Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Girolamo Zanchi on the Natural Law, Part 4

ZANCHI PROPOUNDS THREE additional theses regarding the natural law as he closes his discussion of the topic. His first thesis is that, though inscribed on everyone's heart, God inscribes the natural law unequally so that some men are more profoundly and deeply aware of the natural law, whereas others less so. The second thesis is that the law is so inscribed that it cannot be altered or altogether erased from the human heart. The final thesis as regards natural law relates to its role of convicting humanity of its sin.

With respect to his first thesis, Zanchi offers at proof the variegated worship of God in pagan history. Although no race's culture is so barbaric, or its philosophy so primitive so as to bar entirely the thought that God exists, Zanchi insists that in the area of worship peoples have historically show great divergence, from external offering of idols to a God viewed as corporeal to a true internal, spiritual worship recognizing that God is spirit. Even within a people there is diversity, thus Cicero "came closer to the truth than many other Romans" in advocating an internal, pure, and integral worship of God in his book On the Nature of the Gods (De natura deorum). Similarly, great divergence is seen within a people's history. Thus the Romans "had also been taught by natural law that because God is spirit, he must not be represented or worshipped with idols, a belief that was continued for one hundred seventy years from the founding of Rome." This purity in worship was lost, and thus the "natural law failed their descendants in part," when they incorporated idols in the worship of God. This corruption is discussed by Augustine in his City of God (6.4) and by Plutarch in his Life of Numa Pompilius. Another example of this corruption in morals is in the matter of oaths. At first, the Romans shunned swearing of oaths on the grounds that God's name was holy, but barbarians had no similar piety.

The divergence, corruption, or lack of integrity in the natural law is not limited to the notion of God and his worship. It is also seen in the area of social life. There have been countries where "deception, thievery, and robbery" are not considered evil. (334) Historical examples that may be adduced are the Spartans, who advanced thievery as good. Though Romans punished false witness harshly by throwing perjurers off the Tarpaeian Rock, not all cultures have been severe with lying, and some nations have praised lying. Though the Romans had rigorous view of marriage and incest, the Canaanites might be pointed to as a culture that violated the natural law in the area of marriage and sexual relations, allowing incestuous marriage as a matter of course. Indeed, so pristine were the Roman laws on marriage that "their laws about unlawful marriages were always honored very reverently by Christians so that whatever was lewd to the Romans had to be lewd to them, while whatever was not lewd to the Romans also was not condemned by the Christians as lewd." (335)

The natural law is even seen where there is a variety of customs. The Greeks, for example, considered it unseemly for a man to grow his hair long, and for a woman to keep it short. The Persians, however, did not share this custom. Yet through both cultures, the natural law that "good and proper behavior should be maintained" persisted, though its content was modified by the cultural norms. (335)

All this establishes the validity of Zanchi's thesis that "natural law has not been inscribed equally on the hearts of all people nor is it today, though in the hearts of the elect, of course, it is always more fully and more effectively written as the Lord promised in Jeremiah." (335, referring to Jer. 31:31-34) "From this it is clear that natural law is one and the same among all nations if we look at its presuppositions, not at its conclusions or applications." (335)

Zanchi's penultimate thesis on the natural law is that the law "is so impressed upon the human heart that it cannot be altered by anyone or completely blotted out from the heart." (336) Zanchi explains that God wants all men judged by the same standard, and so the "same law" must "exist inside all people." (336) The law sets forth those standards by which they are convicted as well as those for which they are forgiven if they act justly. It is this feature that St. Augustine in his Confessions refers to when he says: "Your law [has been] written on men's hearts, which iniquity itself cannot blot out" (et lex scripta in cordibus hominum, quam ne ipsa quidem delet iniquitas). Conf., ii.4. For Zanchi, the principles are never blotted out, and they remain there to "prick the human conscience," and thus "convicts human beings of sin." (336) However, the conclusions that come from the fundamental principles of natural law may be "blotted from human hearts when they are handed over to their sins, as Romans 1 proves." (336)

Zanchi completes his analysis of the natural law by equating its content with the Decalogue. "[B]ecause the Decalogue defines and describes the same things that are called natural law," Zanchi states, "the Ten Commandments themselves are often called "natural law." (337) Before going into his discussion of human laws, which "are derived from natural law through human reason," Zanchi closes his treatment of the natural with this gem:
[I]t must be mentioned that just as Christ is the fulfillment of the entire Mosaic law, so, too, is he the fulfillment of the natural law because, as human beings are convicted of sin through the law, they flee to Christ for forgiveness . . . .

There is one statement which appears odd: "Remember that because of Adam's sin, natural law had been destroyed and became an offense but that it is not one now." (336) It is unclear to me exactly what Zanchi intended to communicate by this cryptic statement.

This terminates our discussion on Zanchi's treatment of the natural law, though his treatment on human law, ecclesiastical law, custom and title, divine law, and the law of the spirit, Mosaic law, the law of the Jewish State, and ceremonial laws warrant review. These will be handled in subsequent posts.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Girolamo Zanchi on the Natural Law, Part 3

THE PROTESTANT THEOLOGIAN Zanchi distinguishes three functions of the natural law. Its first function is to teach what is good, just, and upright, and distinguish it from what is evil, unjust, and shameful. By doing this, the natural defines what should be pursued, and what should be avoided. Therefore, the natural law not only has an instructive role, it also "obligates and pushes us to do good, and it protects us from evil." (330) Finally, it serves the function of convicting and condemning those who ignore its injunctions, as well as defending those who abide by it. In its condemnatory role, the natural law is found in the "heart" or in the "conscience." "Indeed, sinning against our conscience is sinning against the God who teaches and advises us from within." (331) The conscience is thus like a thousand witnesses.

Zanchi also distinguishes between "natural instinct" and "natural law." Since the Fall, our natural instinct inclines toward evil, but the natural law "teaches only what is good and prods us toward those things." The war between "natural instinct" and the "natural law" is what St. Paul references in Romans 7:23, when he speaks of the "law of members."

Zanchi also distinguishes two purposes of the natural law, a feature it shares with all law: the glory of God and the good of human beings, both in their private and public lives. (331) Zanchi elaborates further on the purpose of law as a human good. He notes that Aristotle characterized laws as making people virtuous, by both guiding and inspiring persons to attain the good. Though, as pointed out by Aristotle and St. Paul (in Romans 7:10), the law has an accidental negative--by informing one of the good it also distinguishes the evil. (332) The three highest goods to which the natural law urges (in increasing dignity) are: (1) to protect and save ourselves by adopting healthy lifestyles over unhealthy ones; (2) to encourage us to propagate by having and rearing children and attending to domestic matters; and (3) to have us know and worship God. The natural law good of knowing and worship of God is divided into two headings, analogous to those two "tables" of the Ten Commandments. "The first concerns the knowledge and worship of God, and the other concerns loving our neighbor." (332) Thus, the natural law follows revealed law.

Independent of revelation, Zanchi teaches that God is known through nature. Though Zanchi appears to maintain, consonant with Romans 1:20, that God can be known by man through his natural powers (i.e., reason) by the things that are made, he seems to take away with one hand what he concedes with the other. He insists that the knowledge of God cannot be known by man naturally through his own efforts, but is immediately imparted by God into man's heart. Here again, the Calvinistic strain drowns out the Catholic teaching that God can be known, at least in theory, by reason unaided by supernatural grace (though in practice it may be difficult or rare). Zanchi is more consistent in advancing Calvin's doctrine of total depravity, than in reconciling with Pauline teaching.

The second "table" of the natural law is essentially the "Golden Rule." "Maintain fellowship and good will among human beings; that is, do not do to another what you do not want done to you and vice versa." (333) "Christ himself," Zanchi observes, "confirmed this heading of natural law first when he reduced commands of the second tablet to the love of one's neighbor and then when he said, 'Do, therefore, to others whatever yo wish that people would do to you.'" (333) That the "Golden Rule" found in the Ten Commandments and taught by Christ also wended its way into the Gentiles is evidenced by the words of the Roman emperor Severus: "'Do not do to another what you do not wish to be done to you.'"

