Biblical Principles‎ > ‎Law‎ > ‎

Natural Law Falacy

Natural law is a view that certain rights or values are inherent in or universally recognizable by virtue of human reason or human nature. The law is derived solely through the use of human reason and without a reference to biblical law to determine its moral norms. However, it leads to ambiguity since there is not a universal agreement among people as to what the moral law actually is. On the other hand, the ambiguity of natural law is what makes the revealed law given by God in the Bible (Biblical Law) so valuable. It provides us with an objective source of law, located outside of human reasoning, that provides the moral principles for all laws. 

Currently, there is a revived interest in natural law within the seminaries of the evangelical community. This is not a good sign. As Dr. Robert Morey points out, whenever there is a lack of biblical understanding, the appeal of natural law flourishes. This is because of its attraction to human wisdom and reason. Morey states:

It is no surprise that Natural Law and Natural Theology rise and fall in popularity in tandem with the level of sound biblical knowledge. In Roman Catholic and Orthodox countries, where biblical illiteracy is the norm, all you have is Natural Law and Natural Theology. Wherever the Sola Scriptura of the Protestant Reformation gained ground, biblical preaching and revealed theology became dominant, and as a result Natural Law and Natural Theology died away.

Morey continues, Luther thundered that "Reason was a whore" who slept with anyone, and stated that Thomas Aquinas was in hell. Calvin always spoke of Aquinas' "schoolmen" as enemies of the gospel. Sola Scriptura was the basis of the Reformation and the Bible was the final authority on what to believe (theology) and how to live (law). Biblical law and Biblical Theology replaces Natural Law and Natural Theology. (Morey, xxi)

The vanity of human reason

Dr, Morey points out that the renewed interest by many evangelical leaders in the natural law is because of its deadly appeal to human reason and vanity. He states:

The beginning of the new millennium has witnessed new aggressive forms of Reasonalotry in evangelical circles. "Reasonalotry" is the enthronement of human reason in place of God as the origin of truth, justice, morals, meaning, and beauty. Man's faculty of reasoning is abstracted, absolutized, idealized, and romanticized into a false idol.

Reason is an idol because it supposedly infallibly knows all things. Everything, including God, must bow before the "Bar of Reason" for judgment. Human reason is the "god of the gaps," who can explain all things rationally.

Why has Reasonalotry been revived in our day? Biblical knowledge, theology, law, and expository preaching are at an all time low. Most "mega" churches, with thousands in attendance, do not focus on Biblical truth but on the "felt" needs of the community. "Deeds, not Creeds" and "Works, not Words" seem to be the mantra of today. The darker the religious situation, the more aggressive Reasonalotry becomes. (Morey, xxi)

The "Original Lie" revisited

The original appeal that Satan used in the Garden of Eden was for Eve to take the initiative and determine what the law was for her. Rather than trusting in God and resting in his revealed law, regarding eating from the tree of the  knowledge of good and evil, Eve disobeyed God. The appeal was to her vanity. Satan convinced Eve to rely on her own human reasoning to determine what the law was. She took on the role of God in order to determine what the law was going to be for her. She wanted to usurp the role of God as "law maker."

Today, the appeal is still the same. Rather than referring to biblical law for moral absolutes, evangelical leaders today want to determine right and wrong using their own reason. Just as with Eve, the appeal is to our own human reasoning and the temptation is to become our own law makers.    

Audio link:


Natural Law vs Statutes and Judgments

Jul 26, 2011 by Gary DeMar 15 Comments

 I received the following from an advocate of Natural Law: “Natural Law is simply Biblical Law written on the conscience of every man.” If this is true, then why did God find it necessary to give us revealed law? He goes on to say:

The Reprobate knows that murder, adultery, rape and theft are morally wrong because of God’s Law written in their conscience. The proof for this is Romans Chapter 2. This is why the aforementioned crimes are punished in every civilized culture we know of. Another proof that these acts are wrong would be to look at the sanctions that follow these acts. Cultures which do not punish these acts like some African/Cannibalistic tribes around the world bear the proof of God’s Judgment in their being. These races of savages are usually enslaved and conquered by cultures which practice Natural Law to a larger degree. Look at the Arab conquest and enslavement of Black Africans over the centuries as an example.

