Friday, February 20, 2009

Is Natural Law Biblical?

This Blog is a response to Danny Pelichowski's post on his Blog theological sharpening. His original post can be found here. Danny critiques the concept of Natural Law as being unbiblical. I will respond to Danny and argue that his critique is incorrect.

Danny thinks this about natural law:

"The concept of “natural law” is the most prominent error in this discussion. Dr. John Frame proclaims that “…the idea that there is some impersonal mechanism called “nature” or “natural law” that governs the universe is absent from the Bible.”[8] According to the Scriptures God is providentially ruling over his creation and has not set up impersonal laws to govern the world as Aquinas and his mentor Aristotle would have us believe. Due to the prominence of this belief in our modern culture it would take a great deal to overthrow the theory of “natural law,” However, for Protestants the absence of the concept of “natural law” in divine revelation should be more than sufficient to reject it as false."

The first mistake that I think Danny makes is by defining natural law in a incorrect way. Natural law is simply the belief that the moral law is made know to the conscience of all mankind. This moral law can be from God's nature and commandments and thus it does not necessarily entail some sort of impersonal mechanisms at all. It could be written on the hearts and conscience of all mankind by the God of the Bible, YHWH.

But I think worst of all is that Danny thinks that natural law is not biblical. But one wonders how he might deal with the clear teachings of scripture on this. Specifically Saint Paul's Letter to the Romans:

Romans 2:14-15 "14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them"

What Paul describes here is precisely how I defined natural law and thus I conclude that Natural Law is biblical.


  1. Nate,

    I will discuss in greater lengths how I interpret Romans 2 so I'm sure we will continue this later. I appreciate you voicing your concern and dealing with what I have written. What I am objecting to in this part of my paper is the false idea that God sets up laws that he has bound himself to in nature. On the contrary the doctrine of God's providential ruling of the universe makes this an unbiblical idea that Christians have picked up and assume a priori without proving it from Scripture.

    Your concern it seems is primarily my rejection of a natural moral law. Although I did not touch on this specifically in the post under discussion but I do deny it later in the paper. In short: work of the law=the conscience. Not a universal moral law written on the heart like the ten commandments or whatever else people describe it as. Like I said I discuss this later in the paper. Thanks for your desire to discuss these things. I truly do appreciate it. God bless you as well!

  2. I agree with Paragraph 1, but again biblical I see no reason for you to interpret the phrase "argou nomou" or works of law as referring to conscience. This is a anti-contextual interpretation because it is being paralleled with the written Mosaic Law in context and thus it is hard to conceive of it as anything but natural law. I would contend that you are mistakenly putting Robert Morey's philosophical a priori assumptions on to the text rather than just interpreting the text in it's historical linguistical context.

    Thanks again for your thoughts Danny.

    God Bless,


  3. Nate you said:

    "I would contend that you are mistakenly putting Robert Morey's philosophical a priori assumptions on to the text rather than just interpreting the text in it's historical linguistical context."

    I was wondering if you could flesh this out a little bit. Because I too think that Morey's teaching is coloring Danny's perspectives on these subjects. But what exactly are you referring to in this statement?

  4. Aaron,

    The philosophical presuppositions are a bad combination of hyper Van Tillianism, Neo-Orthodoxy and straight Clarkianism. All of these movements hate any sort of theological and philosophical knowledge that are not found in the written text of biblical revelation. The sad things about these irrationalistic presuppositions is that they are anything but the end they have to distort the biblical text just keep this philosophical position.

    I hope that helps.

    God Bless,


  5. Yeah that helps. What exactly did Clark contribute to Morey's thought? I find that more disturbing than the other two based on what you and Steven have told me over the years.

  6. Hey Aaron,

    I returned your phone call my friend. Morey thinks that there is no theological knowledge outside of the Bible just like Gordon Clark (a ultimate rejection of general revelation and natural law). This is what a lot of Hyper-Van Tillians try to pull as well with their rejection of natural law. Morey and Clark both reject natural law and general revelation because of their overreaction to Rome's natural theology, just like baptists overreact to Rome about Baptism. They throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  7. What-up Natron,
    Are you saying that Morey denies General revelation in practice when it comes to his rejection of Natural theology or do you think he denies General revelation all together? Clearly, we've both heard Morey articulate GR accurately. Also, could you supply for my benefit some quotes and sources for these claims, especially this one: "Morey thinks that there is no theological knowledge outside of the Bible just like Gordon Clark (a ultimate rejection of general revelation and natural law)."

    I think it would help our discussion along in other blogs as well. Thanks bro.

