natural law, in the abstract, can nowise be blotted out from men's hearts.” But as to the other, i.e.,
3
 
Thomas Aquinas,
Summa Theologica
, I-II, Q.90-106.
4
 
The Holy Bible
,
Romans( 2:14-15).
5
 
AJ Carlyle.
 A History of Medieval Political Theory in the West 
( New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1903) p. 83
6
 
Ibid.
7
 
International Theological Commission,
The Search for Universal Ethics: A New Look at the Natural Law
,n.46.
8
 
Thomas Aquinas,
Summa Theologica
, I-II, Q.90.
 
the secondary precepts,
the natural law can be blotted out from the human heart, either byevil persuasions, just as in speculative matters errors occur in respect of necessaryconclusions; or by vicious customs and corrupt habits
 , as among some men, theft, and evenunnatural vices, as the Apostle states were not esteemed sinful.”
9
2.0 THE MORALITY & ETHICS OF GOD
“Can we be good without God?” This question gives us an arduous task of examining if objective moral properties like goodness in the world can exist without God. Certainlyatheists such as John Mackie have every reason to ask ‘what we can make of moralitywithout recourse to God, and hence of what we can say about morality if, in the end, wedispense with religious belief 
-- for given the absence of any religious faith by atheists, thisis simply to ask how things stand with morality. But even theists have long asked thisquestion.
The most common answer to this question will be what this essay deals with in itsthesis and that is the words of Ivan Karamazov: “without God, everything is permitted”.
Kamarazov’s conclusion was certainly the view of the post-World War 2 Frenchexistentialism, where God gets frequent mention in a kind of post mortem: “What do we donow that God is dead?” Hence, the brilliantly crafted response of Kai Nielsen who states theconnection between God and good: “If there is no God…the classical natural law theory isabsurd…”
Thomas Aquinas made known his work that all laws essentially require a law giver. OnAquinas’ view, one of the essential properties a thing must possess to be a law is that it be promulgated by one who has the care of the community at heart.
 Most theistic natural lawtheorists hold the argument and belief that God is necessarily good. God’s existence is itself good and what God does cannot but be good.
If atheists grant the permissibility of using thisnotion of God in a moral argument, it can be stated that no questions have been beggedagainst them. This is so because it has not been conceded yet that there is such anomnipresent being, or that there is even a possibility of such being in their mindset. Hence it
9
 
Ibid.
10
 
John L Mackie
 , Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong 
(London, Penguin, 1977), p. 48.
11
 
John Finnis,
 Natural Law and Natural Rights
(Oxford, OUP, 1980), p.43.
12
 
Dostoevsky,
The Brothers Karamazov
(New York, Random, 1933)
13
 
Kai Nielsen, “The Myth of Natural Law”, in S. Hook, ed.,
 Law and Philosophy
(New York, N.Y.U. Press,1958). p.129.
14
 
Thomas Aquinas,
Summa Theologica
, I-II, Q.90.
15
 
Ibid.

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