First he argues that reprobates know that certain actions, like cannibalism, are wrong. This doesn’t seem to be the case since there were and probably are today cultures that practiced cannibalism. They didn’t believe eating an enemy was wrong. In fact, some cannibals believed that eating an enemy or drinking his blood enhanced one’s essence. What was powerful in the person being eaten was transferred to the person doing the eating. To really confuse things, he argues that cultures that do practice Natural Law also practice slavery. But I thought slavery was wrong. Natural Law tells us it’s wrong. If this is true, then why would those who practice Natural Law enslave people?

A Natural Law theory not tied to biblical law would have done nothing for slaves since there were many Natural Law advocates who believed in slavery because of what they believed Natural Law taught. Enslavement was best for some people. This was Aristotle’s view, and it was followed by a lot of New World explorers. He believed in the reasonableness and “natural order” for the institution of slavery because there are some people who are “slaves by nature,” a phrase found in his Politics. Aristotle’s views, as a champion of reason and Natural Law, were foundational for centuries, as was his distorted views on cosmology:

Of all the ideas churned up during the early tumultuous years of American history, none had a more dramatic application than the attempts made to apply to the natives there the Aristotelian doctrine of natural slavery: that one part of mankind is set aside by nature to be slaves in the service of masters born for a life of virtue free of manual labour.1

It’s true that the work of God’s law is written on the heart and that every person in the world will be held accountable to that work of the law “their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Rom. 2:15). But it’s another thing to say that the replica of revealed law in its many details is written on the heart and that it can be accessed like pages in a book.

I asked the above Natural Law advocate the following: “Using only Natural Law, show me objectively and empirically that murder, adultery, rape, and theft are morally wrong.” He couldn’t. He needed biblical law to construct his Christian version of Natural Law. It’s not that sin has destroyed every vestige of the image of God in us. The conscience still operates, but this is a far cry from the comprehensive nature of God’s revealed law that God gave Israel as a light to the nations (Deut. 4:1–2, 5–8). If Natural Law is satisfactory, then why bother with giving Israel “statutes and judgments”? Douglas Wilson makes an important distinction:

Daniel in Babylon and Paul in Rome both show that believers can function in a society guided by natural revelation; this shows the legitimate authority of such realms is not thereby set aside. The authorities that exist are established by God whether or not they know His proper name. The question is not whether this can happen, but whether Christians should be content with it. The civil realm can be sub-Christian and remain a true civil realm. But should Christians work to keep it sub-Christian? Certainly the Bible does not require this of us. And if we base our civil involvement on natural revelation only, where does natural revelation teach or require pluralism?

Henry Van Til wrote that “Man does not need special revelation for acquiring the arts of agriculture or of war, the techniques of science and art; these things are learned from nature through the inspiration of the Spirit.”2 No one is disputing the use of general revelation in this way. But even this type of investigation has numerous ethical implications. For example, knowledge of what works in the field of medicine still leaves doctors and legislators with, for example, decisions that relate to abortion and euthanasia. An abortionist can be an expert in the way he performs an abortion. He has honed this “skill” through scientific study of the created order (general revelation). But is it right and just to use this knowledge in the destruction of preborn babies? That’s the question. Do such ethical principles exist solely by a study of nature?

