Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 27

Modern Theology 24:2 April 2008 ISSN 0266-7177 (Print) ISSN 1468-0025 (Online)


If natural law prohibits killing the innocent, how can God, according to biblical revelation, command Abraham to kill his son Isaac (Genesis 22)? As we would expect from thinkers whose natural law doctrine is not distanced from biblical revelation, the problem of the Aqedah or near-sacrice of Isaac was a staple of medieval discussion of natural law, and it surfaces in modern discussions as well. It may seem that Gods command to Abraham belies the claim to an intelligible natural law rooted in Gods providential ordering of all things to their due end. What kind of providential ordering could include the command to kill an innocent child?1 Behind the interest in the Aqedah in discussions of moral theology and philosophy lies the question of how one can claim that there exists a Godgiven natural law, a morally normative order, in the face of all the suffering, death, and disorder that one nds in the world. In response to this question, this essay proceeds in two steps. First, I explore Immanuel Kants well-known response to the Aqedah and John Thiels recent effort to account theologically for innocent suffering. Second, seeking the roots of Kants and Thiels accounts, I turn to the Aqedah as the point of divergence between Duns Scotus and Thomas Aquinas on the doctrine of natural law. For Scotus and Aquinas, the Aqedah raises questions about the content of the natural law and whether that content can be changed. I suggest that in the divergence of Scotus and Aquinas one can see the beginnings of the modern split between anthropocentric and theocentric alternatives for articulating natural law doctrine.2 At issue is the normative presence, or lack thereof, of Gods ordering wisdom (and not merely his power) in human relationships.

Matthew Levering, Ave Maria University, 5050 Ave Maria Blvd, Ave Maria, FL 34142, USA matthew.levering@avemaria.edu
2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

152 Matthew Levering I. God and the Slaying of the Innocent Immanuel Kant In The Conict of the Faculties, Immanuel Kant observes that in all likelihood persons who think that they receive commands from God are deluded. As he says in response to the myth of the sacrice that Abraham was going to make by butchering and burning his only son at Gods command: Abraham should have replied to this supposedly divine voice: That I ought not to kill my good son is quite certain. But that you, this apparition, are Godof that I am not certain, and never can be, not even if this voice rings down to me from visible heaven.3 Kant reasons that the moral law is certain, at least insofar as not killing ones innocent son is concerned, whereas divine commands are profoundly uncertain. He states therefore that [i]n some cases man can be sure that the voice he hears is not Gods; for if the voice commands him to do something contrary to the moral law, then no matter how majestic the apparition may be, and no matter how it may seem to surpass the whole of nature, he must consider it an illusion.4 Abraham should have followed this natural moral law and rejected the apparently divine voice. As Kant suggests, furthermore, how one reads such passages as Genesis 22 inuences how one understands the justice or injustice of killing human beings on the grounds of religious disagreement. In Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone he gives the example of an inquisitor, who clings fast to the uniqueness of his statutory faith even to the point of [imposing] martyrdom, and who has to pass judgment upon a so-called heretic (otherwise a good citizen) charged with unbelief.5 Assuming the inquisitor decides in favor of the stake, can one say, Kant asks, that the inquisitor acted on the basis of conscience? Kant argues that the answer is no, because conscience could never assure an inquisitor that capital punishment in such a case is just. The reason is this: That it is wrong to deprive a man of his life because of his religious faith is certain, unless (to allow for the most remote possibility) a Divine Will, made known in extraordinary fashion, has ordered it otherwise. But that God has ever uttered this terrible injunction can be asserted only on the basis of historical documents and is never apodictically certain.6 Neither an exterior nor interior voice, nor the historical documents of Scripture, can demonstrate with sufcient power that one should act in a way which one knows on other grounds, with certainty, to be unjust. For Kant, the question of the justice of capital punishment for heresy is thus similar to the question of the justice of Abraham killing his son: only the invocation of the divine will could make such actions just, but one can never know with certainty whether God has in fact made his will known in this way. One can know with certainty that such actions are, humanly speaking, unjust. To go against this certainty on the basis of a faith that rests on historical grounds, which in Kants view cannot command rm assent,
2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

God and Natural Law 153 would be a violation of conscience. Kant concludes, This is the case with respect to all historical and visionary faith; that is, the possibility ever remains that an error may be discovered in it. Hence it is unconscientious to follow such a faith with the possibility that perhaps what it commands or permits may be wrong, i.e., with the danger of disobedience to a human duty which is certain in and of itself.7 In short, contrary to Gods praise of Abraham in Genesis 22 for withholding nothing from God but instead receiving everything as a gift, Abraham sinned in obeying Godor so Kant thinks. John Thiel Without mentioning Abrahams near-sacrice of his son, the contemporary theologian John Thiel advances similar concernsbut now about whether a God who wills the crucixion of his beloved Son Jesus can indeed be a just and loving God.8 He takes Anselm as a typical representative of the position that God does indeed providentially will the death of Jesus, the supremely innocent man. As Thiel notes, Since Anselm has argued ardently on behalf of the logical necessity of Jesus sacrice, there is no way for him to avoid the conclusion that God willed the cross for Jesus. That God wills Jesus death may sound a dissonant chord in Christian sensibilities. Yet Anselm offers this judgment as a claim about Gods love for humanity, even in the guilty depths of its fallenness.9 Is Gods will that Jesus must die, however, truly the epitome of love? Would a just God approve the death of a supremely innocent man? Moreover, would this approval, this afrmation that an innocent man should die, in fact be the paradigmatic act of divine providence,10 in which the righteousness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is fully revealed? For Thiel, the answer is no. Thiel argues that Anselms sacricial logic allows believers to make some sense of their own deaths and those of others, but at the cost of maintaining what is, for some at least, an extraordinarily troubling view that God wills death, including the deaths of innocent victims. Thiel challenges the sacricial logic, furthermore, on the grounds that it places Jesus, who is perfectly innocent, on a different level from other human beings who are to varying degrees disordered by original sin. As Thiel remarks, Jesus death is not retributive punishment, while the death of everyone else is . . . Jesus death is the undeserved death of an innocent sufferer, while the death of everyone else is deserved and thoroughly guilty.11 Two problems follow: how can our deserved deaths be truly united with Jesus undeserved death, and how can one truly mourn the deaths of other innocent victims given that their innocence is marked by a prior and more determinative guilt? In other words, one might posit that a loving God wills the sacricial death of one innocent man (Jesus) on behalf of all other guilty human beings, but such a viewpoint assures, in Thiels view, a twofold outcome: Jesus dying lacks real solidarity with other human deaths, and God wills that the rest of us be deservedly killed (undergo death) as well. Thiel argues that this
2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

154 Matthew Levering outcome distorts our understanding both of God and of the tragedy of death. In both the providential and the sacricial accounts of death, Gods will gives an improper imprimatur to death (even of the most innocent person). We cannot even mourn properly the deaths that we see and experience because they allegedly belong to Gods will. This distortion contrasts with our real experience of the tragic deaths of innocent victims, whether from cancer, violence, or other causes. Our hope that these victims nd reward in Gods providential plan is thwarted by the denial, in the sacricial logic, that any of the victims (other than Jesus) are in a fundamental sense innocent. We do not want, says Thiel, to put God on the side of death. As he observes, we have seen that the popularity of the providential explanation stems from the desire to conrm, through Gods actions, the very innocent suffering that the legal explanation denies . . . [T]his indirect recognition of innocent suffering comes at the extraordinarily high price of Gods arranging the particular circumstances of suffering and death that individuals nd so grief-laden and tumultuous in their lives.12 Thiels goal is therefore to account for suffering and death in a way that reclaims a full concept of innocent human suffering and that denies that God approves or wills any death. Just as Kant holds that it is wrong to kill an innocent human being (e.g., Isaac) even if one think that one has received a divine command to carry out such acts, in a similar fashion Thiel suggests that it would be wrong for God to will the death of an innocent human being (Jesus) and indeed wrong to imagine that God wills, in his providential plan, the deaths of even sinful human beings. As we experientially recognize, many of these deaths are tragic instances of human life being cut off, through no fault of its own, by oppressive forces. The good and wise God is not to blame. Pace sacricial and providential accounts, for Thiel God does not in any sense ever will the tragedy of human death. Evaluation Kant deals with Genesis 22 by arguing simply that human beings who think they must obey a divine command that clearly goes against right reason are profoundly deluded. Thiels case, by contrast, involves elucidating the complexities of divine providence and of the order of justice between the rational creature and the Creator. Granting the differences in their argument, Kant and Thiel are united by their concern to deem irrational and unintelligible the death of the innocent, whether Isaac, Jesus, or others. Kant addresses the issue by repudiating Genesis 22 as an example of religious irrationality on the part of Abraham. Thiel argues that accounts of Christs Cross that imply divine approval or that suggest that God wills to change the human condition through the death of an innocent human being are similarly manifestations of religious irrationality. While I have responded more broadly to anti-sacricial and antiprovidential arguments elsewhere,13 in what follows I want to explore
2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