  8. Hey Peter,

    How are you doing? I hope all is going well with you. I reject natural theology, so my critique would not be that Morey denies general revelation in practice when he rejects natural theology because then I would reject general revelation if this were true. I believe he rejects general revelation as understood in the classical Protestant sense. I have heard him articulate general revelation or lack of thereof and I have seen him say that it only exists because of knowledge we have in the Bible after all he says in order to know that it exists you have to go to the Bible to begin with. He also claims that Sprouls position, which is similar to mine, is natural theology and not general revelation. So any sort of theological knowledge apart from the Bible is impossible on Morey's view and this would be a rejection of the classical protestant position on general revelation. I do not have any written sources I can appeal to since all my knowledge comes from his lectures when I went to his church and his CD set on natural theology. But Morey also rejects natural law as well and gives the strange treatment of the biblical texts as he does to Romans 1 and 2. It just seems to me that Morey is driven by unreasonable philosophical presuppositions and imposing those on the Biblical text.
    God bless,


  9. Thanks Nate,
    I'm doing good brother. I'm enjoying marriage and Seminary. God has come through in a big way to provide me with a good education.

    By the way, can you tract down the statement (source) where Clark or Van Till deny you can have any theological knowledge apart from the Bible. I would like it for my notes, but if you don't have it on hand, no problem.

    I would have problems with this claim as well, but I'm not certain they teach that, primarily because I have not read enough of their work.

  10. Well Nate I'd still rather throw the baby out with the bath water than try to drown him in it in the name of Christ. :P I think that settles the issue for all time, so don't mention Colossians 2 or any of that other Bible junk you're so found of using to argue for Paedo sprinkles. The Baptists have their tradition and we're gonna stand firm on that, not drinking all the while.

    As for Peter I found a great article that as far as I can tell is pro Clark which expounds his views. Also several reformed sites have collected his massive library electronicly so you can read them online.

    Clark's view is this:

    "The Philosophy of Scripturalism

    If I was to summarize Clark’s philosophy of Scripturalism, I would say something like this:

    1. Epistemology: Propositional Revelation

    2. Soteriology: Faith Alone

    3. Metaphysics: Theism

    4. Ethics: Divine Law

    5. Politics: Constitutional Republic

    Translating those ideas into more familiar language, we might say:

    Epistemology: The Bible tells me so.
    Soteriology: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.
    Metaphysics: In him we live and move and have our being.
    Ethics: We ought to obey God rather than men.
    Politics: Proclaim liberty throughout the land."

    Then the author goes on to give a more detailed account:


    Scripturalism holds that God reveals truth. Christianity is propositional truth revealed by God, propositions that have been written in the 66 books that we call the Bible. Revelation is the starting point of Christianity, its axiom. The axiom, the first principle, of Christianity is this: “The Bible alone is the Word of God.”

    I must interject a few words here about axioms, for some persons, as I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, insist that they do not have any. That is like saying one does not speak prose. Any system of thought, whether it be called philosophy or theology or geometry must begin somewhere. Even empiricism or evidentialism begins with axioms. That beginning, by definition, is just that, a beginning. Nothing comes before it. It is an axiom, a first principle. That means that those who start with sensation rather than revelation, in a misguided effort to avoid axioms, have not avoided axioms at all: They have merely traded the Christian axiom for a secular axiom. They have exchanged infallible propositional revelation, their birthright as Christians, for fallible sense experience. All empiricists, let me emphasize, since it sounds paradoxical to those accustomed to thinking otherwise, are presuppositionalists: They presuppose the reliability of sensation. They do not presuppose the reliability of revelation. That is something they attempt to prove. Such an attempt is doomed.

    Thomas Aquinas, the great thirteenth-century Roman Catholic theologian, tried to combine two axioms in his system: the secular axiom of sense experience, which he obtained from Aristotle, and the Christian axiom of revelation, which he obtained from the Bible. His synthesis was unsuccessful. The subsequent career of western philosophy is the story of the collapse of Thomas’ unstable Aristotelian-Christian condominium. Today the dominant form of epistemology in putatively Christian circles, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, is empiricism. Apparently today’s theologians have learned little from Thomas’ failure. If Thomas Aquinas failed, one doubts that Norman Geisler can succeed.

    The lesson of the failure of Thomism was not lost on Clark. Clark did not accept sensation as his axiom. He denied that sense experience furnishes us with knowledge at all. Clark understood the necessity of refuting all competing axioms, including the axiom of sensation. His method was to eliminate all intellectual opposition to Christianity at its root. In his books - such as A Christian View of Men and Things, Thales to Dewey, Religion, Reason, and Revelation, and Three Types of Religious Philosophy - he pointed out the problems, failures, deceptions, and logical fallacies involved in believing that sense experience provides us with knowledge.

