Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Or Briefly

Or briefly and more elegantly than I:

"That is genuine theology that speaks when God's Word speaks and is silent when God's Word is silent" - Hermann Sasse, "We Confess the Sacraments, Volume 2" - page 104

God grant that we learn both of these ever more!


Mike Baker said...

One of my canned sayings (which I stole and I'm not sure who coined it) is one that I dust off when Bible Studies turns to topics that are related to natural law:

"This is all well and good, but you know what? ...we are never going to argue someone into the kingdom of heaven. It takes the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes from the Word proclaimed and not from your debating skills."

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

My super cynical point of view. You aren't debating Natural Law because you want them in heaven, you are bringing up Natural Law because they are annoying you here on earth and just want to make them stop.

Mike Baker said...

My even more super cynical point of view. You aren't debating Natural Law because you want them in heaven, you are bringing up Natural Law because YOU are annoying. :P

Christ didn't call us to be his legal team. He called us to be witnesses to His gospel.

Phillip said...

You can't witness the Gospel without proclaiming the Law. Natural Law's about not being antinomians.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

We speak where God's Word speaks and are silent when God's Word is silent. That is Law enough for anyone.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

If you are arguing "natural Law" you are specifically not arguing "revealed Law". I'll stick to the revealed, thank you very much.

Phillip said...

This argument would hold, if the natural law were something different from the eternal law: whereas it is nothing but a participation thereof, as stated above. S.t. I-II 91.2 ad 2

Natural Law is revealed by nature, reason, and our hearts. And no I don't mean feelings, I mean as Paul says it's written on our hearts. The Bible is "silent" on pornography or tax evasion, but they're clearly against Scripture and the Decalogue. It's perfectly clearly revealed and it's not about unnecessary burdens. It's about the clear will of God, and yet Scripture is silent on it. Prove the Holocaust was wrong without using Natural Law. You can't. A government killed people according to the duly established laws of the nation, thereby exercising the power of the sword. The only recourse to deny the legitimacy of the Holocaust is Natural Law.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


You make some incorrect assertions here.

1. The bible is not silent on pornography. We are constantly directed away from all sorts of sexual immorality, with often the Greek using the word "pornia". You know, from which we get the word "pornography".

2. Tax Evasion? Really? Does not our Lord command Peter to pay the tax, saying, "Render unto Caesar what is Caeser's"? Moreover, as we are to submit to authorities, that would de facto including following... including tax law.

3. The Holocaust? Really? The government is given the sword to punish wicked doers - that is clear. By what standard is the Holocaust a punishment of evil doers? It isn't, therefore it isn't defensible. Again, a standard given in Scripture.

And note - I am not denying the existence of Natural Law... I'm just entirely dubious when someone jumps up and says, "I know this isn't in Scripture, but it's *natural* law and therefore you have to do it."

When I refer to that which is "revealed" - I mean that which is revealed in God's Word. That's what I want - don't try to convince me by reason - show me the Word of God, where it is clear. Don't give me a giant construction on what you think should be obvious from nature -- I will let the Word of God stand.

Anonymous said...

What natural law doesn't reveal is the wrath of God, i.e. if you insist on trying to live apart from God He will reluctantly give you what you demand. You don't know much about the workings of the world unless the law reveals this to you. Natural law seems ambiguous on this point.

At least this is what the Apostle writes in Romans.

Tom Fast

Phillip said...

Unless I am convinced by reason or the Word of God...

I'm serious prove that the Holocaust was wrong without Natural Law. Being a Jew was a crime, therefore the Nazis were punishing evil doers. It was perfectly just.

Jesus does say render unto Caesar. He also says be fruitful and multiply. I mean, surely it's okay if I render unto Caesar part of the time. That's good enough, isn't it? Yes, that's the point, it's not a sometimes rule. You don't get to choose to ignore it when you and your spouse find it inconvenient. When it's time to render the conjugal duty, be fruitful is fully in effect.

Also, I'll again return to Thomas,

I say it's known per se to those who study the Scripture and law.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Concerning the Holocaust - seriously... nowhere does the Scripture assume that every law the government passes must be just and proper in the sight of God simply because it passes the law.

And I am not speaking to "inconvenience" in this discussion - I am talking to what one does in this fallen world where obligations come into conflict.