God and Natural Law 155 specically how similar concerns inuenced late-medieval and modern developments in natural law doctrine. Duns Scotuss profound disagreement with Thomas Aquinas on the character of natural law hinges upon these very issues of Gods justice and the death of the innocent. Scotus, as we will see, attempts to resolve the difculty by displacing human-to-human relationships from the natural law. Human-to-human relationships are for Scotus governed solely by divine positive law, which can be changed by God at any time, whereas human-to-God relationships comprise the unchanging natural law. By separating out human-to-human relationships as a realm ungoverned by an ordering inscribed in creationand thus by denying an intrinsically ordered human nature with requirements for fulllment other than obedience to GodScotus intends to grant God absolute and arbitrary power over the ordering of human-to-human relationships. Looked at another way, however, Scotuss position opens the door to a thoroughly anthropocentric human-to-human morality. Although Scotus means to intensify the theocentric frame, his positing of a realm of human-to-human relationships that does not intrinsically reect the ordering pattern of divine ecstasis means that God could command, as the moral norm for human-to-human relationships, self-cleaving rather than self-giving. The human-to-human no longer fully participates in the human-to-God.14 Thus the path is open to the kinds of anthropocentric solutions that Kant and Thiel proposeor so I will suggest. II. Aquinas and Scotus on the Natural Law: Can the Natural Law Be Changed? Thomas Aquinas Can the natural law be changed? Aquinas answers in the afrmativeif what is meant by changed is to receive additions. As he points out, while one cannot hold that whatever is contained in the Law and the Gospel belongs to the natural law, one can afrm that whatever belongs to the natural law is fully contained in the Law and the Gospel.15 God does not intend the natural law to stand on its own; a higher participation in the eternal law (i.e. in Gods plan for ordering human action, in his providence, to its fulllment) is possible through divine law. Divine law, comprising the Mosaic law and the Gospel of Christ, contains many things that are above nature.16 It would not do to imagine the natural law as a closed-off system of relatively autonomous morality, since the natural law belongs within the revealed divine law, and has its ultimate intelligibility and value in that context. Emphatically, then, Aquinas afrms that the natural law can be, and is, changed in the sense of having other precepts (above the capacity of merely natural powers) added to it. Yet, the natural law, while changed by being integrated into a gratuitous and supernatural human teleology, is internally unchanged. In its deepest
2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

156 Matthew Levering sense, the natural law cannot be changed, even by God. This is so, says Aquinas, because the natural law is the rational creatures participation in the eternal law, Gods wise ordering of creation to its ultimate end. This participation is intensied, not revised, by the gift of a supernatural end. The natural capacities are expanded and enhanced so as to participate in Trinitarian communion, not cut off and redirected in a different direction. In afrming this unchangeability of the natural law, Aquinas appeals to the Churchs moral practice as codied in the canon law of his day: It is said in the Decretals (Dist. v): The natural law dates from the creation of the rational creature. It does not vary according to time, but remains unchangeable.17 Opposed to canon law, however, appears to be the authority of divine revelation in Scripture. Like any reader of the Old Testament, Aquinas is well aware of this rather alarming problem: Further, the slaying of the innocent, adultery, and theft are against the natural law. But we nd these things changed by God: as when God commanded Abraham to slay his innocent son (Gen. xxii. 2); and when he ordered the Jews to borrow and purloin the vessels of the Egyptians (Exod. xii. 35); and when He commanded Osee [Hosea] to take to himself a wife of fornications (Osee i. 2).18 It would seem that, if the natural law is a pattern of just human action, God himself teaches particular human beings to violate the natural law, to act in an unjust manner. Someone who teaches others to commit injustices would himself be unjust. Aquinas, however, knows that God cannot be unjust and thus the dilemma which we have already seen in Kant and, in a different way, in Thiel.19 In an effort to resolve this dilemma, Aquinas distinguishes human reason as ordered to universal truths (speculative reason) from human reason as ordered to operation or activity (practical reason). While not cut off from speculative reason, law falls into the latter category. For reason in its speculative mode, the principles and conclusions are the same for all people, although the conclusions are not known by all. Similarly, reason in its practical mode relies upon unchangeable rst principles that are known by all. But reason in its practical mode leads to diverse conclusions from these general principles, since right reason as regards action differs depending upon the situation. Aquinas observes, for instance, that from the principles of the natural law one should conclude to the precept that goods entrusted to another should be restored to their owner, but in fact this conclusion (unlike conclusions of the speculative reason) does not hold in all cases: it may happen in a particular case that it would be injurious, and therefore unreasonable, to restore goods held in trust; for instance if they are claimed for the purpose of ghting against ones country.20 The general principles of the natural law are thus unchangeably the same for all people, but the conclusions that follow from these principles admit exceptions in certain circumstances, in order to enable the person to attain the ends recognized in the general principles.
2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

God and Natural Law 157 This distinction between general principles and conclusions assists Aquinas in afrming the natural law as regards difcult biblical cases such as the Aqedah, once the distinction is understood within a fully theocentric framework. In the natural law, God is the lawgiver. As Aquinas says, properly speaking, none imposes a law on his own actions.21 Human beings are subject to the law of God, Gods wise plan for the right ordering of human action to humankinds ultimate end. In promulgating the law to human beings, God imprints on man a directive principle of human actions.22 This imprint of the eternal law, inscribed in the metaphysical constitution of human beings, is present in two ways in accord with the body-soul unity of the human person: There are two ways in which a thing is subject to the eternal law. . . . : rst, by partaking of the eternal law by way of knowledge; secondly, by way of action and passion, i.e., by partaking of the eternal law by way of an inward motive principle: and in this second way, irrational creatures are subject to the eternal law. . . . But since the rational nature, together with that which it has in common with all creatures, has something proper to itself inasmuch as it is rational, consequently it is subject to the eternal law in both ways; because while each rational creature has some knowledge of the eternal law, as stated above [I-II, q. 93, a. 2], it also has a natural inclination to that which is in harmony with the eternal law; for we are naturally adapted to be the recipients of virtue (Ethic. ii. 1). Both ways, however, are imperfect, and to a certain extent destroyed, in the wicked.23 The key point here is that natural law does not place human beings in the role of giving the law to themselves.24 Aquinas points out earlier, Human reason is not, of itself, the rule of things: but the principles impressed on it by nature, are general rules and measures of all things relating to human conduct, whereof the natural reason is the rule and measure, although it is not the measure of things that are from nature.25 Right reason governs human action, but does so as rst receiving the principles impressed on [human reason] by nature which contain the general rules and measures of all things relating to human conduct. The true lawgiver is God, and the way that the human being participates in the law (as opposed to participating in the lawgiving, which is the task of human positive law) is the natural law. Of course, human rational participation is a sharing in Gods eternal law, and so a sharing in Gods providence, that enables human reason to govern human action and thus to be provident both for itself and for others.26 Yet this human practical reason or providence does not constitute the principles of the natural law: the light of natural reason, whereby we discern what is good and what is evil, which is the function of the natural law, is nothing else than an imprint on us of the Divine light.27 This imprint of Gods reason inclines us naturally, in our very rationality, toward what is good for our fulllment as human beings. Our rational perception of a hierarchical order 2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

158 Matthew Levering ing of goods that our metaphysical constitution (body-soul) inclines us to pursue is the working out of the divine imprint.28 A law, as Aquinas says, is nothing else than a dictate of reason in the ruler by whom his subjects are governed.29 As regards the natural law, the ruler is God.30 If God is the ruler, what about human suffering and death?31 Aquinas grants that God, as the wise ruler of human beings, may exact just punishment upon human beings who merit such punishment at such a time that God deems tting for human ordering to the ultimate end. Since the punishment of human sin is suffering and deatha punishment intrinsic to the crime, because sin pridefully turns away from the source of lifeGod can punish sinners by no longer sustaining in being their earthly lives; indeed all sinners undergo this punishment at some time or another in Gods providential plan. Aquinas explains, All men alike, both guilty and innocent, die the death of nature: which death of nature is inicted by the power of God on account of original sin, according to 1 Kings ii. 6: The Lord killeth and maketh alive.32 Just as the natural law can at times require killing in order to fulll justice (e.g., in defense of a community under attack), so also God, in his wisdom and goodness, can directly require killing. God is not thereby exacting an unjust penalty. Similarly, God, as the creator and governor of the universe, is the true owner of all things. He can re-allocate things without there being an injustice: one cannot steal from oneself. Along these lines, Aquinas engages Genesis 22, Exodus 12, and other difcult biblical texts. Because God knows the good end toward which he is moving human creatures, he can justly command the killing of Abrahams child born under the penalty of sinalthough by no means does God in fact will Abraham to go through with this sacrice. Likewise God can justly command the Hebrews in Exodus 12 to take and keep what belongs ultimately not to the Egyptians, but to God. So, too, God has ordained the union of man and woman in marriage, by which the human species endures and ourishes. These ends of the human species, in the plan of God, may by Gods command be achieved outside of the marital bond without the commission of a sin. In other words, marriage, life, and material possessions all belong to Gods ordering of human creatures to their proper ourishing. God can accomplish his wise ordering directly without overturning the natural law. The general principles of the natural lawprinciples dened by the goods pertaining to Gods ordering of human creatures to union with Goddo not change. But in some particular cases of rare occurrence,33 God may, at the level of secondary precepts owing from the rst principles, command that human persons enact directly the good ordering that God wills, in ways that human persons could not justly act on their own behalf. For Aquinas, therefore, what is at stake in these biblical passages is the status of the natural law as a participation in the eternal law. The natural law does not have an integrity that stands on its own. Rather the natural law is human rational participation in Gods eternal law or wise ordering of all
2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