The late Dr. Jack Kevorkian (1928–2011) designed a “suicide machine” that is efficient, effective, and painless, three criteria to consider in the practice of modern medicine.3 But is it right and just? Procedures that were designed as part of the healing craft are now being used to destroy life. There is no doubt that abortionists and the new suicide “doctors” are skilled practitioners of their respective crafts. So were some of Hitler’s doctors. In the Foreword to By Trust Betrayed, former Sen. Bob Dole writes:

Perhaps the ugliest aspects of Aktion-4 [a systematic program of killing people with disabilities] were its moral pretensions, its disregard for the intrinsic worth of people with disabilities, and the essential complicity of physicians and lawyers. The killings were justified by phrases like “final medical assistance” and beliefs about “natural selection,” but it was nothing but murder of some of the most vulnerable.4

The study of general revelation might lead some medical practitioners to conclude that since animals often abandon and kill their young, therefore human beings are little different if they do the same. A more highly evolved species like man can do it more efficiently. The great Hollywood moralist of our day, Scarlett Johansson had some thoughts to share on the subject. Here’s how Nancy Pearcey describes it:

What are the implications of seeing humans as “just another primate”? Even Hollywood actresses know the answer to that question. In an interview, Scarlett Johansson was once asked to respond to rumors that she had a reputation for being sexually promiscuous. Her reply was unfiltered naturalism: “Humans are merely biological organisms therefore the practice of monogamy – being sexually faithful to one person – is just not natural. “I do think on some basic level, we are animals,” Johansson said, “and by instinct we kind of breed accordingly.” (Nancy Pearcey, Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals and Meaning (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2010), 145.)),

The modern-day evolutionary hypothesis rests on a study of the created order. Modern scientists have made a thorough study of the created order and have concluded that man has evolved from some type of primordial chaos. Such a view conflicts with the Bible’s clear statement that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Such a conclusion has numerous ethical implications that if carried out consistently can have disastrous results as the mass killings in Norway demonstrate.5

It is this independent study of what we call “general revelation” that leads to anti-Christian conclusions. The Christian views general revelation “through the medium of a heart regenerated by the Holy Spirit. . . . The Christian looks at all that he receives through general revelation, in the light of the Scripture. It is only through the Scripture that he can see the true relationship between God and creation, and that he can see in creation its unity and purpose.” On the other hand, “the knowledge which the natural man receives from general revelation comes to him through the subjective medium of an unregenerated, depraved heart.”6 General revelation without the guidance of special revelation has no reference point.

A classic example of the claim that knowledge of God and His will is gained from general revelation is found in the ideology of Nazi Germany. Hitler’s National Socialist propagandists appealed to the revelation of God in reason, conscience, and the orders of Creation as justification for the Nazi state theology or cultural religion. Biblical revelation in Old and New Testaments was regarded by the Third Reich as a ‘Jewish swindle” and thus was set aside in favor of the Nazi natural theology. The Gottingen theologians Friedrich Gogarten and Emanuel Hirsch, by postulating the primacy of conscience and the flow of history as the chief modalities of revelation, provided theoretical justification for the Nazi ideology, which later wreaked havoc in Europe and beyond. A majority within the state church (known as the “German Christians”) unwittingly or otherwise embraced the new national religion, founded not on the Word of God but on the divine will allegedly embedded in the natural order. Emerging from this fatal exchange came a semi-Christian natural religion (some would say a new paganism) in which the church became a servile instrument of Nazi policy.7

The debate is not over how much one side depreciates the use of general revelation. Rather, the issue is over what ethical standard will be used to evaluate the conclusions formulated from a study of general revelation and Natural LawNatural Law takes on a life of its own as a nation steadily depreciates God’s specially revealed Word as the norm for all issues relating to faith (redemption) and practice (ethics). This situation results in using contemporary ideologies to build an interpretive framework so that general revelation can become specific. This means that Natural Law will be interpreted in different ways depending on what ideology is in vogue. A prevailing atheistic regime will interpret Natural Law one way, while a New Age humanist will put another slant on it. In each case, the church’s prophetic ministry is depreciated.

