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Natural Law - 'God's Law in our Hearts'

S & CB 32 (1)
April 2020


Human beings possess a sense of basic morality that is found to be similar in many cultures. It has often been termed 'Natural Law', and St Paul in his Epistles referred to even the gentiles as having 'God's Law in their hearts'. C. S. Lewis gave a broad basic justification for the existence of Natural Law, emphasising that a society that loses this will experience moral decay. The standard western presentation of the subject was given in the thirteenth century by Thomas Aquinas, and is used as the basis for our present discussion, amplified by some recent teachings of Pope John Paul II. There are two major challenges to these ideas. One concerns the objective validity of moral law of any kind. An examination of this question leads to the familiar conclusion that God's authority is required as a basis for absolute moral values and obligations. The second major challenge comes from the modern scientific picture of human beings emerging from an amoral animal kingdom - but we are moral beings. The issues that arise here are discussed with reference to evolutionary theory, palaeontology and anthropology. It is suggested that the key questions are resolved best if God acted directly in human history at some point in time, perhaps at the Middle/Upper Palaeolithic transition. Some implications of Natural Law in human affairs are finally examined.

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