The Superiority of Biblical Civil Law to Natural Law by Steve C. Halbrook

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(Based on Appendix C of God is Just: A Defense of the Old Testament Civil Laws)

Many Christians reject a form of civil government based on God’s written, special revelation for a form of civil government based solely on natural law, i.e., God’s revelation in conscience and nature.  However, besides the fact that the state is required to follow the civil laws as revealed in Scripture, when it comes to discerning God’s will, natural law is at best second best to special revelation.

On the superiority of written to unwritten revelation, William Blackstone, author of Commentaries on the Laws of England, writes, “The revealed law is of infinitely more authority than what we generally call the natural law.  Because one is the law of nature, expressly declared to be by God himself; the other is only what, by the assistance of human reason, we imagine to be that law.”[1]

Gary DeMar, moreover, asks, “Should those who rule trust the fallen ‘light of reason’ or the Word of God that ‘is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path’? (Ps. 119:105).”[2]  DeMar explains biblical law’s superiority to “principles of reason”:

First, the Bible has them all written in one place.  The “laws of nature” must be hunted down by finite, fallible, and fallen creatures.  While it is true that these same finite, fallible, and fallen creatures must interpret the Bible, at least the hunting process is taken care of.  The laws are there for all to see.  Second, the “principles of reason” are not specific enough.  The Bible is a detailed ethical blueprint.[3]

The Apostle Paul notes that the knowledge of sin comes through the written law (Rom. 7:7).  With this being the case, could we not say that because of the written law’s clarity there comes a better understanding of how to govern, of the proper size of the state, of what sins the state can criminalize, and of what penal sanctions are just, etc?  Indeed, we can.  This is implied in Leviticus 18, where God warned the Israelites not to engage in the sins that caused other nations to be vomited out of the land.  These nations had natural law; but God gave His chosen nation Israel written law.

read more at Theonomy Resources


     [1] William Blackstone, “Of Laws in General,” in Commentaries on the Laws of England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979). Cited in Charles W. Dunn and J. David Woodard, The Conservative Tradition in America (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1996), 122.
     [2] Gary DeMar, The Debate Over Christian Reconstruction (Atlanta, GA: American Vision, 1988), 27.
     [3] Ibid., 29.