God and Natural Law 159 things to their fulllment. As such, natural law does not exhaust the ways in which God can communicate the eternal law. Aquinas afrms that God cannot change the natural law, which regards the goods that bet human happiness and toward which human beings are thus, in a hierarchically ordered fashion, inclined.34 To change Gods wise orderingas opposed to intensifying itwould be to destroy human nature. Thus God does not, and could not, dispense Abraham from the natural laws prohibition of murder: As the Apostle says (2 Tim ii. 13), God continueth faithful, He cannot deny Himself. But He would deny Himself if He were to do away with the very order of His own justice, since He is justice itself. Wherefore God cannot dispense a man so that it be lawful for him not to direct himself to God, or not to be subject to His justice, even in those matters in which men are directed to one another.35 Yet, as the eternal lawgiver, God can order Abrahams action so that it would not be murder. Without violating the internal requirements of natural law, God can directly ordain the action to the end of the eternal law. It is crucial to see that this direct ordering of human action is not an arbitrary instance of divine power, but rather pertains to the same movement to which natural law belongs: the eternal law, Gods wise ordering of created things to their fulllment in Gods goodness. What would be theft for a human being on his or her own authority, is not theft when ordained by God: God directly ordains this particular distribution of material possessions toward the ultimate end of human union with God. What would be murder for a man or a woman on his or her own authority is not murder when ordained by God: God directly ordains this particular punishment of death likewise toward the ultimate end. What would be unjust sexual intercourse for a man or a woman on his or her own authority, as outside licit marriage bonds, is not when commanded by God: God ordains this particular union of man and woman toward the ultimate end.36 Gods ordination in these exceptional cases does not arbitrarily dispense particular human beings from the justice that the natural law requires. Rather Gods ordination directly accomplishes in these cases the end of the natural law, namely the wise and just ordering of all created goods. This account of reality is, of course, radically theocentric. From eternity, God moves all created things, in accord with their natures, to the sharing in Gods goodness that God knows and wills for them.37 God cannot dispense from or change the goods that fulll human nature, and so the rst principles of the natural law are unchangeable. However in rare cases God can change the secondary principles or conclusions that indicate the ways of rightly attaining the goods, without thereby denying the general truth of the secondary principles. God can do this because, as the giver of all the goods, God can distribute them justly and wisely in a manner that transcends, even while being analogous to, the limited jurisdiction of human lawgivers.38 In his wisdom and goodness, God has authority over the distribution of human
2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

160 Matthew Levering goods: this follows from the doctrine of the eternal law. Against anthropocentric conceptions, natural law participates in, rather than displaces or rivals, Gods authoritative ordering.39 Duns Scotus In seeking to work out a doctrine of natural law, Scotus begins by questioning Abraham. Although he nds a certain senselessness to Abrahams nearsacrice of Isaac, he celebrates this apparent senselessness as divine sense. Scotus summarizes the problem as he sees it: My question then is this. Granted that all the circumstances are the same in regard to this act of killing a man except the circumstances of its being prohibited in one case and not prohibited in another, could God cause that act which is circumstantially the same, but performed by different individuals, to be prohibited and illicit in one case and not prohibited but licit in the other?40 In Scotuss view, this is exactly what God has done in Abrahams case. For Abraham in the case of the near-sacrice of Isaac, God makes licit the killing of the innocent. The apparent senselessness arises from the fact that the same God also commands, in the Decalogue, You shall not kill (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17). This apparent senselessness is compounded by Scotuss refusal to appeal to distinctions between murder and justied killing, e.g. in self-defense. He notes that the typical manner of explain[ing] away those texts where God seems to have given a dispensation . . . is to claim that though a dispensation could be granted to an act that falls under a generic description, it could never be given insofar as it is prohibited according to the intention of the commandment, and hence would not be against the prohibition.41 In Scotuss view, the problem with explaining away difcult cases based upon dispensations in certain circumstances is that they cannot account for cases such as Abrahams, which involve Gods command to kill the innocent. For Scotus, the case of the Aqedah is no mere isolated incident, but one among many other instances in which God commands, as licit, acts of killing that elsewhere, in the same circumstances, God prohibits as illicit.42 Aquinas, we recall, also rejects the view that God dispenses from the Decalogue. He argues instead that all human life belongs to God and deserves the punishment of death; God can carry out this punishment through human instruments without causing them to violate the unchangeable commandment You shall not kill, which proscribes unjust killing. By contrast, rather than beginning with Gods action and accounting for Abrahams action instrumentally, Scotus begins with Abrahams actionhis acceptance of Gods command to kill his child Isaac. Scotus does not place Isaac into the context of the relational ordering of creature to Creator, in which ordering Isaacs life is from God and under the penalty of sin.43 Rather, Scotus asks how Abraham, if God unchangeably commands to all persons You shall not kill, could justly will to kill his child. Abraham, Scotus suggests, could not justly do it even if commanded by Godunless God also
2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

God and Natural Law 161 dispensed Abraham from the commandment You shall not kill. But, as both Scotus and Aquinas hold, no dispensation could be possible if the commandment belongs to the unchangeable natural law. Scotus therefore reasons that You shall not kill does not belong to the unchangeable natural law. The unchangeable natural law, he observes, commands that which has a formal goodness whereby it [what is commanded] is essentially ordered to mans ultimate end, so that through it a man is directed towards his end and prohibits that which has a formal evil which turns one from ones ultimate end.44 The rst two precepts of the Decalogue, You shall not have other gods before me and You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain, belong on this account to the unchangeable natural law. These precepts order human beings directly toward their end, God. To disobey these precepts would be, under any terms, to cut oneself off from God. As regards the status of the third precept of the Decalogue, Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy, Scotus is somewhat in doubt, because he wonders whether being ordered to God as ones end requires worshipping God at this particular time, rather than at another time. The other seven commandments of the Decalogue, Scotus argues, do not possess strict necessity as regards attaining God as ones ultimate end. Having afrmed the rst two commandments of the Decalogue (those about God) as necessarily following from the rst practical principles known from their terms45 and thereby as unchangeable natural law, Scotus points out that the last seven commandments (known as the precepts of the second table46) can be dispensed with without necessarily causing the person to fail to attain the ultimate end. Although Scotus does not say so, one assumes that only God can issue such a dispensation, because these seven commandments are exceedingly in harmony with that [natural] law47 expressed by the rst two commandments. This harmony is such that, speaking broadly, one can conceive of the entire Decalogue as belonging to the natural law. By means of this broad sense, Scotus is able to avoid disagreeing with the canon law that, as Aquinas observed, held that the moral precepts of the Decalogue belong to the unchangeable natural law. Speaking in a strict sense, however, Scotus holds that the last seven commandments of the Decalogue contain no goodness such as is necessarily prescribed for attaining the goodness of the ultimate end, nor in what is forbidden is there such malice as would turn one away necessarily from the last end.48 To take the example of You shall not kill (Scotus himself employs other examples), even the killing of the innocent does not necessarily constitute such a malicious deed that it cuts one off from God. One can only be cut off from God by directly turning away from ones obligations to God. The commands that have to do with other human beings cannot therefore be of the same import as the commands regarding God. As Scotus says about the last seven commandments, even if the good found in these maxims were not commanded, the last end [of humans as union with God]
2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

162 Matthew Levering could still be loved and attained, whereas if the evil proscribed by them were not forbidden, it would still be consistent with the acquisition of the ultimate end.49 These are strong words, no matter with what qualications one takes them.50 Could God really make murder not intrinsically and as such an impediment to ones ability to attain to eternal life in union with God? Scotuss argument is premised on the fact that the killing of the innocent has as its object human beings, whereas in contrast the rst two commandments of the Decalogue regard God immediately as object.51 As an objection to his position, he cites two biblical passages: Romans 13:9, The commandments, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet, and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, You shall love your neighbor as yourself ; and Matthew 22:3740, And he [Jesus] said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and rst commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.52 It would seem, Scotus remarks, that these words of the Apostle Paul and of Jesus Christ himself inseparably unite love of God (the rst table of the commandments of the Decalogue) and love of neighbor (the second table). Were this the case, then Scotuss view that the last seven commandments of the Decalogue are not strictly unchangeable natural law, but rather are dispensable precepts that nonetheless possess a signicant harmony with the commandments of the unchangeable natural law (i.e. the rst two commandments pertaining to God), would be untenable. If love of God cannot be separated from love of neighbor, then the Decalogues commandments about how to treat other human beings would belong just as strictly to the natural law as would the Decalogues commandments about God. The ultimate end (God) would in a strict sense necessarily be lost not only by disobeying the commandments that pertain directly to God, but also by disobeying the commandments that pertain to how to treat human beings. To this challenge to his position, Scotus offers three replies. First, he proposes that while the prohibition against hating God pertains strictly to the natural law, the command to love God (Matthew 22:37) does not. This is so because [j]ust when one is required to love God is not clear,53 as Scotus had also argued in regard to the commandment about the sabbath. In other words, hating God clearly cuts one off from the ultimate end, but actively loving God need not always be done in order to attain human fulllment in the ultimate end. On this view, actively loving God is not commanded by the natural law. Actively loving ones neighbor, then, would not belong strictly to the natural law either. Second, Scotus points out that God may be permitting the damnation of ones neighbor. We would not want to love the neighbor any more than
2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

