Natural Law
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ETS 49th Annual Meeting
Santa Clara, CA.

General Revelation and Natural Law
in a Postmodern Context

Norman J. Lund, Ph.D.
The Shuv Institute

Sydney Ahlstrom, in his monumental A Religious History of the American People (Image Books, 1975), saw postmodernism on the rise over two decades ago. He identified "postmodernism" with the rejection of tradition, and the exaltation of autonomy. He defined "postmodern man" as "posthistoric" and "one-dimensional," explaining:

Eschewing tradition, fearing the grip of the past, pessimistic about the
future [postmodern man] lives—or tries to live—within the narrow
confines of today… he does not take his own historicity seriously
(vol. I, p. 21).

Not only is postmodernism a rejection of tradition. It also represents a rejection of reason. Modernism, a child of the Enlightenment, fed upon an optimistic belief in progress and an exaltation of reason. Postmodernism, a child of the pessimism which followed the Holocaust and the World Wars, now exalts unreason.

Michel Foucault, the late French philosopher of postmodernism, praised "madness" as "man's ultimate truth" in his unconventional treatise, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (Vintage/Random House, 1965, 1988). Foucault argued that as leprosy was conquered and disappeared, society needed a stigma to fill the void and to populate the empty leprosariums. "Madness," or "unreason," was chosen. Foucault proposed that the Enlightenment belief in reason brought with it an unhealthy denial of "unreason," the dark side of the human soul. Foucault concluded that "madness" is "man's ultimate truth" (p. 82), and that "unreason has belonged to whatever is decisive, for the modern world" (p. 285). This means, he said, that "through madness… the world is forced to question itself… the world is made aware of its guilt" (pp. 288-289).

Other French postmodernists have made similar claims, questioning the very existence of truth, and denying the objectivity of reason. Jean-Francois Lyotard, in The Postmodern Condition (U. Minnesota, 1984), argued that universal truth claims are impossible because universal worldviews or "metanarratives" are no longer credible or "communicable." Jacques Derrida, in Writing and Difference (U. Chicago, 1978), asserted that language is ultimately subjective and incapable of communicating objective truth. The same kinds of arguments have also been made on this side of the Atlantic for almost two decades.

In the United States, no postmodern philosopher has been more influential than Richard Rorty, from the University of Virginia. In his celebrated Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton U., 1979), Rorty called for a pragmatic "deconstructing" of the correspondence theory of truth, and of any "overarching structure of rationality" (p. 271). More recently, in Objectivity, Relativism and Truth (Cambridge U., 1991), Rorty ridiculed "representational" truth claims—claims of objectivity or finality—as fictional "sky hooks," and advocated an abandonment of "the search for Truth" (pp. 13, 21).

What is the origin of this pessimism and skepticism towards reason? Some scholars attribute postmodernism to the Holocaust and the World Wars. Alister McGrath, writing in A Passion for Truth: The Intellectual Coherence of Evangelicalism (InterVarsity, 1996), finds the primary cause of postmodernism in: "the trauma of the Holocaust which shattered the pretensions and delusions of modernity" (p. 180). McGrath defines postmodernism as "a cultural sensibility without absolutes, fixed certainties or foundations, which takes delight in pluralism and divergence" (p. 184); "an inbuilt precommitment to relativism and pluralism.. mark[ing] the end of the possibility of fixed, absolute meaning" (p. 185).

Other scholars emphasize the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche. It is commonly agreed that the current movement called 'postmodernism' represents the victory of Nietzsche's prophetic ideas. Influenced by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche developed an atheistic philosophy which exalted will above reason, and power above weakness. Thus Spake Zarathustra, first published in 1883/1884 (in The Portable Nietzsche, trans. & ed. Walter Kaufman; Penguin Books, 1982) became his most celebrated work. It was also his greatest attempt to express his worldview, and it included most of his chief ideas, e.g.: (1) that life is best understood as expressing a "will to power," i.e. the desire for self-mastery and self-transcendence; (2) that the will to power is best expressed by the "Ubermensch" ('overman'), i.e. the courageous, creative individual: "I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome" (p. 124); (3) that "God is dead," i.e. Christianity, with its belief in God and a future life, is an attempt to compensate for cowardice and failure in this life; (4) that "man is a rope, tied between beast and overman—a rope over an abyss" (p.126), i.e. life is a battle against nihilism, to create a purpose and a future; (5) that :"the last man" will be the self-satisfied man who no longer seeks to transcend himself, but settles for material well-being: "One has one's little pleasure for the day and one's little pleasure for the night: but one has a regard for health" (p.130).

Additional ideas of continuing relevance for postmodern thought are expressed in Nietzsche's The Genealogy (trans. Walter Kaufman & R.J. Hollingdale; Vintage Books, 1989): (1) "values" are relative to every time and culture; (2) values are "created" by the "masters" in control of society; (3) Christian morality is nothing more than the "slave morality" of the weak, who seek to gain concessions from the strong by causing them guilt and shame, and requiring the "sublimation" of natural passions; (4) Christianity, with its "illusion" of other-worldliness, is based upon "resentment" of this world; (5) Greek ethics represents the noble vision of a "master morality," a this-worldliness calling for excellence in this life; (6) a "revaluation of all values" is required, and a movement "beyond good and evil," that is, beyond resentment and the sublimation of what is natural.

In addition to his influence upon such past figures as Jean Paul Sartre and Sigmund Freud, Nietzsche has continued to inspire such philosophers of postmodernism as Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida.

