While many of the Reformers considered natural law unproblematic, many Protestants consider natural law a “Catholic thing,” and not persuasive. Natural law, it is thought, competes with the Gospel, overlooks the centrality of Christ, posits a domain of pure nature, and overlooks the noetic effects of sin. This “Protestant Prejudice,” however strong, overlooks developments in contemporary natural law quite capable and willing to incorporate the usual objections into natural law.
While the natural law itself is universal and invariant, theories about the natural law vary widely. The Protestant Prejudice may respond to natural law understood from within the modes of common sense and classical metaphysics, but largely overlooks contemporary natural law beginning from the first-person account of subjectivity and practical reason. Consequently, the sophisticated thought of John Paul II, Martin Rhonheimer, Germain Grisez, and John Finnis is overlooked. Further, the work of Bernard Lonergan allows for a natural law admitting of noetic sin, eagerly incorporating grace, community, the limits of history, a real but limited autonomy, and the centrality of Christ in a natural law that is both graced and natural.
About the author:
Dr. Snell directs the philosophy program and is the co-director of the Agora Institute. He is the author of the book “Through a Glass Darkly: Bernard Lonergan and Richard Rorty on Knowing Without a God’s Eye View“.
Currently Dr. Snell is writing on sloth, when he can find the gumption to do so, on the epistemology and agency of love, and on the notion of objectivity in natural law theory.
Dr. Snell is married to his wife Amy, and has four young children. He is also a Canadian who believes that cold weather builds character.