Friday, April 29, 2022

God’s Law vs. Natural Law

Anonymous: If you'd spend a fraction of the time studying and promoting God's law as you do so-called natural law, perhaps we could divert the judgment of God on this nation.

First of all, I must say: I had no idea that I held such authority and power in the destiny of this nation; me, a mosquito.  Yes, bionic…but still.

Yet the more interesting topic: God’s Law vs. Natural Law.  No, I don’t see a difference in any meaningful sense, but play along.

Now, I could point to the ability to find natural law strictly via Scripture, as I have done in the past; or I might suggest that God created a universe ordered on principle and pattern (He did), with each created being having a purpose (it does), a telos – hence, “God’s Law” and “Natural Law” are therefore one and the same thing (at least on all the meaningful features, it seems to be so).

But, instead, I will this time pull on a string that was first explored here, via the question “why the flood?”  In other words, on what basis was man punished before the Law was revealed? 

Now…that word “revealed.”  Is it only to mean “words I read in the Bible”?  Many who use the term “revealed” mean it this way.  But can it not also mean what has been revealed to us in and through His creation?  A simple question: does not the physiology, biology, and anatomy of a man and of a women “reveal” something of God’s law?

For me, the answer is yes – and therefore I have no need to continue this post; this “picture” given to us by God in His creation paints a thousand words.  But for many, this is a bridge too far.  So…we only know the purpose of male and female only by the words in Scripture (like intercourse, and therefore procreation, would never happen unless God commanded it).  Or…we know murder is wrong only because God said so (hence, it was not wrong before He said so).  So, for these, I continue.

Genesis 2: 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Here we have God’s first command to man.  Now, this command cannot be deduced from natural law in any way that I see, yet it remained a valid law.  It is for the violation of this command that man was removed from paradise.  After this event, the command held no more authority – man was removed from the tree and its fruit, hence man could no longer violate this command. 

The fruit was already eaten.  The cat was out of the bag.   The horse had left the barn.  You get the idea.

So, we are back to having no “God’s law,” in the sense that we can find written evidence in Scripture.

Genesis 3: 22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.

Really, the money verse.  Man knows good and evil (God’s law), not by any revelation from God, but…naturally…once he ate the fruit.  It is important that this is so, otherwise we are left with the accusation for which we have no defense: God is an arbitrary God.  Man must know the difference of good and evil without God’s law; he must know it by his nature, the nature inherent in him once he ate the fruit.

Genesis 4: 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

God had no regard for Cain and his offering?  Why?  God expected that Cain knew how to “do well.”  On what basis would God expect such a thing?

I find no law of God preceding these verses that Cain might have violated, nothing from God that said “I am not a vegetarian.”  On what basis was God displeased?  Was it a whim, random chaos, arbitrary requirements?

Or was it something else, something not written or spoken, perhaps something breathed into man in his creation?  Was it something from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?  If so, we don’t have the words, nor did Adam or Eve hear any words.  Merely by eating the fruit, did they discover the law…naturally?  The natural law?  Is this what they passed on to their descendants?

I don’t know, but I do know that whatever Cain violated, there is no “God’s law” that cautioned him against this.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

In the Beginning Was the Word

This “meaning crisis” conversation will eventually come to a natural law ethic, or it will never resolve.

Chapter Three….

In their second chapter, Gaius and Titius quote the well-known story of Coleridge at the waterfall.  You remember that there were two tourists present: that one called it ‘sublime’ and the other ‘pretty’; and that Coleridge mentally endorsed the first judgement and rejected the second with disgust.

The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis

The first time I read, and wrote about, this book, I thought – while reading this introduction… “I kind of get it…but is it more like a speaker starting with something humorous to get the audience engaged?”  Let’s see if that’s still the case….

Lewis begins his exposition of the fall of men – remember, we end this book with men without chests, men who aren’t men at all (the abolition of man) – with this story about words and their meaning.  He begins his exposition on the loss of objective values with this story about words and their meaning.  It seems Lewis is trying to say something about the importance of words and their meaning to the condition of man.