    Clark’s consistently Christian rejection of sense experience as the way to knowledge has many consequences, one of which is that the traditional proofs for the existence of God are all logical fallacies. David Hume and Immanuel Kant were right: Sensation cannot prove God, not merely because God cannot be sensed or validly inferred from sensation, but because no knowledge at all can be validly inferred from sensation. The arguments for the existence of God fail because both the axiom and method are wrong - the axiom of sensation and the method of induction - not because God is a fairy tale. The correct Christian axiom is not sensation, but revelation. The correct Christian method is deduction, not induction.

    Another implication of the axiom of revelation is that those historians of thought who divide epistemologies into two types of philosophy, empiricist and rationalist, as though there were only two possible choices -- sensation and logic - are ignoring the Christian philosophy, Scripturalism. There are not only two general views in epistemology; there are at least three, and we must be careful not to omit Christianity from consideration simply by the scheme we choose for studying philosophy.

    Another implication of the axiom of revelation is this: Rather than accepting the secular view that man discovers truth and knowledge on his own power using his own resources, Clark asserted that truth is a gift of God, who graciously reveals it to men. Clark’s epistemology is consistent with his soteriology: Just as men do not attain salvation themselves, on their own power, but are saved by divine grace, so men do not gain knowledge on their own power, but receive knowledge as a gift from God. Knowledge of the truth is a gift from God. Man can do nothing apart from the will of God, and man can know nothing part from the revelation of God. We do not obtain salvation by exercising our free wills; we do not obtain knowledge by exercising our free intellects. Clark’s epistemology is a Reformed epistemology. All other epistemologies are inconsistent and ultimately derived from non-Christian premises. No starting point, no proposition, no experience, no observation, can be more truthful than a word from God: “Because he could swear by no greater, he swore by himself,” the author of Hebrews says. If we are to be saved, we must be saved by the words that come out of the mouth of God, words whose truth and authority are derived from God alone."

    And then he gives a very important caveat:

    "Scripturalism does not mean, as some have objected, that we can know only the propositions of the Bible. We can know their logical implications as well. The Westminster Confession of Faith, which is a Scripturalist document, says that “The authority of the holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is Truth itself), the author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the word of God” (emphasis added). By these words, and by the fact that the Confession begins with the doctrine of Scripture, not with the doctrine of God, and certainly not with proofs for the existence of God, the Confession shows itself to be a Scripturalist document.

    Continuing with the idea of logical deduction, the Confession says: “The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men.”

    Notice the claim of the Confession: “The whole counsel of God” is either expressly set down in Scripture or may be deduced from it. Everything we need for faith and life is found in the propositions of the Bible, either explicitly or implicitly. Nothing is to be added to the revelation at any time. Only logical deduction from the propositions of Scripture is permitted. No synthesis, no combination with unscriptural ideas is either necessary or permissible."

    Sorry guys for taking up so much space on the comments board. To me this all sounds like you could be quoting Morey. The caveat is helpful to disseminate some of the worries, but I wonder how consistent this actually is with the rest of the system.

    That article is found in its entirety here:

    And you can actually listen to some of his lectures here:

    One of the things that bothers me alot about this sort of epistemology is that is has less to do with what the Bible says about Man's noetic faculties than it does with an importation of Kantian Philosophy and a concession to Hume. Both of which I think are unnecessary and can be answered using Thomas Reid and ultimately Alvin Plantinga. Not to mention scripture itself. So on the face of it things seem reformed but what eventually comes out is Kantian metaphysics and epistemology.

  11. Nate said…I would contend that you are mistakenly putting Robert Morey's philosophical a priori assumptions on to the text rather than just interpreting the text in it's historical linguistical context.

    Aaron responded to Nate…I too think that Morey's teaching is coloring Danny's perspectives on these subjects. But what exactly are you referring to in this statement?

    Nate responded back to Aaron… The philosophical presuppositions are a bad combination of hyper Van Tillianism, Neo-Orthodoxy and straight Clarkianism.

