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.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tertullian on the Natural Law: The Soul as My Witness, "Neither God nor Nature Lie!"

QUINTUS SEPTIMIUM FLORENS TERTULLIANUS, mercifully shortened as Tertullian (ca. 160-ca. 220 A.D.), is perhaps the first of the Latin Christian sources on the natural moral law. Though Catholic for part of his life, in 201 or 202 A.D. Tertullian unfortunately lapsed into a form of Montanism, or Cataphrygianism, a charismatic, enthusiastic, chiliastic, and rigoristic sect founded by Montanus, who claimed to be the incarnation of the Holy Spirit., or, perhaps more properly, the "paraclete" or helper that Christ had told his apostles to anticipate and which would lead them unto all truth It was ecstatic and charismatics movements such as the Montanists that forced the Church to look at the issue of public revelations seriously, eventually deciding that public revelation ceased at the death of the last apostle, foreclosing the ideal of a continuing revelation. In his History of Christianity, Phillip Schaff calls the Montanist heresy "an earnest and well-meaning, but gloomy and fanatical hyper-Christianity, which, like all hyper-spiritualism, is apt to end in the flesh."

Tertullian was the son of a Roman centurion, a "centurio proconsularis" or a Roman aide-de-camp, perhaps stationed in Africa. Tertullian was likely born in Carthage, studied law, but later was ordained a priest after his conversion to Christianity in 197-98 A.D. Tertullian's output was vast, and, though much of it has been lost, there are thirty-one works that are extant. Though the works cover many areas and genres--there are apologetic, polemical, dogmatic, and moral works--some of them expressly refer to the natural moral law. In this posting we will review the mention of the natural moral law in a variety of Tertullian's works. We will begin this series by looking at Tertullian's notion of natural law in his De testimonio animae (On the Testimony of the Soul). In this short work written after his Apology, and intended to be a defense of Christianity against the Pagans, Tertullian addresses the nature of the human soul, and the witness it gives to the existence of a God which created the world and the soul, and which in nature affords the soul the content of his plan. He seeks to find common ground betwen the Christians and the Pagan in the area of a natural theology and a natural moral law. It is the burden of Tertullian's argument to show, as he put in in the remarkable words of his Apology, that the soul is naturally Christian, anima naturaliter Christiana. The truths that natural theology and the natural moral law convey to the soul without revelation find their perfect fulfillment, their satisfaction, their home in the Christian revelation, in Christ's law and in his Church.

Mosaic of Tertullian

In the opening chapter of his De testimonio animae, Tertullian reflects that the Pagan writings give witness to the Christian God. Thus we may see in poets, philosophers, and in the writings of sages, mention of one God, the creator of heaven and earth. And yet error has crept into these sources, as they endow the gods with human passion, and place them in the most compromising situations. The pagan writings are therefore ambivalent, and may be construed in both a Christian sense as well as a non-Christian sense. Tertullian accordingly posits that his audience go beyond the Pagan writings, and look at the soul unencumbered by these. In the manner of a lawyer, he calls as his first witness, the human soul:
Now I invoke a new witness better known than any literature, more compelling than any theory, more widely circulated than any publication, greater than the fullness of man – which is to say the very sum of man [id est totum quod est hominis]. O soul, step forth into our midst [Consiste in medio, anima] whether you are divine and eternal as many philosophers attest. All the more would you not lie! Or whether you are not divine, since you are material as only Epicurus suggests. All the more you ought not to lie. Whether you are received from heaven or conceived from the earth; whether you are assembled from numbers or atoms; whether you originate with the body; whether you are introduced into the body after birth. However you originate, you make of mankind a rational animal, supremely receptive to awareness and knowledge.
De test. anim., I. (Q. Howe, trans.) Tertullian thus calls the soul as his first witness--it matters not presently whether the soul is considered material, or whether the soul is considered spiritual. The philosophy or theology of the soul matters not, as its true testimony is unaffected the philosophical theories or theological truths in which it is draped. The soul Tertullian invokes is not to come dressed with Pagan or even Christian inheritances, with the biases and prejudices it has gained through inculturation or belief. It is to appear bereft of such clothing, a naked witness of its fundamental nature. It is to come without prejudice against the Christian.
I do not summon you as one formed by schooling, instructed by libraries, nurtured by Platonic and Stoic academies that you may trumpet your wisdom. I invoked you in your simple [simplicem], unfinished [rudem], untutored [impolitam], unformed [idioticam] nature -- such as you are for those who have only you alone. Such as you are at the crossroads, on the street, in the workshop. I need you in your innocence since no one trusts even the smallest measure of your experience. I demand of you those primal sparks you confer on man, those insights that you have learned from your own depths or from your creator, whoever he may be [ex quocumque acutore tuo sentire didicisti]. As far as I know, you are not inherently Christian [No es, quod sciam, Christiana]. The soul can become Christian, but it is not born Christian. [Fieri enim, non nasci solet Christiana.] But Christians are now demanding evidence from you to be presented to your adversaries from without so that those may blush before you who have hated and mocked us for the very beliefs which they now discover you have always known.
De test. anim., I. (Q. Howe, trans.) After calling the soul as his witness, Tertullian engages it, as if he were accusing it or addressing it in open court. The soul is engaged in second person. The first area of question involves natural theology, and Tertullian seeks to prove that the soul is naturally aware of God's existence, that it is created, and that it seeks to worship him. The soul seeks to worship the Christian God, the one True God, even while unfortunately worshiping in Pagan forms:
Hence, O soul, it is accorded to you to proclaim from your own awareness, at home and abroad, no one mocking, no one objecting, "God sees all." "I trust in God." "God will make it good." "God will judge between us." How does this come to you, O soul, if you are not Christian?
When bound in the ribbon of Ceres, when clad in the scarlet pallium of Saturn, when robed in the linen gown of Isis, when in the very temples of the gods, O soul, you often call upon God as your judge. You stand at the feet of Asclepius, you adorn the brazen image of Juno, you decorate the helmet of Minerva with dark omens. And yet while doing this, you do not invoke the god you are addressing. In your own forum you summon a judge from beyond. In your temples you experience an alien divinity. O testimony of truth which conjures up a Christian witness in the midst of these pagan demons!
De test. anim., II. (Q. Howe, trans.) The soul is also aware of evil, even of a personal expression of that evil, that is, Satan. De test. anim., III.

In his fourth chapter, Tertullian seeks to show that the soul is immortal, that it anticipates judgment, and that this implies the preservation of personality, and even preservation of the body:
We are affirming that you survive beyond the final reckoning and that you can expect a day of judgment when you are eternally consigned to torment or delight according to your merits [adfirmamus te manere post uitae dispunctionem et expectare diem iudicii proque meritis aut cruciatui destinari aut refrigerio, utroque sempiterno]. In order to undergo this, you must recover your original essence by reviving the substance and memory of the person you once were. Without the awareness of sentient flesh, you can perceive neither good nor evil; there is no basis for judgment without the living presence of the one who actually earned the inflicted punishment. This Christian concept of the soul is more high-minded than Pythagorean, for it does not relocate you into animal bodies. It is more bountiful than Platonism, for it restores to you the gift of the body. It is more majestic than Epicureanism, for it delivers us from death. And yet solely because of the Christian name, this belief is rejected as a delusion or a misconception – or as some say, an act of arrogant presumption.
De test. anim., IV. (Q. Howe, trans.) In Chapter 5 of his short work, what may be called the kernel or climax of Tertullian's argument, we find Tertullian going beyond all convention, beyond all revelation, pagan, Jewish, or Christian.
These testimonies of the soul are as true as they are straightforward, [simplicia] as straightforward as they are widespread [vulgaria] as widespread as they are universal [communia] as universal as they are natural [naturalia], and as natural as they are divine [divina]. I do not believe anyone would find it frivolous or laughable, if he reflects on the majesty of nature [naturae maiestatem], which is regarded as the wellspring of the soul [ex qua censetur acutoritas animae]. As much as you attribute to the teacher, so much you will concede to the pupil. The teacher is nature and the pupil is the soul [Magistra natura, anima discipula] Whatever the teacher has conveyed or the pupil has learned has been communicated by God, who is the teacher of nature [a deo traditum est, magistro scilicet ipsius magistrae]. Whatever the soul can surmise about its original teacher, this power resides in you that you may reflect upon that which is in you. Be aware of that which has given you awareness. Recognize her who is the seer of your forebodings, who is the prophet of your inklings, who is the oracle of your outcomes. Is it any wonder if, having been bestowed by God, she holds powers vision. Is it any wonder if she knows God, by whom she was bestowed?

Even when the soul is deceived by the adversary, she recalls her creator, his goodness, his decree, her own fall, and the fall of the adversary. Is it any wonder if, having been bestowed by God, she pronounces those things which God gave his creatures to know? But whoever does not think that these explanations of the soul are the promptings of nature and the silent expressions of our inborn and native awareness, he will attribute them to the vice of citing opinions from the published literature in circulation among the masses.

Certainly the soul predates writing, and speech predates the book, and thought predates the pen, and man himself predates the philosopher and the poet. Is it to believed that before literature and its spread, man lived in silence on such subjects? Did no one ever speak of God and his goodness? Did no one speak of death and the afterlife? Speech, I believe, was impoverished, in fact nonexistent, if it once lacked those elements without which it cannot exist today. And now, of course, speech is richer, fuller, and wiser than ever before. If those things which today are so accessible, so immediate, so near at hand, so springing from the lips – if they did not exist before writing emerged, before, as I believe, Mercury [the reputed author of writing] was born – then indeed speech was a beggar. How was it possible, I ask, that literature could know and launch into spoken usage what no mind had previously conceived, no tongue had uttered, no ear had heard?

