History of Philosophy and Christian Thought - Lesson 38

Law as eternal, divine, natural and positive

Aquinas describes four kinds of law as eternal, divine, natural and positive.

Ronald Nash
History of Philosophy and Christian Thought
Lesson 38
Watching Now
Law as eternal, divine, natural and positive

Thomistic Philosophy

Part 4

IV. Four Kinds of Law

A. Eternal Law

B. Divine Law

C. Natural Law

D. Positive Law

  • Thales and Anaximander were two philosophers in the sixth century BC that lived in Miletus.

  • Heraclitus and Pythagoras lived into the 5th century BC.

  • Any worldview addresses the subjects of God, ultimate reality, human knowledge, ethics and human persons.

  • Fundamental beliefs of a naturalistic worldview is that nothing exists outside the physical universe and that all things evolved.

  • Plato was a student of Socrates and lived into the fourth century BC. He opposed hedonism, empiricism, relativism, materialism, atheism and naturalism.

  • Plato described the universe as having three levels: the world of particulars, the world of forms, and the form of the good.

  • Plato's view of the universe was dualistic.

  • One of Plato's fundamental arguments is that the human soul is immortal.

  • Evaluation of Plato's arguments and comparison of Plato's philosophy with biblical theology.

  • Empiricism teaches that all human knowledge arises from sense experience. Rationalism teaches that some human knowledge does not arise from sense. experience

  • Aristotle was a student of Plato and lived in the fourth century BC.

  • Aristotle rejected Plato's doctrine of two worlds.

  • Discussion of Aristotelian philosophy as it relates to the incarnation.

  • Aristotle's philosophy as it relates to attributes of God and fundamental assumptions about psychology.

  • Aristotle made a distinction between passive intellect and active intellect.

  • Discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the law of non-contradiction.

  • Discussion of the nature and substance of matter.

  • Hellenistic philosophy was an approach that was popular from the fourth century BC to the fifth century AD.

  • Stoics were determinists who believed in living according to nature.

  • Hedonism emphasized pleasure as the greatest good. "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we might be dead."

  • Philo's philosophy was based on a synthesis of Stoicism and Platonism.

  • Implicit "Logos" Christianity is an underlying theme in the book of Hebrews.

  • Plotinus lived in the third century AD and is considered the founder of Neoplatonism.

  • Augustine is a Latin church father, is considered by many to be one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity.

  • Augustine wrote Confessions as an autobiographical work to record his experience as a sinful youth and his experience becoming a follower of Christ.

  • Augustine wrote to refute some heresies of the day by focusing on the concepts of faith and reason.

  • Augustine writes about the problem of evil and describes evil as the absence of good.

  • Augustine writes to refute Pelagianism by focusing on the biblical teaching about sin.

  • Augustine writes to refute Donatism.

  • The fundamental idea of skepticism is that no one can know anything. Augustine this statement contradicts itself because the skeptic is claiming that you can know that you can't know anything.

  • When Augustine wrote "The City of God," he had a linear view of history.

  • In Augustine's theory of knowledge, he says that eternal reason and human reason are two different levels of reason.

  • Augustine was personally convinced of the importance of divine illumination.

  • The intellectual background of Thomas Aquinas was influenced by the discovery of ancient manuscripts, the rise of universities, the rise of religious brotherhoods and the rise of Muslim philosophy.

  • Aquinas describes faith as whatever a human can know through special revelation, and reason as whatever a human can know outside of special revelation.

  • Aquinas attempts to prove God's existence.

  • Aquinas describes four kinds of law as eternal, divine, natural and positive.

  • The rationalists and empiricists set the stage for Kant and other philosophers of the modern era.

  • Kant argued that moral requirements are based on a standard of rationality he dubbed the “Categorical Imperative."

  • Kants two worlds are the phenomenal world and the noumenal world.

  • Discussion of criticisms and questions about Kant's ideas.

  • Similarities between Kant's ideas and postmodernism.

  • The dialectic is a central idea in Hegel's philosophy.

  • Ideally, Marxism begins with class struggle, then revolution, dictatorship of the proletariat, withering away of the state, and a utopian classless society.

  • Discussion of four faces of Marxism.

  • Nietzsche proclaimed that, "God is dead." His cure was to live life knowing there is no ultimate meaning. Kierkegaard emphasized a worldview based on true faith.

In this class, you will explore the rich history of philosophy and its relationship with Christian thought. The course begins with an introduction to the definition and importance of philosophy in Christian theology. You will then delve into the evolution of philosophical thought from the Pre-Socratic era, through the Classical Greek philosophers, and into the Hellenistic period. As you progress, you will discover how early Christian thought emerged and developed during the Patristic period, with a special focus on Augustine. The class continues with an examination of medieval Christian thinkers, such as Anselm and Thomas Aquinas, and concludes with an analysis of modern philosophers like Descartes, Kant, and Kierkegaard, and their influence on contemporary Christian thought.