Zanchi is likely referencing the Historia Augusta, specifically that portion written by Aelius Lampridius, though it suggests that Emperor Severus's knowledge of the "Golden Rule" may have been derived from Jewish or Christian sources, and not from reason independent of Judaeo-Christian sources. Nevertheless, Severus considered it a fine summation of natural right, in that he appeared to have lived by it, and written it in his palace and on public buildings. The Roman historian Lampridius states that Emperor Severus, "used often to exclaim what he had heard from someone, either a Jew or a Christian, and always remembered, and he also had it announced by a herald whenever he was disciplining anyone, 'What you do not wish that a man should do to you, do not do to him.' (Quod tibi fieri non vis, alteri ne feceris.) And so highly did he value this sentiment that he had it written up in the Palace and in public buildings." Hist. Aug., LI.7-8.

From the "Golden Rule" are derived other laws that are also written in the hearts of all men: "Live justly; do not hurt another person. Give to each person his due, stay loyal; and other similar laws that are listed in the works of other secular writers." (333)

Zanchi closes his discussion on the natural law with three more Theses, each followed with discussion. We will discuss these in our next and last posting on the natural law as posited by Girolamo Zanchi.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Girolamo Zanchi on the Natural Law, Part 2

IN AMPLIFYING ON HIS DEFINITION OF THE NATURAL LAW following his definitional Thesis, Zanchi focuses on the will of God as law and as the basis of justice, though he is quick to add the the "divine will is not separate from divine wisdom." (328) For Zanchi, therefore, the "divine will" and "divine rule for what to do and what not to do" are synonymous. The will behind the Law, and the reason behind the law are, in the final analysis, equivalent.

Zanchi distinguishes the natural law from other laws by several features. First, the natural law is "inscribed in the hearts of all people," though in conformity with his novel theory, he suggests a historical distinction in the natural law. For Zanchi, there was a natural law ante lapsum and a natural law post lapsum. He concedes that the natural law before the fall was "maybe even co-created with Adam," but was entirely corrupted, "almost completely blotted out and extinguished because of sin," by mankind's original sin. Traces of it simply may not be found in what is now the blind and depraved natural spirit of man. Accordingly, the natural law current in the post-lapsarian dispensation "has been inscribed and impressed in our hearts anew by God because of his goodness." (328)
Therefore, it is called "natural law" not so much because it is passed down to us from Adam naturally (we are, indeed, by nature blind and depraved toward true goodness, as I have said earlier) but because God has so impressed it into our very souls by inscribing some general, natural principles of worship, goodness, fairness, and honesty that they seem innate and natural to us.

Zanchi finds his scriptural warrant in Romans 2:14-15 for his theory that the natural law after the fall is, in fact, not a natural gift or quality in man, a law mediated by nature, but is immediately given by God into men's hearts. He suggests that this is the law that Jeremiah prophesied about in Jeremiah 31:31-33:
31 Behold the days shall come, saith the Lord, and I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt: the covenant which they made void, and I had dominion over them, saith the Lord. 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the Lord: I will give my law in their bowels, and I will write it in their heart: and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
How this prophecy--which is clearly anticipatory to the Jew and points to Christ's redemption and his repairing of the Fall's breach--relates back in time to Adam, Zanchi fails to tell us. Zanchi then provides a series of Scriptural string sites that establish man's perversion and sin, including Gen. 8:21, Jer. 17:9, John 3:6, 1 Cor. 2:14, Rom. 7:18. Because these scriptures speak to man's perversity and sinfulness, Zanchi reasons that the source of the natural law "must come from somewhere besides nature; that is, it must . . . come from God" immediately. (329) Zanchi's final argument is based upon the observation that if the natural law was a natural quality, it would "exist equally in all people," and since it is obvious that there are a variety of responses to justice, honesty, and worship of God among men, it follows (at least Zanchi reasons) that the natural law cannot be a natural quality, but must be "God's gift," a gift that is gratuitously (and apparently with divine arbitrariness) given to some men.
If you should read in some misguided treatise that natural law is a relic of the original image of God, know for a fact that it is not a relic passed down through Adam but something restored by God because of his goodness and grafted anew in our hearts, for if the relic of that image were passed down from Adam, either it would be sinful, or it would be an essential part of human nature.

In fact, we do not inherit anything from Adam except those things necessary for the establishment of the human race--and evil; that is, sin and misery, because no matter how great we may be, we are still born the children of wrath.

The scriptural basis for this novel concept of Zanchi is not convincing. It appears forced upon him by his efforts to reconcile his Calvinistic prejudice--which required him to hold man completely debased after the Fall--and his efforts to preserve what he could of the received teaching of natural law. He would have been better off to shed his pessimistic Calvinistic spectacles, and used his originally-Catholic eyes.

In the next post we will review Zanchi's teaching on the three functions of the natural law, and complete his observations on the natural law.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Girolamo Zanchi on the Natural Law, Part 1

THE THEOLOGIAN GIROLAMO ZANCHI (1516-90) dedicates a substantial portion of his treatment on law to the natural law. At the outset of his treatment on the natural law, Zanchi discusses the meaning of the term natural law, distinguishing the term natural law as used by various authorities, including Justinian, Canon and Civil lawyers, St. Paul, and St. Thomas. In reviewing these various definitions of natural law, Zanchi aims at limiting his use of the natural law to matters pertaining only to human beings, that is matters relating to man's intellect and spiritual soul, thus excluding from within the scope of that part of human life that man shares with the brute creation. "[C]ontrary to Aquinas, Zanchi wants to limit the use of the term natural law to that which pertains to human beings, thereby excluding its extension to the animal kingdom or to things that lack intellect (such as physical regularities in nature)." Grabill, 137.

Justinian's Digest and Institutions defines natural law broadly to include the brute creation in addition to man: "Natural law is what nature teaches to all animals." (323; quoting Digest, and Institutions, 1.2). This includes aspects of human life that would seem beyond the mere intellectual life unique to man. Thus mating, reproduction, and the rearing of young would be part of the natural law under Justinian's broad definitions.

As used by Canon lawyers and theologians, however, the term natural law is restricted to human nature. Quoting Gratian's Decretum, Zanchi defines this concept of law as "law common to all nations and that is obeyed everywhere by natural instinct and not by any statute." (324, quoting Decretum, 1.7). This broad concept of the "law of nations" (ius gentium) includes matters of moral behavior, namely, the notion of God, the duty of worshipping him, and matters relating to piety, such as obedience to one's parents or country, as well as matters of self-defense. This concept found within the ius gentium is what theologians and canon lawyers have called natural law.

St. Paul, on the other hand, puts forth a notion of natural law that pertains to individual human affairs alone, outside of the context of the ius gentium. When St. Paul speaks about the natural law, he refers to it being "written on the hearts" of men, clearly precluding thereby any reference to animals, since this "law" (which is nothing other than Scripture or divine law) cannot be said to be written in the hearts of brute animals. Based upon the Pauline concept, St. Isidore defines natural law as "that which is common for all people." (324) However, Zanchi also notes that St. Paul's notion of natural law also comprehends a more narrow view, in that in 1 Corinthians 11, he refers to the Greek custom that men should have their hair short, while women should have it long, as something taught by "nature itself." Though St. Paul characterizes it thus, it is clear that this natural law was a custom specific to the Greek, and not common to all peoples.

Finally, St. Thomas limits the term nature in "natural law" to human nature, although there is and overlap with animals, since man, in addition to his unique rational nature, shares with the brute animals a certain similarity. St. Thomas's teaching appears consonant with St. Paul's teaching as St. Thomas "in fact, teaches that whatever we find commonly inside the human heart belongs to a part of natural law." (324)

Zanchi distinguishes three levels to the natural law: (i) negatively, the impulse of self-defense or self-protection; (ii) affirmatively, the impulse toward propagation, which includes the procreation and education of children in common with the animals, and includes such matters as marriage, reproduction, and the rearing of children; and (iii) an intellectual or spiritual level, one preeminently human, which recognizes man's inclination to God, to religious worship, to "do good to those with whom they live," and the tendency towards justice, honesty, and life in common. In this last level, St. Thomas included the life of virtue and every virtuous act. "All that is contained in the law and the Gospels; that is, the lifestyle described there, particularly that people should treat their neighbors as they [themselves] want to be treated, belong to the natural law." For this reason, St. Thomas concludes that "all evil and sin is unnatural," that is contrary to the natural law. (325, quoting S.T., IaIIae, art. 94, ad. 3). The natural law thus encompasses the "Golden Rule" that was so central to Jesus' moral teachings.