But since the divine scriptures belonging to us or to the Jews – onto whose olive branch we had been grafted – are much older or at least somewhat older than pagan literature, then credence must be given to our literature rather than to yours. Our literature is more forceful for instructing the soul than yours, having come into being earlier rather than later. Even if we grant that the soul was educated by your literature, tradition derives from its primal origin. Whatever you have taken or assimilated from our letters is still ours. This being the case, it does not make a great deal of difference whether the awareness of the soul was shaped by God [a deo formata] or by writings about God [an litteras dei]. Why, O humankind [homo], why do you insist that these notions about the soul emerged from opinions about your writings [de humanis sententiis litterarum tuarum], only to ripen then into common usage?
De test. anim., V. (Q. Howe, trans.) Tertullian then closes his argument to the Pagan jury to whom he writes his treatise on the soul. The witness of the soul is to be believed as a testimony of the divine. Revelation is but "the faithful sister of the truth," that has its source in God, the creature of the soul and its nature. Indeed, "neither God nor Nature lie," neque deus neque natura mentitur.
Go ahead and believe in your literary sources; even more believe in our divine sources. But as for the insight of the soul, believe in Nature [sed de animae ipsius arbitrio perinde crede naturae]. Select whichever of these you believe to be the faithful sister of the truth [fidelius sororeme veritatis]. If you have doubts as to your own sources, be assured that neither God nor Nature lie [neque deus neque natura mentitur]. In order that you may believe in both Nature and in God, believe in the soul [Ut et naturae et deo credas, crede animae]. So it shall come to pass that you will believe in yourself [Ita fiet ut et tibe credas]. It is the soul you value as having made you as great as you are.

You belong to her entirely; she is everything to you. Without her you can neither live nor die. For her sake you neglect even God. When you fear to become a Christian, come onto her. Why does the soul invoke the name of God when she is worshiping another? When she enlists spirits for cursing, why does she addressed them as demons? Why does she invoke the heavens and curse the earth? Why does she serve the Lord in one place and summon his vengeance in another place? How does she judge the dead? What words does she take from the Christians, whom she wishes neither to see nor to hear? Why does she either communicate these expressions to us or keep them from us? Why has she either taught us or learned from us?

Be suspicious of such a convergence of words amidst such a divergence of the message. You are deluded if you attribute this to the Latin language alone or to the Greek language, which is closely related, for you are thus denying the universality of nature. The soul has descended from heaven, not just on the Latins and the Greeks. One humanity comprises all races, although the name varies. There is a single soul, but language is various. There is a single spirit, but speech is various. Every race has its own discourse, but the content of this discourse is universal. God is everywhere and the goodness of God is everywhere. [Omnium gentium unus homo, varium nomen est, una anima, varia vox, unus spiritus, varius sonus, propria cuique genti loquella, sed loquellae material communis. Deus ubique et bonitas dei ubique.] The demons are everywhere and the curse of the demons is everywhere. The summons of God’s judgment is everywhere [iudicii divini invocatio ubique]. The awareness of death is everywhere [mors ubique et conscientia mortis ubique] and the testimony of the soul is everywhere [testimonium ubique]. By its own right every soul proclaims those things we Christians are not even allowed to murmur [in public forum?] [Omnis anima suo iure proclamat quae nobis nec mutire conceditur]. Rightly then, every soul is both defendant and witness – as much a defendant against the charge of error as a witness to the truth. And she will stand before the court of God on the day of judgment with nothing to say. You were preaching God, but you were not seeking him. You shuddered before the demons and still you worshipped them. You would invoke the judgment of God and yet you denied it. You believed in eternal punishment and yet you took no steps to avoid it. You were aware of the Christian name and yet you have persecuted it [Christianum nomen sapiebas, et Christianum nomen persquebaris].
De test. anim., VI. (Q. Howe, trans.)

16th Century Woodcut Depiction of Tertullian

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Golden Mouth of Natural Law: St. John Chrysostom on the Natural Law, Homily V on Romans

THE LOCUS CLASSICUS, or scriptural “proof text,” frequently pointed to in discussions regarding the Scriptural teaching of the natural law is found in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, specifically in 2:14-15. At the core of his introduction of his great Epistle, St. Paul nestled the following few verses:
14 For when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature those things that are of the law; these having not the law are a law to themselves: 15 Who shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them, and their thoughts between themselves accusing, or also defending one another.

14 ὅταν γὰρ ἔθνη τὰ μὴ νόμον ἔχοντα φύσει τὰ τοῦ νόμου ποιῶσιν, οὗτοι νόμον μὴ ἔχοντες ἑαυτοῖς εἰσιν νόμος: 15 οἵτινες ἐνδείκνυνται τὸ ἔργον τοῦ νόμου γραπτὸν ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν, συμμαρτυρούσης αὐτῶν τῆς συνειδήσεως καὶ μεταξὺ ἀλλήλων τῶν λογισμῶν κατηγορούντων ἢ καὶ ἀπολογουμένων.
Naturally, St. John Chrysostom touches upon these verses in his great homiletic commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans. The Commentary is composed of 32 individual homilies, but the homily most pertinent to the issue of the Pauline teaching of the heart's law is found in Homily V, which addresses the teachings of St. Paul's Epistle from 1:28 through 2:16.

St. John Chrysostom, Clementine Chapel Vault (by Pomrancio)

Chrysostom views St. Paul's epistle as an effort in undermining the Jewish pride in their Law as a continuing schema of salvation. St. Paul saw Christ as the end, or fulfillment, of the Mosaic Law. (Rom 10:4) In fact, Christ was the end, or fulfillment, of the Natural Law that guided the Gentiles. St. Paul thus sought to negotiate between the Charybdis of the Jew and his attachment to the Mosaic Law, and the Scylla of the Gentile, at the time attached to his idols and deviant moral practices. How was St. Paul to reconcile these two strands of mankind into the one Law of Christ?

While this is not the time or place to venture forth into St. Paul's complex theology, and St. John Chrysostom's equally subtle treatment of it, one should understand Chrysostom's interpretation of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans as one involving a sort of intellectual and rhetorical tightrope on the part of the Jewish Apostle to the Gentiles, who seeks to broaden the reach of Christ to the Gentile, to metamorphosize the Jewish attachment to the Law into Christ, without giving undue offense to either party. 

As part of his commentary, Chrysostom sees Paul's use of the words "Jew" and "Gentile" to vary between the pre-Christian dispensation and the post-Christian dispensation, even between the pre-Mosaic and post-Mosaic dispensations.  Both Jew and Gentile are in a different historical and theological situations after the circumcision and Law was given by Moses, and after Christ's redemptive death on the Cross. 

For example, with regard to St. Paul's use of "Jew" and "Gentile" in Romans 2:10--"But glory, honor, and peace to every man that works good, to the Jew first, and also the Gentile"--the "Jew" and "Gentile" are "those before Christ's coming."  Thus, the "Gentiles" or "Greeks" St. Paul refers to are not the present, contemporary Greeks who worship idols and partake in vicious practices, but the Gentile of old, of time immemorial, the Gentile of the ilk of Job, of Melchizedek, of Cornelius, and the Ninevites, brothers of Abraham, even before the Mosaic covenant set them as a people apart.  "[B]y the Greeks he here means not them that worshipped idols (εἰδωλολατροῦντας), but them that adored God (θεοσεβοῦντας), that obeyed the law of nature (τῷ φυσικῷ πειθομένους νόμῳ), that stricly kept all things, save the Jewish observances, which contribute to piety."  By focusing on Greek and Jew before the Mosaic dispensation, before the Greek had corrupted the intellect by falling into idol worship and the concommitant moral depravity which naturally follows from idolatry, when Jew and Greek or Gentile operated under the natural law, when the Jew did not have the advantage of the Law, St. Paul believe he could locate Christ's redemptive plan that encompassed both Jew and Greek. 

On the other hand, in Romans 2:12 ("For as many as have sinned without the law (ἀνόμως ἥμαρτον) shall also perish without law (ἀνόμως καὶ ἀπολοῦνται): as as many have sinned in the law (ἐν νόμῳ ἥμαρτον) shall be judged by the law (διὰ νόμου κριθήσονται)"), St. Paul clearly refers to the Gentile and the Jew after the Mosaic dispensation, after the Jew has received circumcision and the Law.
Detail of Ikon of St. John Chrysostom
For here, as I said before, he shows not only the equality of the Jew and the Gentile, but that the Jew was even much burdened by the gift of the Law. For the Gentile is judged without law (Ἕλλην ἀνόμως κρίνεται). But this “without law” (Ἀνόμως) here expresses not the worse plight but the easier, that is, he has not the Law to accuse him. For “without law” (Ἀνόμως)(that is, without the condemnation arising from it), is he condemned solely from the reasonings of nature (ἀπὸ τῶν τῆς φύσεως λογισμῶν καταδικάζεται μόνων), but the Jew, “in the Law,” (ἐννόμως) that is, with nature and the Law too to accuse him (μετὰ τῆς φύσεως καὶ τοῦ νόμου κατηγοροῦντος). For the greater the attention he enjoyed, the greater the punishment he will suffer. See how much greater is the necessity which he lays upon the Jews of a speedy recourse to grace! For in that they said, they needed not grace, being justified by the Law, he shows that they need it more than the Gentiles, considering they are liable to be punished more than the Gentiles, considering they are liable to be punished more.
The law (Nόμως) St. Paul and St. John Chrysostom speak of in this context is the Law of Moses, the divine positive law revealed in the Old Testament.  So when St. Paul and St. John Chrysostom refer to the Gentile as "without law" (Ἀνόμως), they do not mean without any law, but without the law of Moses.  Indeed, the Gentiles (as well as the Jew) are under an overriding law, the Law of Nature, a law of reason, a law of conscience.  "For," says St. John Chrysostom in Homily V, "the conscience (συνειδὸς) and reason (λογισμός) does suffice in the Law's stead (ἀντὶ τοῦ νόμου)." This means two things.  First, that "God made man independent (αὐτάρκη τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἐποίησεν ὁ Θεὸς), that is, capable of self-rule, "so as to be able to chose virtue (ἀρετῆς ) and to avoid vice (κακίας)."  St. Paul is insisting here, according to St. John Chrysostom, that the Gentiles operated under God's Providential care, and that the natural moral law, the law of reason and of conscience, was the vehicle by which this Providential solicitousness was accomplished.  St. Paul "shows that even in former times, and before the Law was given, the human race (φύσις) fully enjoyed the care of Providence."  Man's very nature, his physis (φύσις), enjoys the Providential care of God.  This Providential care, that is, the eternal law of God, which is God himself, is manifested in the very nature (φύσις) of man, that is, the natural moral law, the law of reason and of conscience.   It thus encompasses both Jew and Greek, "for there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord is rich unto all that call unto him." (Rom. 10:12). 