1. I, as a husband am to care for my wife as Christ loves the Church.

2. My wife and I are to be fruitful and multiply.

3. If my wife becomes pregnant - she will die if the pregnancy advances.

Now what?

How do you handle this? How does Natural Law handle this?

Do I de facto kill my wife for the sake of the Law.... that certainly violates point 1. (Oh, maybe I could take comfort in that Roman "consequence" twist... I didn't really kill my wife, it was just a consequence of a good act... even though we knew it was going to happen.)

See, this is what you and TA forget... God's Law is meant to serve man. Really, the Law is good... it's for our benefit. It's not as though man exists to serve the Law. It's not a means to torture man, or put him into untenable situtations. And you know what, in a fallen world, God's real Law, not man's logical constructs, God's real Law provides a way of escape, an allowance.

Take Divorce. God hates it. HATES it. Yet, the Law allows it. Why would God allow in His Law something that He hates? Because in a fallen world, because of the hardness of heart that's what happens sometimes.

And you know what, in a sinful, fallen world, God does not desire to push a couple beyond what they can bear. He doesn't run roughshod over His people; He doesn't treat His beloved as of less import than some abstract idea.

On this, the East is much more reasonable -

I also like this: "Clearly, spouses should make such decisions mutually on the counsel of their spiritual father. The latter should take into account, with pastoral prudence, the concrete living conditions of the couple, their age, health, degree of spiritual maturity and many other circumstances. In doing so, he should distinguish those who can hold the high demands of continence from those to whom it is not given (Mt. 19:11), taking care above all of the preservation and consolidation of the family."

Note that there is actual consideration of the real, specific situations.

Blanket condemnations that do not have clear biblical mandate do not do this. Indeed, they are odious and provoke those burdened to wrath.

Fathers are not to provoke their children to wrath. Those who would be spiritual fathers, who would assume to instruct others would be wise not to provoke wrath for the sake of abstractions either.

Phillip said...

Liberal denominations justify all sorts of practices by claiming things in Scripture aren't clear or can't be followed because they're hard. Prove that masturbation is sexual immorality. The Bible doesn't clearly say, "Thou shall not masturbate." It's just a blanket condemnation of an activity that it would be odious to demand people stop. Where's the magic dividing line that I don't see? It's just as easy to reason don't use contraception from Scripture as don't masturbate.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

A few things:

1. First of all, just because someone abuses scripture and ignores it doesn't mean that we need to add additional fences around it. We are not to go beyond Scripture as a reaction to those who ignore it. The opposite of one error does not become truth, for every heresy has its equal and opposite heresy.

2. Prove masturbation is immoral from Scripture? God says that man is to cleave to his wife. That is the situation and setting for sexual activity. Sex outside of marriage is thus precluded... including sex with one's own self.

More over, we are taught by scripture that we are to avoid sexual filthiness and lust. Is there masturbation apart from this? Not that I am aware of - for masturbation is an act born of lust. Therefore, let it be condemned.

3. Here is the dividing line. The question isn't just a matter of action - what action is allowable or not allowable, and if it is allowable then I can do it. The question is "why" something is done.

Is sex permitted? Depends upon why it is done. If it is in the context of marriage and for the benefit of the spouse, it is a good and God pleasing thing. If it is outside of marriage, it is sin.

Is killing permitted? Depends on why the killing is done. Is it in the context of just war, or self defense, or defense of the neighbor... then it may be done. Is it done out of anger, or a desire for revenge for some slight? Then it is a sin.

Is preaching permitted? It depends on the context of the preaching. If one is called and ordained to preach, then it is good. If one usurps the office, it is sin.

What you are falling to see it this - actions do not take place in the abstract. They are not fundamentally good or bad - they are neutral. They are permissible, but not necessarily profitable. The profitablity depends entirely upon the context.

Your approach is trying to define certain actions as intrinsically good or intrinsically bad. No.

"Well, when is idolatry good?" Idolatry is just worship that is in the wrong context to the wrong place. Worship is a good thing if God is worshiped according to His command. Worship is a bad thing if it is to something other than God -- and we call this idolatry.

Thus, I will say even with Contraception, it in and of itself is neither fundamentally good or bad. Tell me the context, tell me the why. Is there an honest concern for ones spouse - so be it. Care for your spouse, as God commands. Does it derive from a desire for greed or selfishness? Then no, that is not good.