Unfortunately, it is here that Zanchi betrays his Calvinistic vein. It is manifest that Zanchi has adopted Calvin's pessimistic assessment of mankind, so that man's reason, his nature, since Adam's fall is essentially totally depraved. In its purity, the natural law can only be found before the Fall and after the Fall only by a sort of special grace. In fallen man, there is, in practice, no natural law.

Now, before there was sin in the world, natural law had been perfectly instilled in human beings. Divine will and the precepts for doing some things and avoiding others had been co-created with Adam when the image of God was breathed into him. Thus, before sin, this spark of reason had been perfectly placed inside human beings. After the Fall, however, natural law was almost entirely blotted out as was any law that looks to God and the worship of him or to our neighbours and the just and fair relationship with them. The entire image of God that stands firm in justice and holiness was lost. People became completely blind in their minds, totally depraved in their hearts, and altogether corrupted, especially in those things that human beings share with animals, plants, and other substances. In particular, human beings warped this instinctual natural law: Every living thing knows that it is right and good to protect itself, but that in order to do so, people now rush to any injustice or violence.


Of the three levels that Zanchi identified, the first two are "extremely corrupt," and the third level "almost entirely destroyed after the Fall." So corrupt is man's post-lapsarian nature that should we "ever see a sliver of this aspect of natural law again in a human being," it must be because "it was written in that person's soul a second time in its entirety by God himself." In other words, without re-inscription, Fallen man has no real aspect of natural law left.

After this discussion, Zanchi elaborates various definitions of the natural law before concluding with a definition of his own. The various definitions that Zanchi puts forth are:

Natural law . . . is a common principle; and therefore, a distinct rule put into the hearts and minds of human beings by God himself, warning them what they should do and what they should avoid. [Zanchi states that in this definition, the term "common" is defined as "human beings' shared knowledge, judgment, and perception by which all people without distinction pondering their actions in their hearts either condemn or absolve themselves. This perception also comes from God when he speaks or inscribes his judgments in the hearts and minds of human beings."]

. . .
Natural law is a light--that underlying spark of reason by which we discern right from wrong.

. . .
Natural law is the shared opinion to which all people together agree and to which God inscribed onto each person's heart in order to establish the most beneficial customs.
Dissatisfied with these definitions, Zanchi proffers one of his own, one that he categorizes as "lengthy but full and complete." It is, in fact, the entirety of this eighth Thesis:

Natural law is the will of God, and, consequently, the divine rule and principle for knowing what to do and what not to do. It is, namely, the knowledge of what is good or bad, fair or unfair, upright or shameful, that was inscribed upon the hearts of all people by God himself also after the Fall. For this reason, we are universally taught what activities should be pursued and what should be avoided; that is, to do one thing and to avoid another, and we know that we are obligated and pushed to act for the glory of God, our own good, and the welfare of our neighbor both in private and in public. In addition, we know that if we do what should be be avoided or avoid what we should do, we are condemned; but if we do the opposite, we are defended and absolved.

Ostensibly relying on St. Paul's teaching in his epistle to the Romans (specifically, Romans 2:14-15), Zanchi seeks to distance himself from St. Thomas's view that the natural law arises in man despite his fallen state. Contrary to this, Zanchi suggests that the natural law is no longer to be found in man's fallen state, except by the grace of God who has "inscribed it anew in the minds and hearts of human beings after the fall." Grabill, 138-39 (quoting Zanchi). For Zanchi, then, as Grabill summarizes it:

'Natural law' is not so called, then, because it was passed down to us from Adam naturally--for by nature human beings are now blind and depraved--but rather because God has "reinscribed" general, natural principles of worship, goodness, fairness, and honesty into humanity at large. For Zanchi, natural law cannot be identified with either a 'relic of the original image of God' or some 'essential part of human nature' but with the knowledge of morality that has been 'restored by God because of his goodness and grafted anew in our hearts.'
Grabill, at 139.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Girolamo Zanchi: The Eternal Law

GIROLAMO (JEROME) ZANCHI (1516-90), an Italian Reformer, is an important figure in the Protestant natural law tradition. As Grabill summarizes it, "Zanchi's contribution to the development of the Protestant natural-law tradition is immense . . . ." Grabill, 133. Contrary to both Calvin (1509-64) and Vermigli (1499-1562), however, Zanchi provided a more synthetic view of the natural law, and its relationship to the eternal law, divine law, and human law. His most exhaustive treatment of law is found in Chapter 10 of the fourth volume of his Operum theologicum, called "On the Law in General." Zanchi's exhaustive and synthetic treatment of the natural law within the scope of his Protestant "Summa," and his reliance upon Thomistic methodology and philosophy in crafting it, is what made Patrick Donnelly, S.J., refer to him as "Calvinist Thomist." Grabill, 134 (citing "Calvinist Thomism," Viator: Medieval and Renaissance Studies 7 (1976), 444).

Thankfully, Zanchi's "On the Law in General" has been translated Jeffrey J. Veenstra, and is readily available from the Acton Institute. Quotes from Zanchi's "On the Law in General" will be from this translation found in Volume 6, No. 1 (Spring 2003) 305-98 of the Acton's Institute's Journal of Markets & Morality. Zanchi's work is organized in a series of Theses, which are supported or amplified by discussion.

In the next series of blog postings, we will discuss Zanchi's view on the eternal law, and its expressions in the natural law, divine law, and human law.

At the outset of his treatment on law, Zanchi, following St. Paul's teaching in Romans 3:20, observes that law has different functions, and that, in addition to providing for desert and punishment, it has the "chief and essential function" of "teaching what should be done or what should be avoided, and commanding and obligating that these things are done or avoided." (318) These purposes of the law--to teach and to obligate--are suggested by the very terms for law in Hebrew and in Italian. In Hebrew, the law is torah, which means teaching. In Italian, the word for law is áligando, which means something which binds or obligates.

At its most basic, law aims toward justice which, following Justinian's Digest, is the constant and consistent desire to give fairly to all what they deserve. This includes God first, and then our neighbors. This was Christ's teaching. (319) Any act or omission that does not result in justice to God or neighbor is sin. The principal end of law, like that of all human acts or institutions, is to glorify God. (319-20) The second end of law is to further our good, the good of our neighbor, and the common good of the church and all men. (320). For Zanchi, then, "the primary goal of all good laws , which is first and foremost the glory of God, and then secondarily the good of one's neighbor understood both privately and publicly." Grabill, 135.

Quoting St. Augustine's On the Free Will (1.1, 2.93.3), and observing that the pagan Cicero concluded likewise, Zanchi maintains: "All laws have flowed from the eternal law of God." (320) A good law is one that reveals God will, is promulgated by magistrates with authority from God, and one that conforms to "reason and common sense" and "wisdom," which are likewise gifts from God. (320-21) Zanchi therefore teaches that "all good laws must ultimately participate in the divine wisdom, even though their moral content may be proximately derived from right reason." Grabill, 136. Because the ultimate authority and content of a good law is from God, St. James is correct: "'There is one lawgiver . . . who is able to save and to destroy.' (James 4:12) All other lawgivers derive from this one; thus every law has its origin in God." (321) So to Zanchi, "God must be seen as the primary (but not necessarily proximate) origin and source of good laws." Grabill, 135.

This is also the conclusion that is reached from the notion that the world is governed by Divine Providence:
Augustine, and later, Aquinas, concluded that at first and eternal law dwelt in God who is the most perfect embodiment of reason, and by this reason, God rules the world and thus is the reason for all things that happen. They, they argue, this reason was imparted to human beings and by it we rule our own activities, and from it flow out our laws.
(321) In keeping with his philosophical realism, and contrary to many of the reformers such as Luther and Calvin, Zanchi maintains the existence of an eternal law, something "in step with the Augustinian via antiqua tradition," Grabill, 136: "Law was established as the eternal will and rule for what must be done or avoided for God's glory and for the good of each individual privately and of the entire human race . . . ." (321) "From this analysis," Grabill observes, "it should be clear that Zanchi accepts the metaphysical and epistemological parameters of the realist natural-law tradition . . . ." Grabill, 136.