Still other thinkers attribute postmodernism to the cultural ascendancy and logical consequence of materialism and naturalistic evolution. Phillip E. Johnson, in Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law and Education, has argued persuasively that at the heart of postmodern pessimism is the assumption of "Darwinian evolution… not primarily… as a scientific theory, but as a culturally dominant creation story" (p. 12). In spite of their serious differences regarding the nature of "creation-science," Johnson agrees with George Marsden regarding the nature of postmodernism. Quoting from Marsden's The Soul of the American University (Oxford U., 1994), Johnson affirms that:

The postmodernist intellectual crisis may thus be understood as a crisis within the naturalistic community. Given a purely naturalistic evolutionary set of premises, finding any rational grounds for building a consensus on any significant human question becomes problematic… Appeals to natural law have [little support]… [Thus] liberal pragmatism has led… to postmodernist relativism (Marsden, pp. 430-441; Johnson, p. 169).

Johnson explains that what is lost with the rejection of natural law is consensus, that is, the "symbolic public affirmation for some worldviews and values and implied public repudiation or denial of others" (p. 141). Many scholars agree, including self-professed Neo-Darwinians like James Rachels, Walter Truett Anderson, and Robert Wright. Writing in Created From Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism (Oxford U., 1990), Rachels, a professor at the University of Alabama argues that: "the image of God thesis is no longer a reasonable option," and that "the traditional supports for the idea of human dignity are gone" (p. 171). He concludes that: "the old world view," with all its "moral foundations" has collapsed (p. 222). Similarly, Anderson, writing in Reality Isn't What It Used to Be (Harper Collins, 1990), asserts: "We are seeing in our lifetimes the collapse of the objectivist worldview that dominated the modern era, the worldview that gave people faith in the absolute and permanent rightness of certain beliefs and values" (p. 267).

Wright, a senior editor with The New Republic, is another postmodern Neo-Darwinian who embraces the radical consequences of evolutionary thought. In The Moral Animal (Vintage Books, 1994), Wright explained how naturalistic evolution denies the objectivity both of truth claims and morality, and consequently, of natural law. Darwin dealt a "one—two punch" to truth and morality, Wright asserted, by means of: "the Origin's assault on the biblical account of creation, followed by the Descent's doubts about the status of the moral sense" (p. 328). Wright, who embraces postmodernism as a necessary phase in evolutionary progress, credits Darwinianism with fueling "the postmodern attitude," and predicts that "the future progress of Darwinism may strengthen the postmodern mood" (p.326). Himself a strong supporter of the 'Darwinian project,' Wright explains the radical nature of Darwin's theory:

In short: if Freud stressed people's difficulty in seeing the truth about themselves, the new Darwinians stress the difficulty of seeing truth, period. Indeed, Darwinianism comes close to calling into question the very meaning of the word truth. For the social discourses that supposedly lead to truth—moral discourse, political discourse, even, sometimes, academic discourse—are, by Darwinian lights, raw power struggles… in human affairs, all (or at least much) is artifice, a self-serving manipulation of image. And already this belief helps nourish a central strand of the postmodern condition: a powerful inability to take things seriously" (p.325).

Some scholars attempt to escape the radical assumptions of postmodernism. Ernest Gellner, a professor at Cambridge, writing in Postmodernism, Reason and Religion (Routledge, 1992) agrees that postmodernism is a "specimen of relativism [which is] hostile to the idea of unique, exclusive, objective, external or transcendent truth" (p. 24). However, Gellner argues that postmodernism is an "option" which is neither necessary nor compelling. Acknowledging that "religious fundamentalism" offers one alternative to postmodernism, Gellner advocates a rather ambiguous "rationalist fundamentalism" as a third option. This option, "rationalist fundamentalism," shares some common ground with "religious fundamentalism." For example, both positions share a "denial of relativism" and an affirmation of "external, objective, culture-transcending knowledge" (p. 75). What distinguishes the positions is the rationalist denial of what Gellner calls "substantive truths" and "the sacred" (p. 80).

Gellner's argument, that one may affirm the objectivity and universality of truth while denying "the sacred" has been called into question by an overwhelming array of scholars, across a wide ideological spectrum. Older studies, like those of Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1959) are being reaffirmed in newer works like Twin Powers: Politics and the Sacred (Eerdmans, 1988), by Thomas Molnar. Eliade, late Chairman of the Dept. of History of Religions at the University of Chicago, argued that "the religious vision of life" is fundamental and essential to human existence; a "sacred understanding" of the world is essential to "organize the chaos" and "make orientation possible." The "sacred understanding" can be repressed in the unconscious, Eliade asserted, but never fully escaped or denied: "The sacred… founds the world [sic] in the sense that it fixes the limits and establishes the order of the world" (p. 30). More recently, Thomas Molnar, a professor of philosophy at the University of Budapest, has challenged the postmodern attempt to separate politics from religion, and rationality from a sacred foundation. Contending, like Eliade, that religion provides the sacred source which legitimizes political power, and the ordering principle upon which society is founded, Molnar asks what will prevent disorder and anarchy when the sacred is denied. Until the Enlightenment, he contends: "every civilization" in the world acknowledged "the supernatural as the repository of the realities that the society took for granted" (p. 58).