God and Natural Law 163 God loves the neighbor. As Scotus puts it, it is not necessary that I will this good for another, if God does not want to be the good of such, as when he destines one and not the other, wishing to be the good of the former but not of the latter.54 In other words, the commandment that we love our neighbor in particular ways could not belong strictly to the natural law if God himself, in willing the ultimate end, does not will to include the neighbor in the community of Gods beloved. Loving God does not mean that we have to love someone whom God, by withholding grace, does not love.55 These two points possess a certain logical rigor but may not be particularly theologically attractive. It should be pointed out, then, that Scotuss goal is not to demonstrate either of the above two points. Rather he wishes to demonstrate that the Decalogues commandments about love of neighbor do not strictly pertain to the natural law, because ultimately the natural law consists simply in what brings us to attain our end in God. The natural law is ultimately about God, and God can and does, when he wishes (e.g., Abraham), release human beings from the performance of the other commandments of the Decalogue. Scotuss position thus has two aims: to retain the absolute primacy and priority of God, and to account for the divine contradictions to the last seven commandments of the Decalogue that Scotus nds in Scripture. Given the primacy of God, for Scotus active love of God need only occur when God wills that it should, and this will can vary; and similarly active love of neighbor need only occur when God himself wills love for the neighbor, which (given the predestination of some) varies from neighbor to neighbor. The only invariable element that thus pertains to the natural law is that we must not hate God, and must not hate his order of predestination. Scotus gives a third reply. He argues that one could want my neighbor to love God as I ought to love him (which would be a kind of necessary conclusion from the practical principles) and still . . . not will him this or that good pertaining to the second table, since the latter is not a necessary truth.56 In other words, even were it strictly necessary to love ones neighbor as oneself in order to attain the ultimate end, that necessity would not mean that the last seven commandments of the Decalogue were strictly necessary in the way that the commandments pertaining to God (at least the rst two) are. One need not will as regards ones neighbor that he not be killedone might even will that he be killedin order to will that ones neighbor should love God properly. On this argument, corporeal life or conjugal delity, and so on are not the crucial thing.57 Even should one wish to deny ones neighbor one of these earthly aspects, these earthly aspects are not necessary. The only necessary thing is union with God. This reply makes particularly clear Scotuss focus upon the primacy and priority of God, who alone is necessary for human fulllment and who thereby alone is the subject of commandments that strictly belong to the
2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

164 Matthew Levering natural law. Once this is established, Scotus is perfectly willing to grant that one could say to the quotations from Paul and Christ that God has now explained a higher love of neighbor that transcends that which is included in, or follows from, the principles of the law of nature.58 God can certainly command that we do more than what is strictly necessary, in order to show our love for him. On the basis of natural law, Scotus holds, love of neighbor can only extend to loving the neighbor as God loves him and willing for him what God wills for him (perhaps not much). But if God so commands, as seems for Scotus to be the case in the New Testament, then the love of neighbor can be extended to include willing him these other goods, or at least not wishing him the opposite evils, such as not wanting him to be deprived unjustly of corporeal life, or conjugal delity, or temporal goods, and the like.59 So long as these goods are not at the same level as God in terms of the natural law, Scotus gladly includes them: the Lawgiver intended the love of neighbor to be observed according to the precepts of the second table.60 The precepts regarding human-to-human relationships, in short, are not natural law, but they are the will of the Lawgiver. This will can change; the Lawgiver can will to ignore the precepts in particular cases. Scotus compares Gods power over these precepts to that of human legislators in relation to positive law: This is also the way any legislator dispenses unconditionally when he revokes a precept of positive law made by himself. He does not allow the prohibited act or precept to remain as before, but removes the prohibition or makes what was formerly illicit now licit.61 These precepts, in short, while in general harmony with the natural law precepts regarding God, can be, when God decrees, simply removed. There is nothing intrinsic to the relationship of human beings with God that requires human beings not to kill innocent human beings. If God so chooses, killing innocent human beings can be an act that fully accords with worshipping and honoring God (that is, in accord with the proper precepts of the natural law). Scotus is not saying that God wills such dispensations frequently. But because of the radical difference posited by Scotus between the precepts that have to do with God, and those that have to do with other human beings, he concludes that no act toward another human being is absolutely bound up in ones relationship with God. On this basis he interprets as follows the case of the Aqedah and the other cases cited by Aquinas: To kill, to steal, to commit adultery, are against the precepts of the decalogue, as is clear from Exodus [20:13]: You shall not kill. Yet God seems to have dispensed from these. This is clear in regard to homicide from Genesis 22, regarding Abraham and the son he was about to sacrice; or for theft from Exodus 11:[2] and [12:35] where he ordered the sons of Israel to despoil the Egyptians, which despoilment is taking what
2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

God and Natural Law 165 belongs to another without the owners consent, which is the denition of theft. As for the third, there is Hosea 1: Make children of fornications.62 For Scotus, Genesis 22 involves the planning, at the command of God, of a murder. Murder, while generally illicit, is not in his view strictly illicit. God can make murder licit, because ultimately ones relationship to God does not depend upon how one treats other people, so long as one remains obedient to God. It is worth noting again that Scotus by no means denies that murder is generally illicit, generally disharmonious with the natural law precepts regarding God. They are disharmonious because God wills them so. In this fashion Scotus interprets Romans 7:7, where Paul states that if it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin. I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, You shall not covet. Scotus observes on this passage that corrupt minds, ignorant of God and his law, require both Gods existence and ethical norms to be revealed. For this reason God reveals to Israel (and thus to Paul) that such sins of lust are prohibited by the second table.63 Although the prohibitions are not for Scotus absolute, since he has unhinged them from the commandments regarding God, nonetheless they are absolute when God wills them, which is almost always. Scotuss concern is to elevate and prioritize God, not to unleash antinomianism in human affairs. In this regard, he adds a ringing afrmation that in every state [from the state of innocence to the state of glory] all the commandments have been observed and should be observed.64 He also takes pains to minimize the number of divine dispensations from the second table. The despoiling of the Egyptians, for instance, need not be theft. What was taken could be considered as the rightful wages of the enslaved children of Israel, and moreover, as Aquinas likewise argues, Since God was the higher owner, he could have transferred the ownership of these things, even if the lower owners were unwilling.65 As we have seen, too, Scotus grants in a broad sense that the commandments of the second table belong to the natural law, although strictly speaking they do not. In general, people should act as though these commandments do belong to the natural law, because they are Gods commandments and they are harmonious with worshipping and honoring God (that is, with the natural law strictly speaking). Few dispensations from the commandments regarding other human beings can be found. Yet because of the transcendence of God, worshipping and honoring him are not on the same level as actions pertaining to human beings. God can will that a particular act of murder be morally good, but God cannot will that not worshipping or not honoring him be morally good.66 In Scotuss view, as noted above, the Gospel adds something to what is owed in love of neighbor. Beyond loving our neighbor as God loves him (perhaps not much), the Gospel adds willing him these other goods, or at
2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

166 Matthew Levering least not wishing him the opposite evils, such as not wanting him to be deprived unjustly of corporeal life, or conjugal delity, or temporal goods, and the like.67 Scotus is thereby able to afrm, with certain limitations, Jesus statement regarding love of God and love of neighbor fullling all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:40). As Scotus puts it, the whole lawso far as the second table and the prophets are concerneddepends on this commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself, again understanding this not as something that follows of necessity from the rst practical principles of the law of nature, but as the Lawgiver intended the love of neighbor to be observed according to the precepts of the second table.68 Thus the key is the will of the Lawgiver, God. Scotus recognizes that God wills, in general, that the commandments of the Decalogue regarding ones neighbor be observed. He also recognizes that in the Gospel God wills that ones neighbor be loved, not only so much as God loves him, but even as one loves oneself. These commands of God are immensely important for Scotus. His insistence on the radical distinction between the rst table and the second table intends to ensure, however, that the commandments of the second table receive obedience as Gods commandments, rather than as something within human nature that compels God or that is strictly linked with worshipping and honoring God.69 III. Concluding Reections Taking seriously the biblical claim that the just punishment of original sin is death (e.g., Genesis 3:19; Romans 5, 6:23, 8:2; 1 Corinthians 15; 2 Corinthians 1; Hebrews 2), Aquinas observes, All men alike, both guilty and innocent, die the death of nature: which death of nature is inicted by the power of God on account of original sin, according to 1 Kings ii. 6: The Lord killeth and maketh alive.70 As we have seen, for Aquinas, since all things are participated and received from God, there is no autonomous possession by creatures of anything. Rather, God primarily possesses all things and can justly redistribute all things. Moreover, God can do so by acting through human causes. Aquinas therefore argues that the Aqedah cannot be read as if God were commanding Abraham to commit murder. Gods command signals that even Isaac, the child of the promise, the long-awaited heir to the great covenant, is utterly in Gods hands; the promise and the covenant do not become autonomous possessions of human beings. This, then, is no murderous command, and Abraham is implicated in no murderous intent. Without turning from the natural law, Abraham obeys the source of the natural law, who commands the due punishment of deathwithout intending to exact it. God is the primary agent in Genesis 22. Scotus, too, reads God as the agent in Genesis 22. Yet Scotus holds that God does indeed command a homicide, and that Abrahams actions can only be construed as murderous. Murder does not always, on this view, separate a
2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