The eternal law of God is revealed in various ways. "He . . . inscribe[s] his will on the hearts of all people in his own way," the publishes it verbally to Adam, the patriarchs, the prophets, the apostles, on occasion through angels or miracles, even through "ordinary persons." (322) God spoke in written form in Moses, the prophets, and the apostles. Even to nations outside of the Jews, God has spoken, through a sort of divine inspiration, or through scholars and teachers and lawgivers such as Solon, Lycurgus, Romulus, and Numa.* It is through the various ways that God's eternal law has been made manifest that allows for the division of the eternal law into natural law, divine law, and human law. It is usually through a combination of divine law, natural law, and human law that God's eternal law is made known. "Even if, in fact, all just laws come from God, and have been established by the eternal reason of his will and even if in this respect, they are all divine, still because of the variety of people and of methods by which they have been revealed and spread, they occur in three types: natural law, human laws, and divine laws." (323 (Thesis 7)). "It is important," Grabill reminds us, "to keep in mind the differences between people to whom God's will was revealed and the methods God used to reveal his will," Grabill, 137, as these differences are what Zanchi relies on in coming to his further distinctions.

In our next blog posting, we will review Zanchi's view on the natural law.

*Solon (638 BC–558 BC) was the famed lawgiver of the Athenians. Lycurgus (ca. 800-730 BC) played an analogous role with the Spartans. Romulus (traditionally c. 771 - c. 717 BC) and Numa Pomplius (753-673 BC) were the first and second kings of Rome, respectively.

Harold McKinnon on "The Higher Law"

This is a remarkable excerpt from a short address delivered before a conference of the judges of the Ninth U.S. Circuit, wherein Mr. McKinnon, a Catholic lawyer from the San Francisco Bay Area in California, a severe critic of Justice Holmes, attacks the teaching of contemporary political and legal philosophers in the United States, and warns of their anti-democratic and totalitarian tendencies. It urges for a return to the natural law concepts, those that maintain that there is a Law above all law, and that human law is subject to it.

This, gentlemen, is our birthright. . . . And in this matter we are in the most unyielding dilemma. For if there is no higher law, there is no basis for saying that any man-made law is unjust . . . .; and in such case, the ultimate reason for things, as Justice Holmes himself conceded, is force. If there is no natural law, there are no natural rights; and if there are no natural rights, the Bill of Rights is a delusion, and everything which a man possesses -- his life, his liberty and his property -- are held by sufferance of government, and in that case it is inevitable that government will some day find it expedient to take away what is held by a title such as that. And if there are no eternal truths, if everything changes, everything, then we may not complain when the standard of citizenship changes from freedom to servility and when democracy relapses into tyranny.

Harold R. McKinnon, The Higher Law. An address delivered before the Conference of Federal Judges of the Ninth Circuit, at San Francisco, September 3, 1946 (Berkely: Gillick Press, 1946), p. 16.

The Ninth Circuit has the reputation of being an extremely liberal, even "rogue" court. It is obvious that they did not heed Mr. McKinnon's address.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Benedict XVI on John of Salibury's Teachings on Natural Law

IN HIS GENERAL AUDIENCE on December 16, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI had the occasion of discussing John of Salisbury. During the audience made some salutary comments on the natural law. The English version on the Vatican's web page is truncated, so I have translated the fuller, Spanish version.

Pope Benedict XVI
My dear brothers and sisters:

Today we are going to discuss the figure of John of Salibury, a man who belonged the Cathedral Chapter of Chartres in France, one of most important medieval philosophical and theological schools. Like the theologians of whom I have spoken in the last weeks, he also helps us to understand how the faith, in harmony with the right aspirations of the reason, impels thought towards revealed truth, in which is found the man's true good.

John was born in England, in Salisbury, between 1100 and 1120. Reading his works, and especially his rich correspondence, we can learn about the most important events of is life. During twelve years, from 1136 to 1148, he dedicated himself to study, attending the most qualified schools of the time, at which he audited the lessons of famous teachers. He later went to Paris and to Chartres, and it is these places that most marked his formation, and at which he experienced a great cultural growth, one engendered by an interest over speculative problems and the appreciation of Literature. As often happened in that time, the most brilliant students were retained by prelates and sovereigns to help collaborate in their rule. This also happened to John of Salisbury, who was introduced by a great friend his, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, to Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury--the preeminent see of England, at which he was welcomed into its clergy.

During eleven years, between 1150 to 1161, John was secretary and chaplain of the elderly archbishop. With untiring fervor, while he continued dedicating himself to his studies, he carried out intense diplomatic activity, traveling on ten occasions to Italy, with the specific objective to attending to the relations of the Kingdom and the Church of England with the Roman Pontiff. Additionally, in those years the Pope was Adrian IV, an Englishman who maintained intimate friendship with John of Salisbury. In the years following Pope Adrian's death in 1159, a situation arose that created serious tension between the Church and the English Kingdom. King Henry II tried to establish his authority over the internal life of the Church, limiting its freedom. The King's taking of this position provoked the reactions of John of Salisbury, and above all the brave resistance of Theobald's successor to the episcopal chair of Canterbury, St. Thomas Becket who, for that reason, was exiled to France. John of Salisbury accompanied the exiled Thomas and remained at his service, always working toward reconciliation. In 1170, by which time both John and St. Thomas Becket had returned to England, the latter was attacked and assassinated within his cathedral. Becket died a martyr and the public immediately venerated him as one. John remained at hand, faithfully serving also the successor of St. Thomas, until he was chosen bishop of Chartres, at which position he remained from 1176 to 1180, the year of his death.

Of the works of John of Salisbury, I want to focus on two that are considered his masterpieces, elegantly designated by their Greek titles of Metalogicon (In defense of logic) and the Polycraticus (the man of Government). In the first work he--with the fine irony that characterizes many cultured men--rejects the position of those who advanced a restrictive conception of culture, considering it like empty eloquence, useless words. In distinction, John praises culture, the authentic philosophy, that is to say, the encounter between forceful thought and communication, the effective use of words. He writes: “In fact, in the same way that eloquence that is not illumined by reason is not only temerarious, but also blind, therefore wisdom that does not use the words not only is weak, but also in a certain sense infertile perhaps, because although wisdom without words can benefit one when relating with his own conscience, it rarely and only little benefits society” (Metalogicon 1, 1: PL 199, 327). A very true teaching. Today, that which John calls “eloquence”, that is to say, the possibility of communicating with instruments more and more elaborate and diverse, has multiplied itself enormously. So much more urgent, however, does the necessity continue of communicating messages equipped with “wisdom”, that is to say, inspired by the truth, goodness, and beauty. This is a great responsibility, one which affects in a special way those persons who work in the multiform and complex ambit of culture, communication, and in the mass media. And this is a space in which the Gospel can be announced with missionary vigor.

In the Metalogicon, John confronts the problems of logic, in his time object of great interest, and considers a fundamental question : What can human reason know? To what extent does it correspond with the aspiration that there is in all men, that is to say, to the search for truth? John of Salisbury assumes a balanced position, based upon the teachings contained in treatises of Aristotle and Cicero. According to him, human reason ordinarily achieves knowledge that is not unquestionable, but only probable and debatable. Human knowledge--this is his conclusion--is imperfect because it is subject to finiteness, to the limit of the man. Nevertheless, knowledge grows and is perfected thanks to experience, to the elaboration of right and coherent reason, and is able to establish relations between concepts and reality, as a result of discussion, of confrontation; and so knowledge becomes richer generation upon generation. Only in God there is a perfect science, which is communicated to man, at least partially, by means of Revelation accepted by faith, by which the science of faith, theology, unfolds the potentialities of reason and, in humility, makes progress in the knowledge of the mysteries of God.

The believer and the theologian, who deepen the treasure of the faith, also open themselves to a practical knowledge that guides daily action in the moral law and the exercise of virtue. John of Salisbury writes: “The mercy of God has granted his law to us which establishes what things are useful for us to know, and indicates how much it is allowed us to know of God and how much it is just for us to investigate . . . . In fact, in this law is made explicit and manifest the will of God, in order that each of us knows what it is necessary for us to do.” (Metalogicon, 4, 41: PL 199, 944-945).

According to John of Salisbury, an objective and immutable truth also exists, whose origin is God, accessible to human reason and which concerns practical and social action. There is a natural law (derecho natural), by which human laws and political and religious authorities must be inspired, so that they can promote the common good. This natural law (ley natural) is characterized by a property that John calls “equity”, that is to say, the giving of each person his due. From this law are derived rules that are legitimate for all peoples, and that in no case can be abolished. This is the central thesis of the Polycraticus, the treatise of philosophy and political theology, in which John of Salisbury reflects on the conditions that make just and permissible the action of those in government.