One of the most surprising developments in the contemporary debate regarding postmodernism is similar arguments coming from self-professed "agnostics" like Gertrude Himmelfarb, professor emeritus of history at the Graduate School of the City University of New York. In a recent work entitled On Looking into the Abyss: Untimely Thoughts on Culture and Society (Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), Himmelfarb, disturbed by the "abyss" of nihilism resulting from Nietzsche's "death of God," called for "a revival of religion—and religion not purely as a matter of private belief… but as, in Tocqueville's words, 'the first of our political institutions'" (p. 101). For Himmelfarb, like Eliade and Molnar, rationality requires a sacred basis. Consequently, she finds a connection between the roots of modern secularism and the fruit of postmodern nihilism: "The beasts of modernism have mutated into the beasts of postmodernism—relativism into nihilism, amorality into immorality, irrationality into insanity" (p. 6). Whereas modernism went astray in a wholesale rejection of traditional understandings, postmodernism represents an attack on the very possibility of understanding. She asserts that postmodernism is "a far more subversive form of relativism, a relativism so radical, so absolute, as to be antithetical to both history and truth" (p. 131). Himmelfarb warned:

Postmodernism entices us with the siren call of liberation and creativity, but it may be an invitation to intellectual and moral suicide (p. 160).

Himmelfarb is not alone in finding a common root between the apparent extremes of modernism, with its optimistic emphasis upon reason, and postmodernism, with its pessimistic exaltation of unreason. For Himmelfarb, the mistake of modernism was an emphasis upon autonomy and individualism which ultimately made "the individual the sole repository and arbiter of all values" (p. 106). Similarly, Alister McGrath, in A Passion for Truth: The Intellectual Coherence of Evangelicalism (InterVarsity, 1996), concludes that postmodernism may prove to be "a movement within modernism [since] for all their divergences, both movements are directly or indirectly concerned with the fostering of human freedom" (p. 184).

G.K. Chesterton anticipated the postmodern embrace of unreason. For Chesterton the connection between modernist autonomy and nihilism was so close that he warned of "the suicide of thought" many decades ago, as a logical consequence of modernist assumptions. In his classic text, Orthodoxy (Image Books, 1924/59), Chesterton exposed the intellectual impoverishment of materialism and anticipated the coming irrationality of postmodernism when he described "reason used without root, reason in the void," as "the chief mark and element of insanity" (p. 27). "Materialists and madmen never have doubts" (p. 24), he asserted. Speaking somewhat prophetically, Chesterton described the postmodern man:

A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert—himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt—the Divine Reason (p. 31).

Living in the last decade of the second millennium, Christians in the West must contend with a fiercely relativistic, postmodern culture. Postmodernism, with its denial of binding universal standards of morality, is a form of antinomianism. Antinomianism is the rejection of law, a declaration of freedom from moral obligations (Gk. anti-against; nomos-law). Today, the spirit of antinomianism pervades both the church and the world.

Technically, antinomianism defines a Christian heresy. The heresy appears as early as the apostle Paul's warnings against libertinism (Rom.6:1,15; 1 Cor.6:12). The current use of the term is usually traced to Luther, who identified John Agricola and his followers as "Antinomer" in the Antinomian Disputations of 1537-40. Agricola repudiated the law in attributing repentance to the work of the Gospel. He also declared that by grace believers have been set free from moral law and obligation.

Ethically, antinomianism designates an extreme position in regard to moral laws. Sociologically, the term used to define this situation is anomie [Gk. anomia-lawlessness]. Emile Durkheim (d. 1917) applied this term to periods of relative normlessness, and attributed to it a causal relationship with suicide. Historically, its occurrence is infrequent, and usually associated with periods of radical change and crisis. Many secular writers are acutely aware of this contemporary development. For example, Dr. Edward Banfield, professor of sociology at Harvard, observed:

It is anomie [Gk. anomia-lawlessness] which characterizes modern man, Western man. He lives only for himself, and for gratification of his desires, without respect for parents or teachers, not to mention clergymen or policemen, or law ("Focus on Society," PBS Lecture, May 9, 1981).

Philosophers, psychologists, and historians agree that modern history is witnessing a collapse of the old moral order, the "sacred canopy" upon which the Western democracies were founded. Allan Bloom, late professor of social thought at the University of Chicago, wrote in The Closing of the American Mind (Simon & Schuster, 1981):

Openness—and the relativism that makes it the only plausible stance in the face of various claims to truth and various ways of life and kinds of human beings--is the great insight of our times... But when there are no shared goals or vision of the public good, is the social contract any longer possible? (pp. 26-21).

Oxford historian Paul Johnson identified relativism as a chief characteristic of the twentieth century. In chapter one of his Modern Times (Harper & Row, 1983), he described "A Relativistic World":

At the beginning of the 1920s the belief began to circulate, for the first time at a popular level, that there were no longer any absolutes: of time and space, of good and evil, of knowledge, above all of value. Mistakenly but perhaps inevitably, relativity became confused with relativism (p.4).

Johnson tells of Einstein's horror at the use which was made of his theory. Indeed, Einstein wrote to a colleague of his belief "in complete law and order in a world which objectively exists," and of his attempt to produce a unified theory of reality. Johnson notes that Einstein "lived to see moral relativism, to him a disease, become a social pandemic."