Print Friendly

1.   Lewis Hanke, Aristotle and the American Indians (London: Hollis & Carter, 1959), 12–13. [↩]

2.   Henry R. Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1959), 162. [↩]

3.   Jack Kevorkian, Prescription: Medicine: The Goodness of Planned Death (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1991). [↩]

4.   Bob Dole, “Foreword,” in Hugh Gregory Gallagher, By Trust Betrayed: Patients, Physicians, and the License to Kill in the Third Reich (Arlington, VA: Vanadmere Press, 1995), ix. [↩]

5.   Henry M. Morris, The Long War Against God: The History and Impact of the Creation/Evolution Conflict (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990). [↩]

6.   William Masselink, General Revelation and Common Grace (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), 71. [↩]

7.   Bruce A. Demarest, General Revelation: Historical Views and Contemporary Issues (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academie, 1982), 15. [↩]


What Kind of Morality Should We Legislate?
By Dr. Greg Bahnsen

To the surprise of the secularists all around us, the 1980s have demonstrated that bible-believing Christians expect to have a voice in the political arena. In the 1960s we were told that ours is a “post-Christian” era where ethical absolutes must give way to situational morality. In the 1970s, if the media gave attention to any “Christian” political option at all, it was given to “liberation theology,” an odious mixture of Marxist ideology and Biblical phraseology. Who could have ever expected, then, the widespread revival of interest in a specifically Christian — a Biblically guided — approach to politics which has been activated in the 1980s, evident everywhere from a Bible-thumping presidential candidate to the pro-life and anti-homosexual forces to the Coalition on Revival and American Vision.

Unbelievers have openly expressed their dismay. That should not astonish us. It is characteristic of unbelievers to rage against Jehovah and His anointed King, wishing to cast off any bonds of political servitude to Jesus Christ. Psalm 2 explicitly tells us as much (verses 1-6). The gospels illustrate this same political rage. The chief priests bolstered the crowd’s demand for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ by insisting “We have no king but Caesar” (John 10:15). The Apostle Paul’s experience points to this same political fury. He taught that Jesus was “King of kings” (1 Timothy 6:15) — the primary political king under whom all earthly leaders, “the powers that be,” are ordained as “ministers of God” (Romans 13:1-7). For this viewpoint he was run out of Thessalonica, daring to teach “contrary to the decree of Caesar” by saying “that there is another king, Jesus” (Acts 17:7).

Secular, unbelieving opinion has always antagonistically raged against any approach to politics which is subject to the Biblically revealed word and direction of Jesus Christ. So the dismay of many in our society to the revival of specifically Christian politics today is not surprising. The astonishing thing is that some professing Christians should concur with them! But sadly that is what we find in a recent issue of the Fundamentalist Journal (July/August 1988), in a well-meaning but theologically confused article by Norman Geisler, entitled “Should We Legislate Morality?” His answer is yes, but he stumbles badly over the question of what kind of morality we should legislate. Geisler is adamant that “The Bible … is not normative for civil law.” I propose that we examine and seriously evaluate that amazing proposition.


 Preliminary Misconceptions

Dr. Geisler’s article is aimed quite specifically at the “Reconstructionist” theological perspective, calling it a “religious extreme” which is to be as carefully avoided as the opposite extreme of secular relativism. It is Geisler’s hope to find some middle ground in politics — a “just government” which is neither relativistic nor “religious,” with a moral basis for civil law which is not the special revelation of God in the Bible. This is Geisler’s primary and predominating misconception, a conceptual and theological misunderstanding which underlies and flaws his entire thinking on the subject. Jesus, our King, precluded any room for such middle ground: “He that is not with Me is against Me” (Matthew 12:30). “Now therefore be wise, O ye kings: Be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve Jehovah with fear … Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and ye perish in the way” (Psalm 2:10-12). Given this divine dictate, political neutrality toward Kind Jesus is an impossibility. We shall return to the primary error in Geisler’s article later.

In addition to Geisler’s fundamental misconception, there are a number of preliminary misconceptions expressed in his article which we should address. Dr. Geisler has here disqualified himself as a critic of Christian reconstruction for the simple reason that he will not accurately portray what the reconstructionist truly believes and advocates. He contents himself with misrepresenting reconstructionist convictions and then knocking down a straw-man.