While other matters addressed in this work are tied to the historical circumstances in which it was composed, the subject of the relation between natural law and the positive-juridical order, mediated through the principle of equity, continues to be of great importance. In our time, especially in some countries, we perceive a worrisome separation between reason (which has the task of discovering the ethical values united with the dignity of the human person) and freedom (which has the responsibility of welcoming them and promoting them). Perhaps John of Salisbury would remind us today that the only laws that are in agreement with the concept of equity are those that promote the sacredness of human life and reject the licitness of the abortion, euthanasia, and irresponsible genetic experimentation; are those that respect the dignity of marriage between a man and a woman; are those inspired by a correct notion of the secular State--a secularism that always entails safeguards of religious freedom, and which promotes subsidiarity and solidarity at national and international levels. Anything to the contrary would result in ushering in what John of Salisbury defines as “tyranny of the prince” or, as we would say, “the dictatorship of relativism”: a relativism that, as I mentioned some years ago, “does not recognize anything as definitive and which proposes as its last rule only the self and its own desire.” (Homily in the misa “pro eligendo Roman Pontiff”: Roman L'Osservatore, edition in Spanish language, 22 of April of 2005, P. 3).

In my more recent encyclical, Caritas in veritate, directing myself to men of good will who work so that the social and political action never moves away of the objective truth on man and his dignity, I wrote: “The truth, and the love that it awakens, cannot be produced, but can only be welcomed. Its last source is not, nor can be, man, but God, that is, He Who is Truth and Love. This principle is very important for society and its development, inasmuch as neither truth nor love can be only human products; the very vocation to the development of people and nations is not based on a simple human deliberation, but is enrolled in a plan that precedes us, and which for all of us it is a duty to freely welcome." (No. 52). This plan which precedes us--this truth of being--we must search for and welcome, so that justice may be born; but we can find it and only welcome it with a heart, a will, a reason purified in the light of God.

Martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Andrés Bello: Penitent Latin American Advocate of Natural Law

A CENTRAL FIGURE IN LATIN AMERICA'S efforts to craft a new political order following its independence from Spain, Andrés Bello was characterized by prodigious talents in the areas of law, politics, literature, and education. He straddled two eras, two orders, and two worlds. Bello was a bridge builder, and so he sought to find continuity between the past religious era, and the coming secular, scientific one; between life under Spanish empire, and independent rule; between the culture of Europe, and the culture of Latin America; between fidelity to tradition and openness to change. "Bello was a person who balanced disparate traditions and interests for the sake of constructing new nations." Ivan Jaksic, Selected Writings of Andrés Bello (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), xxviii. As Jaksic summarizes it:

Andrés Bello (1781-1865) was perhaps the most significant and influential political and intellectual figure in the nineteenth-century Latin America. In the aftermath of independence, Bello provide the most successful blueprint for nation building by emphasizing legal, social, and cultural elements in addition to the requisite political stability and economic viability.

Jaksic, xv. The encomium of polish-born Venezuelan linguist and philologist Ángel Rosenblat is equally bullish: "Andrés Bello was without doubt the first humanist of our America, a kind of Hispano-American Goethe, at a time when humanism was still the father of science and the humanist was not only philosopher but also historian and poet, jurist and grammarian, and sought to encompass both spiritual life and the mysteries of nature." (quoted in Gregorio Weinberg, Andrés Bello, Quarterly Review of Comparative Education, XXIII, No. 1/2, 1993). The title to the biography of this man authored by Rafael Caldera (1916-), twice President of Venezuela (1969-74; 1994-99), perhaps says it all: Andrés Bello. Philosopher, Poet, Philologist, Educator, Legislator, Statesman.

With such curriculum vitae, Bello was perhaps the Thomas Jefferson of Latin America.

Born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1781, Bello began his studies at the Mercederian convent under Fr. Cristóbal de Quesada. In 1797, he began his philosophical studies under the guidance of Fr. Rafael Escalona at the Royal and Pontifical University of Caracas. During this time he was tutor to Simón Bolívar, the future liberator of Latin America. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts in 1800, Bello studied law and medicine, though he never completed the studies to the point of earning a degree. He had the opportunity to meet the redoubtable German naturalist, Alexander von Humboldt, and in 1800 joined him in part of his scientific expeditions, breathlessly summiting Mount Avila with the German scientist. Beginning in 1802, he received various administrative appointments under the Spanish colonial government. He also began contributing articles to the newspaper Gazeta de Caracas.

After Venezuela declared its independence, Bello assumed responsibilities in the new government. He also found time to author a booklet on natural topics, the Calendario manual y guía universal de forastero en Venezuela para el año de 1810, and history, Resumen de historia de Venezuela. Bello then also began penning his poems. In 1810, Bello landed in England with his former student, Simón Bolívar, as a Venezuelan diplomat, and, as a result of distrust between him and the revolutionary government in Venezuela because of his relative conservativism, he was to spend the next twenty years of his life there, being exposed to the intellectual fervent of English political thought, including the thought of the radical James Mill and the über-utilitarian Jeremy Bentham whose handwriting he helped decipher, and that country's rapid industrialization. In 1823, together with Juan García del Río, Bellos published the Biblioteca Americana, an intellectual tour de force which may be compared to the efforts of the French Encyclopedists. Between 1826 and 1827, he also published a journal, Repertorio Americano, to which he frequently contributed. In England, he tried his hand on two epic poems in Virgilian style, Las Silvas Americanas, and Silva a la agricultura de la zona tórrid Rebuffed in his efforts to return to Venezuela, Bello returned to Latin America through the arrangement of Mariano de Egaña, and embarked to Chile, the adoptive country in which he was to play a significant role in its educational, journalistic, and political institutions. He was to become a Senator for Santiago, a frequent contributor to the Chilean press, particularly to the newspaper El Araucano, and was to become founding Rector of the University of Chile in 1842, a position he held until his death. Bello had a deep regard for the Spanish language, and, in addition to his work in philology, literary criticism, and poetry, published in 1847 the Gramática de la lengua castellana destinada al uso de los americanos (Grammar of the Spanish Language for Latin Americans). In 1881, he published his renowned Filosofía del entendimiento, or Philosophy of the Understanding.

Bello's contribution to Latin American jurisprudence and law are equally impressive. He authored the first text in Latin America on international law, the Principios de derecho internacional (Principles of International Law) in 1832 (subsequent editions published in 1844, and 1864). For approximately 20 years, Bello worked on drafting the Chilean Civil Code (Código Civíl), which not only became the law in Chile when adopted by the Chilean Congress in 1855, but was also adopted as the basis of the civil codes of Columbia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua. The Chile to which he came was suffering internal turmoil, and its political and legal institutions were in need of repair, and Bello's efforts and stabilizing them was both prudent and wise. Again, Bello's balance was at the heart of his legal effort. As the Chilean jurist Pedro Lira Urquieta put it, Bello sought to provide
a modern appearance to the notions of authority and order which were still expressed in verbose colonial language. Without breaking with tradition, he instilled a love of progress and carried it forward with a measured step. He helped to institute respect for the law, giving the country that political stability without which all other action is enfeebled or comes to an end.
(quoted in Weinberg).

An example of this tendency in Bello is the provision that matters of marriage under the civil code were relegated to the Church. "Bello made sure that tradition and change would be reconciled, that the guiding elements of the new political order would combine the best civil legislation of the past with the best of the present, and that there would be a role for religion." Jaksic, li.

In line with his traditional values, Bello's philosophy of law was based upon the natural law. This would be in keeping with his "fundamental, life-long concern" with the "problem of order." "Bello advanced a view of order that rested on three interrelated spheres: the ordering of thought via language, literature, and philosophy; the ordering of national affairs via civil law, education, and history; and the participation of the new nations in the world order of the nineteenth century via international law and diplomacy." Jaksic, xxviii. Although the emphasis of his contributions was practical and geared towards the civil code and international law, his philosophical presuppositions were based upon the existence of a law above the law. As Bello put it in one of the opening paragraphs of his Principios de derecho internacional:
Toda ley supone una autoridad de que emana. Como las naciones no dependen unas de otras, ni cada una de ellas del agregado de todas, las leyes á que se someten obrando colectivamente, solo pueden serles dictadas por la razon, que á la luz de la experiencia , y consultando el bien comun, las deduce del encadenamiento de causas y efectos que rije el universo moral. El Ser Supremo, que ha establecido estas causas y efectos, que ha dado al hombre un irresistible conato al bien ó la felicidad, y no nos permite sacrificar la agena á la nuestra, es por consiguiente el verdadero autor de estas leyes, y la razon no hace mas que interpretarlas. El derecho de gentes no es pues otra cosa que el natural, que aplicado á las naciones, considera al género humano, esparcido sobre la faz de la tierra, como una gran sociedad de que cada cual de ellas es miembro, y en que las unas respecto de las otras tienen los mismos deberes que los individuos de la especie humana entre sí.