Alistair Cooke concluded his award-winning BBC history of the United States by asking: "Is America in her ascendancy or decline?" He answered by noting many parallels with what Edward Gibbon identified as signs of the fall of Rome. Published in Alistair Cooke's America (Alfred A. Knopf, 1975), Cooke identified, for example: "A mounting love of show and luxury"; "A widening gap between the very rich and the very poor"; "An obsession with sex"; "Freakishness in the arts"; "And, most disturbing of all, a developing moral numbness to vulgarity, violence, and the assault on the simplest human decencies" (p.381). Cooke summarized the failure of America as an abuse of freedom, a "general permissiveness, which, whatever liberties it sets loose, loosens also the cement that alone can bind any society into a stable compound—a code of obeyed taboos" (p.388). Finally, Cooke warned of a "normal cycle in the life and death of great nations" which leads from "tyranny," to "revolt," to "liberty," to "the abuse of liberty—and back to tyranny again."

Similarly, Malcolm Muggeridge has predicted the impending fall of Western Civilization, citing Solzhenitsyn to the effect that "at the root of our present malaise" is "our loss of any awareness of good and evil." Writing in Vintage Muggeridge: Religion and Society (Eerdmans, 1985), Muggeridge asserted that:

[The darkness falling on our civilisation is likewise due to a transposition of good and evil... The root cause of our trouble is that we have lost our sense of a moral order in the universe without which no order whatsoever, economic, social, political is attainable (pp.94-95)

Sir Kenneth Clark, in the closing episode of his BBC television series, "Civilization" (1982), confessed that "the brightest minds today" were challenging his belief that "order is better than chaos." Clark concluded by quoting from "The Second Coming," by W.B. Yeats:

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

How can one address the current social context without drawing attention to the abortion holocaust? Where is the antinomian spirit more evident than here? Where a greater "blood-dimmed tide"? Where a greater fulfillment of Yeats' prophecy: "The ceremony of innocence is drowned"? The mother's womb—designed to be the safest dwelling on earth—now the most dangerous, with over one-fourth of all pregnancies in the United States terminated by abortion. As Congressman Henry Hyde has commented: "Today in the U.S., a blade of grass has more protection than a fetus—because there are many laws against trespassing, but none against abortion."

Since the Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton decisions of 1973, which legalized abortion on demand, it is estimated that over 30 million children have been aborted in the United States. Still today, in 1997, in all fifty states, a woman has the legal right to abort her unborn child throughout all nine months of pregnancy. In California and most of the other states, an adolescent female is not allowed to participate in extracurricular school activities or receive an aspirin from the school nurse without parental consent. But she is allowed to receive an abortion without her parent's even being notified.

The cheapening of human life is becoming increasingly evident. In recent years there have been reports of teenage mothers delivering babies in school toilets, between classes or during a school dance—and leaving them to die. One fifteen year old honors student apparently wore baggy clothing to hide the pregnancy from her parents. Her school counselor had known about the pregnancy for months. The district attorney declined to file any charges in the case. In another case, a distraught mother told a colleague that her 15-year-old daughter had just confessed to having had three secret abortions. Now, pregnant for the fourth time, she was preparing for another abortion. Seeking to calm her incredulous mother, the daughter said: "Don't worry, mother. There's nothing to it."

May we not lose our capacity to be shocked, revolted, and incensed. "Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world." Some time ago Anthony Burgess captured a true, albeit despairing, reaction to contemporary, amoral experience in his novel, Tremor of Intent, when he described the young man who "went...into a corner," heaved his shoulders, and "tried to throw up the modern world."

Given the social context today, it is perhaps not surprising, yet no less discouraging, to find that the same spirit of relativism has invaded the church. Since about 1950 the concept of natural law, and the moral use of the law, has come under attack as unevangelical and legalistic. This may be attributed in part to the secular climate of moral relativism, as well as to the prevalence of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer referred to in The Cost of Discipleship (Macmillan, 1937/63) as "cheap grace. The church's avoidance of unpleasant topics like "sin" led the eminent American psychiatrist, Karl Menninger, to publish a book entitled: Whatever Became of Sin? (Hawthorn Books, 1973). George Barna reports an increasing percentage of evangelical Christians who believe "there is no such thing as absolute truth," and whose sexual promiscuity equals that of unbelievers.

It is sobering to recall that in his account of the events preceding his return, our Lord says: "And because lawlessness [anomia] is multiplied, most men's love will grow cold" (Mt.24:12). Similarly the apostle declares: "that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness [anomia] is revealed" (2 Thess.2:1-2).

Faced with these sober warnings, and the current social context of anomie, what should Christians today do? How should we think of God's law, and its place in society? What does Scripture teach about the nature and authority of God's law? What is the Christian answer to moral relativism? Is one left to find some middle ground between extremes, or is there, in Christ, an alternative, which carries the believer beyond antinomianism and legalism?

Scripture teaches that the law of God is the omnipotent will, and the rational, created order of God: "I delight to do thy will, O my God; thy law is within my heart" (Ps.40:8; Heb. 10:7). The law of God is revealed in Scripture, and written on the heart (Rom.2:12-16). The nature of divine law is expressed and revealed both in voluntarist and rationalist terms. The law of God is the will of God, rooted in God's unchanging moral character (Ma1.3:6; Jas.l:l7; 1 Jn.l:5), but springing from God's free decrees (Gen.l:l-3ff.; Ex.20:1-20; Job 38-41; Is.45:5-7). This law is at the same time the order of creation, the shape which God has given to and maintains of objective reality (Gen.l:l-2ff.; Ps.127:1-5; Prov.19:21; 20:24; Acts 17:24-28; Col. 1:15-17). As Aquinas articulated it in Summa Theologica, the eternal law of God is: "the rational order of divine wisdom inasmuch as it directs the acts and motions of everything" (I-II.91.3). Natural law is "the participation of the rational creature in the eternal law."