[00:00:03] Now, what I'm going to do next is unforgivable. But I must do it for this reason. If I now were foolish enough to attempt to explain to you the text material that's on pages 175 to 177, we would we would basically need all of next week to do that. So I am apologizing because I don't have the time. I'm urging you to read this material as carefully as you can. And all in all, the only other thing I'm going to talk about with respect to Aquinas is his theory of of four kinds of law that appear on pages 184 to 187. And that's the way life is. All right. We got to move on. This is very good stuff, though, here. And I agree with this stuff. Okay. Even though my agreement with puts me at odds with every current member of the U.S. Supreme Court, with the exception of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, but puts me at odds with every law school professor in America, with the exception maybe of Pat Robertson's law school, if there's still one there and maybe a few other places. Aquinas said there are four kinds of law. This is good stuff. This is important stuff. We can we can understand and explain Aquinas for kinds of law in terms of circles. Suddenly, I'm looking at this picture on 185 and it looks like a grasshopper or an ant or something, doesn't it? The big circle is what Aquinas calls eternal law. Eternal law. Eternal law is the sum total of all laws that God uses to control His creation. As I say on page 184, Eternal Law is the law of God that applies to all of creation. The eternal law includes both moral laws and the physical laws that govern all of nature eternal laws, God's mind conceiving and determining everything that exists.

[00:02:22] Every other form of law flows from the eternal law. Okay, so here's the eternal law. Now, the second kind of law we're going to talk about is, well, I'm going to break. I'm going to change the order of presentation. Here is the divine law. And let's put it over here, the Divine Law. What is this? These are the area of divine law, includes all of the moral laws that God prescribes through special revelation, the Divine Law. This would include all of the moral laws of the Old Testament and the New Testament. And of course, included in here would be the Ten Commandments. That's God's divine law. But notice it is known through special revelation. Then there is what Aquinas calls natural law. For Aquinas, the content of natural law is identical with the content of the Divine law. With these qualifications or with these notices. First of all, natural law is is man's understanding of God's moral law. When people have no access to Scripture. If you want the best account of natural law, read the first 50 pages of C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity, where C.S. Lewis argues beautifully, magnificently, in an unsurpassed way that every human being really knows the moral law. Lewis begins by saying, Have you ever seen two people argue over who has the right to a seat on a bus or a train or an airplane, and somebody sneaks in and then they begin to say, That was my seat. No, it isn't. It's my seat. Notice nobody ever denies that there is a moral law. Both of them recognize that anybody who would steal a seat has performed unethically so that every argument between human beings really presupposes that there is an objective moral law and that everybody knows it.

[00:04:53] But according to Lewis, the moral law is can be known independently of scriptures. So this is this is a human understanding of the moral law that's outside of Scripture. And an acquaintance is right. Every human being, however imperfectly. Does have some knowledge of the moral law, even though it is not as complete, nor is it as clear as the revealed divine law of God is through Scripture. Okay. Now, finally, there is what Aquinas calls positive law. What is this? This is human law. This is encoded human law. It is the law that that runs a particular state. In the case of Kabul, in Afghanistan. The positive law since the Taliban took over was that women must always cover their heads. Some of them have seen the sun for the first time in the last couple of days and that men must always grow beards. That's the. And if you don't, we will kill you or will hurt you in various ways. Now, acquaintances view is that even though the law of the state will end up dealing with a lot of things that now that are not explicitly covered in Scripture or perhaps explicitly covered in natural law. Nonetheless, there must be a correlation between the law of the state and the law of God as revealed in Scripture. Or if you're dealing with a pagan country, the natural law that is exhibited in conscience and in the heart of a human being, there must be a correlation between the law of the state. But let me tell you what has happened in the philosophy of law in the United States over the last 100 years. Let me give you what's being taught today in the law schools of America. Here's the eternal law, which most law schools don't give anything for.

[00:07:17] And then here's positive law. And there is and there can be no connection. Those of you old enough to remember the persecution of Clarence Thomas when he was being questioned by the Witch Committee, was that in the U.S. Senate, the the Judiciary Committee, chaired by that great human being from Delaware, Senator Biden, Joe Biden. What drove most of the senators crazy was the possibility that Clarence Thomas, who had been trained as a Roman Catholic, that him who had written who would dare to write some articles expressing support for natural law, that we were about to put a guy on the Supreme Court who believed that God's natural law had more precedence than the law of a state. And that was why they were really after him. They were afraid of his position on abortion and everything else. And all of this stuff with Anita Hill was just a radical left wing plot and a collection of lies in order to defeat the Clarence Thomas nomination. The funny thing is, we now have a second Supreme Court justice, Judge Antonin Scalia, who clearly who clearly is a has a commitment to a natural law philosophy, even though neither he nor Clarence Thomas will ever admit that publicly. All right. Now, here's the danger of what happens when a nation's philosophy of law separates positive law from the law of God. Answer no. All human rights are dependent totally upon the lawmaker. And thus there is no more ultimate court of appeal. Once you are cut off at the pass by, whatever the human law is that prevails. This was the situation in every totalitarian state in the history of the world. Nazi Germany. When the Nazis started on their path of murdering Jews or anyone else who would dissent, there was no more ultimate court of appeal.

[00:09:59] What liberal lawyers do, what liberal judges do, is they cheat on this because there are times, if it's a cause that they themselves favor, as in the case of racial discrimination, for example, they will allow people to make, you know, to say, I'm sorry, but we have a right to disagree with our country and with the law. Racial discrimination is wrong. Of course it's wrong. Therefore, civil disobedience is justified. Of course it's justified. But the only reason why civil disobedience can ever be justified is because there is a higher law than the law of government. And liberals will recognize that implicitly if their instincts, their moral intuitions agree with that of the aggrieved parties. But in this but, you know, this is still the operating paradigm. Well, I believe if you study that material about acquaintances for kinds of law, it will help you understand what's wrong with a lot of a lot of jurisprudence in this country. And I you know, I encourage you to to pay close attention to it.