God and Natural Law 167 human being from the God whom he or she worships and reveres. On the contrary, sometimes God wills the murder of human beings, the killing of the innocent.71 For Scotus, the commandment You shall not kill is not intrinsically bound to the commandments regarding God, and so the injunction against murder does not strictly speaking belong to the natural law. The natural law includes only those principles and conclusions of practical reason that are necessarily true,72 and only those principles and conclusions which pertain directly to worshiping and revering God are necessarily true, because God can and does dispense with precepts that order human beings to each other. Scotus thereby secures the radical difference between God and the created order. Scotus and Aquinas agree in their accounts of natural law that the main agent is God. They differ as to whether Abraham and God are implicated in homicidal actions, and they differ as to whether homicide is strictly and unchangeably against the natural law. At the heart of their divergence is that Aquinas views Abraham differently than does Scotus. For Aquinas, Gods agency lies at the heart of human moral action, and so Gods ordering of Isaacs death toward the just end of punishment sufces to make Abrahams action, as commanded by God with this ordering in mind, not murderous. Scotus, on the other hand, does not try to justify Abrahams actions vis--vis Isaac from within a framework of eternal law. Rather, he argues that there is no ordering of human actions vis--vis other human beings (no law) that intrinsically pertains to human ordering to the ultimate end. For Scotus, when God wills murderous action on the part of an agent, such action does not divert the agent from the agents ultimate end, union with God. What Scotus has done, in short, is effectively to disjoin Gods law (as opposed to Gods will) from human action vis--vis other human beings. Gods law, as expressed in natural law, now pertains solely to human action vis--vis God. Once conceived as independent of Gods lawan autonomy strictly limited in Scotus by Gods will which human beings are required freely to obeyhuman action vis--vis other human beings takes on two elements that continue to inform modern theology. First, Gods intrinsic connection with human moral action is weakened. It becomes difcult to conceive of Abraham as anything but an autonomous agent whose actions, on their own terms, are simply homicidal. Second, the intrinsic meaningfulness of human action vis--vis other human beings is called into question. To return to where we began, I would suggest that one can see the working out of these two problems in later thinkers such as Kant and Thiel. Where Scotus gives the second table autonomy from Gods law, though not from Gods will, Kant conceives natural law solely as an autonomous human construction by practical reason. No other mode can be credible: for Kant Gods supposed communication of law by other modes can be asserted only on the basis of historical documents and is never apodictically certain. After
2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

168 Matthew Levering all, the revelation has reached the inquisitor only through men and has been interpreted by men, and even did it appear to have come to him from God himself (like the command delivered to Abraham to slaughter his own son like a sheep) it is at least possible that in this instance a mistake has prevailed.73 Kants approach gives to human practical reason the governing role possessed in Aquinass account by Gods eternal law. Correspondingly, Kant cannot conceive that the killing of Isaac, had it happened, could be anything other than homicide, because he lacks Aquinass understanding of Gods authority over the goods of the created order, including the good of covenantal life. If Kant displays the rst problem Scotuss position raises, namely the autonomy from Gods law of human actions vis--vis other human beings, Thiel particularly exhibits the second problem. For Thiel, the world of human action, marked by suffering and death, has lost its order and intelligibility. God can give meaning to this world only extrinsically, by means of an eschatological promise indicating his will to restore all things at the end of time by means of the general resurrection. On this view natural law takes on an eschatological hue, since Gods ordering is entirely bound to his will to resurrect human beings at the end of time. The present life is not marked by a divine order other than the divine promise or will in Jesus Christ to bring about order eschatologically.74 Kants Enlightenment condence in human practical reasons ability to discern a moral ordering disappears in Thiel, for whom both human and divine ordering have been defeated by the chaos of suffering and death. A doctrine of natural law could hardly be possible in such a framework, since there is no efcacious lawgiver (God or man). Thus whereas Kant decries the near-sacrice of Isaac as utterly and unavoidably senseless, Thiel decries all death as utterly senseless. As with Kants practical postulate, though in an explicitly Christian mode, Thiel hinges everything upon the world to come. Kant and Thiel, then, represent two modes of anthropocentric thought regarding the ordering of human action in this worldKant profoundly condent, Thiel not. By contrast, Aquinas and Scotus offer two modes of theocentric natural law thought. But Scotus is theocentric only to a point, at which he stops in order to preserve Gods absolute freedom and transcendence. By claiming that human actions vis--vis other human beings do not participate in the ordering-to-God expressed by human actions vis--vis God, Scotus refuses to allow the theocentric ordering to go all the way down; the ordering, as regards human-to-human actions, remains extrinsic. Human-toGod ecstasis, on this view, is not mirrored by human-to-human ecstasis.75 Scotuss limited form of theocentric natural law generates a strong sense of an autonomous human realm (however answerable to the divine will), in which human-to-human actions have no intrinsic ordering, and human nature (outside the will) is not intrinsically teleologically ordered to God.76 Lacking an intrinsic ecstatic ordering, human relationships come to be seen as
2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

God and Natural Law 169 fundamentally based upon power. Thus separated from its theocentric commitments, the doctrine of natural law becomes, in modernity, at best a pragmatic tool for the diverse social and individual constructions of human well-being, rather than a divine instruction in the pattern of gifting and receptivity.

NOTES 1 2 For further theological reection on the Aqedah, drawing upon numerous Jewish and Christian sources, see Matthew Levering, Sacrice and Community: Jewish Offering and Christian Eucharist (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005), chapter 1. Aquinass and Scotuss discussions belong within an extensive medieval engagement with the problem. Within this context, Aquinas and Scotus importantly agree that the notion of dispensations from the unchangeable natural law will not work. For medieval background see Odon Lottin, Le droit naturel chez saint Thomas dAquin et ses prdcesseurs, second edition, (Bruges: Beyart, 1931). Immanuel Kant, The Conict of the Faculties (New York: Abaris, 1979), p. 115, cited and discussed in R. W. L. Moberly, The Bible, Theology, and Faith: A Study of Abraham and Jesus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 129. Kant, The Conict of the Faculties, p. 115. For an effort to respond to Kants account, see Thomas L. Pangle, Political Philosophy and the God of Abraham (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), p. 164 f. Pangles argument, quite similar to that of Duns Scotus, which we will discuss further on in this essay, is that the Bible upholds a radical theocentrism. The apparent arbitrariness allows for the transcendence of Gods Goodness over against created divine laws regarding human-to-human relationships. Yet, the arbitrariness is a limited one, for as Pangle says if God had actually allowed the sacrice [of Isaac], then the God of the Bible, His covenants, His word, His justice, His very holiness and perfection, would have utterly altered in their meaning (p. 167). Immanuel Kant, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, trans. Theodore M. Greene and Hoyt H. Hudson (New York: Harper & Row, 1960), p. 174. See also, regarding Kierkegaards interpretation of Abrahams faith, Pangle, Political Philosophy and the God of Abraham, pp. 172181. Kant, Religion with the Limits of Reason Alone, p. 175. Ibid. I discuss this question in detail in Sacrice and Community, chapter 2, and in Christ the Priest: An Exploration of Sth III, q. 22, The Thomist, 71 (2007) pp. 379417. For further discussion, advancing well beyond Thiel, see Emmanuel Perrier, O.P., Lenjeu christologique de la satisfaction (I) and Lenjeu christologique de la satisfaction (II), Revue Thomiste, 103 (2003), pp. 105136 and 203247; Rik Van Nieuwenhove, St Anselm and St Thomas Aquinas on Satisfaction: or how Catholic and Protestant understandings of the Cross differ, Angelicum, 80 (2003), pp. 159176; Romanus Cessario, O.P., Aquinas on Christian Salvation, in Thomas Weinandy, O.F.M. Cap., Daniel Keating, and John Yocum (eds), Aquinas on Doctrine: A Critical Introduction (New York, NY: T. & T. Clark, 2004), pp. 117138; David Bentley Hart, A Gift Exceeding Every Debt: An Eastern Orthodox Appreciation of Anselms Cur Deus Homo, Pro Ecclesia, 7/3 (Summer, 1998), pp. 333349; idem, The Beauty of the Innite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), pp. 360372. John E. Thiel, God, Evil, and Innocent Suffering: A Theological Reection (New York, NY: Crossroad, 2002), p. 155. Thiel provides a misleading account of Augustines position that God does not do evil, though God does cause just suffering; all human persons do evil and so cause evil suffering; there is no innocent suffering (p. 7). While Augustine recognizes that all owe the penalty of death, he distinguishes between kinds of suffering and death, or else he could not differentiate between, e.g., John the Baptists innocent death (Matt. 14:10) and Herods guilty death (Acts 12:23). As regards sacricial logic, Augustine, Anselm, and other patristic and medieval theologians distinguish between oppressors and victims as

