Leithart on “The Perils of Natural Law”

However much it pains me to link to First Things, I do appreciate me some Leithart. This piece is right on, in my opinion. Granted I don’t care about being a faithful Reformed theologian, but…

“For Herdt, the cautionary tale of this history (I have only touched on her richly detailed discussion) is not simply that natural law is ill-suited to being “a source of substantive action-guiding moral norms” or “providing concrete ethical knowledge.” The peril is that when Reformed thinkers have looked to natural law for such norms and such knowledge, they have inadvertently “created pressures that tend to empty out the substance of key Reformed commitments that animated Calvin’s thought, leaving behind intuitionist appeals to conscience, empiricist appeals to human nature, or unstable conflations of the two.” Not only did the weakening of theological commitments encourage shifts in the understanding of natural law. The deeper peril was that certain uses of natural law corrode Reformed theological commitments. Herdt goes so far as to suggest that “the secularization of modern natural law discourse is directly linked to pressures exerted by the hope and expectation that the natural law could provide such norms.”

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