Though (before Christ) the Gentile operated without the benefit of the Mosaic Law (Ἀνόμως), that is, he was not a "hearer of the law" (ἀκροαταὶ τοῦ νόμου), he could nevertheless be "just before God" (δίκαιοι παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ).  How? By being a "doer of the law," for, Chrysostom avers, "the doers of the Law alone are justified" (ποιηταὶ τοῦ νόμου δικαιοῦνται μόνον).  Without the Law of Moses, a Gentile may indeed by just before God, "when seen to be a doer of what is written [in the Law]" (ποιητὴς φανεὶς τῶν ἐγγεγραμμένων).  The world, then, is divided into four types.  He who has heard the Law (the Jew), but has disobeyed the Law.  He who has not heard the Law (the Gentile), but has obeyed the Law. He who has heard the Law and obeyed the Law.  And he who has not the Law and has disobeyed the Law.  "For not only is it possible without hearing to be a doer, but even with hearing not to be so." 

So when St. Paul, in Romans 2:14, states that "the Gentiles which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves," he is not rejecting the law, but justifying the Gentiles.  St. Paul here is on his tightrope: he seeks to "undermin[e] the conceit of Judaism," without "villifying the Law, but on the contrary by extolling it and showing its greatness."  And yet, in placing the Gentiles within the governance of "nature," that is, as not having received the Law, he appears also to giving the Gentiles a nod of admiration "because they required not a law (νόμου οὐκ ἐδεήθησαν), and yet exhibited all the doings of the law (τὰ τοῦ νόμου πάντα ἐπεδείξαντο), having the works (τὰ ἔργα), not the letters (οὐ τὰ γράμματα), graven upon their minds (ταῖς διανοίαις αὐτῶν ἐγκολάψαντες)."  "By nature," St. Paul means "by the reasonings of nature" (Φύσει δὲ ὅταν εἴποι, τοῖς ἐκ φύσεως λέγει λογισμοῖς). Indeed, if Chrysostom is to be believed, St. Paul is surreptitiously, inferentially, using marvelous discretion necessarily stating here "that the Gentile is greater than the Jew" (μείζων ὁ Ἕλλην τοῦ Ἰουδαίου).  St. Paul "does not state it," in so many words, "in order not to exapserate the Jew."

Byzantine-Style Ikon of St. John Chrysostom

St. Paul tries to equalize the Gentile and the Jew by stressing the historico-theological condition prior to the Mosaic dispensation.  He will also try to equalize their historico-theological situation after the redemptive death of Christ on the Cross.  But St. Paul also equalizes the Gentile and the Jew coram Deo, before God, in the Final Judgment: "In that day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my Gospel." (Rom. 2:16) .  Thus, the eschatalogically focused Romans 2:16, no longer distinguishes betwen Jew and Gentile, and no longer looks at the doers of the Law (whether they are hearers or not).  These verses refer to "mankind univerally" (τῆς φύσεως ἁπάσης), that is, to the universal nature of man, the source of primordial and perennial law of man, the natural moral law.  It is the natural moral law, that is, our own reasonings, our own conscience, that will either accuse us or excuse us.
For then our reasonings stand up, some accusing and some excusing. And at that tribunal a man needs no other accuser.

Τότε γὰρ ἑστήκασιν ἡμῶν καὶ οἱ λογισμοὶ, οἱ μὲν κατηγοροῦντες, οἱ δὲ ἀπολογούμενοι, καὶ οὐ δεῖται ἑτέρου κατηγόρου ἄνθρωπος ἐπ' ἐκείνου τοῦ δικαστηρίου.
This tribunal of the natural moral law exercises plenary powers over man; it judges not externals, but even the innermost "secrets of men," τὰ κρυπτὰ τῶν ἀνθρώπων. We will be naked before God. Christus nudum hominem judicat.

St. John Chrysostom insists that this tribunal of the natural law is to be feared:
Now let each man enter into his own conscience, and reckoning up his transgressions, let him call himself to a strict account, that we be not then condemned with the world. For fearful is that court, awful the tribunal, full of trembling the accounts, a river of fire rolls along. . . .How then shall we feel, when, before the whole world, all things are brought into the midst, in a theatre so bright and open, with both those known and those unknown to us seeing into everything? But alas! Wherewith am I forced to affright you! With men's estimation! When I ought to use the fear of God, and His condemnation. For what, pray, is to become of us then when bound, and gnashing our teeth, we are led away to the outer darkness? Or, rather, what shall we do (and this is the most fearful thought of all) when we offend God? For if any one have sense and reason, he has already endured a hell when he is out of sight of God. But since this does not pain, fire is therefore threatened. For we ought to smart not when we are punished, but when we sin. . . .
The specter of the tribunal of the Last Judgment, where the law that will judge us is the natural moral law, that law writ in our hearts, that is, in our very nature, our own reason, our own conscience, raises the solicitude of this Christian Bishop. In his peroration, which is a lengthy prayer, he pleads with his flock with the full flourish of his rhetorical skills.  And though lengthy, it warrants quotation in its substantial entirety:
For to have offended God is more distressing than to be punished. But now we are so wretchedly disposed, that, were there no fear of hell, we should not even choose readily to do any good thing. Wherefore were it for nothing else, yet for this at least, we should deserve hell, because we fear hell more than Christ. But not so the blessed Paul, but contrariwise. But since we feel otherwise, for this reason are we condemned to hell: since, did we but love Christ as we should love Him, we should have known that to offend Him we love were more painful than hell. But since we love Him not, we know not the greatness of His punishment.
And this is what I bewail and grieve over the most! And yet what has God not done, to be beloved of us? What has He not devised? What has He omitted? We insulted Him, when He had not wronged us in anything, but had even benefited us with blessings countless and unspeakable. We have turned aside from Him when calling and drawing us to Him by all ways, yet has He not even upon this punished us, but has run Himself unto us, and held us back, when fleeing, and we have shaken Him off and leaped away to the Devil.
And not even on this has He stood aloof, but has sent numberless messengers to call us to Him again, Prophets, Angels, Patriarchs: and we have not only not received the embassy, but have even insulted those that came. But not even for this did He spew us out of His mouth, but like those slighted lovers that be very earnest, He went round beseeching all, the heaven, the earth, Jeremiah, Micah, and that not that He might weigh us down, but that He might speak in behalf of His own ways (Micah 6:1): and along with the prophets He went also Himself to those that turned aside from Him, being ready to submit to examination, and deigning to condescend to a conference, and drawing them that were deaf to every appeal into a disputation with Himself. For He says, O my people, what have I done unto you, and wherein have I wearied you? Answer me. (Micah 6:3) After all this we killed the Prophets, we stoned them, we did them other cruel wrongs without number.
What then? In their place He sent no longer Prophets, no longer Angels, no longer Patriarchs, but the Son Himself. He too was killed when He had come, and yet not even then did He quench His love, but kindled it even more, and keeps on beseeching us, after even His own Son was killed, and entreating us, and doing all things to turn us unto Himself. And Paul cries aloud, saying, Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: be ye reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20) None of these things however reconciled us. Yet not even then did He leave us, but keeps on both threatening hell, and promising a kingdom, that even so He may draw us unto Himself. But we be still in an insensible mood.
What can be worse than this brutishness? For had a man done these things, should we not many times over have let ourselves become slaves to him? But God when doing so we turn us away from! O what listlessness! O what unfeelingness! We that live continually in sins and wickednesses, if we happen to do any little good, like unfeeling domestics, with what a niggardly spirit do we exact it, and how particular are we about the recompense made, if what we have done has any recompense to come of it. And yet the recompense is the greater if you do it without any hope of reward. Why saying all this, and making exact reckoning, is language fitter for an hireling than a domestic of willing mind. For we ought to do everything for Christ's sake, not for the reward, but for Him. For this also was why He threatened hell and promised the kingdom, that He might be loved of us.
Let us then so love Him as we ought to love Him. For this is the great reward, this is royalty and pleasure, this is enjoyment, and glory, and honor, this is light, this is the great happiness, which language (or reasoning) cannot set before us, nor mind conceive. Yet indeed I do not know how I was led so far in this way of speaking, and came to be exhorting men who do not even think slightly of power and glory here for Christ's sake, to think slightly of the kingdom. Yet still those great and noble men even attained to this measure of love. Hear, for instance, how Peter burns with love towards Him, setting Him before soul, and life, and all things. And when he had denied Him, it was not the punishment he was grieved for, but that he had denied Him Whom he longed for, which was more bitter to him than any punishment. And all this did he show before the grace of the Spirit was given. And he perseveringly pressed the question, Where are you going? (John 13:36) and before this; To whom shall we go? (John 6:67); and again; I will follow You wherever You go. (Luke 22:33)
Thus He was all things to them, and neither heaven nor the kingdom of heaven did they count of, in comparison of Him they longed for. For You are all these things unto me, he means. And why doest thou marvel that Peter was so minded? Hear now what the Prophet says: What have I in heaven, and what is there upon earth, that I should desire in comparison of You? (Psalm 73:25) Now what he means is nearly this. Neither of things above nor of things below desire I any, save You only. This is passion; this is love. Can we so love, it will not be things present only, but even things to come, which we shall reckon as nothing compared with that love-charm, and even here shall we enjoy the Kingdom, delighting ourselves in the love of Him. And how is this to be? One may say. Let us reflect how oft we insult Him after numberless goodnesses, yet He stands and calls us to Him, and how often we run by Him, but He still does not overlook us, but runs to us, and draws us to Him, and catches us in unto Himself. For if we consider these things, and such as these, we shall be enabled to kindle this longing. For if it were a common man that so loved, but a king who was thus beloved, would he not feel a respect for the greatness of the love? Most assuredly he would. But when the case is reversed, and His Beauty is unspeakable, and the glory and the riches too of Him that loves us, and our vileness so great, surely we deserve the utmost punishment, vile as we are and outcasts, who are treated with so exceeding great love by One so great and wonderful, and yet wax wanton against His love? He needs not anything of ours, and yet He does not even now cease loving us. We need much what is His, and for all that we cleave not unto His love, but money we value above Him, and man's friendship, and ease of body, and power, and fame, before Him who values nothing more than us. For He had One Son, Very and Only-Begotten, and He spared not even Him for us. But we value many things above Him. Were there not then good reason for a hell and torment, even were it twofold or threefold or manifold what it is? For what can we have to say for ourselves, if even Satan's injunctions we value more than the Laws of Christ, and are reckless of our own salvation that we may choose the works of wickedness, before Him who suffered all things for us? And what pardon do these things deserve? What excuse have they? Not one even. Let us stop then after this in our headlong course, and let us grow again sober; and reckoning up all these things, let us send up glory unto Him by our works (for words alone suffice not thereto), that we may also enjoy the glory that comes of Him, which may we all attain unto by the grace and love toward man of our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom, and with Whom, to the Father be glory, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.
Relics of Sts. John Chrysostom and Gregory the Theologian
in the Church of St. George, Istanbul, Tukery

