Is it possible to find affirmed the Natural Law in the Bible?
This remains an important question, though it is lost on modern society. We live in a culture that affirms evolution, moral relativism, and the impugning of any moral absolutes. Yet, by use of simple human reasoning, we can identify that a Natural Law must exist and must be discernible to varying degrees to people with an intellect. Couple that with all those who claim to still believe in the authority of the Bible as the Word of God. What emerges is an importance to place on the question whether we can find affirmed the Natural Law in the Bible.
HIERARCHY OF LAW
Moral standards fall within a three-tier hierarchy. The highest law remains Divine Law, as revealed by God. This can most easily be identified within the pages of the Bible, which itself is inspired, and inherent, as it has the Holy Spirit for its author. The next tier is the Natural Law, as given by God, and discernible by mankind. We will explore that more deeply shortly. And finally, the lowest law continues to be civil law.
None of the laws in the lower tiers can contradict a law from a higher tier, without being an unjust law. No law within the Natural Law itself can ever contradict the Divine Law, since God is the author of both. If any individual law on the plain of civil law opposes the Natural Law or Divine Law itself, then it must be rendered an unjust law.
Examples of unjust laws can be found in our society today. Take for instance the supposed Constitutional “right” the Supreme Court found in Roe v. Wade to legalize abortion. The murder of the unborn clearly contradicts the Divine Law, as it does oppose the Natural Law. On that basis alone, we know that the legalization of abortion remains an immoral law. Another example can be found in the Obgerfell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision that legalized homosexual so-called “marriage” in the US. Homosexuality clearly contradicts both Divine Law and the Natural Law. Therefore, although the US Supreme Court may recognize homosexual “marriage,” the law is baseless since it is not supported by the Divine Law and by the Natural Law.
WHERE WE FIND NATURAL LAW IN THE BIBLE
In fact, Holy Writ affirms that God has established a Natural Law discernible to each man and woman on earth. Deuteronomy 30:11-15 reads, “For this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.”
Moreover, the existence of the Natural Law is affirmed elsewhere in Scripture, as well. Later in the Old Testament, Psalm 119:129-31 reads, “Your (God’s) testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them. The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. With open mouth I pant, because I long for your commandments.” The New Testament too speaks of how men are “without excuse” (Romans 1:20) for their “ungodliness and wickedness” (1:18), “[f]or what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them” (1:19).
Elsewhere we can find the Natural Law in the Bible, as well. For instance, Psalm 4:6 says the light of countenance is imprinted upon us all. Thus, Scripture affirms we are all given from birth an ability to discern right and wrong.
In fact, Matthew Levering even wrote a book called, Biblical Natural Law: A Theocentric and Teleological Approach (Oxford, 2008). It is a bit of a dense read, but even I was able to work through it.
Levering’s book, understandably, lists many examples of the Natural Law in the Bible. On page 50 he lists Scriptural exhibitions of “knowledge of moral norms not directly revealed.” Among these examples he lists “the stories of the Fall (idolatry), Cain and Abel (murder), the Flood and its aftermath (sexual corruption), Abraham (righteousness and justice), the rape of Dinah, Joseph and Potiphar’s wife (adultery), and Moses and Jethro (welcome of the stranger).”
Levering points out the following about Jesus Christ’s ministry (page 41). Jesus “places the ten commandments at the heart” of man, especially those wishing to follow Him. As Levering evidences, Jesus positions the interior sin of lust on the same level as adultery (Matt 5:27-28). Jesus warns, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt 15:19), showing that to know what good moral conduct is can be discerned in one’s self. To the rich young man, Jesus “points to the Decalogue as the permanent and interior heart of the Law.”
Other examples can be found, but this is a good primer on the topic. So now you know where you can find evidence of the Natural Law in the Bible.
Are there other passages we can cite?
Please share your thoughts on this topic of the Natural Law in the Bible in the comments below.