Every law supposes an authority from which it emanates. As nations do not depend on each other, nor any one of them on the whole aggregate of nations, the laws to which they are subject to when working collectively, can only be issued by reason that, in light of experience, and consulting the common good, it is able to deduce them from the chain of causes and effects governing the moral universe. The Supreme Being, who has established these causes and effects, and who has given man an irresistible impulse to seek good or happiness, and which prevents us from sacrificing other's interests to our own, is therefore the true author of these laws, and reason does nothing but interpret them. International law is therefore simply natural law, which, applied to nations, considers the human race scattered over the face of the earth, as a great society of which each of them is a member, and that the one with respect to the other has the same duties that individuals of the human race have among themselves.

In 1835, he urged that the study of law not be limited to mere technical aspects of law, but that it also include its deeper fundamentals, including the "philosophy of law," the natural law, keeping in view its "eternal bases." He also insisted that law student not be parochial or over-specialized in their education, but that he also learn his country's language and its literature, along with the natural, political, and economic sciences. He ought not forget to learn the "laws of mind and heart," nor forget to polish himself with "the purity of dogma and the luster of religion."
[W]e would like to see the study of jurisprudence itself broadened and ennobled, to see the young lawyer extend his interests beyond the narrow and obscure circuit of legal practice. We would like to see him deepened the philosophical principles of this sublime science, and contemplate it in its relationship with the eternal bases of justice and general usefulness, and not to forget to temper its severity, making it pleasanter by the assiduous cultivation of philosophy and the humanities, withou which there has never been an eminent jurist."
Jaksic, Bello, "The Study of Jurisprudence," 117-18.

One of Bello's poems reflects traditional piety, and reveals the personal encounter of one's sinfulness, and one's need for the mercy of God. It is a loose translation of Psalm 51(50), the Miserere, one of the seven Penitential Psalms.

de Andrés Bello

¡Piedad, piedad, Dios mío!¡
Que tu misericordia me socorra!
Según la muchedumbre
de tus clemencias, mis delitos borra.

De mis iniquidades
lávame más y más; mi depravado
corazón quede limpio
de la horrorosa mancha del pecado.

Porque, Señor, conozco
toda la fealdad de mi delito,
y mi conciencia propia
me acusa y contra mí levanta el grito.

Pequé contra Ti solo;
a tu vista obré mal; para que brille
tu justicia, y vencido,
el que te juzgue tiemble y se arrodille.

Objeto de tus iras
nací, de iniquidades mancillado,
y en el materno seno
cubrió mi ser la sombra del pecado.

En la verdad te gozas
y para más rubor y más afrenta,
tesoros me mostraste
de oculta celestial sabiduría,

Pero con el hisopo
me rociarán, y ni una mancha leve
tendré ya; lavárasme,
y quedaré más blanco que la nieve.

Sonarán tus acentos
de consuelo y de paz en mis oídos,
y celeste alegría
conmoverá mis huesos.

Aparta, pues, aparta
tu faz, ¡oh, Dios!, de mi maldad horrenda
rastro de culpa por tu enojo encienda.

En mis entrañas cría
un corazón que con ardiente afecto
te busque; un alma pura,
enamorada de lo justo y recto.

De tu dulce presencia,
en que al lloroso pecador recibes,
no me arrojes airado
ni de tu santa inspiración me prives.

Restáurame en tu gracia,
que es del alma salud, vida y contento;
y al débil pecho infunde
de un ánimo real el noble aliento:
haré que el hombre injusto
de su razón conozca el extravío;
le mostraré tu senda,
y a tu ley santa volverá al impío.

Mas líbrame de sangre,
¡mi Dios, mi Salvador! ¡Inmensa fuente
de piedad! Y mi lengua
loará tu justicia eternamente.

Desatarás mis labios,
si santo un pecador que llora alcanza,
y gozosa a las gentes
anunciará mi lengua tu alabanza.

Que si víctima fueran
gratas a Ti, las inmolará luego;
pero no es sacrificio
que te deleita el que consume el fuego.

Un corazón doliente
es la expiación que a tu justicia agrada:
la víctima que aceptas
es un alma contrita y humillada.

Vuelve a Sión tu benigno
rostro primero y tu piedad amante
y sus muros humilde
Jerusalén, Señor, al fin levante.
Y de puras ofrendas
se colmarán tus aras y propicio
recibirás un día
el grande inmaculado sacrificio.

By Andrés Bello

Mercy, mercy, my God!
That your mercy may come to my aid!
According to the fullness
Of your mercies, erase by faults.

From my iniquities
Clean me more and more, so that my depraved
Heart may be cleaned
Of the horrifying spot of sin.

Because, Lord, I know
All the ugliness of my offense,
Any my own conscience
Accuses me and raises its hue and cry.

Against you only have I sinned;
Before you I worked evil; so that
Your justice may shine, and defeated
The one who judges trembles and kneels down.

Object of your wrath
I was born, of iniquities stained,
And in the maternal womb
The shadow of sin covered my being.

You delight in truth
And to my greater shame and affront,
You showed me treasures
Of hidden celestial wisdom.

But with the hyssop
I will be sprinkled, and no slight spot
Will I then have. You will clean me,
And I will be whiter than snow.

In my ears will sound the accents
Of your consolation and of peace
And heavenly joy
Will move my bones.

Depart, then, Depart
Your face from me, oh God! from my horrible wickedness
Remnant of fault ignited by your wrath.

In my entrails it raises
A heart that with ardent desire
Looks for you; a pure soul,
In love with the just and the right.

From your sweet presence,
Into which the tearful sinner you receive,
Cast me not out angry
Nor deprive me of your holy inspiration

Restore me in your grace,
Which the health of the soul; life and happiness;
And instill in this weak breast
The breath of a royal and noble soul:
I see to it that the unjust man
By reason shall know he has strayed;
I will show your footpath to him,
And to your Holy Law the impious shall return.

But free me of blood,
My God, my Savior! Great fount
Of mercy! And my tongue
Shall praise your justice eternally.

You will untie my lips,
If holiness does reach a sinner who cries,
And joyfully my tongue shall declare
Your praises to all peoples.

If victims were pleasing
To you, you would immolate them in time;
But it is not sacrifice, which consumes
The fire which brings you delight.

A suffering heart,
Is the expiation which pleases your justice
The victim which you accept,
Is a contrite and humbled soul.

Return your blessings upon Sion,
Your main face, and your loving mercy
And lift up the humble walls
Of Jerusalem, Lord,

And pure offerings,
Shall overwhelm your altars, and
Propitious you will receive that day
The great immaculate sacrifice.

Would that our modern jurists, our legislators, our judges would have the attitude of the Latin American maestro.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pietro Vermigli: Natural Law Makes us "Run to Christ"

(To see related posts, click on the title and scroll to the end of this post)

Pietro Vermigli by Hans Asper (1560)

THE REFORMER PETER MARTYR VERMIGLI presents us with a notion of the natural law that is more compatible with the Classical and Roman Catholic understanding of that doctrine. Far less pessimistic that his contemporary John Calvin, the Italian Reformer remained more faithful to his Aristotelian and Roman Catholic sources, at least in the area of the natural moral law, than Calvin. In the area of the natural law at least, he writes more in tune with the realism of the via antiqua than with the nominalism of the via moderna. In fact, contrary to so many of the Reformers, Vermigli did not disdain Aristotle, but even wrote a commentary on the Nichomachean Ethics. This stands in direct contrast with Luther, who claimed in his "Open Letter to the Christian Nobility" that "God has sent [Aristotle] as a plague upon us for our sins." Moreover, Vermigli's view in the area of natural theology is "broadly Thomistic with a strong Augustinian accent," thus assuring a more traditional bent. Grabill, 102.