For example, inappropriate and emotive expressions like “chilling legalism” — the view that salvation is based on law-works — are tossed before the reader by Geisler without cautious concern for definition or even a shred of substantiating evidence. All reconstructionists believe we are saved by grace through faith, so that no man can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). Geisler ambiguously pins “the reinstitution of the Old Testament legal system” on reconstructionists, without differentiating between the “system” understood as the old covenant administration (with its sacrifices, priesthood, favored people, geography, etc.) Reconstructionists simply try to adhere to the teaching of Jesus that His coming did not abrogate even “the least commandment” in the (Old Testament) Law and Prophets (Matthew 5:17-19).


Misrepresenting The Facts

Geisler also says things about reconstructionists which are nothing short of slanderous, for instance that they “aim to set up their own postmillennial kingdom without Christ.” This is not even close to anything resembling the truth. Reconstructionists have no interest in “their own” kingdom at all, much less one that is “without Christ..” We glorify the King of kings who has come into history and, by His own saving power demonstrated in the resurrection and ascension, established for Himself the promised kingdom, having been granted all authority in heaven and on earth so that all men might bow before Him and submit to Him as Lord over all. In so doing, we say nothing but what the Apostles themselves declared (read it for yourself in Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 22:29; Romans 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:27-28; Ephesians 1:20-22; Philippians 2:9-11; Hebrews 1:3, 8-9; 2:7-9; Revelation 1:5; 17:14). Reconstructionism simply pursues the Lord’s prayer: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth” (Matthew 6:10) — simply lives in terms of the Hallelujah chorus: “The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ” (Revelation 11:15).

This is not the first time that Dr. Geisler has used the unfair tactic of maligning his reconstructionist opponents. In Moody Monthly for October, 1985, Geisler offered “A Premillennial View of Law and Government,” where (again) his shots at reconstructionist thinking were aimed at nothing but a straw-man. Let me illustrate personally. Geisler claimed that I hold to capital punishment for drunkards, when I maintain exactly the opposite in my book, Theonomy in Christian Ethics (Craig Press, 1977, p. 213), where this is seen as a ceremonial law which was unique to Israel. Geisler claimed that postmillennialists hold that the church should assume Israel’s sword for establishing the kingdom, when I maintain exactly the opposite in my book, By This Standard: The Authority of God’s Law Today (Tyler, TX: I.C.E., 1985, pp. 9, 166, 322), where biblical warrant for the change from old to new covenants is cited.

Dr. Geisler alleged that postmillennialism is a humanist attempt to overlook man’s depravity and “bring in the Millennium without divine intervention,” when I maintained exactly the opposite in the Journal of Christian Reconstruction (Winter, 1976). The issue is not whether God must intervene, but how He does so to bring the millennium — in military might (premillennialism) or by the Spirit working through the word (postmillennialism).

Irresponsible criticism which rests upon misrepresentation is always a falling short of the mark for us as Christians. Dr. Geisler’s criticisms of reconstructionist thought are simply futile because they do not first pause to portray accurately the position he wishes to oppose. Reconstructionists oppose what he falsely calls “reconstructionism” as much as he does! We can thus safely ignore his critical remarks. But what about Geisler’s own political conceptions? Let’s diagnose his proposed alternative to the reconstructionist viewpoint.

An Amazing Proposition

In his Fundamentalist Journal article, Dr. Geisler proposes that “The Bible may be informative, but it is not normative for civil law.” Why would a fundamentalist committed to the authority and inerrancy of God’s holy Word say such a thing? Is it because the Bible is totally silent about just civil laws? The Bible says a great deal about political ethics, from the laws of Moses through the Proverbs to the Epistles of Paul and the Book of Revelation.


 What Is Normative?

Why, then, is this body of revealed material not “normative” for believers? Is it because only certain parts of the Bible carry divine authority? That opinion can hardly stand up in the face of Paul’s categorical declaration that “every Scripture” (denoting the Old Testament for Paul) is “profitable for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). If the man of God is to be “thoroughly equipped for every good work,” he cannot discount any part of God’s revealed word (v. 17). If any opinion, practice, or precept in the political domain is to count as “good,” then the Scriptures equip us for it. Indeed, when Paul spoke of dealing with murderers, sexual offenders, perjurers and the like, he spoke with apostolic clout, saying “we know that the law [the Mosaic law] is good” (1 Timothy 1;8). The author of Hebrews took it as an unquestionable assumption that the law of God is “steadfast,” providing a “just recompense of reward” for every transgression or offense with which it deals (Hebrews 2:2).

