So, I have a fun question for you this week! At least, it’s fun for me. This is something that I’ve been challenged to work through myself, so I’m just starting my thinking on the issue. The issue is this: what is the relationship between natural theology and natural law?
To define terms, at its core natural law is a moral philosophy first proposed by Aristotle that presents the argument that there is an objective ‘natural’ state, and that this natural state is the way things should be. For Aristotle the ‘natural’ is defined as ‘the way things should be.’ Thus, it is natural for lions to eat antelope. However, it is unnatural for lions to eat pizza and beer. Applied to modern debate a natural law theorist might argue that heterosexual relations are natural because they allow for the procreation of the species. However, homosexual relations are unnatural because they do not allow of the procreation of the species (i.e. they serve no objective purpose). Of course, there are other natural law theorists who will refute this argument and argue that homosexual relations are actually natural, but the key is that to be acceptable they must be shown to be natural in some way.
Natural theology, on the other hand is best presented in Romans 1:18-25 where Paul presents the argument that gentiles have cannot excuse their sin by arguing ‘I never knew about this God’, because the natural world itself reveals the existence and ultimate nature of God to anyone who bothers to look. This natural theology or natural revelation is generally presumed to be less direct and extensive than ‘special’ or ‘direct’ revelation (such as the Christian scriptures). For instance, as Aquinas might argue, by looking at the sun we need not presume that the sun itself is a god, nor that it is representative of a particular god, but that it must have been created by someone. This someone must have created everything else as well (i.e. all of creation must be created by someone), and thus we can deduce the existence of a monotheistic (i.e. supreme, set apart, or on a greater order of being) God. However, from this natural revelation we cannot deduce the trinitarian nature of God, the person and work of Christ, or God’s divine law.
Some will argue that Romans 2:14-16, in which Paul argues that gentiles show that ‘the law is written on their hearts’ when they do what the law requires (e.g. refraining from murder, robbery, etc) even though they do not know the law, connects natural theology with natural law. However, the question is 1) whether that relationship exists at all, and 2) what the nature of that relationship is.
As always, write me a story of 1000 words that presents your response and defends it.