Genesis chapter one.  “And God said” ten times (well, one of these was “then God said”).  He said.  By speaking, He created light and an expanse in the midst of the waters; He gathered the waters in one place, He brought forth vegetation; He created lights in the heavens; He created living creature in the sea and on land.  Finally, He created man in His image.  He spoke to His creation: be fruitful and multiply.

By speaking, He brought creation into existence.  And He saw that everything He made was very good.

God did not create on a work bench, with tools useful for the purpose.  He spoke.  Words are the source and foundation of creation, the source and foundation for being.  Words must be meaningful if creation is to be meaningful – words must be meaningful if man is to be meaningful, if man is to have meaning.

John 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Without the Word, nothing was made.  Without the Word, there is no creation.  Note: it was not an apprentice that was with God and was God; it was the Word.  In Greek: logos.  This is a bit of a complicated word to translate (like many Greek words, we need several English words to get some understanding), but here is a try:

Logos is … derived from a Greek word variously meaning "ground", "plea", "opinion", "expectation", "word", "speech", "account", "reason", "proportion", and "discourse".

In Greek philosophy: reason, thought of as constituting the controlling principle of the universe and as being manifested by speech.

God spoke being into existence; He used reason – the controlling principle of the universe – as the source of His creation.  To bring creation forth, to make it manifest, He spoke.

So, why does Lewis start with what might seem to many (including me, to some degree and at one time) a trivial point?  Sublime, pretty…pretty, sublime.  Lewis sees the language slipping away, and he sees where this will lead.  He sees this because words are the foundation of our being.

The schoolboy who reads this passage in The Green Book will believe two propositions: firstly, that all sentences containing a predicate of value are statements about the emotional state of the speaker, and secondly, that all such statements are unimportant.

Gaius and Titius did not overtly say that judgements of value are unimportant; they may not even have intended to so chip away at the schoolboy’s mind.  But their words will have this effect.

How far have we fallen since?  We know the quotes from Orwell, from his novel published just a few years after Lewis delivered his talks that resulted in the subject book: ‘War Is Peace. Freedom Is Slavery. Ignorance Is Strength.’  You know what Orwell never said in 1984?  A man is a woman.

Monday, April 25, 2022

The Answer is in C. S. Lewis

This “meaning crisis” conversation will eventually come to a natural law ethic, or it will never resolve.

As noted in my opening post on this matter, I am wanting to more fully and directly make this connection – the connection of the meaning crisis to the violation of a natural law ethic, and why restoring the natural law ethic is the only solution to the meaning crisis.

Again, while I call the previous post my opening post, in reality it is what I have been working through for a few years, but have decided I now need to try to pull it together in a concise form.

It has been a month since I published that opening post, “Nature, According to Our Purpose.”  Almost from the time I published it, I have kept getting pulled to C. S. Lewis’s book, the Abolition of Man.  The more I have thought about it, the more I have come to conclude that the answer to my dilemma is all in this book.  Lewis wrote of the problem and solution almost eighty years ago.

I have written about this book in the past.  My previous posts can be found here:

What I believed would be the case, and as I have started to re-read the book has turned out to be true, is that my thought has developed significantly since the time I wrote these earlier posts almost three years ago.  There are many parts that didn’t catch my attention the first time that now seem tremendously relevant.  So, I can’t take a shortcut and just say “read these old posts for the answer.”  Parts of it will be there, to be sure.  But I don’t think it ties together the way I hope it will today.

So, why The Abolition of Man?  Why do I believe the entire answer will be found in this short (less-than-forty-page) book?  Lewis quickly summarizes why we, as human beings, require objective values if we are to live as human beings. 

Now, consider that last sentence carefully: we require objective values if we are to live as human beings.  If he is right, then the clear implication is that if we do not have and hold to objective values, we cannot live as human beings. 