Post Scriptum

We ought not to forget that St. John Chrysostom is more than a Doctor of the Church.  He is, after all, a Saint, and one available to us, to serve as our intercessor.  It may therefore be appropriate to add, post scriptum, a prayer to this great man.  I have selected out of the Orthodox Liturgy, the Versperal Aposticha for November 13, his feast day in the Eastern Orthodox Church. (

R.  You are revealed, O John, to the ends of the earth, as a golden lyre, a shining lampstand, proclaiming the mighty works of God.
V.  The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom and his tongue speaks justice!
R.  Moses received the law from the hands of the Lord, and you, Chrysostom, enlighten the world, by the wisdom of your divine teaching.
V.  Your priests, Lord, shall be clothed with righteousness, and Your saints shall sing for joy!
R.  By your golden tongue, you became the herald of God's true Kingdom, crying out to all: Repent! Forsake the sea of ignorance!

O Virgin and Theotokos, entreat the Word of God who was born of you that He may save our souls.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Golden Mouth of Natural Law: St. John Chrysostom on the Natural Law, Homily XIII on Statues

ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM RE-ADDRESSED THE ISSUE OF NATURAL LAW in his Homily XIII on the Statues. In the midst of a great rebellion between the Antiochian populace and the forces of Emperor Theodosius, and in the midst of the people's Lenten preparations, St. John sought it fitting remind the people not once, but twice, on the Church's doctrine of the natural moral law and its meaning in their lives.

There is a natural law in man that allows him to discern the good and discern what is evil. In his homily, Chrysostom seeks to prove its existence. He begins his discussion of it by focusing on man's creation, which is appropriate because the font of the natural moral law is the design incorporated into our nature by the God who fashioned it in his image, the God who designed it with an end or purpose in view. The ability to distinguish evil from good is an easily evident faculty in man, and has been with him from time immemorial, even from his creation: "For that God from the beginning, when He formed man, made him capable of discriminating both these, all men make evident." XIII.7.

Icon of St. John Chrysostom

One of the evidences of the natural law is the sense of shame that arises when the natural law is violated. Even in the presence of social inferiors we are ashamed when we are caught in flagrante delicto. A master surprised on his way to a brothel reddens with shame when caught by one of his reliable servants. Another evidence of the natural moral law is the offense we take when falsely accused of a wrong or vice. Hence it is that the law of defamation allows us to "drag those who have done the wrong to the public tribunal." XIII.7. As a result of the shame that arises when violating some internal rule, and the affront that is felt when wrongly accused of violating a rule, it is clear that we have an internal knowledge, an internal compass or governor, that allows us to distinguish between virtue and vice, good and evil. "Thus we can understand what vice is and what virtue is." XIII.7

Christ himself recognized the existence of this natural compass, this natural moral law. When Jesus revealed to us his Beatitudes, Christ taught that he was not introducing a strange, alien law; rather, his moral teachings presupposed and encouraged the natural faculty that man had since his creation, a faculty, really a natural moral law, found in his conscience. "Hoc quippe ipsum et Christus declarans, et demonstrans se nihil novum, aut nostram trascendens naturam sancire . . . . ὅτι οὐδὲν ξένον οὐδὲ ὑπερβαῖνον ἡμῶν τὴν φύσιν νομοθετεῖ . . . . For that reason, at the end of his teaching on the Beatitudes, Christ states: "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." (Matt. 7:12).
"Many words," says He, are not necessary, nor laws of great length, nor a diversity of instruction. Let your own will be the law. [Non opus est multis sermonibus, inquit, neque prolixis legibus, nec varia doctrina: voluntas tua sit lex. Οὐ χρεία πολλῶν λόγων, φησὶν, οὐδὲ μακροτέρων νόμων, οὐδὲ διδασκαλίας ποικίλης· τὸ θέλημά σου γενέσθω νόμος.] Do you wish to receive kindness? Be kind to another. Do you wish to receive mercy? Show mercy to your neighbor. Do you wish to be applauded? Applaud another. Do you wish to be beloved? Exercise love. Do you wish to enjoy the first rank? First concede that place to another. Become yourself the judge, yourself the lawgiver of your own life. And again; "Do not to another what you hate." Tobit 4:16 By the latter precept, he would induce to a departure from iniquity; by the former, to the exercise of virtue. "Do not thou to another," he says, "what you hate." Do you hate to be insulted? Do not insult another. Do you hate to be envied? Envy not another. Do you hate to be deceived? Do not deceive another. And, in a word, in all things, if we hold fast these two precepts, we shall not need any other instruction. For the knowledge of virtue He has implanted in our nature; but the practice of it and the correction He has entrusted to our moral choice.
XIII.7, PG, 49.139-40. The Golden Rule is the fundamental expression of the natural moral law. In a striking statement, not unlike St. Augustine's "love God and do what you will," diliges et quod vis fac [In epist. Ioannis ad Parthos, tract. vii], Chrysostom observes that, in a sense, since the natural law is so much inscribed in our nature, the natural law is our own will. We will that to be law that which we will be done to us. We will not that to be law, which we will not be done to us. Voluntas tua sit lex. Τὸ θέλημά σου γενέσθω νόμος. We thus judge what is right and wrong by one, central standard. We ought not to do to others what we would not want them to do to us. Or we should do unto others what we would want them to do to us. Whether phrased negatively or affirmatively, in Christ's formulation or in Tobit's, this Golden Rule is internalized in man's nature and is the ultimate source of the knowledge of right and wrong. Voluntas tua sit lex! Τὸ θέλημά σου γενέσθω νόμος!

St. John Chrysostom stresses the internal, intrinsic nature of this natural moral law. Though imposed ad extra by the act of creation, we find it promulgated not like some sort of external decree, but like an internal one. In his earlier homily, St. John had described this law as "self-taught," per se discibilem, αὐτοδίδακτον. In a manner of speaking, we are the source of our own law, though this is not to be understood in the sense of a Protagorean "man is the measure of things." We discover the law within ourselves, but we do not create the law within our selves. We are servants to the law within ourselves, recipients of that law, subjects of that internal law; we are not its masters, its framers, its promulgators. We are not legislators, but executors of a law already made. So this law shows itself in common, in shared standards regarding fundamental moral concepts: in our recognizing, say, the value of temperance, or the evil of adultery and the breach of fidelity that comes with it:
In order to know that it is a good thing to exercise temperance, we need no words, nor instruction; for we ourselves have the knowledge of it in our nature, and there is no necessity for labor or fatigue in going about and inquiring whether temperance is good and profitable; but we all acknowledge this with one consent, and no man is in doubt as to this virtue. So also we account adultery to be an evil thing, and neither is there here any need of trouble or learning, that the wickedness of this sin may be known; but we are all self-taught in such judgments; and we applaud virtue, though we do not follow it; as, on the other hand, we hate vice, though we practice it. And this has been an exceeding good work of God; that He has made our conscience, and our power of choice already, and before the action, claim kindred with virtue, and be at enmity with wickedness.
XIII.8 Chrysostom insists that though the natural law is part of our nature, we do not, like the brute animals, act as automatons. Unlike the law of nature, the natural moral law presupposes and guides man's choice, his free will. It is, therefore, a governor of man's free will, and not a deterministic recipe outside of which we cannot act, or outside of which guidance we may not depart.
I said then, the knowledge of each of these things resides within the conscience of all men, and we require no teacher to instruct us in these things; but the regulation of our conduct is left to our choice, and earnestness, and efforts.