    Danny’s response: My Biblical presuppositions as admittedly being influenced by Dr. Morey but ultimately grounded in the text of Scripture is a realistic view of man’s sinful depravity, including his inability to know the Triune God apart from Scripture due to his sinful suppression of the truth of both special and general revelation. I am also so terribly corrupted by Dr. Morey’s teaching and exhortation to have a high view of Scripture as well as a protestant understanding of Sola Scriptura that limits doctrine and morals to what can found directly and or deduced from Scripture. In light of this I also presuppose the necessity of special revelation to save sinners, to reveal the triune God and his plan of salvation, as well as proclaim the powerful Gospel that can only be known and believed after regeneration, followed by the reading of Scripture or hearing the preaching of Scripture.

  12. Hello Danny,

    I would say you are influenced by Robert Morey but Morey is influenced by all those Clarkian philosophical presuppositions which themselves are not biblical but anti-biblical. I would say mans depravity is such that he cannot choose God unless God sufficiently causes him by his grace, no one denies that here so I am confused why you decided to bring that up.

    You say that man cannot know the Triune God apart from the scriptures because of his depravity, but how do you deal with the bible?

    Romans 1:18-21 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

    The Bible says they know the God, the Triune God since they know his divine nature. Furthermore, it says they know ton theon, this is a monadic use of the article in Greek which suggests that he is the only God they know, and the only God is the Triune God. However, it does not say they know the incarnation or how to be saved through this general revelation apart from the scriptures. This is why the Reformed have consistently said that general revelation is sufficient to condemn but not to save.

    Clearly then we see that man does know God but his depravity is such that he suppresses the truth, but in order to suppress the truth you have to know it. This is why Greg Bahnsen's dissertation is so useful. The unbeliever believes in God but he does not believe about himself that he can be a believer in God, which disables him from having a trusting relationship with Christ. Thus, the unbeliever does and can know God not apart from revelation but just written revelation.

    If you reject General revelation and natural law then you do not believe in a classical doctrine of sola scriptura but rather a convoluted doctrine of solo scriptura. But I agree with everything you said about the necessity of saving sinners through the revealed written word and the importance of the Gospel. I am a bit confused why you felt you needed to say all that here since we agree with you on those points but what I would take issue with only are the anti-biblical presuppositions to reject the bibles teaching on natural law and general revelation.

    I hope that helps Danny.

    God Bless,


  13. Aaron,

    Robbins says (of Clark's view), "Scripturalism does not mean, as some have objected, that we can know only the propositions of the Bible. We can know their logical implications as well."

    I see you note that they explicitly deny the kind of thing Nate is attributing to them. Whether they deny this statement in practice or as a system needs to be demonstrated, but it has not happened here on this website. I read through the whole article, and it seems that they are definitely granting Hume's critique of induction and logical certainty, which I noted you don't buy into (please explain why). However, I think we need to establish some of the claims on this website with respect to Morey, Clark or Van Till. I'm not convinced as of yet, and I would love to see the documentation.

    From the paper you recommended the statement that comes closest to what you guys are saying is in this section:
    It may very well be that William Clinton is
    President of the United States, but I do not know
    how to prove it, nor, I suspect, do you. In truth, I do
    not know that he is President, I opine it. I can,
    however, prove that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
    That information is revealed to me, not by the
    dubious daily newspaper or the evening news, but
    by the infallible Word of God. The resurrection of
    Christ is deduced by good and necessary
    consequence from the axiom of revelation.
    Any view of knowledge that makes no distinction
    between the cognitive standing of Biblical
    propositions and statements found in the daily paper
    does three things: First, it equivocates by applying one word, "knowledge," to two quite different sorts
    of statements: statements infallibly revealed by the
    God who can neither lie nor make a mistake, and
    statements made by men who both lie and make
    mistakes; second, by its empiricism, it actually
    makes the Biblical statements less reliable than
    those in the daily paper, for at least some statements
    in the paper are subject to empirical investigation
    and Biblical statements are not; and third, it thereby
    undermines Christianity.
    Revelation is our only source of truth and
    knowledge. Neither science, nor history, nor
    archaeology, nor philosophy can furnish us with
    truth and knowledge.

  14. Peter said:

    "I read through the whole article, and it seems that they are definitely granting Hume's critique of induction and logical certainty, which I noted you don't buy into (please explain why)."

    Because I'm not an internalist. Also Hume's arguments fail because he ends up doubting logic which was the entire basis of his argument in the first place. Also I reject Hume's arguments because they are not scriptual or Christian in any way.

  15. Also I think that the Kantian answer, which is sorta what Clark and Van Til do, is insufficient. We should've just gone with Reid and refuted Hume directly instead of proposing a whole new system that essentially led to post-modernity.

  16. Hello, I would like to disagree - natural law (the concept) IS MENTIONED in the Bible - see Romans 2:14.