Hence, if we cannot live as human beings, our lives have lost meaning as human beings.  We can live as something else, but not as human beings.  Would this not result in a crisis of meaning, to live as something other than what we are – to not live as we are meant to live?

Lewis covers all of this.  Now, he begins with an example that seems quite quaint to our ears; a seemingly small little slight, an almost unnoticeable ounce of meaning stripped from a large inventory of stock.  It will be worth beginning by examining how far we have fallen since the time he wrote these words – from a small little gap in maintaining objective values to the chasm we now live with today (and we know the limits of widening this gap have not yet been reached).

The cost of the one little slight noted by Lewis at the beginning of this book can be understood if one understands the quote from Confucius with which Lewis begins his work:

The Master said, He who sets to work on a different strand destroys the whole fabric.

Just one strand out of place – in a different order, one not belonging to the whole – and the whole is ruined.  Once the unraveling begins, there is no end to it.  Once the principle is given up or compromised, there is no natural (principled) place by which one can say “it stops here.”

What is the fabric that is so delicate that one wrong strand, one strand out of place, will destroy the whole?  Lewis answers the question:

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

China, Galileo, and the Heavens

Over recent decades, however, the Ministry of Rites had made a succession of embarrassing mistakes.

Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World, by Tom Holland

The time was the early seventeenth century.  The place was China.  The mistakes had to do with keeping track of upcoming eclipses and the movements of the stars.  The work was a strict monopoly of the state, and like all such state monopolies, mistakes are certain.

An eclipse was upcoming.  It was decided that a contest would be held: who could best predict the proper time and date?  The barbarians who had recently arrived from the furthest West were the most accurate.  As their reward, they were commissioned by the emperor to reform the calendar.  Johann Schreck, a Jesuit priest and a polymath – expert in astronomy, mathematics, linguistics and a physician – was to lead this effort.

Besides their interest in the stars, these barbarians and their Chinese counterparts held something else in common: a Catholic baptism!  Three years’ travel from Rome, and separated by Muslim Turks and others, yet here they were.

China was not to be treated as Spain treated the inhabitants of the New World.  Too ancient, too powerful (not much has changed, it seems).  The Jesuits would live as they had in other lands – by adopting as many of the local customs as they could without offending their Catholic faith.

Confucius had been bestowed with the same divine gift of reason that came upon Aristotle; Confucianism could even lead one to Christ.  Or so thought Matteo Ricci, an Italian who arrived in China in 1582.  Of course, some of his superiors were not so convinced.

Haughtiness toward the poor, an “obscene” number of wives, and certainly not a hint of worship toward the One Creator God of Israel.  In fact, no real concept of creation or of a god.  Fire, water, earth, metal, wood: these were the constituent elements of a naturally occurring order.  Yin and yang would provide balance.

Schreck, less than a year after his appointment, would die.  Investigating an herb that was said to induce sweating, he made himself the subject of the clinical trial.  A few hours later, he was dead.  Yet he left the others with some of the most advanced equipment in the world for observing the heavens.

Before he died, Schreck explained to his Chinese colleagues of the most glorious mathematician the world knows: Galileo Galilei, who had improved upon a lens that enabled one to better see the stars.  Schreck had met him several years before.  His lens would be christened a ‘telescope.’

His discoveries delivered a blow to Aristotle’s model of the universe – for example, a pitted moon could no longer be considered unchanging and incorruptible.  Impatient for fame and contemptuous of Aristotle and his admirers – yet, with desires to climb the social ladder.  The celebrity that would be his if he could convince the leaders of the Church to exchange Aristotle for him.

Off to Rome, where he would convince many of the faults of Aristotle’s cosmology.  Some of the most eminent mathematicians – Jesuits – had corroborated Galileo’s claims.  One cardinal, Maffeo Barberini, would even praise him in verse.  And not a bad supporter, as he would later become Pope Urban VII.

