The natural moral law no longer means anything. Reasonable discourse is no longer possible. Any and every moral discussion has become intractable. We see demands by what right?! As Pope Francis recently pointed out in his encyclical Lumen Fidei , without faith, there will be no recovery of public reason, of the natural moral law. Foreseeing the rise in neo-pagan demands and its inexorable consequence to public life, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago famously stated: If Cardinal George is right--and it is certainly plausible, even likely, from the way the straw blows in the wind--then Catholics better get used to saying in response to our secular liberal interlocutors, "Christianus sum!
And it will be who and what I am whatever you may do to me, whatsoever you call me, fine me, incarcerate me, howsoever you mock me. We will have the consolation that we join in the canon of martyrdom uttered by the likes of Sts Polycarp, Sanctus, Speratus, Lawrence, Perpetua, Cyprian, Fructuosus, and Maximillian and hundreds of thousands, even millions more.
We may also be consoled in the age old law framed by Tertullian in his Apology: The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians. Sanguis martyrum semen Christianorum.
Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at agreenwell harris-greenwell. That priests, who experience fatigue and loneliness in their pastoral work, may find help and comfort in their intimacy with the Lord and in their friendship with their brother priests. Reading 1, Zephaniah 3: Ado of Vienne December An archbishop and scholar, Ado was born in Sens The California Network Inspiring streaming service.
Advertise on Catholic Online Your ads on catholic. Catholic Online Email Email with Catholic feel. Catholic Online Singles Safe, secure Catholic dating. The California Studios World-class post production service. Catholic Online School Free Catholic education for all. Given these texts, which make up in fact the majority of what the Bible explicitly says about regeneration, it seems there is a strong prima facie case that regeneration is new to the New Covenant.
The idea that it is also present in the Old Testament relies not on the direct testimony of Scripture on regeneration, but on a handful of paper-thin inferences. These inferences usually start from a couple of false assumptions. First, if regeneration is understood to refer to the act by which the Spirit elicits faith in the elect as it is often defined , it obviously could not be new to the New Covenant, since faith existed even in the Old Testament.
Either regeneration has been around as long as faith has, or OT believers actually had Pelagius power to come to faith on their own. But this identification of regeneration with the creation of faith is itself devoid of all biblical support. Next, John 3 is often appealed to as proof that regeneration existed in the Old Testament. If no one can enter the Kingdom of God without the new birth, then either regeneration has been around since nearly the beginning, or no one was ever saved until Jesus came along. Jesus said that the Kingdom was at hand, or coming soon, or now here, on numerous occasions, not that it had been here all along.
The Kingdom of God is the part of redemptive history where God begins taking back His rule over the nations, which He had disinherited and left to other other gods at Babel. This brings me to the next important point, namely that regeneration itself belongs more to the historia salutis than to the ordo salutis. Israel, as Jeremiah had lamented, had been constantly falling into sin, idolatry, and all kinds of error.
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The solution to this was to give her a new birth, a new heart with the law written in living flesh rather than on stone. This living flesh is the flesh of Christ raised from death. The personal, ordo salutis aspect of regeneration, then, is not the creation of faith, or even the tinkering with the soul to make it more godly, but the giving of the Spirit to dwell in the heart. As the prophecies cited earlier make clear, along with some other evidence in the New Testament, the new heart of the new creation in regeneration is closely associated with the new spirit, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit poured out by Christ.
The pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost gave Israel rebirth as the Church, and individual believer is born again when he receives the Spirit, who unites him to the risen Christ. This gives him a source of resurrection power, a new ontology that will climax in the resurrection of the body but in the meantime gives limitless energy toward sanctification and the renewal of his whole person in the image of Christ. The lack of this sealing Spirit, this down payment guaranteeing resurrection, is precisely what left Israel to fall repeatedly into apostasy, and the presence of the Spirit in the heart of the New Covenant believer is precisely what enables the Church and the Christian to persevere so that the gates of Hell will not prevail, and that all things will finally be renewed in Christ.
This split can be a bit extreme. And many people with less passion still feel pretty committed to one side or the other. As you may suspect, the idea of property rights is vital to the whole debate. What are property rights? Is private property good? What exactly does it mean to own property? Is owning a toothbrush the same as owning a factory? These questions are just the beginning.
If we want to make progress, we need to get property. Fortunately, Christians have been thinking about this for years. It may surprise you to learn that, until recently, there was widespread agreement on the basic principles. I have found Brad Littlejohn a massive help here. Littlejohn is easily one of the best present exponents of classical Reformed political theology, and private property just happens to be one of his pet topics. So, most of what I have to say will be summarizing him. If you would like more information, I refer you to his blog.
