Mondays are for letters from students and young people.


I first heard of natural law from Patrick Madrid’s show on my local Catholic radio station.  Though I was very interested, I did not want to read a Catholic book about it, since I’m not familiar with Catholic theology, and most of my Christian learning has been Assembly of God (Protestant).  When I asked the Christian Research Institute (also Protestant) to recommend a book on natural law, they recommended your What We Can’t Not Know.  I understand the book well, and assumed that you were Protestant, but you’re not.

My question:  Why do Catholics have a corner on natural law?  Your book is great.  I'm just curious why non-Catholics don't deal with this issue.  It's kind of important if you ask me.  Do you have a thought about this?


Good question.  Protestants ought to believe in natural law; in fact, Martin Luther and John Calvin did believe in it, and said so.  However, later Protestants have tended to deny or at least neglect it, partly for various reasons I’ve discussed in other posts, and partly just because of fear of anything that came from age-old Christian tradition, which seemed to them “too Catholic.”

Once the idea of natural law was forgotten, there was also the further difficulty that it had to be relearned, and hostile critics described natural law theory in inaccurate and misleading ways. On the other hand, recent years have shown a welcome resurgence of interest in natural law in several branches of Protestantism, including Lutheran, Evangelical, and Calvinist.

It’s true that Catholics have the longest, most continuous, and most richly developed tradition of inquiry into natural law, but I don’t think anyone has a “corner” on it, since it is rooted in the created nature which we all share.  Natural law thinkers are found in a number of traditions, including Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim, as well as among the Greek and Roman pagans.  It can be considered purely in the light of unaided reason, although of course Christians think it can be understood more deeply with the help of the extra light shed by revelation.

Since you were surprised that I’m Catholic, I might mention that although I am a Protestant-friendly Catholic, when I wrote the first edition of What We Can’t Not Know I was a Catholic-friendly Protestant.  A determined ecumenist, I continue to do quite a bit of work with Protestants who are interested in natural law.