Monday, April 18, 2022

From Reformation to Benightenment

The two centuries inaugurated by the Peace of Westphalia on the continent (1648), the Stuart Restoration in Britain (1660), and the Halfway Covenant in New England (1662) witness the fundamental reorientation of Christendom.

The Age of Utopia: Christendom from the Renaissance to the Russian Revolution, by John Strickland

The East, as seen in Russia in the last installment, began to Westernize and turn to secular humanism as the West had – suggesting that the paradisaical viewpoint held in the East did not protect it from modernism.  Christendom began everywhere to exchange paradise for utopia; displacement became replacement.

For a time, the beliefs and values of Christianity and humanism would coexist.  But the Wars of Religion, as Strickland refers to these (as this is how these wars have been framed) would change this.  And here, again and as I have done during my review of this book and others that cover these same events, I will insist that these were wars of state building, not wars of religion. 

That France and the Holy Roman Empire – both Catholic – would fight against ach other should be sufficient to dissuade the use of this label, but it is also sufficient to see the desires of the many princes and kings – whether Catholic or Lutheran – to relieve themselves of sharing authority with Rome.

Blame the wars on religion instead of on the reality that princes wanted to consolidate power.  It isn’t like we aren’t familiar with such deceptive labeling in our own time.  Our wars are for today’s religion of western-styled liberal democracy, we are told; but these, too, are wars for nothing more than control.

For one more bit of evidence:

So great was the disgrace of Christianity in its post-schism, reformational form that the elite ceased to hold to it.

Because the elite become elite by minimizing any authority to which they are beholden. 

In any case, during this period some would embrace a form of pietism, others a utopian Christianity.  Still others would abandon the faith altogether.  Eventually, secular humanism would come to replace the humanism that existed with Christianity.

The two centuries joining the wars of Western religion [sic] with the rise of revolutionary ideology therefore represent in the history of Christendom a period not only of reorientation but disorientation.

This would be from the mid-seventeenth century to the mid-nineteenth century, when the roots of radical socialism and communism would be formed.  For some reason, we refer to this period as the Enlightenment.

But something else strikes me: the words “reorientation” and “disorientation” each contain “orient,” east being the direction of the alter in traditional churches.  Hence, to disorient or reorient is to move away from this tradition, it seems – both symbolically as well as practically.

A sixteenth century Dominican friar, Giordano Bruno, is introduced.  He offered that the stars were each suns with their own solar systems and that the recently revealed Copernican model was the valid model of our solar system.  He also challenged many doctrines of traditional Christianity.  Not mentioned by Strickland, but these included the doctrines of eternal damnation, the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the virginity of Mary, and transubstantiation.  He was executed for this list of heretical views.

Next comes Francis Bacon, the founder of the scientific method; empirical observation, not theology or revelation, was to be the important means through which proper science would be conducted.  He would write a treatise to introduce his utopia, The New Atlantis.  One of its citizens would declare:

“The end of our foundation is the knowledge of causes, the secret motion of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of human [dominion], to the effecting of all things possible.”

I don’t know if Bacon intended this to include the abolition of man, but, as CS Lewis offered, man is the last frontier of nature for other men to conquer.  We are, of course, living in precisely these times.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

We Live Among Robots…

…which are fully programmed, with updates downloaded as required.  Yes, they appear as human beings, but don’t be fooled.

A very good discussion between Jonathan Pageau and Paul Kingsnorth, with the title “Civilization and Control.”  In it, they discuss the dystopia of our age and the complete transparency of this over the last two years.

I left the following comment:

Two aspects of our last two years are most stunning…and frightening.  First, how easily almost all of humanity could be moved to give up every aspect of life that affords meaning.  Second, how easily and quickly one narrative can be disappeared and exchanged for another, with almost all of humanity making the switch as if the earlier narrative never existed.

Overlaying this, society went from total fear of a non-event that threatened almost no one to total motivation to bring on an existential event that will destroy the world.

In other words, we are already machines, responding to commands.  Automatons.  It isn’t the robot dog that is frightening.  We are faced with robots occupying what we would have previously described as human beings.