So we ask again, why would Dr. Geisler propose that the Bible is to be deprived of its normativity when it comes to civil law? Is it because God is no longer concerned for social justice or because the Lordship of Jesus Christ does not extend to politics? The Bible would lend no credence to such ideas at all. Christ is there recognized and confessed as Lord over all — over all mankind and over all areas of life. The first and great commandment tells us so: You are obligated to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37). John Murray rightly observed that “the law of God extends to all relations of life. This is so because we are never removed from the obligation to love and serve God. We are never amoral. We owe devotion to God in every phase and department of life” (Collected Works, vol. 2, 0. 78). Peter reminds us that a holy God demands that His people “be holy in all manner of living” (1 Peter 1:15). We may not legitimately withhold from the Lord Jesus Christ any aspect of our lives — even political thinking and action — because our “every thought” is expected to be brought into “captivity to the obedience of Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:5). In Him are deposited “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Colossians 2:3) — even the treasures of political wisdom.

To neglect the normativity of the Bible’s extensive teaching regarding political ethics is seriously to curtail the authority of the Bible and to reduce the universal scope of Christ’s rule as Lord. All things were created for His service (Colossians 1:16). He justly expects all nations to observe whatsoever He has commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). On the great and final day He will judge all men according to their every deed (2 Corinthians 5:10). He is the ruler over all nations (Psalm 22:28) who has been granted all authority on earth (Matthew 28:18) — thus “the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:50. He is “head over all things for the sake of the church” (Ephesians 1:20-22) and punishes those who dare to act lawlessly (Matthew 13:41). His law therefore binds all men in all places in all aspects of their lives. He is “Lord over all” (Acts 10:36), the “Lord of lords and King of kings” (1 Timothy 6:15).

So we return to our crucial question: Why would someone like Dr. Geisler who is committed to full Biblical authority and inerrancy propose such a questionable notion as that the Bible is not normative for civil law? At one point he answers that this “would be a violation of the First Amendment” of the U.S. constitution — which only impeaches his proficiency as a legal historian (as various teaching materials from American Vision or the Rutherford Institute would indicate). But Dr. Geisler is a better Christian than this. Even IF the First Amendment forbade the enactment of Biblical civil laws (which it does not), the Christian would still be bound by loyalty to the King of kings to prefer God’s commands to human obstacles. “Let God be true though all men are liars” (Romans 3:4). The Apostles knew very well that “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Is the Bible Silent?

So there is only one reason left to Dr. Geisler if he refuses to honor the normativity of God’s revealed word (the Bible) for civil law. He must argue that the Bible itself does not teach that it is normative for civil affairs. How does he attempt to establish that? With reasoning which is thoroughly, embarrassingly specious. He claims that the civil laws of the Old Testament, for instance, were never addressed to anybody but the Jews. “Nowhere in the Bible are Gentiles ever condemned for not keeping the law of Moses,” he says (mistakenly). Those laws were only for Israel, according to Geisler’s thinking. “God no more holds today’s governments accountable to His Divine Law to Israel than present residents of Massachusetts are bound by the Puritan laws at Plymouth”. The fallacious nature of this reasoning ought to be obvious. God revealed His word, in every case, to particular people in particular historical circumstances, but He fully expects that revealed word to be a light to all mankind. By Geisler’s reasoning, the moral injunctions revealed through Paul to the Romans are only binding on the ancient city of Rome in the days of the New Testament. Paul wrote to Ephesian children to “obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1). Using Geisler’s logic, this divine imperative applies to only the youth of ancient Ephesus! This kind of argumentation is ethically absurd.


An Unbiblical Premise

Furthermore, Geisler’s premise that the Mosaic law was meant only for the ancient Israelites is directly refuted by the repeated teaching of Scripture itself. The premise is simply a false (even if common) preconception that cannot be verified by a reading of the Biblical text.