Sicut igitur dixi, horum quidem amborum cognitio omnium hominum conscientiae insita est, nec ullo indigemus praeceptore ad haec discenda; emendatio ver laboribus, voluntati et studio data est.

Ὥσπερ οὖν ἔφην, ἡ μὲν γνῶσις ἑκατέρων τούτων ἔγκειται τῷ συνειδότι πάντων ἀνθρώπων, καὶ οὐ δεόμεθα διδασκάλου τινὸς πρὸς τὸ ταῦτα μαθεῖν· ἡ δὲ διόρθωσις λοιπὸν προαιρέσει καὶ σπουδῇ καὶ πόνοις ἐγκεχείρισται.
XIII.9; PG, 49.140. We are not therefore only the natural moral law's executors, we must also be its willing subjects. The reason behind this voluntary aspect of the natural moral law is God's provision for desert, for reward. (Though the provision for reward, as we shall see, also implies the provision for punishment.)
[If] He [God] had made everything to be of nature, we should have departed uncrowned and destitute of reward; and even as the brutes, who receive no reward nor praise for those advantages which they have naturally, so neither should we enjoy any of these things; for natural advantages are not the praise and commendation of those who have them, but of the Giver. For this reason, then, He did not commit all to nature; and again, He did not suffer our will to undertake the whole burden of knowledge, and of right regulation; lest it should despair at the labor of virtue. But conscience suggests to it what ought to be done; and it contributes its own exertions for the accomplishment.
XIII.9. Chrysostom here distinguishes between the faculty of knowing the natural moral law and the faculty or ability to follow it. It is much more difficult, he observes, to follow the natural moral law than it is to know what the natural moral law requires. Therefore, there is a distinction between the facility with which we know that temperance is good for us, and the difficulty which we confront in trying to bridle our intemperate nature. Thus the nature that provides us with the law is different from the nature that resists its application or enforcement. But it is not as if this other side of our nature is entirely recalcitrant, entirely ungovernable and unmanageable. There is in man also a natural tendency or disposition that fits with the natural moral law, that frequently accords with the natural moral law and facilitates its expression. Thus, men feel a natural indignation at being contemptuously treated; they feel a dislike of the insolent even when unaffected personally by their insolence. Men also feel sympathy at seeing others assisted or protected. It is also evidence that we feel solidarity with others of our kind, when we are overcome by those who face calamity, when we experience feelings of tenderness toward each other. "And to this effect a certain wise man speaks significantly: 'Every animal loves his like, and man his neighbor.'" XIII.9.

Though this law is "self-taught," in the sense that we find its expression in conscience, that is not to exclude external sources of that law. God has made provision for proper instruction regarding that law, even outside the internal resource of conscience.
God has provided many other instructors for us besides conscience; viz., fathers for children, masters for servants, husbands for wives, teachers for pupils, law-givers and judges for those who are to be governed, and friends for friends. And frequently too we gain no less from enemies than friends; for when the former reproach us with our offenses, they stir us up, even against our will, to the amendment of them. So many teachers has He set over us, in order that the discovery of what is profitable, and the regulation of our conduct, might be easy to us, the multitude of those things which urge us on toward it not permitting us to fall away from what is expedient for us. For although we should despise parents, yet while we fear magistrates, we shall in any case be more submissive than otherwise. And though we may set them at naught when we sin, we can never escape the rebuke of conscience: and if we dishonor and repel this, yet while fearing the opinion of the many, we shall be the better for it. And though we are destitute of shame with regard to this, the fear of the laws will press on us so as to restrain us, however reluctantly.
XIII.10. There is therefore unquestionably a social or communal aspect to the natural moral law. Despite the fundamental "self-taught" nature of the natural moral law, we are not dealing here with selflaw: each man with a law of his own making. We are not here dealing with the self-making of the radical existentialists, men who claim to make, to define themselves, to define their own nature. The natural moral law is shared in solidarity with all other men, and so all men have a part in our moral lives. It is intended that there be certain social, relational, even authoritarian "walls which environ our race on all sides," multi unidque generi nostro muri sunt, πολλὰ πανταχόθεν ἡμῶν τῷ γένει τὰ τειχία, and like the Heraclitean "city walls," they protect us from evil.
Thus fathers and teachers take the young in hand, and bring them into order; and lawgivers and magistrates, those who are grown up. And servants, as being more inclined to listlessness, in addition to what has been previously mentioned, have their masters to constrain them to temperance; and wives have their husbands. And many are the walls which environ our race on all sides, lest it should too easily slide away, and fall into wickedness. Beside all these too; sicknesses and calamities instruct us. For poverty restrains, and losses sober us, and danger subdues us, and there are many other things of this sort. Does neither father, nor teacher, nor prince, nor lawgiver, nor judge make you fear? Does no friend move you to shame, nor enemy sting you? Does no master chastise? Does no husband instruct? Does no conscience correct you? Still, when bodily sickness comes, it often sets all right; and a loss has made the audacious man to become gentle. And what is more than this, heavy misfortunes, which befall not only ourselves but others too, are often of great advantage to us; and we who ourselves suffered nothing, yet beholding others enduring punishment, have been no less sobered by it than they.
XIII.11. But others do not only serve as negative correctors. Others also sometimes serve as exemplars. "And with respect to right deeds," Chrysostom also adds, "any one may see that this happens; for as when the bad are punished others become better, so whenever the good achieve any thing right, many are urged onward to a similar zeal." XIII.12.

Detail of Icon of St. John Chrysostom

The natural moral law is one that requires constant striving. We are not, Chrysostom notes, like a pitcher or other silver vessel that, once manufactured by the silversmith, retains its order and shape in permanency. We are not hewn out of stone, or hammered of brass. Our souls are rather impermanent in the area of good, in the area of virtue. For the law to govern us requires constant work. We are a work that requires constant maintenance, constant direction, constant instruction, constant reproof. The artisan is always at work on the raw material. which in the area of the natural moral law is the soul. St. John Chrysostom urges his flock not to strive to better themselves:
[F]or we have not lifeless vessels to forge, but reasonable souls. Therefore we do not find you such as we leave you, but when we have taken you, and with manifold labor molded, reformed you and increased your ardor on your departing from this place, the urgency of business, besetting you on every side, again perverts you, and causes us increased difficulty. Therefore, I supplicate and beseech you to put your own hand to the work; and when you depart hence, to show the same earnest regard for your own safety, that I have here shown for your amendment.
XIII.13. There is a sense of urgency in the moral life in addition to the fact that, as reasonable souls, it requires constant monitoring. We must not forget the fact that the natural moral law, and our effort at implementing it, are matters subject to final judgment.

[F]or to every man will He [God] render according to his own works. Wherefore as a mother, when she beholds her son in a fever, while she witnesses his sufferings from choking and inflammation, frequently bewails him, and says to him, "O my son, would that I could sustain your fever, and draw off its flame upon myself!" so now I say, Oh! That by laboring as your substitute, I could do good works for you all! But no, this is not to be done. But of his own doings must each man give the account, and one cannot see one person suffer punishment in the room of another. For this reason I am pained and mourn, that on That Day, when you are called to judgment, I shall not be able to assist you, since, to say the truth, no such confidence of speech with God belongs to me. But even if I had much confidence, I am not holier than Moses, or more righteous than Samuel; of whom it is said, that though they had attained to so great virtue, they could not in any way avail to assist the Jews; inasmuch as that people had given themselves over to excessive negligence. (Jer. 15:1) Since, then, from our own works we shall be punished or saved; let us endeavor, I beseech you, in conjunction with all the other precepts, to fulfill this one; that, finally departing this life with a favorable hope, we may obtain those good things which are promised, through the grace and loving kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom and with Whom, to the Father, with the Holy Ghost, be glory both now and ever, world without end. Amen.

Mosaic of St. John Chrysostom in the Hagia Sophia

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Golden Mouth of Natural Law: St. John Chrysostom on the Natural Law, Homily XII on Statues

THE GOLDEN-MOUTHED, Ό ΧΡΥΣΟΣΤΟΜΟΣ, is how St. John of Antioch, the 4th century Archbishop of Constantinople, (c. 347-9 thru 405 A.D.) has come to be known.  Much touted for his eloquence in preaching even during his lifetime, St. John Chrysostom is also a witness to the early Church's preaching of the natural moral law.  Born in Antioch from the marriage of Secundus, an army officer, and his wife Anthusa, John was educated by the famous lawyer Libanius in preparation for a career in law.  However, perhaps as a result of the influence of bishop Meletius, John, soon after his baptism, decided to abandon law in favor of a monastic, and then later a priestly, calling, ultimately being called to the Archbishopric of Constantinople.  The historian Sozomen relates that the pagan Libanius rued the loss of his student John to the Christians, as he viewed him, as a result of his prodigious talent, as the a natural successor as leader of the law school : "If only the Christians had not stolen him from us."  Ch. Hist. viii.2.   Perhaps best known for his utter disregard of persons based upon their social standing, his disciplined rejection of the blandishment of the Imperial court and its compromises, and his unwavering denouncing of sins in those in high places--to some, tactless,  to others, fearless--St. John Chrysostom seemed to follow in the footsteps of his namesake, St. John the Baptist.  While his denunciations of the powerful did not lead to the loss of his head, the forcefulness of his declamations did lead twice to his banishment from his see,  largely as a result of the activities of his enemy, the vain Empress Eudoxia: "Again Herodias raves; again she is troubled; she dances again; and again desires to receive John's head in a charger," Chrysostom stated if Socrates Scholasticus is to be believed (Chapter XVIII).  As a result of his last banishment, he was unable to return to his see, and died in Commana in Pontus.

