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(p)review: A Biblical Case for Natural Law

josh forestDVD-Natural LawCreed or Chaos’s Josh Forrest reviews

A Biblical Case for Natural Law by Dr. David Van Drunen.

Natural law is a dirty word in some circles of Reformed theology. Some think that it’s neither Reformed nor biblical. It fundamentally denies the negative effects of sin and the necessity of the Bible to regulate moral attitudes and actions. Dr. David VanDrunen of Westminster Seminary, hailed by many students on the campus of Westminster Seminary California as a clear lecturer and writer, argues that this criticism of natural law—when it’s rightly understood and practiced—isn’t really the case at all. His style avoids pedantic elitism, but it doesn’t stupor in the assumption that his audience is stupid.

To the first criticism, VanDrunen shows—albeit not exhaustively—that natural law isn’t at odds with Reformed theology. In order to unfold the biblical doctrine of natural law, he first offers a helpful discussion on the Reformed understanding of the image of God. He, then, situates the context in the discussion of the Reformed distinction between the two kingdoms. He concisely shows how both Luther and Calvin distinguish between the civil kingdom (state) and the spiritual kingdom (church), which are both ruled by God differently. Readers shouldn’t come to this book thinking that they’ll get a full historical treatment of the doctrine of the two kingdoms in the history of the church, which isn’t VanDrunen’s objective anyway. Nevertheless, one can assume that he’s well-read and that his arguments are carefully researched. He doesn’t spout out unfounded claims. He’s more careful, humble, and honest than that.vandrunen

Yet, he doesn’t just start or stop there. To the second criticism, his assertions are laced with biblical argumentation. He’s very much concerned with justifying his claim exegetically. In his introduction he writes, “Although I write from a distinctively Reformed perspective, I hope that the biblical argumentation offered here may also be helpful to those of different traditions. By showing what Scripture teaches about natural law, I hope to alleviate concerns that affirmation of natural law in itself entails diminished regard for Scripture (though this is a danger that some natural law theories certainly fall into)” (p. 4). With the biblical record as his paradigm, he clearly works through the do’s-and-don’t’s of natural law.

His task is simple. Readers themselves will have to work out whether or not he is correctly interpreting the Bible. If he’s correct, natural law isn’t a dirty word; it’s a word that needs a place in Reformed and biblical vocabulary.

~ Joshua

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