The law of God exposes the fallacy of all relativism. As George Forell captured it in his Ethics of Decision (Fortress, 1955), divine law is "part of the structure of the universe," "a description of the way in which things operate" (pp.82-83). There is an analogy between the laws of nature and the law of human nature. As Oliver O'Donovan expressed it in Resurrection and Moral Order (InterVarsity, 1986), there is "a divinely-given order of things in which human nature itself is located" (p.16), "a universal order of meaning and value, an order given in creation and fulfilled in the kingdom of God" (p.61). In the words of the late Klaus Bockmuehl, the divine law is "the moral grammar of creation," "protection against chaos," "God's inbuilt order," "the given structuredness of creation and of human existence" ("Keeping His Commandments," in: Crux, Sept., 1981, pp.20-21).

The same truth was expressed by Katherine Davis, in her joyful hymn, "Let All Things Now Living." Verse two states:

His law he enforces: the stars in their courses,
The sun in his orbit obediently shine;
The hills and the mountains, the rivers and fountains,
The deeps of the ocean proclaim him divine.

Similarly, in what C.S. Lewis has called "the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world," Psalm 19 equates the glory of the sky and the stars, of the sun and its pervasive heat, with "the law of the LORD" ("and there is nothing hid from its heat," v.6). In Reflections on the Psalms (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1958), Lewis commented on the "delight" of the Psalmists in the law. It expresses an objectivity or "truth," an "intrinsic validity, rock-bottom reality, being rooted in His own nature," Lewis observed. Consequently, Lewis said:

Their delight in the Law is a delight in having touched firmness; like the pedestrian's delight in feeling the hard road beneath his feet after a false short cut has long entangled him in muddy fields (pp.61-63).

Lewis, who wrote much against relativism, made bold in his treatise, The Abolition of Man (Macmillan, 1941), to offer an outline of universal ethical prescriptions which reveal and illustrate the lex naturae, or "Tao." Lewis identified eight basic, universal moral principles: (1) "The Law of General Beneficence;" (2) "The Law of Special Beneficence;" (3) "Duties to Parents, Elders and Ancestors;" (4) "Duties to Children and Posterity;" (5) "The Law of Justice: Sexual Justice, Honesty, Justice in Court, etc.;" (6) "The Law of Good Faith and Veracity;" (7) "The Law of Mercy;" (8) "The Law of Magnanimity" (pp.93-121).

In another work, Mere Christianity (Macmillan, 1952), Lewis argued that the most basic fact of human existence is a common awareness of the moral law. This universal law is demonstrated not only by the agreement of moralities from diverse cultures, Lewis said, but also by the common experience of conscience: "this curious idea that [people] ought to behave in a certain way" (p. 7); the awareness of "a Something which is directing the universe, and which appears in me as a law urging me to do right and making me feel responsible and uncomfortable when I do wrong" (p.20). Lewis asserted:

If no set of moral ideas were truer or better than any other, there would be no sense in preferring civilised morality to savage morality, or Christian morality to Nazi morality. In fact, of course, we all do believe that some moralities are better than others (p. 11).

Similarly, the late professor Bloom challenged the unthinking relativism of his students at the University of Chicago with questions such as this: "If you had been a British administrator in India, would you have let the natives under your governance burn the widow at the funeral of a man who had died?" (op. cit., p.26). Bloom, like Lewis, argued that relativism divorces reason from ethics, and leads to the destruction of education. Bloom asserted: "the fact that there have been different opinions about good and bad in different times and places in no way proves that none is true or superior to others;" on the contrary, the differences "raise the question as to which is the true or right," and call forth the examination of "the claims and reasons for each opinion" (p.39).

Moral relativism is often traced to Heraclitus (d. 486 B.C.), the Greek philosopher who taught that everything is in flux; and to the Sophist, Protagoras (d. 421 B.C.), who taught that: "Man is the measure of all things." However, as Lewis, Bloom and others have pointed out, if everything was in flux, knowledge would be impossible. Inquiry would be trapped in skepticism. If everything continually changed, knowledge would have nowhere to begin. One needs something unchangeably right and true from which to begin, and by which to measure.

As Alexandre Koyre put it in his Introduction to Descartes: Philosophical Writings (Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1962): "[one] looks for the firm foundation which would substantiate the norms of judgment. Alas! he finds nothing but perpetual change, instability, void" (p.x). Koyre concluded:

If everything is possible, nothing is true; if nothing is assured, the only certainty is error (p.ix).

If nothing was right or true, one could not know it. As Lewis expressed it in Mere Christianity (Macmillan, 1952): "If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark" (p.31). In the words of E.J. Carnell in A Philosophy of the Christian Religion (Eerdmans, 1952): "If it were not for antecedent absolutes there would be no meaning to the relative; we know the relative in the light of the absolute" (p. 134). Consequently, Forell identified the self-contradiction within relativism:

The self-contradiction involved in this teaching is obvious. On behalf of open-mindedness we are confronted by people with utterly closed minds who dogmatically assert the absolute truth that there is no absolute truth (p.30).