The video is about 80 minutes long.  It is worth a watch.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Natural Law, One Thousand Years Before Aquinas: Part Three

Continuing with an examination of QUOTATIONS FROM THE FATHERS ON “NATURAL LAW” & “LAW OF NATURE, as compiled by Fr. Michael Butler, an archpriest in the Orthodox Church in America.  Part One can be found here; Part Two, here.  This will be the final installment.

Missing the Mark, As Determined by Our Nature

Dealing with an intemperate husband…

St Justin the Philosopher and Martyr (d. c. 165), Second Apology 2: "For [the wife], considering it wicked to live any longer as a wife with a husband who sought in every way means of indulging in pleasure contrary to the law of nature, and in violation of what is right, wished to be divorced from him."

The violation is based on our nature, not a written code.

St John Chrysostom (d. 407), Homilies on Romans, Homily 12 (on Rom 7.12): Therefore if these things are said about the natural law, we are found to be without the natural law. And if this be true, we are more senseless than the creatures which are without reason.

There is a profound point here: man, unlike the other creatures, has reason.  Yet it is this same reason that can lead man to “reason” his way to violations of the natural law – something not possible for other creatures. 

Genesis 2: 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

The knowledge of good and evil without the knowledge of God.  This is modern man’s understanding of reason, giving us all sorts of “justifications” for violating the natural law.  This, as we see all around us, has led us to death, as we have truly become something other than human.

Clement of Alexandria (d. 215), Stromateis 2.13: Passions, then, are a perturbation of the soul contrary to nature, in disobedience to reason.

It is reason conformed by God to natural law.  In this we find liberty.  Reason without God leaves us slaves to our passions.

The Difference of Natural Laws vs. Commandments

St John Chrysostom (d. 407), Homilies on Romans, Homily 12 (on Rom 7.12): …it does not appear that he has anywhere called the law of nature a commandment.

St John Chrysostom (d. 407), Homilies concerning the Statues, 12.9: When he speaks to us of another commandment, not known to us by the dictate of conscience, he not only prohibits but also adds the reason.

God has given commandments outside of the natural law.  But for these, he explains Himself.

For what purpose then, I ask, did he add a reason respecting the Sabbath but did no such thing in regard to murder?

Regarding the Sabbath, the reason given was for rest, as God did on the seventh day.  But for murder?

How was it then when he said, “You shall not kill,” that he did not add, “because murder is a wicked thing?” The reason was that conscience had already taught this beforehand. He speaks thus, as if to those who know and understand the point.

God had no need to give a reason.  We already knew this, as it was in our nature to know it.  No commandment or explanation was necessary.

A Written Law Contrary to Our Nature is Not to be Observed

Origen (d. 254), Against Celsus 5.37: As there are, then, generally two laws presented to us, the one being the law of nature, of which God would be the legislator, and the other being the written law of cities, it is a proper thing, when the written law is not opposed to that of God, for the citizens not to abandon it under pretext of foreign customs…

An important concept is introduced, one which I believe is later expanded upon by Aquinas.  The natural law is universal; the application, in some instances and within bounds, can be determined by local custom.  If a local application does not violate the overarching natural law, it is still good written law.

…but when the law of nature, that is, the law of God, commands what is opposed to the written law, observe whether reason will not tell us to bid a long farewell to the written code, and to the desire of its legislators, and to give ourselves up to the legislator God, and to choose a life agreeable to His word, although in doing so it may be necessary to encounter dangers, and countless labors, and even death and dishonor.

Remaining true to the natural law – the law of nature given to us by God – will sometimes come with cost, even to death.


Just some other interesting tidbits….

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Where Was Clarisse?

Clarisse: One more question.

Montag: Another one?

Clarisse: Just a little tiny one.

Montag: What is it?

Clarisse: Do you ever read the books you burn?

Montag: Why should I?

-          Fahrenheit 451

If only such a question was asked of a particular monk in Wittenberg about five-hundred years earlier….