At the beginning of the book of Deuteronomy, when Moses exhorted Israel to observe God’s commandments, he clearly taught that the laws divinely revealed to Israel were meant by the Law-giver as a model to be emulated by all the surrounding Gentile nations:

Behold I have taught you statutes and ordinances even as Jehovah my God commanded me, that you should do so in the midst of the land whither ye go in to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, that shall hear all these statutes and say, Surely this great nation is there that hath statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law which I set before you this day? (Deuteronomy 4:5-8).

The manifestly righteous requirements of God’s law should be followed by all the peoples — not simply by Israel. In this respect, the justice of God’s law made Israel to be a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 51:4).

God never had a double standard of morality, one for Israel and one for the Gentiles (cf. Leviticus 24:22). In His ethical judgments, “there is no respect of persons with God” (Romans 2:11). Accordingly, God made it clear that the reason why the Palestinian tribes were ejected from the land was precisely that they had violated the provisions of His holy law (Leviticus 18:24-27) — a fact which presupposes that the Gentiles were antecedently obligated to obey those provisions. Accordingly, the Psalmist could condemn “all the wicked of the earth” for departing from God’s statutes (119:118-119).

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). Accordingly, the Old Testament prophets could repeatedly excoriate the Gentile nations for this transgressions against God’s law (e.g., Amos, Habakkuk, Jonah at Ninevah). Accordingly, Isaiah looked forward to the day when the Gentile nations would stream into Zion, precisely that God’s law would go forth from Jerusalem unto all the world (Isaiah 2:2-3).

Of course, there were many unique aspects of Israel’s national experience, important discontinuities between Israel and the pagan nations. Only Israel as a nation stood as such in an elect, redemptive, and covenantal relation with God; only Israel was a type of the coming kingdom of God, having its kingly line specially chosen and revealed, being led by God in holy war, etc. But the relevant question before us is whether Israel’s standards of political ethics were ALSO unique — embodying a culturally relative kind of justice, valid for only this race of men. From Psalm 2 it is evident that they were not. David calls upon all the kings and judges “of the earth” to serve Jehovah with fear and kiss His Son (verses 10-12).

Gentile magistrates have no exemption from God’s just demands as revealed in His holy law.  Accordingly, speaking of the kings outside of Israel, David declared in the longest psalm extolling the law of God (Psalm 119) that he “would speak of [God’s] testimonies before kings and not be put to shame’ (v. 460 — which clearly assumes the validity of that law for such nontheocratic kings. The personified Wisdom of God declared: “By me kings reign and princes decree justice; by me rulers govern, and nobles, ALL the judges of the earth” (Proverbs 8:15-16). As Paul later taught in Romans 13:3, all rulers (Jewish and Gentile alike) are to be a “terror to the workers of iniquity” (cf. Proverbs 21:15). And how did Paul define the “evil” which magistrates are to punish? According to the Law of God! (vv. 88-10).

All political rulers, even those outside of the Jewish nation, are morally bound to the political requirements of God’s law. We can see this by the fact that the most evil political ruler imaginable, “the beast” of Revelation 13, is negatively described as substituting his own law for that of the law of God, figuratively written upon the forehead and hand (vv. 16-17 in contrast to Deuteronomy 6:8). Those who oppose this wicked ruler are, by contradistinction, twice described as believers who “keep the commandments of God” (12:17; 14:12). Paul’s condemning title for this wicked ruler was precisely “the man of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:3), indicating his guilt for repudiating the law of God in his rule.

Is Natural Revelation Morally Abbreviated?

The only defense left to Dr. Geisler at this point is to resort to the baseless idea that a wedge can be driven between the just requirements revealed in the Bible and those revealed in natural revelation — that is, to hold that civil government should not be guided by the morality of the Bible, but instead by “God-given moral rules called Nature’s laws.” Distinguishing between the moral content of special revelation and the moral content of natural revelation (as though the latter is merely a parallel subsection of the former), Geisler maintains that “God ordained Divine Law for the church, but He gave Natural Law for civil government.”

