Picking up the thread from Saturday’s post and concluding the eight-part series
It might be held that all this talk of light from revelation is bad news for natural law. Getting people to take natural law seriously is hard enough as it is. If it gets out that the tradition has been cheating for all these years -- that most of the so-called conclusions of natural reason are cribbed from divine oracles -- then the game is up. According to the objector, only one cure is possible. When God comes around with His cheat sheets, honest natural lawyers should say, “No, thank you, I’ll do my own thinking.” Only then can they expect to be taken seriously in a pluralistic world.
There are two problems with this supposed cure. First, it is based on a false diagnosis. When a schoolboy struggling with arithmetic sneaks the answer key, that’s cheating; when he allows the teacher to show him how to work the problem, that isn’t cheating, but honest learning. The kind of boost that natural reason receives from revelation is not the former kind but the latter.
The second problem with the supposed cure is that it has been tried. That was the Enlightenment’s project. Little by little, natural law thinkers scrubbed from their little cups of theory whatever grime of influence might have remained from the centuries of faith, whatever benefit they might have gained from the teacher’s help. First went the idea of nature; then the idea of law; finally, in our day, the idea of thinking the truth. In the end they found that they had scoured away the ground that they were standing on.
Where does this leave us? In wading through the mire of an era whose inmates have tired of supposed Enlightenment and loiter at the gates of the Dark, we should not be too glad-handed with the pearls of faith -- “The Bible says!” persuades only those who are already substantially convinced. But the philosopher should not be afraid of revelation either. Although much of it concerns supernatural realities that the natural force of reason is too weak to confirm on its own, yet the light that it sheds on the creational realities is shed to the end that the intellect may see them for itself. Seeing, it may show them to others. What finally justifies our hope is that they really are there to be seen.