Icon of St. John Chrysostom

Fittingly, St. John Chrysostom's teachings on the natural law are principally found in his homilies, Homily XII and XIII of his Homilies on  the Statutes, and in his Homilies on St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans.  The Homilies on Statues were delivered during Lenten season of 387 before an Antiochian audience. They were delivered during the course of the civil unrest in Antioch in which the local population, upset with excessive taxes, rose in rebellion against the Emperor Theodosius.  Among other acts of violence, the inhabitants destroyed the statues of the emperor and his family and drug them through the streets, thus giving rise to the name that surrounds this series of Lenten homilies.  Angered by the rebellion, the Emperor Theodosius  threatened severe sanctions against the population, but his anger was mollified by Bishop Flavian, who obtained a pardon from the emperor for those participating in the uprisings. (One may recall that this temperamental emperor was the same Theodosius whose massacre of the Thessalonians led to his being rebuked by the great St. Ambrose in 390.) These homilies will be the topic of the next various blog entries.  In this blog posting we will discuss Homily XII On Statues.  In the next, Homily XIII On Statues will be reviewed.  In the last blog entry on Chrysostom, we will review Homily V and VI of Chrysostom's Homilies on St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, and then summarize his teachings.

In the course of his Homily XII on Statues, Chrysostom insists in the existence of a natural theology and a natural morality.  God is known through his creation; his works afford us a mode of knowing him.  Not only do we learn of God through his works, but we also learn of his intent with regard to his works, especially man.  There are, as it were, to "points," reasons, suppositions, literally hypotheses that may be learned through the study of nature, one empirical, and one ideal, but for not that less real.  True, an exhaustive empircal knowledge of man, even of his body alone, of "the sinews, the veins, and the arteries, and the molding of every other part," would take a significant amount of study and a significant amount of time. XII.8.   "Not even a whole year would suffice for such a disquisition." XII.8  And even then, our knowledge would only be relatively exact, that is, exact up to a point, up to what is possible for us.  Science, then, can only yield knowledge so far.  Real exactness is not possible to us because there are reasons that simply escape us, that are "ineffable, which God who made them knows," but which simply are beyond our ken. XII.8.  There is, however, another "point," reason, or supposition (hypothesis, ὑπόθεσις) behind creation beyond the mere physical aspects of it that allows us insight into God and his existence, specifically a "point," reason, hypothesis or supposition that is "demonstrative of God's providence." XII.9. St. John here intimates on the existence of the eternal law to be learned from the way things are, insofar as it may be embedded or incribed, as it were, in the very nature of man, in his conscience, and in the fact that man, even without any revealed law, lives nevertheless by law, a law that he enforces through punishments that are meted out through organs of enforcement such as courts. 
What then is this second point [secunda hypothesis, δευτέρα ὑπόθεσις]  [of the creation of man]? It is, that when God formed man, he implanted within him from the beginning a natural law [Ab initio Deus hominem formans, legem ipsi naturalem indidit, Ἐξ ἀρχῆς πλάττων ὁ Θεὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον, νόμον αὐτῷ φυσικὸν ἐγκατέθηκε]. And what then was this natural law [lex naturalis, νόμος φυσικός]? He gave utterance to conscience within us [conscientiam nobis expressit, Τὸ συνειδὸς ἡμῖν διήρθρωσε]; and made the knowledge of good things, and of those which are the contrary, to be self-taught [et per se discibilem,* αὐτοδίδακτον]. For we have no need to learn that fornication is an evil thing, and that chastity is a good thing, but we know this from the first.
XII.9 [PG, 49, 131]. Chrysostom finds the doctrine that there is a natural law (lex naturalis, νόμος φυσικός) expressed or evidenced in human conscience implied in the scriptural recounting of God, the divine lawgiver's Commandment: "Thou shalt not kill," as described in Exodus 20:13. When God issued this command, Chrysostom notes, he gave no reason for it. For Chrysostom, the failure of God to announce a reason in promulgating that law should not be construed to mean the law is arbitrary, or a matter of will. Indeed, the exact opposite is the inference, that being that the reason behind the law was already known by the light of the natural law, so the divine utterance of the rule did nothing but confirm the reason already uttered in the human conscience of the Jew who heard the command.
And that you may learn that we know this from the first, the Lawgiver [legislator leges, ὁ νομοθέτης νόμους], when He afterwards gave laws, and said, “You shall not kill,” Exodus 20:13 did not add, “since murder is an evil thing,” but simply said, “You shall not kill;” for He merely prohibited the sin, without teaching. How was it then when He said, “You shall not kill,” that He did not add, “because murder is a wicked thing.” The reason was, that conscience had taught this beforehand; and He speaks thus, as to those who know and understand the point.
The Lord's act in the context of revealing the divine command not to kill should be contrasted with his acts when revealing other commandments that may not be part of the natural law, and so may be unknown by the dictates of human conscience were they not revealed.  In such contexts, Chrysostom observes, God not only issues the prohibition, but he also gives a reason why.  "He not only prohibits, but adds the reason."  XII.9  As an instance of this, Chrysostom cites the Lord's commandment regarding the Sabbath day.
When, for instance, He gave commandment respecting the Sabbath; “On the seventh day you shall do no work;” He subjoined also the reason for this cessation. What was this? “Because on the seventh day God rested from all His works which He had begun to make.” Exodus 20:10 And again; “Because thou were a servant in the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 21:18.  For what purpose then I ask did He add a reason respecting the Sabbath, but did no such thing in regard to murder? Because this commandment was not one of the leading ones. It was not one of those which were accurately defined of our conscience, but a kind of partial and temporary one; and for this reason it was abolished afterwards. But those which are necessary and uphold our life, are the following; “You shall not kill; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal.” On this account then He adds no reason in this case, nor enters into any instruction on the matter, but is content with the bare prohibition.
XII.9.  For John Chrysostom, then, the divine positive law, which may be subject to change or abrogation by God, may be distinguished from the natural law, which is absolute and unchanging.  The distinction may be learned by the manner in which the two species of laws are revealed in Scripture.  In promulgating divine positive laws that confirm the natural law, that is, that are consonant with the law of reason, the purpose of the law need not be given.  A bare prohibition is evidence that a natural law principle is involved.

The doctrine of natural law is also reflected in the account of Adam's original sin, Chrysostom continues.  Though "there were neither letters, nor law, nor Moses" [neque enim erant litterae, non lex, non Moses, Οὐδὲ γὰρ γράμματα ἦν, οὐ νόμος, οὐ Μωσῆς] at the time that Adam disobeyed God in the garden of Eden, yet did he know that he had disobeyed God and sinned, and "after the sin straightaway hid himself."  Whence this sense of shame in Adam when there was no prior law?  The law that Adam had violated was "self-taught," autodictated, in the sense that it was promulgated within the very nature of man.  For this reason, God interrogates Adam, educing, as it were, in Adam's very confession the recognition that he violated an internally-derived, and internally-existing norm.  The norms are there to be discovered; they have already been received or promulgated in the nature of man as created by God.  "Therefore," Chrysostom concludes, God "carried on the discourse in the form of interrogation, leaving the man himself to come to the confession."  XII.10.  The recognition of the norm and its violation could not have been so educed by the divine interrogator without it previously being part of man's inner nature by God's design.

The natural law is not only the source of learning when one sins, but it is also the source of learning what is virtuous or good.  In this regard, Chrysostom directs his congregation to reflect on the story of Cain and Abel.  On what basis did the sons of Adam offer their first fruits?  The desire to offer sacrifice to God is part of man's nature.  "For we would show not from his sin only, but also from his virtue, that man was capable of knowing both these things." XII.10
Wherefore that man knew sin to be an evil thing, Adam manifested; and that he knew that virtue was a good thing, Abel again made evident. For without having learned it from any one, without having heard any law promulgated respecting the first fruits, but having been taught from within, and from his conscience, he presented that sacrifice. On this account I do not carry the argument down to a later period; but I bring it to bear upon the time of these earlier men, when there were as yet no letters, as yet no law, nor as yet prophets and judges; but Adam only existed with his children; in order that you may learn, that the knowledge of good and evil had been previously implanted in their natures. For from whence did Abel learn that to offer sacrifice was a good thing; that it was good to honour God, and in all things to give thanks?
Detail of Icon of St. John Chrysostom

XII.10. Thus, the natural law, which predates the Mosaic dispensation, is binding upon all men.  Chrysostom here anticipates a question of his hearers. If the natural law is what drove Abel to offer his first fruits, why did it fail Cain? Why did Cain fail in his offering to God? How could the natural law exist if Cain murdered his brother? In response, Chrysostom insists that in Cain's failure to offer proper sacrifice, and, in particular, in his design against the life of his brother, Abel, we see a knowledge of a law and that it has been violated.  The existence of a natural law is made manifest in Abel's very desire to conceal the decision to act against that law.
And from thence again the knowledge of conscience is apparent. For when, envying him who had been honored, he [Cain] deliberated upon murder, he conceals his crafty determination. And what says he; “Come, let us go forth into the field.” The outward guise was one thing, the pretence of love; the thought another, the purpose of fratricide. But if he had not known the design to be a wicked one, why did he conceal it? And again, after the murder had been perpetrated, being asked of God, “Where is Abel your brother?” he answers, “I know not; am I my brother's keeper?” Wherefore does he deny the crime? Is it not evidently because he exceedingly condemns himself. For as his father had hid himself, so also this man denies his guilt, and after his conviction, again says, “My crime is too great to obtain pardon.”
XII.11.  The natural law is revealed in the very act of denying wrong--in rationalization.  The natural law is revealed in the very act of deceit and shame.

