The Promise of Natural Law

Continuing with part three of this series, reviewing the conversation between Jordan Peterson (JP) and Peter Kreeft (PK): How to Combat Hedonism

They move on to speak of Job.  Kreeft offers that there is a rebel in us, and it’s a good rebel.  God approves of Job’s rebellion rather than the three friend’s comfort.

PK: At the end of the book of Job, God says an amazing thing.  He says to the three friends: I burn with anger against you because you have not spoken rightly against me as my servant Job has.  But what they said was absolutely orthodox: God is great, God is good.  Let us thank Him for our food.  Amen

God is love.  This is how many Christians describe God, and because they don’t see lollypops and rainbows everywhere they go this description is why many non-Christians deplore God.  Yes, God is love, but He is many other things as well.  For example, He is also just (necessary if one is truly to love).  He also has left us free to live in this world, with all the joy and sorrow that this can bring.

PK: And Job is accusing God, wishing he could take Him to court.  And God approves Job’s part, rather than the comfort given by the three friends.

JP: At least Job was wrestling honestly with God, as opposed to the naïve advocates of God’s goodness.

Let’s see what the passage says:

Job 42: 7 After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8 Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”

Job 42 is the last chapter of the book.  After these verses, there are a few more: the Lord restored Job’s fortunes:

12 And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. 13 He had also seven sons and three daughters.

Now…fortuitously or purposefully…the next book in the Bible is Psalm.  And Psalm 1 begins:

Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

but his delight is in the law of the Lord,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

This could just have easily been the closing verses in Job 42.

The story of Job brings me to a comment I made a couple of weeks ago at a VanderKlay video.  In describing natural law, PVK said: “If you do the right things your outcomes in life will be better.”

To which I replied:

No, natural law doesn’t say this – depending on what you mean by your “life.”  If “life” is limited to time before the grave, this is a very shallow understanding of natural law.

Living according to natural law will hold the world together properly (and improve our liberty), but it doesn’t guarantee any specific outcome to any specific individual.

From the blurb introducing the video: “The section of 1 Corinthians 5 to 7 are not some random groupings of laws or rules. He is trying to give a vision for transformation to a group that hasn’t yet been transformed.”

Transformation.  This is natural law:  what is our purpose?  To be Christ-like (theosis; to be transformed to be like Christ).

Jesus Christ lived according to the natural law, perfectly.  He did the right things.  The outcome for Him, in this “life” was not so good.  We know this for us today: to do the right things in the face of the evil around us does not guarantee a better outcome for the individual sticking his neck out – at least not in this life.

How do we do this?  Jesus boiled it down for us: Love – love God, love neighbor.  To live for this purpose (theosis) and in this manner (love) is to live in accord with natural law.  The Apostle Paul’s groupings of laws or rules give some detail behind how to love God and love our neighbor, and are logical deductions from our purpose and the means (love) to achieve our purpose.

The beginning of Romans is a wonderful exposition on the idea of natural law (many parts I won’t copy, because google will kill this blog).  From chapter 1:

19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

And then chapter 2:

13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them

Job did the right things.  One could say he lived according to the natural law ethic.  Yet, for a time, his life certainly wasn’t “better.”  It was horrendously worse.  While he was again later blessed in this life, there was no reason for this to be so.  It could have been in the next part of life – the path of transformation doesn’t take a pause on either side of the dividing line.

Continuing with my comment at PVK’s site:

In other words, for those still living on milk and not meat (the Corinthian church and most of us), the apostle Paul is spelling out for them the details of how to live in accord with the natural law.  But the more like Christ we become, the less we need our food pre-chewed.

Which brings me back to an idea I touched on before: Adam and Eve required training before they were mature enough to eat from the tree.  God gave them one law to begin the training.  They failed.  They took the knowledge of good and evil before they were ready for it.  They were ready only for milk, but they circumvented God and took the meat.

Conclusion

Living in accord with natural law promises us little in this life – it certainly doesn’t guarantee a better life for the individual who lives according to this ethic.  But living in this manner makes society better – even a little, and one person at a time.  Living in this manner, under the power of the cross and resurrection, leads us toward transformation.

And this ethic is required if society is to move one step at a time toward liberty.

Reprinted with permission from Bionic Mosquito.

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