3 4

6 7 8

2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

170 Matthew Levering

well as between charitable sacrice and violent victimization. In afrming that God permits but does not directly will evils, Aquinas quotes Augustine (Qq. 83.3): No wise man is the cause of another man becoming worse. Now God surpasses all men in wisdom. Much less therefore is God the cause of man becoming worse: and when He is said to be the cause of a thing, He is said to will it (quoted in Summa theologiae I, q. 19, a. 9, sed contra). See also such texts as St. John of Damascus, The Orthodox Faith, Book IV, chap. 19, in St. John of Damascus: Writings, trans. Frederic H. Chase, Jr. (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1958), pp. 383385. Thiel, God, Evil, and Innocent Suffering, p. 155. Ibid., p. 156. Ibid. See my Sacrice and Community, especially chapter 2, and Scripture and Metaphysics: Aquinas and the Renewal of Trinitarian Theology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), chapter 3, which responds in particular to Jon D. Levensons Creation and the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish Drama of Divine Omnipotence (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994). I have discussed Scotuss break with the doctrines of participation and nal causality in my Participation and Exegesis: Response to Catherine Pickstock, Modern Theology, 21/4 (October, 2005), pp. 587601. Lacking participation and nal causality, his account of human nature leads him toward the modern view of nature and inclination as constrictive rather than liberative. The human will then takes center stage. As Hans Mhle observes, for Scotus, The distinctive character of freedom is seen in the fact that the will is not aimed at naturally impressed ends that are themselves to be understood as nal causes, as Aristotelian-Thomistic naturalism would have it; instead, the will can determine itself to action in complete independence from any nal cause as coprinciple (Mhle, Scotuss Theory of Natural Law, in Thomas Williams (ed), The Cambridge Companion to Duns Scotus [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003], pp. 312331, at p. 324). Mhle goes on to sum up Scotuss position as a denaturalized conception of the will (p. 325) with crucial consequences for Scotuss doctrine of natural law. For further discussion see Hannes Mhle, Ethik als scientia practica nach Johannes Duns Scotus: Eine philosophische Grundlegung (Mnster: Aschendorff, 1995), especially pp. 338389; Thomas M. Osborne, Jr., Love of Self and Love of God in Thirteenth-Century Ethics (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005), especially chapter 5; Olivier Boulnois, Si Dieu nexistait pas, faudrait-il linventer? Situation mtaphysique de lthique scotiste, Philosophie, 61 (1999), pp. 5074; Emmanuel Perrier, O.P., Duns Scotus Facing Reality: Between Absolute Contingency and Unquestionable Consistency, Modern Theology, 21/4 (October, 2005), pp. 619643. I-II, q. 94, a. 4, ad 1. Ibid. Cf. Ulrich Khns effort, from a Lutheran perspective, to understand law in Aquinas: Khn, Via Caritatis: Theologie des Gesetzes bei Thomas von Aquin (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1965). Praising Khns book as the nest study of Thomass theology of law, Fergus Kerr neatly summarizes Khns viewpoint: Khn traces the history of the idea of natural law through Thomass work. In the Commentary on the Sentences and on Matthew, he shows, law is treated in the light of the virtue of Christ. In the Summa contra Gentiles and in the Compendium Theologiae law is treated in the light of God as creator. In the Summa Theologiae, by contrast, law is discussed neither in Christology nor in de Deo creatore, but in the context of the theology of the moral agent as imago Dei returning to God; law is the exterior principle that moves the human being to do well, ultimately to attain beatitude in the communion of saints. Law is oriented to beatitude. Natural law is a kind of reection of the eternal lawrequiring to be taken up into the Mosaic Law, oriented then towards the promise of salvation; and then to be taken into the New Law, in which the believer is instructed by the teaching of Christ interiorized by the Spirit received in the sacraments, the inward grace that allows us to keep the Law and thus attain the righteousness (Fergus Kerr, After Aquinas: Versions of Thomism [Oxford: Blackwell, 2002], chap. 6, Natural Law: Incommensurable Readings, p. 112). For Khn, Kerr points out, Aquinass theology of law is not as rationalistic as Luther supposed it to be, but neither is it explicitly Christological enough because it lacks Luthers recognition that righteousness never becomes intrinsic to us. I-II, q. 94, a. 5, sed contra.

10 11 12 13


15 16


2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

God and Natural Law 171

18 I-II, q. 94, a. 5, obj. 2; cf. I-II, q. 100, a. 8. For further discussion of Aquinass treatment of these and other instances from the Old Testament, see Romanus Cessario, O.P., Introduction to Moral Theology (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2001), pp. 9597; John Boler, Aquinas on Exceptions in Natural Law, in Scott MacDonald and Eleonore Stump (eds), Aquinass Moral Theory: Essays in Honor of Norman Kretzmann (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999), pp. 161204; Patrick Lee, Permanence of the Ten Commandments: St. Thomas and His Modern Commentators, Theological Studies, 42/3 (September, 1981), pp. 422443; Peter A. Kwasniewski, William of Ockham and the Metaphysical Roots of Natural Law, The Aquinas Review, 11 (2004), pp. 184, at pp. 2935; Jean Porter, Natural and Divine Law: Reclaiming the Tradition for Christian Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), pp. 14856. In her brief treatment of Aquinas on these exceptional cases, Porter quotes I-II, q. 100, a. 8, ad 3 in support of her view that Aquinas emphasizes human interpretive authority: Here we see Aquinas explicitly stating what had been implicit in the treatment of this question at least as far back as John the Teutons gloss on the Decretum. While the precepts of the natural law may be supreme and overriding in their authority, nonetheless they must be interpreted in order to be applied. In other words, in difcult cases what is in question is not the binding force of a particular precept, but its applicability to this or that specic instance. That applicability, in turn, must be determined in the light of ones best insights into the purposes of the natural law (p. 155). In the passage quoted, however, Aquinas makes clear that human jurisdiction is quite limited. Once one places the focus on God, as Aquinas does, then one has the resources needed for approaching the interpretation and applicability of natural law precepts. See I, q. 21, a. 1. I-II, q. 94, a. 4. I-II, q. 93, a. 5. I-II, q. 93, a. 5, ad 1. I-II, q. 93, a. 6. Here Aquinas draws together Ciceronian and Aristotelian insights. Cf. the discussion in Harry V. Jaffa, Thomism and Aristotelianism: A Study of the Commentary by Thomas Aquinas on the Nicomachean Ethics (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1952), which nds, mistakenly I think, Aquinass natural law doctrine to be incompatible with Aristotles natural right. As Russell Hittinger puts it, in Augustine and Aquinas there is a clear distinction between the minds discovering or discerning a norm and the being or cause of the norm. The human mind can go on to make new rules because it is rst ruled. This, in essence, is the doctrine of participation as applied to natural law. Natural law designates for [Josef] Fuchs, however, the human power to make moral judgments, not any moral norm regulating that powerat least no norm extrinsic to the operations of the mind (Hittinger, The First Grace: Rediscovering the Natural Law in a Post-Christian World [Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2003], p. 24). Hittinger cites Fuchss Moral Demands and Personal Obligations, trans. Brian McNeil (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1993). See also Stephen L. Brock, The Legal Character of Natural Law According to St. Thomas Aquinas, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Toronto, 1988; Russell Hittinger, Yves R. Simon on Law, Nature, and Practical Reason, in Anthony O. Simon (ed), Acquaintance with the Absolute: The Philosophy of Yves R. Simon (New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 1998), pp. 101127; Steven A. Long, The Teleological Grammar of the Moral Act (Naples, FL: Sapientia Press, 2007), chap. 1. I-II, q. 91, a. 3, ad 2. I-II, q. 91, a. 2. Ibid. See I-II, q. 94, a. 2. Speculative reason and practical reason are thus both involved, but in different ways. I-II, q. 92, a. 1. For Aquinass biblical rendering of the content of this denition, see Jean Tonneau, O.P., The Teaching of the Thomist Tract on Law, The Thomist, 34 (1970), pp. 1383; see also Tonneaus notes and appendices to his translation of Thomas Aquinas, Summa thologique: La loi ancienne, 2 vols. (Paris: Descle, 1971). For further discussion, see Matthew Levering, Biblical Natural Law: A Theocentric and Teleological Approach (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). Regarding human positive law, Aquinas explains: As Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i. 5), that which is not just seems to be no law

