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.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Girolamo Zanchi on the Natural Law, Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No comments:

Post a Comment