Had the two men been able to find a volume of Aquinas, they would have burnt that as well.

Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World, by Tom Holland

December 1520.  Martin Luther had been given sixty days to recant.  He chose to use the time burning books, along with a colleague from the university, the theologian Johann Agricola.

I have covered this story often, the story of Luther and the Church and the Reformation which turned into a revolution.  In this post I will stick to bits and pieces that are new to me or that just strike my fancy.  For example, regarding the latter: Holland opens the chapter with this book burning, and I thought of the movie (no, I didn’t read the book…).

Further, to my Catholic friends: I know how you feel about Luther and the tearing apart of the Catholic Church that followed.  Yes, it was a blow to Western society and to the Church.  But, and to my Protestant friends: it was an inevitable blow.  There really were corruptions in plain sight – and Luther’s criticism regarding the practice of indulgences was perhaps the one most upsetting to and dangerous for the Church hierarchy.  To my Orthodox friends…I know, you are sitting, watching, with a gallon size tub of popcorn on your lap.

To all of you – just take it as history, as one of the most important events in Western history since the time of Christ.

In more than one place I have read that Luther really didn’t know much about Aquinas’ work.  If he could not find a volume to burn, it would seem he would not have had one handy to have read. 

He saw the then-current scholasticism that followed Aquinas, but this was something quite different.  In any case, whether Luther might have appreciated Aquinas had he read and understood him is now secondary.  He didn’t, and he hadn’t.

Luther did have a copy of the papal decree that condemned his teachings: “Because you have confounded the truth of God, today the Lord confounds you.  Into the fire with you.”  Canons, papal decrees, and anything associated with Aquinas’ philosophy had to go.  Luther, who scorned the idea of thinking of himself as a lawyer, took for granted how much of the then-modern law owed to the work of those legal scholars whose books he so eagerly burned.

It really sounds no different than today, where enemies of Christianity take for granted that they are only able to speak freely against those in power due to Christianity, and only because they have access to Christian terms and concepts.  Had someone not a Roman citizen spoken so brazenly to a citizen in pre-Christian times, it would have been off with his head, no questions asked.

Luther had his students build a float, loaded with parodies of papal decrees.  After driving it around town to raucous cheers, he burnt the lot.  A man dressed as the pope tossed his tiara into the fire.  Luther was not a man given to understatement…or humility.  But then, perhaps it took this kind of man to stand up to the significant issues then practiced by and defended by the Church.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Natural Law, One Thousand Years Before Aquinas: Part Two

Continuing with an examination of QUOTATIONS FROM THE FATHERS ON “NATURAL LAW” & “LAW OF NATURE, as compiled by Fr. Michael Butler, an archpriest in the Orthodox Church in America.  Part One can be found here.

In Our Nature

Tertullian (d. 225), The Chaplet 6.1: If you demand a divine law, you have that common one prevailing all over the world, written on the tablets of nature, to which also St. Paul is accustomed to appeal.  …Again, in saying in his letter to the Romans that the Gentiles do by nature what the law prescribes, he hints at the existence of natural law and a nature founded on law.

One cannot read the first chapters of Romans without coming to understand that there is a natural law, known to or knowable by all men.

Hippolytus of Rome (d. 235), Against Beron and Helix, Fragment 1: …His divine will remaining unalterable by which He has made and moves all things, sustained as they severally are by their own natural laws.

If non-human animals, without the gift of reading tablets, are sustained by such laws, why not humans?  After all, all things are sustained by their own natural laws. 

Novatian (d. 258), De Trinitate 8: For, under the yoke of the natural law given to all things, some things are restrained, as if withheld by reins; others, as if stimulated, are urged on with relaxed reins.

The natural law is given to all things.  This would, of course, include humans.