19 20 21 22 23


25 26 27 28 29


2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

172 Matthew Levering

at all: wherefore the force of a law depends on the extent of its justice. Now in human affairs a thing is said to be just, from being right, according to the rule of reason. But the rst rule of reason is the law of nature, as is clear from what has been stated above (Q. 91, A. 2 ad 2). Consequently every human law has just so much of the nature of law, as it is derived from the law of nature. But if in any point it deects from the law of nature, it is no longer a law but a perversion of law. But it must be noted that something may be derived from the natural law in two ways: rst, as a conclusion from premises, secondly, by way of determination of certain generalities. The rst way is like to that by which, in sciences, demonstrated conclusions are drawn from the principles: while the second mode is likened to that whereby, in the arts, general forms are particularized as to details: thus the craftsman needs to determine the general form of a house to some particular shape. Some things are therefore derived from the general principles of the natural law, by way of conclusions; e.g., that one must not kill may be derived as a conclusion from the principle that one should do harm to no man: while some are derived therefrom by way of determination; e.g., the law of nature has it that the evil-doer should be punished; but that he be punished in this or that way, is a determination of the law of nature (I-II, q. 95, a. 2). Obviously I cannot answer this profoundly difcult question here. Seeking to expose a central mistake of many theodicies, David Bentley Hart observes that when any meaningful difference between will and permission has been excluded, and when the transcendent causality of the creator God has been confused with the immanent web of causation that constitutes the world of our experiences, it becomes impossible to imagine that what God wills might not be immediately convertible with what occurs in time; and thus both the authority of Scripture and the justice of God must fall before the inexorable logic of absolute divine sovereignty. At its most unfortunate, this exaggerated adoration of Gods sheer omnipotence can yield conclusions as foolish as Calvins assertion, in Book III of the Institutes, that God predestined the fall of man so as to show forth his greatness in both the salvation and the damnation of those he has eternally preordained to their several fates (Hart, The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? [Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005], p. 90). I-II, q. 94, a. 5, ad 2. Ibid. See also I-II, q. 100, a. 8, ad 3. On the hierarchical ordering of goods in the fulllment of human nature, see, e.g., Benedict Ashley, O.P., What Is the End of the Human Person? The Vision of God and Integral Human Fullment, in Luke Gormally (ed), Moral Truth and Moral Tradition: Essays in Honour of Peter Geach and Elizabeth Anscombe (Dublin: Blackrock, 1994), pp. 6896; Russell Hittinger, A Critique of the New Natural Law Theory (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1987). See also Craig A. Boyd, Participation Metaphysics, the Imago Dei, and the Natural Law in Aquinas Ethics, New Blackfriars, 88/1015 (May, 2007), pp. 274287. I, q. 100, a. 8, ad 2. As Aquinas puts it, Consequently when the children of Israel, by Gods command, took away the spoils of the Egyptians, this was not theft; since it was due to them by the sentence of God. Likewise when Abraham consented to slay his son, he did not consent to murder, because his son was due to be slain by the command of God, Who is Lord of life and death: for He it is who inicts the punishment of death on all men, both godly and ungodly, on account of the sin of our rst parent, and if a man be the executor of that sentence by Divine authority, he will be no murderer any more than God would be. Again Osee, by taking unto himself a wife of fornications, or an adulterous woman, was not guilty either of adultery or of fornication: because he took unto himself one who was his by command of God, Who is the Author of the institution of marriage (I, q. 100, a. 8, ad 3). Cf. for further discussion I, qq. 19, 22, and 103. In this regard Aquinas remarks that the precepts of the Decalogue, as to the essence of justice which they contain, are unchangeable [immutabilia sunt]: but as to any determination by application to individual actionsfor instance that this or that be murder, theft, or adultery, or notin this point they admit of change; sometimes by Divine authority alone, namely, in such matters as are exclusively of Divine institution, as marriage and the like; sometimes also by human authority, namely in such matters as are subject to human jurisdiction: for in this respect men stand in the place of God: and yet not in all respects (I, q. 100, a. 8, ad 3). As an example of such human jurisdiction, Aquinas observes that when


32 33 34

35 36

37 38

2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

God and Natural Law 173

a mans property is taken from him, if it be due that he should lose it, this is not theft or robbery as forbidden by the decalogue (ibid.). For further discussion of human law see I-II, qq. 9597. In I-II, q. 95, a. 2, developing Augustines teaching, Aquinas observes that a human law that deviates from the law of nature . . . is no longer a law but a perversion of law. Thus every true human law derives from the natural law, but as Aquinas points out this derivation occurs in two ways, either as a conclusion from principles or as a determination of the natural law, for example particular modes of punishing evildoers. The latter have no other force than that of human law. The ceremonial and judicial precepts of the Mosaic law are divinely ordained determinations of the natural law. As David Williams has shown, Francisco Surez, S.J.s account of the unchangeability of natural law, in Surezs De legibus ac Deo legislatore, follows Aquinass (Williams, The Immutability of Natural Law according to Suarez, The Thomist, 62 [1998], pp. 97115, at p. 111). In this essay Williams argues, too, that Surezs account of natural law is not so different from Aquinass as the new natural law theorists have supposed. Thomas Hibbs offers a nuanced critique of Surezs natural law doctrine, emphasizing that The Suarezian disjunction of the obligatory and the good is not operative in Thomass writings. On the contrary, the intrinsic link between the two permeates his discussion of law. . . . Contrary to Suarez, who envisions God as moving creatures by means of explicit commands, Thomas sees God as moving creatures through the avenue of creation by inscribing within them natural tendencies and desires toward certain ends (see Thomas Hibbs, Virtues Splendor [New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2001], pp. 6571, at pp. 69 and 71). Duns Scotus, On the Will and Morality, selected and translated by Allan B. Wolter, O.F.M., ed. William A. Frank (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1997), pp. 200 201, from Scotus, Ordinatio III, suppl., dist. 37. For discussion see Hannes Mhle, Scotuss Theory of Natural Law, p. 315. The important step, Mhle shows, is Scotuss limitation of the natural law in the strict sense to those commandments that either are per se notum ex terministhat is, can be seen to be true simply in virtue of the concepts used in formulating themor follow necessarily from such self-evident practical principles. If one understands dispensation in the way discussed here, it is obvious that there can be no dispensation from such commandments. For that which can be seen as self-evident needs no elaboration and cannot be thought to be invalid (ibid.). Scotus, On the Will and Morality, p. 200. William of Ockham by contrast, relies upon the point that God is the lord of life and death, and thus can dispense. He states that with regard to commandments of the natural law (as opposed to purely positive commandments), no case should be excepted for any necessity or utility whatever, unless God specially excepted some case (as, notwithstanding the commandment of a purely natural law about not knowingly killing the innocent, God made a special exception in commanding Abraham to sacrice his son) (Ockham, III Dialogus, tract. 1, Book 2, ch. 24, in William of Ockham, A Letter to the Friars Minor and Other Writings, ed. Arthur Stephen McGrade and John Kilcullen, trans. John Kilcullen [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995], p. 189). In the same place Ockham observes, Because Abraham received the command about sacricing his son, he was obliged to prepare himself to kill his innocent son; and yet he was obliged to take care not to kill other innocents, because it was commanded to him simply to sacrice his son, and not others, and he could therefore not have drawn any other meaning from the words of the commandment except that which they rst expressed (pp. 188189). Scotus, On the Will and Morality, p. 201. Thomas L. Pangle, in his Political Philosophy and the God of Abraham, argues that the context of justice already belongs to Genesis 22 in light of Genesis 19. On the other hand, Pangle argues that Genesis 20, where Abraham deceives Abimelech, suggests that there is no absolute biblical prohibition on lying or even on adultery, at least none that Abraham discerns (p. 163). In a Scotist and Kantian fashion, Pangle also puzzles over the relationship between self-fulllment and self-sacrice: Is not aspiring to or seeking the godlike transguration of ones own soul, in and through the stern but invigorating exercise of justice and (merely apparent) sacricial devotion, equivalent to the pursuit of the greatest of all conceivable goods for the very core of ones own being? Is not the deserved extrinsic reward therefore merely supplementary, and a matter of secondary concern? (p. 162). The key for Pangle is that, contra Hebrews 11:19, [e]very hope was abandoned, and for the sake not of nothing but of God (p. 169), although the aban-





2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

174 Matthew Levering

donment of temporal hope did not entail abandoning faith in Gods justice. Pangles reading is guided largely by Martin Luthers exegesis of the passage. As Mhle points out, Nowhere in his work does Scotus trace the content of the natural law back to the eternal law; in fact, the doctrine of eternal law has no importance in his system. Neither the context in which a commandment is operative, nor the intention with which it is laid down, is relevant to its validity, if it is to count as belonging to the natural law in the strict sense (Mhle, Scotuss Theory of Natural Law, p. 315). The displacement of the eternal law makes ready the anthropocentric shift. Oddly, Allen B. Wolter, O.F.M. envisions the eternal law as an impersonal and inexible reality rather than as the living Gods wise and loving providential plan. Celebrating Scotuss rejection of the eternal law, Wolter states, The law of nature, in his [Scotuss] system, loses something of its impersonal and inexible character. Its personal dimensions cannot be ignored. Where other scholastics, following Augustine who in turn was inuenced by the Stoics, link it with the lex aeterna, Scotus eliminates this last vestige of impersonalism. To legislate or command is a function of will, not of nature as such, even if it be the most perfect of natures (Wolter, The Philosophical Theology of John Duns Scotus [Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990], pp. 160161). Wolter goes on to say, Many of Scotus colleagues, following Augustine, made use of an idea borrowed from the Stoics. They considered the entire Decalogue as a reection of some impersonal Eternal Law that was written into nature, and saw it as binding on God by reason of what he is and the sort of created nature he decided to make. . . . [T]he values protected by the second table cannot have the same absolute value as those preserved by the rst table. They are not as independent of, or antecedent to, what God wills, in the way the values safeguarded by the precepts of the rst table are (pp. 200201). As David VanDrunen has noted, John Calvin speaks of Gods eternal command but not of Gods eternal law, and leaves out the neo-Platonic participatory framework that marks Aquinass account of natural law: see VanDrunen, Medieval Natural Law and the Reformation: A Comparison of Aquinas and Calvin, American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, 80/1 (Winter, 2006), pp. 7798, at p. 91. Scotus, On the Will and Morality, p. 200. For discussion see also Thomas Osborne, Love of Self and Love of God, pp. 188189; Mhle, Scotuss Theory of Natural Law, pp. 316317. Scotus, On the Will and Morality, p. 202. Ibid., p. 203. Ibid. Ibid., p. 202. Ibid. Mhle observes that understanding Scotuss position requires grasping the role played by consonantia. The commandments of the Second Table belong to the natural law in a wider sense. The criterion in virtue of which they belong is not their conceptual necessity but their broad agreement (consonantia) with natural law in the strict sense. . . . As Scotus makes clear in another context, this conception of consonantia allows for two interpretations. One the one hand, there are commandments that accord with general commandments but whose opposites would also be compatible with those same general commandments; on the other hand, there are those whose opposites are not compatible with the overarching general principles. Only the latter belong to the natural law in the wider sense; the former belong only to positive law (Mhle, Scotuss Theory of Natural Law, pp. 316317). And yet, it remains the case that Scotus holds as regards the Second Table that if the evil proscribed by them were not forbidden, it would still be consistent with the acquisition of the ultimate end. In Genesis 22, God replaces his command not to murder with the command to murder. The intrinsic teleological bond between love of neighbor and love of God has been broken. Scotus, On the Will and Morality, p. 202. See ibid., p. 204. Scotus does not quote the whole of Matthew 22:3740, but refers instead to Matthew 22:40 as the major [of the argument]. Ibid., p. 205. Ibid. Mhle points to the signicance for Scotus of the distinction between potentia ordinata and potentia absoluta: The entire realm is in principle subject to change; it is open to an act of Gods absolute power. Divine omnipotence can dispense from every commandment that in