J. Budziszewski, an associate professor in the departments of government and philosophy at the University of Texas, makes a persuasive contemporary argument for the classical understanding of natural law in his current work, Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law (InterVarsity Press, 1997). Dr. Budziszewski identifies five forms of general revelation: creation; the image of God; our physical and human design; conscience; and the order of causality. He argues that "natural law is grounded by the second, third, fourth, and fifth of God's ways of general revelation," and focuses his attention upon the fourth: "the law of conscience, written on the heart, which, like the law of Moses, tells us what sin is but does not give us power to escape it (Romans 2:14-15)" (pp. 180-181). He presents the current study as a work of "political philosophy" (p. 15), which is basically supportive of St. Thomas and of C.S. Lewis's "amateur" interpretation of St. Thomas in The Abolition of Man (pp. 190-192).

Of particular interest is the author's persuasive treatment of objections to natural law. He argues that conscience applies universally only to the most basic and fundamental principles such as "Good should be pursued and evil avoided" and "Love your neighbor" (pp. 61-62). Moral truths derived from these basic precepts are subject both to exceptions in unique situations requiring careful judgment (p. 62), and also to perversion, when conscience is corrupted by "passion, evil habit, evil disposition, vicious custom, or evil persuasion" (pp. 72-73). The relevance of natural law in the postmodern context is explained both as a bridge for communicating with unbelievers in the area of "apologetics" (p. 184), and as a Biblically based perspective for ethics, since unlike "most modern ethical thinking… natural law theory assumes that the problem is [not cognitive but] mainly volitional" (p. 185).

In this regard, Budziszewski finds postmodern man to be in solidarity with pre-modern man, since the whole human race lives in the "psychological condition of 'denial'" of our accountability to God (pp. 183-185). It is the result of "original sin" that: "We do no want God to be God; each of us wants to be his own little god" (p. 69). Nevertheless, the author finds a unique role for natural law in the postmodern context, for two reasons. First, he finds postmodern man to represent "the new sort of pagan" who disbelieves in conscience: "with a head filled with false sophistication that tells him that right and wrong are invented by culture and are different everywhere, the new sort of pagan mistrusts his own conscience… [Consequently] speaking with the new sort of pagan is much harder than speaking with the old… Not only that, the false sophistication that bewitches him has wormed its way into certain parts of the church itself" (p. 181; cf. pp. 174-175). Second, he finds postmodern political philosophy in serious trouble, with the breakdown of the traditional tension between "the cult of the individual and the cult of the state." "We can no longer rely on a balance of errors," he concludes: "From now on, nothing less than truth will suffice" (p. 195).

With students, Budziszewski sometimes refers to natural law as "the first principles of practical reasoning," or as a "factory-installed…personal baloney-meter." The baloney-meter is that "useful little instrument that lights up and beeps when you hear plain nonsense, prompting you to say to yourself, 'That's baloney'" (pp. 171-72). When students challenge him with the argument: "Aren't morals just relative? Aren't good and evil up to the individual?"—Budziszewski, much like Bloom, responds: "Tell that to the man who is trying to rape or murder you" (pp. 174-75).

Much of the theological opposition to natural law has been motivated by voluntarism, the reduction of faith and ethics to subjective 'leaps' which cannot be explained or examined by reason. In answer to this genre of moral relativism, O'Donovan has defended the classical (biblical) doctrine of natural law against voluntarist objections. In Resurrection and Moral Order, O'Donovan demonstrated the complementarity of rationalist and voluntarist emphases. Affirming Aquinas, O'Donovan contended:

Nothing could be clearer than that lex aeterna presupposes the free and omnipotent decree· of God in creation, and so the complete contingency of creation. It is not a law of God's own being, but a law by which he orders the created world to its given destiny (p.133).

In spite of his reputation for emphasizing the opposition between the law and gospel in bringing about salvation, Martin Luther clearly and consistently accepted and affirmed natural law and moral absolutes. His conflicts with antinomianism only strengthened his position in this regard. For example, in a sermon which he preached on September 30, 1537, Luther declared that the law of God is "the eternal, immovable, unchanging will of God" (WA 45, 149.15-21). The sermon was significant, because it signaled the beginning of Luther's controversy with John Agricola and the Antinomians. [This author recounts those events in the unpublished doctoral dissertation: Luther's 'Third Use of the Law' and Melanchthon's Tertius Usus Legis in the Antinomian Controversy with Agricola (1537-1540) (Toronto: University of St. Michael's College, 1985); See: pp.132ff.;142ff.]

Preaching on the great commandment (Mt. 22:34-40), Luther took the opportunity to confront the antinomianism of "fanatic spirits" who denied the importance of keeping the commandments. Citing Luke 10:27-28 and Galatians 5:21, Luther warned that Christians must "leave the mire" or "they will be lost." Significantly, Luther articulated a doctrine of recapitulation. The law, Luther proclaimed, is a recapitulation, or summary: "which reveals what man is, what he was [i.e. at Creation), and what he ought again to become" (WA 45, 146.25-27).

The chief summary of this divine law is recorded in the Ten Commandments. Consequently, in spite of the modern objections to any lex aeterna, Luther, following Scripture, is very clear in affirming God's law, and specifically the Ten Commandments, as an eternal law (See: Dissertation, pp.254-258). Against moral relativism, Scripture asserts moral absolutes. Moral absolutes are moral obligations which derive from God's unchanging moral character. There are divine obligations which are relative, and not absolute, such as the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament which were fulfilled in Christ's sacrifice, "once and for all" (Heb.7:27; 9:12, 26; 10:10). But the moral will and commandments of God are absolute, eternal, unchanging.