Born in Florence, Italy, Peter Martyr Vermigli (1500-1562), originally Piero Mariano, was admitted into the Augustinian order, and was named after St. Peter Martyr. He was educated at the Augustinian friary in Fiesole, and then transferred to St. John of Verdara near Padua. Graduating in 1527, he preached in Brescia, Pisa, Venice, and Rome. In 1530, Peter Martyr was elected abbot of the Augustinian friary at Spoleto, and in 1533, prior of the convent of St. Peter ad Aram in Naples. Exposed to the influence of Protestant theologians' works, including Martin Bucher and Huldrych Zwingli, and eventually succumbing to their views, Peter Martyr drew the ire of authorities, including those of the Spanish viceroy of Naples and the superiors of his order. Summoned to appear before a chapter of his order and facing likely disciplining, Peter Martyr instead escaped to Pisa and then to Zürich and Basel, ultimately settling at Strasbourg where, in violation of his vows, he married his first wife Catherine Dammartin of Metz, and was appointed professor of theology. As Grabill summarizes it, "he was forced to move every five years on average . . . . [a]s a result, his institutional gravitas was in a state of near constant flux." Grabill, 99. Accepting an invitation by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, Vermigli was appointed regius professor of divinity at Oxford where he was actively involved in a variety of theological disputes. When the Catholic Queen Mary assumed the throne, Vermigli returned to Strasbourg where he taught theology. Vermigli ultimately settled in Zürich accepting a chair of Hebrew, whence he spent the rest of his days. He participated in the Colloquy at Poissy, a failed effort in 1561 to reconcile the Calvinist Huguenots and Catholics in France. A prolific writer, Vermigli published Biblical commentaries and various treatises. He died in 1562.

Similar to Calvin, Vermigli did not undertake to fashion a synthetic analysis of the natural law in the manner of St. Thomas. Yet his attendance to the notion of a nature-based morality independent--yet consistent with--revealed morality was more focused than Calvin. Vermigli's treatment of the natural law is most manifest in his exegesis of the first two chapters of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans. This is not unexpected, since the first two chapters of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans is the textus classicus when it comes to the Scriptural warrant for the natural law. In his treatment of this text, Vermigli shows marked differences from Calvin. "The fundamental differences between Calvin and Vermigli have to do with the latter's more extensive and disciplined use of natural theology/natural law. . . . While Vermigli acknowledges reason's post-lapsarian limitations, he is more sanguine than Calvin regarding its ability to grasp the precepts of the natural law through sense experience, moral intuition, and dialectics." Grabill, 102, 103-04.

St. Paul

Unquestionably, Vermigli believes in the existence of a natural theology: both the world and our minds are constructed so as to be able to glean from creation the existence of divinity. "God has planted prolepsis in our minds," Vermigli states, "that is, anticipations and notions through which we are led to conceive noble and exalted opinions about the divine nature." Grabill, 110 (quoting Vermigli, Romans, f. 21r; CP, 1.2.3).

That natural knowledge outside of revelation is also found in the area of morality. Vermigli suggests that there is a natural moral theology that finds its roots in the imago Dei, the image of God, that is in man, and which persists, albeit in an attenuated or weakened fashion, in post-lapsarian man. Since our souls are akin to God their creator, they reflect "justice, wisdom, and many other most noble habits," and "also the knowledge of what is right and honest, and what is wrong and unclean." Grabill, 111 (quoting Vermigli, Romans, f. 22v; CP, 1.2.4) Without doubt, Vermigli departs from Calvin's pessimistic assessment of man's ability to know of God and his law. Grabill, 113-14.

Following St. Thomas's commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, Vermigli distinguishes between two types of knowledge of God. The first is "effectual," and second "frigid" or ineffectual. Effectual knowledge of God leads to spiritual transformation that is expressed by good deeds. Grabill, 114. Truth obtained through Faith, as distinguished from truth obtained through Reason or Nature, is "more likely to lead to action." Grabill, at 114. Therefore, he affirms with St. Thomas that, without Faith and the aid of God's grace, the "natural law is ineffective in leading human beings to the good." Grabill, 114. "Surely," states Vermigli,
this does not happen because one truth by itself and taken on its own is stronger than another. Truth has the same nature on both sides; the difference arises from the ways and means by which it is perceived. Natural strength is corrupt, weakened and defiled through sin, so that the truth that it grasps has no effect. But faith has joined with it the divine inspiration and power of the Holy Spirit so that it apprehends truth effectively. Hence the difference consists in the faculty by which truth is apprehended. This should not be taken to deny that more than we know through nature is revealed to us by the Scriptures, the New as well as the Old Testament. But we have drawn a comparison between the same truth when known by nature and when perceived by faith.
Grabill, 114 (quoting Vermigli, Romans, ff. 20r-21v; CP, 1.2.11) . To have effective knowledge of the natural law, that is, knowledge that results in an ability to follow that law, requires, in the ultimate analysis following the Fall, Faith and Grace in Christ. True: external compliance to the natural law may be found in other cultures and times:
[N]o nation is so savage or barbarous that it is not touched by some sense of right, justice, and honesty. . . . We might say instead that by this freedom our works may agree with the civil or economic law, which has regard to outward acts and is not so much concerned with the will.
Grabill, 117 (quoting Vermigli, "Free Will," f. 102, par. 4). While perhaps the natural law or even the Mosaic law may be followed externally and imperfectly or partially either as a result of natural goodness or the threat of human law, it is impossible for wounded, fallen man to follow the natural law perfectly, that is, with full internal assent. To follow the natural law with such full internal assent requires us to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength, clearly an act that requires Faith and Grace. Grabill, 116.

For Vermigli (and unlike Calvin), the natural law is not principally condemnatory, though it has a role in informing the conscience and the internal forum. "Vermigli contends that God did not reveal such natural knowledge for the sole purpose of establishing his wrath against the Gentiles," Grabill, 115, but rather to force us to "admit that they were too weak while knowing what they should do," and so to make then "run to Christ." Grabill, 116 (quoting Vermigli, Romans, f. 23v; CP, 1.2.8 "proinde necessarium esse, ad Christum confugere").

For Vermigli, the natural law has a more positive role of prompting man towards God as he has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. This places him opposite Calvin. In almost a Kantian manner, Calvin appears to have maintained that although the natural law may be objectively manifest in the created order, since the Fall man had no ability subjectively to inform himself of that order. Thus, post-lapsarian man had no ability to know the moral Ding an sich that was vouchsafed us in the created order. Vermigli, on the other hand, contended that even after the Fall, man had the ability subjectively to comprehend and so to know the natural law manifest in the created order, but man's knowledge, though real, was not effectual without Faith and Grace. For Vermigli, the corruption of man, therefore, was more manifest in the will than in reason.

Vermigli properly insisted that the knowledge of moral good acquired by nature does not vitiate the need for revelation. "In Vermigli's judgment the phrase by nature [in Romans 2:14] should not be construed in such a way as to exclude divine revelation or assistance vis-à-vis the requirements of morality." Grabill, 117.

In sum,
Vermigli distinguishes two principal uses for why knowledge of the moral law was implanted in the human mind. The first, corresponding with a "frigid" knowledge of God, exists to nullify any excuse by providing objective and universally accessible knowledge of the moral law and the judgment to come. The second, corresponding with an "effectual" knowledge of God, exists to increase human "readiness" and "strength" to do that which is known to be just and honest. It is the second use, as Vermigli insists, that prods humanity to pursue true righteousness and that serves to renew God's image in us.
Grabill, 119-20.

To quote Vermigli:
The image of God in which man was created, is not utterly blotted out but obfuscated in the fall, and for that reason is in need of renewal by God. So natural knowledge is not fully quenched in our minds, but much of it still remains, which Paul now touches upon.
Grabill, 120 (quoting Vermigli, Romans, f. 44 r).

The contrast between Vermigli's teaching on the one hand with Calvin or Barth's teaching on the other hand is striking. If there is to be dialogue between the Classical and Catholic view of the natural law and the Reformed or Protestant tradition, it must be through the likes of someone like Vermigli, and not someone like Calvin or Barth. In the area of natural law, the latter two are simply too far down the path of error to allow for easy reconciliation or rapprochement.

John Calvin: The Ten Commandments of the Natural Law

John Calvin

CONSONANT WITH ITS ROLE AS JUDGE AND CONSCIENCE KEEPER, Calvin virtually equated the content of the natural law with the content of the divine law as revealed in the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments of Moses. Indeed, if one were to follow Professor Clark, "the most notable difference between Thomas and Calvin," in the area of epistemology and definition of the natural law, "is that the latter defined natural law primarily in terms of the Declaogue and Thomas did not." R. S. Clark, "Calvin on the Lex Naturalis," Solus Theological Journal 6:1-2 (May-November 1998), 7-8. Essentially, Calvin short-circuited the role of Reason as a legitimate source of morality, and facilely equated the natural law with the divinely-revealed law of Moses on Mount Sinai, and, to a lesser extent, Jesus and his Sermon on the Mount.