Chrysostom insists that the same reasoning that allows us to detect God in his works through a natural theology built upon reason, also allows us to know right and wrong, good and evil, virtue and vice.  There is therefore a natural morality similarly predicated upon reason. This natural law binds the Gentiles, and, by implication, all men. He refers his auditors to St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, where the apostle confronted those that denied the existence of a natural law. What did his opponents say? "They say, that there is no self-evident law seated in our consciences; and that God has not implanted this in our nature." [Non est in nobis per se lex in conscientia posita, nec eam naturae Deus inscruit, Οὐκ ἔστιν ἡμῖν αὐτοδίδακτος νόμος ἐν τῷ συνειδότι, φησὶ, κείμενος, οὐδὲ τῇ φύσει τοῦτο ἐγκατέθηκεν ὁ Θεός. PG, 49.133]  What is Chrysostom's Pauline retort to those that espouse such views?  If that were true, there would be no law.  The existence of human law, of punishment, and of organs for the law's enforcement is evidence of a natural law.  There is an analogia legis, a species of the analogia entis, which allows us to reason from the existence of human positive law to the existence of a natural law, even an eternal law.
[W]hence is it, I ask, that legislators have written those laws which are among them concerning marriages, concerning murders, concerning wills, concerning trusts, concerning abstinence from encroachments on one another, and a thousand other things. For the men now living may perchance have learned them from their elders; and they from those who were before them, and these again from those beyond? But from whom did those learn who were the originators and first enactors of laws among them? Is it not evident that it was from conscience? For they cannot say, that they held communication with Moses; or that they heard the prophets. How could it be so when they were Gentiles? But it is evident that from the very law which God placed in man when He formed him from the beginning, laws were laid down, and arts discovered, and all other things. For the arts too were thus established, their originators having come to the knowledge of them in a self-taught manner.
XII.12. The very existence of laws among men, punishments attached to their violation, and the vehicles for their enforcement, that is, the courts of justice, then, presuppose the natural law, for without the natural law, there would be no basis for the positive law or its enforcement. XII.13. Like causality which finds itself without rational foundation unless there be a First Cause, like being which implies a self-existing Being if there be being at all, law would find itself without basis unless there was a First Lawgiver and a First Law.  There would be no human law and human lawgiver without a First Law and First Lawgiver.  The existence of human law, then, evidences the existence of God as lawgiver and the eternal law as the fundamental law writ in man as the natural law.

Chrysostom continues: Paul's opponents questioned the ability of God to judge the Gentiles when the Mosaic law had not been revealed to them. Paul's opponents asked:
“How will God judge mankind who lived before Moses? He did not send a lawgiver; He did not introduce a law; He commissioned no prophet, nor apostle, nor evangelist; how then can He call these to account?”
XII.13. Paul insisted in response to these his adversaries that the Gentiles "possessed a self taught law," and that through this "self taught law," "they knew clearly what they ought to do." XII.13. "Hear how he [St. Paul] speaks," Chrysostom exclaims:
“For when the Gentiles who have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law, are a law unto themselves; which show the work of the law written in their hearts.” Romans 2:14-15 But how without letters? “Their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing, or else excusing one another. In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” Romans 2:16 And again; “As many as have sinned without law, shall perish without law; and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law.” Romans 2:12 What means, “They shall perish without law?” The law not accusing them, but their thoughts, and their conscience; for if they had not a law of conscience, it were not necessary that they should perish through having done amiss. For how should it be so if they sinned without a law? But when he says, “without a law,” he does not assert that they had no law, but that they had no written law, though they had the law of nature. [Sed cum sine lege dicit, non dicit non habuisse legem, sed non habuisse legem scriptam, natuarae vero legem habuisse, Ἀλλ' ἀνόμως ὅταν εἴπῃ, οὐ τοῦτο λέγει, ὅτι οὐκ εἶχον νόμον, ἀλλ' ὅτι οὐκ εἶχον νόμον γραπτὸν, τὸν δὲ τῆς φύσεως νόμον εἶχον.] And again; “But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that works good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.” Romans 2:10
XII.13.  In Chrysostom's view, Paul is referring to the Gentile of "the early times, before the coming of Christ."  This Gentile is not an idolater, but one who still worships the one God, exhibiting wisdom and piety through this self-taught natural law, even though he is without benefit of the Mosaic law and the Jewish rites and customs. This is the same Gentile referred to by St. Paul when he states:   Wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that does evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile.” Romans 2:9.  With respect to this Gentile:
If, then, he had not heard the law, nor conversed with the Jews, how could there be wrath, indignation and tribulation against him for working evil? The reason is, that he possessed a conscience inwardly admonishing him, and teaching him, and instructing him in all things. Whence is this manifest? From the way in which he punished others when they did amiss; from the way in which he laid down laws; from the way in which he set up the tribunals of justice.
Again, Chrysostom insists that the existence of human law--which presumes right and wrong, punishment, and organs of enforcement (all of which are found among the Gentiles)--is clear evidence of a natural law.

The existence of the natural law is not only implied by the activities of the righteous Gentile, but also in the Gentile living in wickedness.  How did those Gentiles who lived in wickedness warrant punishment?
From whence? Why, from the way in which they judged others who sinned. For if you deem not murder to be a wicked thing, when you have gotten a murderer at your bar, you should not punish him. So if you deem it not an evil thing to commit adultery, when the adulterer has fallen into your hands, release him from punishment! But if you record laws, and prescribe punishments, and art a severe judge of the sins of others; what defense can you make, in matters wherein you yourself do amiss, by saying that you are ignorant what things ought to be done? For suppose that thou and another person have alike been guilty of adultery. On what account do you punish him, and deem yourself worthy of forgiveness? Since if you did not know adultery to be wickedness, it were not right to punish it in another. But if you punish, and think to escape the punishment yourself, how is it agreeable to reason that the same offenses should not pay the same penalty?
XII.14. In the same manner that man judges his fellow and punishes him through the law and its structures, so does God judge men, who will judge them in accordance with their works.
Since, therefore, He renders to every man according to his works; for this reason He both implanted within us a natural law, and afterwards gave us a written one, in order that He might demand an account of sins, and that He might crown those who act rightly. Let us then order our conduct with the utmost care, and as those who have soon to encounter a fearful tribunal; knowing that we shall enjoy no pardon, if after a natural as well as written law, and so much teaching and continual admonition, we neglect our own salvation.

Quoniam igitus cuique secundum opera reddit, et legem propterea nobis naturalem indidit, et scriptam postmodum dedit, ut poenas exigat peccatorum, et recte agentes coronet: multo itaque studium tanquam ad tredmendum conventuri iudicium, actiones nostras dispensemus scientes quod nullam assequemur veniam, si post naturalem et scriptam legem et doctrinam tantam et admonitionem assiduam sautem nostram negligamus.

Ἐπεὶ οὖν ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τὰ ἔργα ἀποδίδωσι, καὶ νόμον διὰ τοῦτο φυσικὸν ἡμῖν ἐνέθηκε, καὶ γραπτὸν ὕστερον ἔδωκεν, ἵνα εὐθύνας ἀπαιτήσῃ τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων, καὶ ἵνα κατορθοῦντας στεφανώσῃ· μετὰ πολλῆς οὖν τῆς σπουδῆς, καὶ ὥσπερ εἰς δικαστήριον ἀπαντήσεσθαι μέλλοντες φοβερὸν, τὰ καθ' ἑαυτοὺς οἰκονομήσωμεν, εἰδό τες ὡς μηδεμιᾶς ἀπολαύσομεν συγγνώμης, εἰ μετὰ φυσικὸν καὶ γραπτὸν νόμον, καὶ διδασκαλίαν τοσαύτην, καὶ συνεχῆ παραίνεσιν, τῆς ἡμετέρας ἀμελήσαιμεν σωτηρίας.
XII.15 [PG, 49, 134-35]. With this, Chrysostom completes his discussion on the natural law, and begins to address other issues.  We shall see that he will return to this topic in his next day's homily.  We will review homily XIII and its discussion of the natural law in our next blog entry.