The classical Christian doctrine of private property has a long history. And it begins with one simple principle: See, we start with natural law. It is clear from nature that all creatures have a right to make use of the material means they need to survive. This, of course, includes humans. Humans have a natural right to eat from any tree and take shelter in any cave.
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Following this, nature is clear that no person has this right more than another. All lives have the same essential value, so all have an equal right to provide for themselves with created goods. Making a thought experiment here is not hard. Obviously, all else being equal, they both do. Since neither Chuck nor Danny is worth more than the other, they both have an equal right to whatever the jungle offers. It is not hard to see that this is essentially the same situation that humanity began in. So where does private property come in?
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If Chuck and Danny are getting along, Chuck will certainly share anything Danny needs. This is the principle of common use. From the beginning, the goods of creation are gifts from God to humanity without distinction. To start with, nothing belongs especially to me or exclusively to you. There must be another step. So at this point, we move on to the notion of private administration. But now trouble comes to the jungle. Danny has become a bit of a glutton. He sits around eating berries all day, and every time Chuck brings home some fish, Danny gobbles up 10 before Chuck finishes one.
Now Chuck is getting weak. Danny is fat, Chuck is sick, and now they have a problem. How might we solve this problem? He just wants to eat all the time. So to keep Chuck from starving, they make a deal. They will divide up their food by with belonging. This is the beginning of a system of property, though it is not quite like what we think of as private property. And note why it was needed: We get closer to private property when, say, five more people join the jungle life. Now, to simplify the arrangement, they agree that each person will keep whatever food and resources he collects, but they can trade them so that everyone has what they need.
At this point, we something we could recognize as a system of private property. Now they are exercising their common right to use the goods of creation by means of private administration. Everyone has something he can claim as his own, so that no one has to lack from sin, imprudence, or unforeseen circumstances. Classically, Christians have understood this to be precisely the point of private property. If everyone has free access to everything, then one person might take too much at the expense of everyone else. But this can perhaps be solved by giving each person a special right to certain goods.
Once people privately own property, a greedy or careless person who tries to take what belongs to someone else will be in trouble for stealing. Of course, when put this way, the priorities of property rights are clear. Private property is a way to serve the good of everyone. The point is to make sure that no one loses out on what they need because someone else has taken everything.
This is, unfortunately, precisely the opposite of how private property is often invoked today. Modern conservatives and libertarians frequently use it to protect the rights of those who have an abundance from any obligation to share with those who have nothing. And this brings us back to the jungle. If eventually Chuck finds himself crippled and unable to work, what should everyone else do? Their agreements about property take second place to the original concern: But if he dies while they have excess, it is a betrayal of the jungle community and the whole system they started with.
By nature, all people have the right to use the fruits of creation as necessary. But, practically speaking, a free-for-all or common ownership is likely to have problems. Sin makes this especially true. So, societies construct laws about property rights to ensure that each member of society can have something for himself to live on.
These laws, however, are of human origin. They are therefore secondary to the basic natural right to use material goods to live. So human property laws ought to respect this more primary right and must not prevent anyone from accessing the essential goods they need. When property laws do prevent people from having what they need to live, they are unjust. And when society is structured in a way that some can freely be rich without using any of their riches for the common good and alleviating the plight of the needy, it is unjust.
Now, I know that this probably sounds somewhat odd to many of you. But it has a long and diverse history. Catholics, the Reformed, the early church fathers, and more have seen things more or less this way. None of this is meant to be an argument, either. It is more of a presentation. And it is far from a complete presentation. But I hope it will be helpful anyway. He has a six-part series on private property that contributes way more than I have here, not to mention several other excellent posts.
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Times have changed quite a bit. Every day you can find another evangelical convert to the new view. Over the past century, birth control has gone from a taboo to a way of life. Giving it anything less than a thumbs-up raises eyebrows. Other gender issues are closely related to this. More and more evangelical women, especially younger ones, identity as feminists and egalitarians. Female pastors are almost the norm. People reacting against this sometimes claim that women in general are subject to men in general. There is confusion everywhere. Proposed solutions also abound to little avail.
The whole situation is a mess. If we want to make any progress, this is the real question. What has gone wrong? Are we missing something? What then are we missing? This refers especially to the part of creation that is the human race. Both inside and outside the Church, moderns have lost touch with nature. There are many reasons, but technological advancement is a big part. This has changed how we view ourselves as well.
What is a human? What is the human body? All that counts is what we make of it. Sexuality belongs to human nature. To understand the natural law background biblical teachings on sexuality, we have to take a hard look at the human body. Human nature itself is bluntly fleshly. We have spiritual capacities and souls and whatnot, of course. But we are also animals. The union of those two things is uniquely human, and we break human nature when we downplay one as not really relevant to understanding ourselves.