While St. Thomas viewed the natural law as overlapping with, and certainly not contradictory of, the precepts of the Decalogue or Jesus' divine teaching, St. Thomas sought to build his doctrine of the natural law on a broader, universal, and more sophisticated philosophical foundation. Relying on self-evident principles of practical reason and constructing from those, St. Thomas thus provides a non-confessional doctrine of the natural law. It is important to note that St. Thomas did not teach that the natural law and the Decalogue were at odds. What he insisted upon, however, was that the natural law--a law based upon Reason--was not in conflict with the Revealed Law of the Decalogue. The natural law began with the self-evident principle that good is to be done, and evil is to be avoided, that we ought to act in accord with reason, and then descends from there into the practical contingencies of life. S.T. IaIIae, art. 94.

Calvin, however, frowned upon philosophers, and doubted their value. Philosophers, Calvin, wrote
. . . saw things in such a way that their seeing did not direct them to the truth, much less enable them to attain it. They are like a traveler passing through a field at night (qualiter nocturni fulgetri coruscationem, qui in medio agro est viator) who in a momentary lighting flash sees far and wide, but the sight vanishes so swiftly that he is plunged again into the darkness of night before he can even take a step--let alone be direct on his way by its help.
Institutes, II.2.18. Calvin's negative assessment of the natural law and his virtual identification of the the content of the natural law with the Decalogue probably stems from Luther, and this explains Calvin's diversion from the Thomistic teaching. R.S. Clark, 11-12. It was Luther's "threads which Calvin took up in his exposition of natural law, not those of the Stoa or Thomas." R.C. Clark, 12.

Though Calvin would not have foreseen it in a European culture commonly Christian, his rejection of the Thomistic construct was to have serious repercussions. Calvin's emphasis of conscience over practical reason, and his equating the natural law with the Decalogue rather than upon a philosophical base, de-objectified the natural law, over-subjectified it. Once the Enlightenment ushered in a generation eager to reject the Mosaic dispensation as divinely revealed, Calvin's doctrine imploded into rank subjectivism and relativism. This partially explains the relativism and liberalism suffered by those polities originally fed by Calvin's strict Protestant ethos. As Marc Edouard Chenevière argued in his La pensée politique de Calvin, "Calvin broke the bonds that attached the knowledge of natural law to reason and rested it upon conscience, which he understood in conventionally modern terms as a subjective faculty that had no need for reason to authenticate its prescriptions and prohibitions." Grabill, 93 (Grabill, however, disagrees).

Title Page to Calvin's Institute of Christian Religion

All said and done, Calvin's teaching on the natural law is deficient. Because of his distrust of its inherently depraved nature post lapsus, reason was given no robust role. Instead of founding the natural law on practical reason, Calvin--following Luther--simply equated the natural law with the Ten Commandments. This was dangerously close to equating natural law and divine law. Calvin, who appears to have rejected a realist view of reality and adopted Luther's nominalism, rejected the role of eternal law and the Thomistic notion that the natural law participates in the eternal law. The result is a watered down theory of the natural law unable to provide positive guidance either to Christian or pagan. Natural law's only role relegated to the negative one of informing the non-Christian conscience of one's culpability before God. Consonant with his view of sola scriptura, the only moral law in practice was to be found in the Scriptures. Once society lost faith in the Scriptures, the natural law had no content to inform conscience, and so Calvin's recipe dissolved into a subjective and relative morality. The role of the natural law being shunted, laws that related strictly to politics, economics, and other mundane activities fell under a broad category called "general" or "common" grace, with little correspondence to the natural law, thus setting the stage for legal positivism.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

John Calvin and the Natural Law: The Natural Law as Doom

John Calvin

TO RENDER MANKIND INEXCUSABLE before God was Calvin's conception of the purpose of the natural law. Calvin's doctrine of the natural law was decidedly pessimistic, and the role he allowed it to play in governing and ordering the moral life of man was restricted. Its role is largely negative, and partakes of a prosecutorial or judicial as, distinguished from a discursory or legislative, flavor. Perhaps the best place to start is by quoting John Calvin's Institutes. In the Second Chapter of the Second Book of the Institutes, Calvin provides us with a provisional definition of the natural law remarkably at odds with the definition of natural law that we find in St. Thomas Aquinas:
There is nothing more common that for a man to be sufficiently instructed in a right standard of conduct by natural law (of which the apostle is here speaking). Let us consider, however, for what purpose men have been endowed with this knowledge of the law. How far it can lead them toward the goal of reason and truth will then immediately appear. This is also clear from Paul's words, if we note their context. He had just before said that those who sinned in the law are judged through the law; they who sinned without the law perish without the law. Because it might seem absurd that the Gentiles perish without preceding judgment, Paul immediately adds that for the m conscience stands in place of law; this is sufficient reason for their just condemnation. The purpose of natural law, therefore, is to render man inexcusable. [Finis ergo legis naturalis est, ut reddatur hom inexcusabilis.] This would not be a bad definition: natural law is that apprehension of the conscience that distinguishes sufficiently between just and unjust, and which deprives men of the excuse of ignorance, while it proves them guilty by their own testimony. [Nec male hoc modo definietur, Quod sit conscientiae agnitio, inter iustum et iniustum sufficienter discernentis: ad tollendum hominibus ignorantiae praetextum, dum suo ipsourm tstimonion redarguuntur.]
Institutes, II.2.22.

Title Page to Calvin's Institute of Christian Religion

This definition of the natural law is cheap, and is a far cry from St. Thomas's positive conception of the natural law as a rule of reason, one that is "nothing else than the rational creature's participation in the eternal law." S.T. IaIIae, q. 91. In Calvin's view, the natural law is not a blueprint, a map that provides positive orientation or information about man's end. It is not a ladder that aids in man's acquisition of natural virtue. It is not a norm that informs us of our good. It is not a participation in the eternal law. Ultimately, Calvin's concept of the natural law is not really legislative, but markedly judicial. It arises, not in practical reason to guide men to the good, but only in the conscience, and then only to inform man of its infraction. As Grabill notes, Calvin's natural law view is derived from Calvin's "attributing greater weight to the post-lapsarian conscience over the pre-lapsarian reason," a reason which is not to be trusted after the fall, and that this change in emphasis is the "hallmark of his natural-law doctrine." Grabill, 73-74. For Calvin, natural law thus distills itself down to its single negative and prosecutorial or accusatory function "to affirm human culpability for actions that violate the moral law." Grabill, 71. That indefatigable inquisitor conscience, with the voices of "a thousand witnesses," Institutes, IV.10.3, "arraigns [men] as guilty before the judgment seat," Institutes IV.10.3. Natural law's role is in aid of that internal prosecutor, informing the always-certain condemnatory judgment, to render men inexcusable, to deprive them of excuse, to damn them. The natural law results in man's doom.

This limited conception of the natural moral law is also to be found in Institutes II.8.1:
Now that the inward law, which have above [II.2.22] described as written, even engraved, upon the hearts of all, in a sense [quodammodo] asserts the very same things to be learned from the two Tables [i.e., the Ten Commandments]. For our conscience does not allow us to sleep a perpetual insensible sleep without being an inner witness and monitor [intus testis sit ac monitrix corum] of what we owe God, without holding before us the difference between good and evil and thus accusing us when we fail in our duty . . . .
This rather one-dimensional role of the natural law and conscience may be compared to the rich, ebullient, and positive role of conscience in traditional teaching. One may quote John Henry Cardinal Newman in his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk:
Conscience is not a long-sighted selfishness, nor a desire to be consistent with oneself; but it is a messenger from Him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by His representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ, a prophet in its informations, a monarch in its peremptoriness, a priest in its blessings and anathemas . . . .
Calvin thus denatures the natural law from its positive, guiding, legislative role, one based upon practical reason, and ultimately based upon the eternal law and God's overriding plan for us and four our end. The natural law is related to nothing other than the role of a Grillo parlante of Carlo Collodi, the Jiminy Cricket of Walt Disney, though with a personality significantly less cheery, and mercilessly dour.