Any Underground Thomists in the San Antonio area? I'm
giving the Mars Hill Lecture at 6:30pm TONIGHT (Thursday,
January 15) at the Geneva School of Boerne. The talk is free,
intended for a broad audience, and open to the public:
"Written on the Heart: What Writing? What Heart?"
According to a famous statement of the Second Vatican Council, “It is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear.” What does this say about natural law, which is commonly supposed to be an affair of human reason?
One might suppose that it says nothing about it: The “mystery” of man which we need revelation to understand has nothing to do with his nature but only to do with his destiny. Or perhaps the “mystery” becomes fully clear in Christ only in the sense that only Christ was perfect man. In either case, isn’t reason alone still sufficient to investigate man’s nature? Surely we need not resort to supernatural realities to say what a human being is. As the late John Paul II recognized, this compartmentalizing interpretation just will not work. “With these words,” he wrote,
the Second Vatican Council expresses the anthropology that lies at the heart of the entire Conciliar Magisterium .... Christ alone, through his humanity, reveals the totality of the mystery of man. Indeed, it is only possible to explore the deeper meaning of this mystery if we take as our starting point man’s creation in the image and likeness of God. Man cannot understand himself completely with reference to other visible creatures. The key to his self-understanding lies in contemplating the divine Prototype, the Word made flesh, the eternal Son of the Father. The primary and definitive source for studying the intimate nature of the human being is, therefore, the Most Holy Trinity.
Then is man’s very nature -- not just his destiny -- so intimately tied up with supernature that it cannot be grasped fully by reason alone? If so, then it might seem that the whole idea of a philosophy of natural law is destroyed. Nothing is left -- it might seem -- but theology. Suppose this really were the result. One might ask, “So what? What difference does it make whether we get our insight into man from theology rather than from philosophy? There is more than one way to skin a cat.” Ah, but that is just the problem: In this scenario theology would be the only way to skin the cat. The only way to have a meaningful conversation with an unconverted person about our shared human nature would be to convert him first.
That is certainly what many people think, but it is not what the Council teaches. “All this holds true not only for Christians,” it says, “but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way.”
Well, then what does that mean for the philosophy of natural law? Is it destroyed, or isn’t it?