So, what do we see in the human reproductive system? First, we see that the roots go deep. The hormones and processes that give us our sex organs begin their work early in the womb. They also penetrate into the whole body, not just giving us genitals but also wiring our brains, shaping our forms, and regulating our development. Men and women, for all their differences, are the same species and have most of the same abilities and features. And besides what they have in common, they are united as a fit. Looking back to the reproductive systems, we find a unique match that works together.
But this brings us to the next serious question. Well, here the answer is simple. Like the digestive system digests, the reproductive system reproduces. The two different genres of humanity, precisely in their differences, unite to create new human beings. This is the point on which everything else hangs. Understanding sexuality means understanding that the two become one and the one becomes three. This is what I mean when I refer to natural law and human nature. The nature of human sexuality is this deeply physical dynamic of union in difference that creates new life. Everything else flows from this.
So understanding sexuality in light of natural law will put together the diverse parts of classical Christian sexual ethics. Our modern culture is uniquely set to forget all of this. We are alienated from our natures. Our bodies are invisible to us. Developments in technology and changes in philosophy make it possible for us to look at sexuality and not see its creative heart.
We are then confused, and we try to rework sexual ethics to fit a new approach to human nature itself. Correcting this blindness with sight will show us many things if we pay close attention. Binding sex to marriage makes sense when we think of the need to protect the sacred potency that creates people from passion. Gay marriage makes no sense when we see it lacks both the diversity and the creativity natural to human sexual union. The moral ambiguities of a birth control culture are evident when the natural end of sexuality is in view. Transgender identities become highly questionable inasmuch as they define femininity in terms unrelated to motherhood and masculinity in terms unrelated to fatherhood.
We can perhaps even see how feminism is chauvinism. Not all of this will be obvious. Some of it will be controversial. If we think patiently and carefully about what humans are, both male and female, we can recover nature. And if we recover nature, we have everything we need to figure out the rest. Once more the evangelical sphere of the Internet is on fire. As with many recent kerfluffles, this one is about social justice. I tend to think that the movement lacks wisdom and clarity. I also think its passion is somewhat justified, and the evangelical old guard which they have been fighting with has many problems of its own.
The anti-social justice Christians are right about more things than those supporting social justice recognize, but the same is also true in reverse. There is a fair bit of blindness and sinfulness on both sides. There is also a plenty of righteousness and pure motivation on both sides.
It has also been hated and repudiated by many others. People have slung mud left and right over it. Both sides should know that I extend to each the benefit of the doubt. My primary resource for thought will be classical Protestant orthodoxy. Hopefully this sheds light on some matters and contributes helpfully to the discussion.
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And we emphatically deny that lectures on social issues or activism aimed at reshaping the wider culture are as vital to the life and health of the church as the preaching of the gospel and the exposition of Scripture. Historically, such things tend to become distractions that inevitably lead to departures from the gospel. I have already said in my introduction how I generally feel about the social justice controversy. By going through the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel as thoroughly as I have, I hope I have been of some help to both sides.
But I would also like to add some concluding reflections about the statement and the issues. This statement, for all of its flaws, was produced by rather godly people. They mostly mean well, and they have done more to point people to Jesus Christ than I or many of their Twitter critics have. So on that count they deserve respect. Many of the issues the social justice movement are reacting against are quite real. Even when they misunderstand the reality, the reality is still something that needs fixing.
I believe what really happens in history is this: The practical form it takes is this: But he refuses to concede very much of what he did wrong to prompt the young man to form a new theory to begin with. On the other hand, I stand by what I have said in the past. I think it will create its own new problems without great caution. This statement does appropriately address some of these issues. So, what do I think actually is wrong and needs to be done? But to hold you over until then, I think our justice problems have a great deal to do with class and the abolition of man.
Neither side is talking enough about these. Our society, culture, and economy will need to change radically to deal with them. But the kind of radical change I hope for is not utopian or Marxist or theonomist. It would require a return to natural law thinking, basic human sanity, economic justice, and political and social principles developed in early Protestant thought.
Book suggestions are great, and I have a bunch, but sometimes it is more helpful long-term to suggest authors for people to read. It is great to have reliably good sources you can go back to for multiple topics and questions over time. I have had some interesting discussions lately pertaining to the topic of Christian pacifism.
By this, I mean the view that Jesus requires that all Christians forsake all violence in all or nearly all circumstances. This can include self-defense, defending others, participating in the coercive power of government, and military service. Now, depending on your predispositions, this may sound either obvious, absurd, or simply curious. The E-mail Address es you entered is are not in a valid format. Please re-enter recipient e-mail address es.
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