Re: [asa] Moral law - Francis Collins

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Sun Dec 31 2006 - 14:53:30 EST

Dick, I think your view of the moral law is too reductionistic; divine
command theory alone is an inadquate basis for ethics. Johan, one of
the interesting theological aspects of this kind of discussion is the
question of "natural law." The natural law is more than an "innate
sense of fairness"; it is the comprehensive sense of justice, love,
etc. that is built into creation because creation reflects the
character of the God who created.

The theological question is to what degree has the fall corrupted
human ability to perceive and follow the natural law. To put it
simplistically, Catholic scholastic theologians generally held to a
robust version of natural law even in the postlapsarian state, while
Reformed theologians saw themselves more in the spirit of Augustine
and shied away from natural law theory, leading up to Barth who
rejected any notion of natural law altogether. An interesting recent
book by Stephen Grabill, however, argues that the magesterial
Reformation has been misread in this regard ("Rediscovering the
Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics" published by Eerdmans).

As to how social evolution relates to concepts of natural law, we've
had some extensive discussions about that on the list. My view is
that social evolution may have provided some of the framework on which
human understanding of the natural law arises, but that social
evolution in itself is deeply insufficient as a heuristic for human
moral and ethical decision-making.

On 12/31/06, PvM <> wrote:
> Exactly why I see this passage as reconciling the evolutionary nature
> of morality and moral law.
> On 12/31/06, Iain Strachan <> wrote:
> >
> >
> > On 12/31/06, Dick Fischer <> wrote:
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > Hi Johan:
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > Although a renowned expert on DNA, Collins is probably off the mark on
> > this issue as was Lewis before him. What is being referred to as "moral
> > law" is likely our innate sense of fairness. We seem to know if we have
> > been treated unfairly in any instance. And Lord knows there is no fairness
> > in life. Doing either good or bad in any instance is more likely rooted (as
> > it is in animals) in learned behavior. Okay, de Waal goofs on this too.
> > Reward an animal with food and it learns whatever system of "morals" you
> > want to instill in it. Amazon headhunters learned it was okay to shrink
> > human heads. Thus our morals are learned from our rewards and punishments
> > more likely than from any innate or God-given sense of right and wrong.
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > The "moral law" is simply, do what God says to do. And God didn't speak
> > to mankind until he decided to speak to Adam about 7,000 years ago. Do what
> > I tell you Adam, or in the biblical example, don't do what I tell you not to
> > do. That's the moral law. Do it God's way not the way that seems right
> > to you at the time through whatever value system you may have acquired
> > through learning or experience, or even what may be a "gut feeling." Your
> > inborn senses are unreliable as moral compasses. That's why God gave us a
> > Bible and didn't leave it up to any inborn sense of right and wrong.
> >
> > What you say would appear to be contradicted by Romans 2:14-15
> >
> > 14(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things
> > required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not
> > have the law, 15since they show that the requirements of the law are written
> > on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts
> > now accusing, now even defending them.)
> >
> > which as I see it implies that the requirements of the law are written on
> > the hearts even of those who do not have the law.
> >
> > I'm having a problem squaring that with what you say about God giving us a
> > Bible and not leaving it up to an inborn sense of right and wrong.
> >
> > Iain
> >
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David W. Opderbeck
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Received on Sun Dec 31 14:53:54 2006

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