In answer to moral relativism, natural law is deeply rooted in Luther's thought. In his essay of 1525, "How Christians Should Regard Moses," he already distinguished between the conditioned and the unconditioned elements in the law of Moses. For example, he stated that: "We will regard Moses a teacher, but we will not regard him as our lawgiver—unless he agrees with both the New Testament and the natural law" (LW 35, 165).

In his Large Catechism, Luther again affirmed natural law: "The Ten Commandments, moreover, are inscribed in the hearts of all men" (BC, Tappert ed, 1959; p. 419). In his letter, "Against the Sabbatarians," written in 1538, Luther, again, addressing the antinomian heresy, declared that the Ten commandments are "the universal commandments" [die gemeine gebot] of "the universal God" [ein gemeiner Gott] (WA 50, 331.13-14/ LW 47, 90).

The Formula of Concord, the great unifying confessional document of 1580, agreed. The Formula affirmed Luther's understanding of the universality and immutability of God's law in the following, compact definition:

[T]he law is a divine doctrine which reveals the righteousness and immutable will of God, shows how man ought to be disposed in his nature, thoughts, words, and deeds in order to be pleasing and acceptable to God, and threatens the transgressors of the law with God's wrath and temporal and eternal punishment (S.D., V, 17).

In addition, the Formula stipulated that this eternal law of God "was written into men's hearts when they were created in the image of God" (Epitome, VI, 2; S.D., VI, 5).

Remarkably, Helmut Thielicke, while citing such passages to affirm an ongoing "pedagogic significance of the law for believers" (pp.126-141), concludes his Theological Ethics (Eerdmans, 1979) in a thoroughgoing ethical relativism. Whereas cultural relativism denies a universal moral standard which bridges historically diverse cultures, Thielicke's is an eschatological relativism which denies the "timeless validity" of moral law (pp.149-150). Thielicke proposes such a rupture between the fallen aeon in which we live, and the new aeon yet to come, that moral standards are relativized by the ambiguities and inevitability of sin. This life is never more than "the zone of relativities," "the fallen aeon" (p.351). The law of God is, at best, an "interim" ethic (p.150).

The gulf between this aeon and the next one is so great that no alignment between the two is possible on this side of the eschaton. On the contrary, this aeon is thoroughly characterized by conflict and ambiguity. The orders of this aeon are not good, but rather "the structural form of fallen existence" (p.440). Consequently the character of the Decalogue is always "negative": "a protest against man as he actually is" (pp.440-442). Furthermore, sin is unavoidable, even for the Christian: "the Christian too acts always in the form of compromises… he never gets in this aeon beyond the stage of compromise" (p.487); "sin takes place in... the world whose structure wrings it out of me, as it were" (p.504); "I constantly fall into actual sin in the borderline situation" (p.653).

Thielicke, like Barth, renounces natural law because, he contends: (1) it suggests "a point of contact" and "likeness" between God and sinner apart from Christ; (2) it implies a limitation of the disturbance between Creator and creature caused by the fall; (3) it is irrelevant in a fallen world of "borderline cases" which defy resolution (pp.383-433). For Thielicke, the Decalog is provisional, since: "The doctrine of the Law must always be viewed against the background of the fall" (p.147). Even the "orders of creation" must be distinguished from the "original will of God" (pp.434-451). They must be understood as

"orders of divine patience," as "emergency orders" (pp.439-440). The rupture between this fallen world and what God originally intended is so great that Thielicke describes the latter in terms of "extraplanetary material" (p.487).

Thielicke goes astray in a fatalism associated with his dualistic understanding of the two kingdoms. Consequently, he divorces creation and redemption, and ultimately denies the efficacy of Christ's death and resurrection. The practical significance of this fatalism becomes manifest when Thielicke begins dealing with specific moral issues, such as homosexuality. For example, In The Ethics of Sex (Baker, 1964), he rejects the notion of a "normative" or "timeless dictum" regarding homosexuality (p.284). Then, he accepts the fatalistic assumption that the constitutional homosexual "is not able to practice abstinence," but is subject to an "irreversible situation" (pp.284-285). Finally, it is only logical (though hardly evangelical) when Thielicke concludes that the homosexual should be counseled to practice his homosexuality "in an ethically responsible way" (p.285).

Although he tries to distance himself from it, Thielicke embraces a tragic dualism which betrays the victory of Christ over the world (Jn. 16:33). Thielicke grants earthly life such autonomy for evil that Christ's authority is effectively denied until the new aeon, which is yet to come. Thielicke refers to this as an "eschatological element" in the Sermon on the Mount which, he contends, Luther overlooked. Thielicke's dualism leads him to characterize the commands of the Sermon on the Mount as "the laws… of the coming world," yet to deny them "a timeless validity" which would allow any incipient fulfillment in this world (pp.348-349). Their only function is negative: to reveal how far this world is removed from that which is coming. Accordingly, Thielicke denies the Sermon any practical application or positive guidance for life in this world. He rejects Luther's view concerning "the simultaneity of the two modes of government" in favor of an eschatological view in which the "two 'aeons' ...temporally follow one upon the other" (p.372).

Regrettably, Thielicke has sundered the spiritual dualism between God and Satan which runs through all of world history, and succumbed to the notion of a temporal dualism which leaves this present world too impregnably under the control of evil. According to Thielicke, the obedience required in this aeon is always ambiguous and provisional. The obedience of faith, and obedience to Caesar, are so unrelated as to involve two lords and two loyalties. Thielicke is therefore vulnerable to Bishop Berggrav's critique in Man and State (Muhlenberg Press, 1951), when Berggrav states:

It is high time to establish that for Luther as for us there is only one [kingdom], and that is God's kingdom. Otherwise this talk about two kingdoms, the worldly and the spiritual, might be interpreted to mean that we belong to two different sovereigns and that there are two kinds of obedience (p.300).