Methodius of Olympus (d. ca. 311), A Synopsis of Some Apostolic Words from Methodius of Olympus (from St Photius of Constantionople, Bibliotheca, codex 234): For there are two kinds of thoughts in us; the one which arises from the lust which lies in the body, which, as I said, came from the craft of the Evil Spirit; the other from the law, which is in accordance with the commandment, which we had implanted in us as a natural law, stirring up our thoughts to good, when we delight in the law of God according to our mind, for this is the inner man…

The natural law, implanted in us, stirs us to the good.  We need not a written law to know this good.

St Ambrose of Milan (d. 397), Explanation of the Twelve Psalms 36.69: The law of God is in the heart of the righteous. Which law? It is not the written law but the natural law, because “the law was not laid down for the righteous but for the unrighteous.”

St John Chrysostom (d. 407), Homilies on Romans, Homily 6 (on Rom 2.25): For there is a natural law and there is a written law. “For when the Gentiles,” he says, “which have not the Law.” What Law, say? The written one. “Do by nature the things of the Law.” Of what Law? Of that by works. “These having not the Law.” What Law? The written one. “Are a law unto themselves.” How so? By using the natural law.

The written law of God (the Decalogue) is nothing but a codification of the natural law that is known to all men as determined by God in His creation.

St John Chrysostom (d. 407), Homilies on Romans, Homily 12 (on Rom 7.12): Now neither Adam, nor anybody else, can be shown ever to have lived without the law of nature. For as soon as God formed him, He put into him that law of nature, making it to dwell by him as a security to the whole kind.

This law of nature is inherent to our creation.  Man was never man without this law.

Friday, April 8, 2022

A Slap at NAP

My good friend, Walter Block, has taken a crack at the slap.  You know what I am talking about, and the details by now seem clear enough to make some general comments – at least comments based on what seem to be the by now accepted details.

A comedian publicly makes a less-than-polite joke at the expense of another man’s wife.  The other man decides to slap the comedian.  The reaction from the mainstream and culturally-right-side-of-history-woke world is predictable: the husband took away agency from his wife.  Don’t hit to solve problems (well, unless you are peacefully rioting and looting).  Slappy husband is a bad husband.

Walter’s response is, on the one hand, not surprising as it is consistent with his view that the non-aggression principle (NAP) is the standard by which all actions should be judged.  Therefore, to physically slap someone for a verbal insult is not justified.

On the other hand (yes, it takes two slaps to address the one slap), Walter suggests a proper role for the state attorney general to press charges even though the victim has said he will not press charges – effectively forgiving the slapping husband.  This seems quite contrary to the NAP.  Still, I would say Walter remains, on the whole, 99.44% pure NAP – for better or worse!

But all of this is secondary to my thoughts.  Long ago, when I was working through the pros and cons and the ramifications of a world in which the non-aggression principle would be considered the standard by which all actions are judged, I in fact introduced the idea of a husband slapping another man who insulted his wife – that there were positive aspects of such an action toward a more peaceful and civil society.

Now, Walter would say – and it is a reasonable point – “If no repercussions are visited on [the slapping husband], the implication taken away by them will likely be that such behavior is justified, acceptable; is, even, to be applauded.”  He would say it, because he said it.  Fair enough.  Next thing you know, the world would be slap-happy at the merest hint of insult.

But there is another side.  By slapping the offending comedian, perhaps the husband sent a message to all of the insensitive humorists and jokesters and boors that such behavior is destructive toward civil society (as it most certainly is).  That perhaps what comes out of one’s mouth is more destructive of civil society than the slap which corrects such boorish and degrading behavior.  Perhaps the next wanna-be wife-of-another-man insulter will think twice before making jokes at the wife’s expense.

Walter asks, regarding the implications of the slap going unpunished: “Is that really the direction in which people of good will would wish our country to move?”  In other words, do we as a society want to leave it assumed that such slappiness is OK?  His answer is no.

But then, do we want to send the message that open, public insults are OK?  Bringing Twitter from the virtual world into the real world?  Sure, there are other, non-violent means of sending such a message.  But sometimes a slap is worth a thousand words.