New Book: Protestants Can No Longer Ignore Natural Law


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Oct. 18, 2006) - A new book by Stephen J. Grabill explores the complex and often-overlooked relationship between Protestantism and natural law.

“For much of Christian history, some type of natural-law theory has been used as a bridge to connect the Christian faith and culture, the church and the world. But in recent times, Protestant churches and theologians have rejected natural law as a way of showing their differences with the tradition of Roman Catholic moral theology,” says Grabill, an Acton Research Scholar in Theology. “Natural law holds great promise as a bridge to connect the Christian faith to culture, although from the fuller perspective of God's revelation in Jesus Christ, natural law has limited but significant value.”

Natural law is accessible to everyone and draws from several sources: the design of the world, the design of the intellect, and the guidance of Scripture. Paul's epistle to the first century Roman church holds that natural law has been “written” in the hearts of all people (Rom. 2:14). According to Christian belief, all of humanity can comprehend natural law even where sin may obscure its full truth. Thus, natural law affords a “moral vocabulary” for discussion of important issues in public life by people of diverse faith traditions — or even those with no faith tradition.

In a recent commentary, Grabill showed how natural law thinking could help evangelicals navigate the moral hazards of Assisted Reproductive Technology. The commentary is available online .

In Rediscovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics , Grabill makes a case for reintegrating Reformed Protestant theology with natural law. He appeals to Reformation and post-Reformation era theologians such as John Calvin, Peter Martyr Vermigli, Johannes Althusius, and Francis Turretin, who carried over and refined the traditional understanding of this key doctrine. Grabill's book calls Christian ethicists, theologians, and laypersons to take another look at this vital element in the history of Christian ethical thought.

Paul Helm of Regent College calls Grabill's work “most welcome” and says, “The scope and depth of Grabill's study are impressive. His book swells the rising tide of scholarly interest in the positive role played by 'the natural' in the formative years of Reformed ethics and theology, and it hints at a new agenda.” J. Budziszewski of the University of Texas says, “Stephen Grabill's erudite book will be an indispensable steersman to anyone interested in the important story of natural law in Protestant theology.”

Grabill received his doctorate from Calvin Theological Seminary and is the editor of the peer-reviewed academic publication, the Journal of Markets & Morality . As part of the Emory University Studies in Law and Religion series edited by John Witte, Jr., Rediscovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics is published by Eerdmans Publishing Company and is available for purchase from the Acton Institute Book Shoppe .

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