44 45 46 47 48 49 50

51 52 53 54 55

2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

God and Natural Law 175

part constitutes a given order. The only limit is the limit of Gods absolute power itself; there can be no dispensation from commandments whose validity is outside the domain of Gods absolute power. And the only constraint on Gods absolute power is the requirement of freedom from contradiction. . . . On Scotuss reading, the dispensation involved in the sacrice of Isaac comes about when God, by his absolute power, sets aside his original ordering, which contains a general prohibition of murder, and replaces it with an ordering in which that prohibition is no longer in force. The command to kill Isaac and the general prohibition of murder cannot coexist in a single ordering (Mhle, Scotuss Theory of Natural Law, p. 318). 56 Scotus, On the Will and Morality, p. 206. 57 Ibid. 58 Ibid., p. 206. 59 Ibid. 60 Ibid. 61 Ibid., p. 201. As Mhle says, for Scotus, Gods action is irreducibly free, and so creation is radically contingent; consequently, any commandment that does not have God himself as its object has force only in virtue of an act of divine will (Mhle, Scotuss Theory of Natural Law, p. 320). Mhle insists, however, that Scotus upholds the rationality of each particular ordering on its own terms, so that the orderings are not sheer voluntarism. For further discussion of Scotuss position in this regard, see, e.g., Jerome B. Schneewind, The Invention of Autonomy: A History of Modern Moral Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 2225. Quoting Wolters translation of Scotus, Schneewind summarizes Scotuss distinction between Gods absolute and ordained power: When God acts according to laws he has instituted, he uses his ordered power. But he can use his absolute power to do anything that is not self-contradictory or act in any way that does not include a contradiction (and there are many such ways he could act) (Wolter, Duns Scotus on the Will and Morality, p. 257). So Gods absolute power would enable him to lay down other laws for the second table than he did; but, as long as he connes himself to his ordered power, he will not do so. Duns Scotus agrees that there are laws of nature that are fundamental to human morality. Moreover he thinks God wills them for the benet of a community that is to live under them (p. 253). Most so-called laws, however, are on his view included under that name only by courtesy. Only those concerning the worship of God command something because it is good; the others make something good because they command it (p. 24). As Schneewind goes on to point out, William of Ockham (c. 12851349) took this view to a radical conclusion. God, he suggests, could even command that he not be loved. If he commanded that he be hated, he would not contradict himself, and hatred of God would be a virtue. The content of any divine law does not explain or justify its being a law. God in exercising his absolute power is indifferent to what he commands; only his ordered power is checked by preestablished laws (p. 25). Schneewind adds that Descartes, when asked the same question (whether God could command hatred of God), replied that God could have done so, had he done so before commanding love of God (p. 25, fn 14). 62 Scotus, On the Will and Morality, p. 199. 63 Ibid., p. 207. 64 Ibid. 65 Ibid. 66 I am attributing this split to Scotus, but interestingly Marcel Gauchet has recently attributed the split to Christianity. He argues that Christianity itself opens up an unbridgeable split between God and creatures. As the Wholly Other, the Christian God was not welded to the ladder of human hierarchies, nor was he consigned to the chain of dependencies forming the immanent legality of the social, along with the violence required for their administration. The god of peace is a god from somewhere else, an individualistic god desiring harmony among individuals in an environment where communities disagree. . . . A god with no empire: this is what separates the Christian God from the terrifying God of Israel, pre-occupied with the victory of his followers, or from the God of Mohammed and his true believers duty to expand the realm of the true faith through arms (Marcel Gauchet, The Disenchantment of the World: A Political History of Religion, trans. Oscar Burge [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997], p. 93). By conceiving God as Wholly Other, says Gauchet, Christianity disenchanted nature. Christianity itself, therefore, is the source of
2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

176 Matthew Levering

the worlds movement toward secularity, toward ontological self-sufciency (p. 96); Christianity is at the root of Nietzschean historicism, calling for an endless reworking of the entire terrestrial condition (p. 97). It seems to me that Gauchet has overlooked (or rejected without discussion) the participatory metaphysics of patristic and medieval Christian theologies of creation, and has assumed instead a late-medieval nominalist metaphysics. For patristic and medieval Christian theologies of creation, see, e.g., the essays in David B. Burrell, C.S.C., Faith and Freedom: An Interfaith Perspective (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), especially chapters 7 and 12 for the divergence between Aquinas and Scotus. Scotus, On the Will and Morality, p. 206. Ibid., p. 206. In the same vein, as Thomas Williams states, Scotus holds that natural happiness has nothing at all to do with morality. Right actions are right, not because of their relationship to human ourishing, but because God has freely commanded them (Williams, From Metaethics to Action Theory, in The Cambridge Companion to Duns Scotus, pp. 332351, at p. 338). By contrast, Williams points out, when Aquinas sets out to give specic content to the general principle that good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided, he does so by examining those things to which human beings are naturally inclined, and which human reason therefore naturally apprehends as goods (p. 338). See in this regard John Jenkins, C.S.C., Good and the Object of Natural Inclination in St. Thomas Aquinas, The Journal of Medieval Philosophy and Theology, 3/ (1993), pp. 6296. I-II, q. 94, a. 5, ad 2. Ernest Fortin has pointed out that Scotuss theology emerges from the effort to appropriate Aristotle (as read by the Muslim commentators), and should be understood in this context. Fortin observes that Aristotles understanding of nature, for many thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century theologians, seemed to constitute a direct threat to the biblical notion of divine omnipotence. If God is the supreme master of all and if the whole of creation depends on him not only for its coming into being but for its internal structure, it is hard to think of nature as endowed with an intelligible necessity over which no one, not even God, has any control. Between divine freedom and philosophical necessitarianism there seemed [absent the doctrine of participation] to be no middle ground and hence no possible compromise (Fortin, Thomas Aquinas and the Reform of Christian Education, in Ernest Fortin, The Birth of Philosophic Christianity: Studies in Early Christian and Medieval Thought, ed. J. Brian Benestad [Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littleeld, 1996], p. 242). Cf. Scotus, On the Will and Morality, p. 199. Kant, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, p. 175. Thiel writes, Anselms sacricial theology places the cross at the center of Gods saving action. A Christology that proceeds from the assumptions of promise rather than from the assumptions of sacrice makes much of Jesus resurrection from the dead as the fulllment of Gods biblical testimony to destroy death forever. In the event of Jesus resurrection, God promises to do to all what God did to Jesus, namely, not to leave him (and all) in death but to raise him (and all) from death to eternal life. Jesus resurrection is at once the promise made in its most specic and eventful way, and the completion of that promise in Jesus new life. As believers await the fulllment of Gods biblical promise in their own lives, they rely on the history of the promise kept in Jesus as evidence for their own faith in resurrected life. Jesus extraordinary precedence in this history lies not only in his resurrection as Gods enactment of the promise of eternal life but also in the way Jesus meets the worlds evil in his life, passion, and death. As an innocent sufferer rescued from death by God, Jesus, in the fullness of his humanity, stands powerless before death in exactly the way that all humanity does. Even in the fullness of his divinity, Jesus stands before death as in need of Gods evil-defeating grace as all other human beings (Thiel, God, Evil, and Innocent Suffering, p. 159). My use of this term is informed by G. J. McAleers use in Ecstatic Morality and Sexual Politics: A Catholic and Antitotalitarian Theory of the Body (New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2005). Mhle states, As this sketch of the theory of natural law makes clear, the concept of nature that Scotus sets forth differs in signicant ways from the Aristotelian-Thomistic understanding. Scotus makes no reference at all to the agents nature interpreted teleologically (Mhle, Scotuss Theory of Natural Law, p. 323). The key difference consists in the account of the

67 68 69

70 71

72 73 74

75 76

2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

God and Natural Law 177

will: Scotus locates the origin of actions in a freely acting power of will, whereas the Aristotelian view traces actions to the cooperative activity of the intellect with a naturally functioning appetitive power. For Scotus, actions are not the productions of a teleologically constituted natural appetite determined by its inherent end, but rather acts of a free power that does not aim at natural ends but at objects of action presented to it by the intellect. These objects do not act as nal causes on the will, since only the will itself, understood as efcient cause, is responsible for an action (ibid.). Mhle holds that this is not a voluntarism, but rather preserves the distinct domains of the intellect and the will. For our purposes, the key is what happens to human body-soul teleology and to human nature as a participation in God. Thomas Osborne afrms that Scotuss approach remains squarely teleological, but only as regards the wills ordering to God. See Osborne, Love of Self and Love of God in Thirteenth-Century Ethics, p. 206.

2008 The Author Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd