Friday, June 24

Natural law, teh smex and a lot of hollerin.

"point the fifth...."
There has been a recent dust-up over at a friends blog that has caused a LOT of heat but very little light.  Out of this whole Sturm und Drang comes the use of the term 'Natural Law' as a defense for a catalog of Restorationist/Traditionalist doctrine.  So, I thinks to myself, what are they on about?  Of course, I go to the Angelic Doctor, for it is under Aquinas' quill that we find the present understanding of Natural Law take form.

Natural Law is "nothing else than the rational creature's participation in the eternal law" (Summa Theologica, I-II, 94) (Eternal Law being defined earlier as God's wisdom).

Yah...could you be more specific, Tom?
"This then is the first precept of law, that good is to be done and gone after, and evil is to be avoided... Secondly, there is in man an inclination to things more specially belonging to him, in virtue of the nature which he shares with other animals. In this respect those things are said to be of the natural law, which nature has taught to all animals, as the intercourse of the sexes, the education of offspring, and the like. In a third way there is in man an inclination to good according to the rational nature which is proper to him; as man has a natural inclination to know the truth about God, and to live in society.." (ibid).

Ah ha!  So..we should look to the other animals to things such as sexual congress and child-rearing.  But, as 21st century science has shown, it is commonplace within arguably all of the animal kingdom to find non-procreative sex (both heterosexual and homosexual) being used to form and strengthen social bonds, to find auto-erotic behaviour in hundreds of species and even that same-sex parents are often better at child-rearing as heterosexual parents. (Medical News, Bagemihl, Biological Exuberance)

But....but...natural law is immutable, right?   Well, yes and no.  According to Aquinas, the law itself does not change, but changes to our understanding of nature would naturally change our understanding of God (and thus, His wisdom and by extension, Natural Law). (Summa, I-II, 94)

Since our understanding of the Universe (of Nature) is an evolving and changing thing, then it would stand to reason that our understanding of God's Wisdom (and, thus, Natural Law) is an ever-evolving process.  Conversely, to constrain ourselves to a patently out-dated understanding of the Universe is to willfully function under a misrepresentation of the nature of the Divine.  At least, that's what Aquinas was on about.

"They hold a plainly false opinion who say that in regard to the truth of religion it does not matter what a person thinks about the Creation as long as he or she has the correct opinion about God.  An error concerning the Creation ends as false thinking about God." (Aquinas, quoted in Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, p75)

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