Any Underground Thomists in the San Antonio area? I'll be giving the Mars Hill
lecture at 6:30pm, THIS THURSDAY, January15, at the Geneva School of Boerne.
The talk title is “Written on the Heart: What Writing? What Heart?”
The last two posts, especially yesterday’s, may have startled some of my readers by implying that history matters -- even from the perspective of natural law. What human beings did by rebelling against their Creator mattered; what God did to rescue them also mattered. Thus in the view of the Christian mainstream of the natural law tradition, natural law can be understood properly only from the perspective of salvation history.
In its foundational principles, natural law per se does not change. It couldn’t, because the fundamental nature of a being cannot change. If there was a change, you would have a different being. The old one would have ceased to exist. But although our nature cannot change, its condition can change. One and the same body can be either well, or ill, or healed. In much the same way, the condition of our nature can be either innocent, fallen, or redeemed. So Christian thinkers have insisted since the Patristic era.
The main reason this fact is overlooked is that in the modern period, revisionist natural law writers tried to shake off the classical tradition, either denying, ignoring, or disparaging the significance of salvation history. Natural law came to be conceived in a much more abstract and ahistorical way. Think Hobbes. Think Locke. Think Voltaire.
So far did the pendulum swing in an ahistorical direction that in order to bring history back into the theoretical picture, other modern thinkers thought they must deny that we even have a fixed nature. Think Rousseau. Think Hegel. Think Marx.
So here we are, with the strange misunderstanding that one can admit the importance of nature or the importance of history, but not both. Sometimes people who are otherwise sympathetic to the classical natural law tradition even chastise it for denying that history matters – a view which it never held.