Mosaic of St. John Chrysostom in the Hagia Sophia

*The Latin version in Migne does not translate αὐτοδίδακτον. Some versions translated the Greek into per se discibilem.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Law, Sit Up Higher: Richard Hooker and the Natural Law, Part 19

HOOKER CLOSES HIS FIRST BOOK of his great work Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity with a short synopsis and an apologia for having turned "aside from that beaten path" and focused on the origin of laws, instead of simply succumbing to a pragmatic presentation "more popular and more plausible to vulgar ears." I.16.1, 135. He has discussed, he says, the nature and the force of laws "according to their several kinds" and viewed them from the vantage point of origin. I.16.1, 134. In reviewing all laws, Hooker has identified a hierarchical structure, as it were, of law, all founded upon the basis of the eternal law of God:

--The Eternal Law: "the law which God with himself has eternally set down to follow in his own works."
--The Law of Nature: "the law which [God] has made for his creatures to keep, the law of natural and necessary agents."
--The Celestial Law: "the law which Angels in heaven obey"
--The Natural Law: "the law whereunto by the light of reason men find themselves bound in that they are men"
--Political Law: "the law which [men] make by composition for multitudes and political societies of men to be guided by"
--The Law of Nations: "the law which belongeth unto each nation" and "the law that concerns the fellowship of all"
--The Divine Law: "the law which God himself has supernaturally revealed"

In the First Book of his Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, which contains an introduction into or prolegomena of the matter which he intends to discuss in full in the following books, Hooker has focused on the origin of laws. Knowledge of the origin of laws (as distinguished from their mere description through some sort of empirical or pragmatic analysis) he argues, allows us better to discern if laws are "reasonably just and righteous or no." I.15.1, 135. "Is there anything which can either be thoroughly understood or soundly judged of 'till the very first causes and principles from which originally it springs be made manifest?" Hooker asks rhetorically.  Wise men, Hooker notes, have always gone to origins in answering questions.  In the same manner, Hooker has seen fit to focus on the origin of law before handling the particular matter at issue: the episcopal governance of the English established church in light of the presbyterian models advanced by the Calvinist, and the congregationalist models being put forth by the Puritan interests.

(We, of course, shall not review the remainder of Hooker's work, as it does not relate in sufficiently to the matter of the natural law.  However, we must be grateful to Hooker for having begun from "originals," in his "First Booke," as that allowed us the intellectual privilege of reading a classic and yet unique treatment of the natural moral law, perhaps the best in the English language, and certainly one within an Aristotelian/Thomistic framework.  In an earlier blog entry, we put forth the four requirements of a competent natural law theory as outlined by Fr. John Courtney Murray in his We Hold These Truths: a realist epistemology, a teleological metaphysic of nature, a natural theology, recognizing that there is a reasonable, personal God, creator of that nature, and  a morality that posits an order of reason and therefore of freedom.  Hooker's treatment of the natural law meets with everyone of these requirements.  Though as we have noted , as a result of historical circumstances, it suffers from an anti-Catholic bias, this bias does not affect the treatment of the natural law, but imposes itself only when Hooker begins to handle divine law.)

To get back to Hooker's conclusion, there is for him a large chasm of understanding between learning by law as distinguished from learning about the law.
Easier a great deal it is for men by law to be taught what they ought to do, than instructed how to judge as they should do of law; the one being a thing which belongs generally unto all, the other such as none but the wiser and more judicious sort can perform.
I.16.2, 135-36. (This reality may explain the tendency towards legalism or Phariseeism in men, a tendency which must be resisted. But this reality also should warn us from supposing that all men have the requisite wisdom and prudence, the sophrosyne, to go solo in the matter of morals and law. To suggest, in the name of the natural law and freedom, that we all autonomously ought to follow their unformed conscience and are equally competent to sorting out thorny problems of the natural law as self-legislators, without regard to the teaching Church or wise man, the sophron, among us is a recipe to relativism and antinomianism.)

In any serious dabbling with matters of law, Hooker teaches, one ought always to have the eternal law before him. This advice, of course, is ignored--even unknown--by the positivists, realists, and other modern schools of legal philosophy or jurisprudence.
Yeah, the wisest are always touching this point the readiest to acknowledge, that soundly to judge of a law is the weightiest thing which any man can take upon him. But if we will give judgment of the laws under which we live, first let that law eternal be always before our eyes, as being of principal force and moment to breed in religious minds a dutiful estimation of all laws, the use and benefit whereof we see; because there is no doubt but that laws apparently good, are (as it were) things copies out of the very tables of that high everlasting law, even as the book of that law has said concerning itself  "by me Kings reign," and "by me Princes decree justice."
I.16.2, 136.  Citing Proverbs 8:15, Hooker elaborates further on the role of the eternal law in fashioning the natural moral law and the human positive laws that govern us:
Not as if men did behold that book, and accordingly frame their laws, but because it works in them, because it discovers and (as it were) reads itself to the world by them when the laws which they make are righteous.
I.16.2, 136. Even if personally we are unable to see the wisdom or the good in any particular human law, we ought to give benefit of doubt to the legislator and obedience to any particular law. Though Hooker recognizes that there are times to obey God rather than men, this principle is not to be presumed. or adopted lightly in each and every circumstance where our "private law" is irked by the "public law."  Indeed, there ought to be a sort of presumption against disobedience on the grounds that a human law offends against the natural law or eternal law. This presumption is based upon the fact that most of us are ignorant of how inferior laws "are derived from that supreme or highest law." I.16.2, 136. "Surely," Hooker states, "there must be very manifest iniquity in laws, against which we shall be able to justify our contumelious invectives." I.16.2, 136.

The eternal law impresses itself on the law of nature, that law that governs "natural agents." I.16.3, 136. Though the law of nature may not seem pertinent to man's natural and supernatural life, the "rules and axioms of natural operations have their force" upon men even in the area of man's natural moral law and supernatural destiny. As an example of this interrelationship between the law of nature and the moral or supernatural life of man, Hooker points toward marriage. Marriage, an institution with fundamental basis in the law of nature, is yet the symbol of the love that Christ has towards his Church. This is an example where the "axioms of that law," that is the law of nature, "whereby natural agents are guided, have their use in the moral, yeah, even in the spiritual actions of men, and consequently in all laws belonging unto men howsoever." I.16.3, 137. We ought not to look at the natural and supernatural life of men as disembodied realities. We are linked to nature as a whole, albeit called to a higher moral, even supernatural life.

The Celestial or Angelic law that Hooker discussed, though it would seem to be irrelevant to the issue of human guidance, is in fact not so. "[B]etween the law of their heavenly operations and the actions of men in this our state of mortality, such correspondence there is, as makes it expedient to know in some sort the one, for the other's more perfect direction." I.16.4, 137. Man shares with the angels a subordination to God: men are fellow servants with the angels. As the angel told St. John in his apocalyptic vision, conservus tuus sum, "I am a fellow servant." (Rev. 19:10) Angelic obedience is a pattern, and an ideal towards which man must strive. And those things that make the angels rejoice are patterns for our lives. "So that the law of Angels we cannot judge altogether impertinent unto the affairs of the Church of God." I.16.4, 138-39.

Title Page of Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie

The varietals of law, then, all flowing from God's eternal law, must be considered in judging the right:
[A]ll serve but to make manifest that as the actions of men are of sundry distinct kinds, so the laws thereof must accordingly be distinguished. There are in men operations some natural, some rational, some supernatural, some political, some fully ecclesiastical. Which, if we measure not each by its own proper law, whereas the things themselves are so different; there will be in our understanding and judgment of them confusion.
I.16.5, 138. This is the error of Hooker's opponents. (This would also be the error of those of the Protestant Reformers, ancient (e.g., Calvin) and modern (e.g., Barth), some of whom we have reviewed in earlier postings, that reject the eternal law and the natural moral law as a result of their erroneous teachings concerning the "depravity of man") It is their error, Hooker states, "to think that the only which God has appointed unto men in that behalf is the sacred Scripture." I.16.5, 138. Man is governed by the law of nature, and even in acting in conformity with it, glorifies God. Even in breathing, sleeping, moving, we glorify God. The law of reason that God has placed in us, if St. Paul is to be believed, is a "universal law of mankind," "a rule which God has given unto all men for that purpose." I.16.5, 139. The laws of our political societies, the laws of nations, these also have a role in man's governance, as we are enjoined by Scripture to be subject to the higher powers. (Rom. 13:1).

One ought not to downplay the importance of the public law, as too quick a tendency to disobey it and place one's private whims in its place causes severe disorder. This disposition makes such men "unframable into societies wherein they live." I.16.6, 140. It is as if they prefer to live in a legal wilderness, outside the pale of social and harmonious life. "Thus by following the law of private reason, where the law of public [reason] should take place," these men "breed disturbance." I.16.6, 140. Even in such basics as food and in fasting or abstinence, the entire gamut of law--the law of nature, the natural law, the public law of society (both civil and ecclesiastical), and the divine law--have a role. To concentrate on one law, even if it be the divine law as revealed in Scripture--and ignore or neglect the others is, for Hooker, a very grave error."Thus we see," concludes Hooker, "how even one and the selfsame thing is under diverse considerations conveyed through many laws, and that to measure by any one kind of law all the actions of men were to confound the admirable order, wherein God has disposed all laws, each as in nature, so in degree distinct from [the] other." I.16.7, 142.
Wherefore, that here we may briefly end, of law there can be no less acknowledged, than that her seat is the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world, all things in heaven and earth do her homage, the very least as feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempted from her power, but Angels and men and creatures of what condition soever, though each in different sort and manner, yet all with uniform consent, admiring her as the mother of their peach and joy.
I.16.8, 142.

And here concludes our review of the judicious Hooker's first book of Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. It is a work of great merit, one well-within the classic Aristotelian/Thomistic tradition. It insists on a message which has been suppressed by the secularists and humanists of our age: all law, even human law, participates and must find its source in the eternal law of God, and in the most direct internal source of that eternal law of God, the natural moral law, or the law of reason that is within us, not withal rejecting the role that the divine law, graciously revealed by our loving God, may have. Grace builds upon nature. The divine law upon the natural law. And all law, strictly so called,--there are no exceptions--is from God.

Portrait of Richard Hooker