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.

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.

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