Nothing like this dichotomy (and truncating of natural revelation’s moral content) can be found in the teaching of the Apostle Paul, however. The Apostle teaches that even pagans who do not have the advantage of the specially revealed law (“oracle”) of God (Romans 3:102) nevertheless know the just requirements of that law since they are inescapably revealed through the created order and human conscience (1:18-23; 2:14-15). They know the holiness and justice of the living and true God well enough that they are guilty for not worshiping Him aright in any area of their lives; thus God’s wrath is revealed from heaven “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (1:18) — against all transgressions of His righteous law (cf. 7:7, 12).

Paul says nothing to suggest that there is a difference in the moral content of these two revelations, written and natural. The written law is an advantage over natural revelation because the latter is suppressed and distorted in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18-25). But what pagans suppress is precisely the “work of the Law” (2:14-15). Natural revelation communicates to them, as Paul says, “the ordinance of God” about “all unrighteousness” (1:29,32). Because they “know” God’s ordinance, they are “without excuse” for refusing to live in terms of it (1:20). What the law speaks, then, it speaks “in order that all the world may be brought under the judgment of God” (3:19). The is ONE law order to which all men are bound, whether they learn of it by means of natural revelation or by means of special revelation. God is no respecter of persons here (2:11). “All have sinned” (3:23) — thus violated that common standard for the “knowledge of sin” in all men, the law of God. (3:20).


The Primary Error

With Geisler’s theologically faulty view of natural revelation (or natural law) in mind, we can understand how his article commits its primary conceptual error: the attempt to enunciate a moral standard for civil government (contrary to secular humanism) but one which is Not religious (contrary to reconstructionism). He asks what kind of laws should be enacted by the State, “Christian laws or Humanistic laws?” He immediately answers: “Neither. Rather, they should simply be just laws. Laws should not be either Christian or anti-Christian; they should merely be fair ones.”

What is naively presupposed by that statement, though, is that we can establish a common conception and standard of “justice” (or “fairness”) apart from reference to a religions commitment — without gaining that moral standard from the philosophical worldview within which we work, whether it be atheistic, deistic, pantheistic, cult, Christian, or whatever. But this is nothing but an illusionthe illusion of religious neutrality in making moral decisions. Humanists and Christians do not agree as to what constitutes “justice”; neither do Hindus and naturalists, etc. These fundamental disagreements do not arise because advocates of one worldview or the other have made intellectual errors (of fact or logic) which are readily correctable. They disagree precisely because of the irreconcilable conflict in their fundamental religious (or philosophical) commitments.

Geisler is simply playing a game with words when he advocates a “just government” instead of a “religious government.” There is no religiously neutral concept of justice that could make sense out of this distinction. When men claim to be relying on natural reason (or even “natural law” gained from the world), they endorse grievous moral conclusions — such as Dr. Geisler’s early condoning of abortion under some circumstances! (Ethics: Alternatives and Issues, Zondervan, 1971, pp. 220-223). But even more important and relevant to Geisler’s hypothesis about political ethics, those who claim to be following natural reason or natural law still do not end up concurring with each other over the most elementary political issues — as the history of both philosophical opinion and political theorizing illustrates.



In the political sphere Dr. Geisler has made an unwise (and hopefully unwitting) tradeoff. He has traded the Christian religion’s conception of political morality for the religious conceptions of political morality advanced by the “natural man” who cannot receive the things of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14). Dr. Geisler has traded the special revelation of God’s one moral will for a “natural revelation” which is suppressed and distorted in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). And in so doing he has politically traded the divine King, the Lord Jesus Christ, speaking clearly in the Bible for “Caesar,” a human lord who speaks according to his own view of natural revelation. Dr. Geisler has consigned those who accept these tradeoffs to tyranny and arbitrariness in civil government — as history repeatedly shows us. The truly Christian alternative, even in politics, is to abide in the revealed word of Jesus Christ. Then shall we know the truth which makes us free indeed (John 8: 32-33).

Article from