Berggrav's critique is timely, when he warns against delivering the kingdom of this world to the dominion of Satan. "We might end up," he said, "with the view that we even owe Satan obedience if it is clear that he is 'actually in possession of power'" (p.301). "There is only one obedience," Berggrav warned: "Mention of any other obedience is a sin against the first commandment" (p.302).

Similarly, O'Donovan has expressed concern that Thielicke relativized the commands of the Sermon on the Mount as "extraplanetary material," and warned against Thielicke's eschatological dualism. O'Donovan comments:

What, then, of an evangelical ethics? Thielicke's gospel sounds disturbingly like a gospel of deliverance from the world rather than of it... since the new aeon can assume no form in this aeon except the formless form of protest... (p.145).

O'Donovan's ethical critique of Thielicke's position is similar to Bockmuehl's more general critique of dialectical theology in The Unreal God of Modern Theology (Helmers & Howard, 1988). Bultmann, Barth and others emphasized "the infinite qualitative distinction between God and man" to the point, Bockmuehl asserted, of practical atheism. The gospel is lost, Bockmuehl declared, without a God who is at work in this world, a God who 'makes a difference' (pp.153-162). In the same way, O'Donovan warned: "life in Christ must not be denied its own worldliness;" and concluded:

Is not the heart of the problem, then, a weakness in the understanding of the incarnation? Is there not, after all, a doubt as to whether the divine authority really has assumed a worldly form? …in Jesus we meet the moral order itself revealed as incarnate (pp.146-147).

O'Donovan has therefore rejected Thielicke's dualism, with its ethics of ambiguity and compromise, as unbiblical and unevangelical. He states:

Jesus' moral authority is evangelical in the fullest sense, since the moral order which he proclaims is the kingdom of God, the theme of his message of salvation. It is a moral order in which the arbitrariness of sinful man's relation to God's purposes has been overcome and done away with (p.155).

The dependence of Thielicke and other dialectical theologians upon an eschatological dualism is not justified. Scripture and Luther both challenge such dualisms, although Luther admittedly tended toward a dualistic expression of the Two Kingdoms in the early years of his career. The development in Luther's understanding of the two kingdoms is revealing, and offers a corrective of Thielicke's position.

Luther, an Augustinian monk, was well-versed in all of Augustine's works. In The City of God, Augustine based his idea of two basic, irreducible human societies ('cities') upon the biblical distinction between believer and unbeliever:

This is the reason why, for all the difference of the many and very great nations throughout the world in religion and morals, language, weapons and dress, there exist no more than two kinds of society, which according to our Scriptures, we have rightly called the two cities (xiv.l).

Augustine explained the difference between these two societies as the difference between those who, by faith, live according to the Spirit, and those who, because of unbelief, live according to the flesh. Luther, following Augustine, spoke of the "twofold reign of God," according to which God governs the two societies in different ways. Based upon the apostolic affirmations of secular authority in Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-14, Luther taught that God works through human reason, natural law, and the offices of secular government—with his "left hand." However, based upon the Sermon on the Mount and passages such as Romans 8:1-8 and Galatians 5:16-25, Luther taught that God also works in the world through Christ and his followers in a spiritual government—with his "right hand."

In his study, The Ethics of Martin Luther, Paul Althaus observed a development in Luther's thought regarding the two kingdoms (Fortress, 1972, pp.51-53). Early in his career, Luther understood the kingdom of the world entirely in negative terms, as the kingdom of darkness under the lordship of Satan. However, as Luther recognized that the orders of life derive from creation, and not from the fall into sin, he withdrew from this dualism. Increasingly he spoke of God's sovereign work for good, in the secular, as well as in the spiritual domain.

Until about 1523, and Luther's treatise, "Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed," Satan is in complete control of the earthly kingdom: "the world is God's enemy" (p.50). In this early view, Satan rules the world. "The whole world is evil" (LW 45, p.91). The two kingdoms are mutually exclusive classes of people (LW 45, p.88). Christians have no participation in "the kingdom of the world," the evil of which is constrained only by the threats of the law and the temporal sword.

However, by 1529 Luther had developed a much different, more balanced and Biblical viewpoint. Now God rules and works for good in the secular world, as well as the spiritual. The two kingdoms are now different dimensions of a single life in which every Christian participates. In the Small Catechism, for example, Luther confessed his faith: "that God has given and still sustains my body and soul... together with food and clothing, house and home, family and property; that he provides me daily and abundantly with all the necessities of life, protects me from all danger, and preserves me from all evil" (BC, p.345). By 1535, in his Lectures on Galatians, Luther articulated this more mature viewpoint quite succinctly:

In short, we say that all things are good creatures of God. To have a wife, children, and property, or to have laws, political ordinances, and ceremonies —these are divine blessings in their place; that is, they are temporal blessings pertaining to this life. Who is denying that the Law is good, etc.? Therefore a distinction must be made here as follows: God has a double blessing, a physical one for this life and spiritual one for eternal life (LW 26, p.251).

Luther here recognized a vital, political use of God's law in society. This involves God's external, social rule. It includes all aspects of earthly life, including one's vocation, and all temporal blessings. Positively, it entails the preservation of life through the created orders of the church, the family, business, and secular government. Negatively, it involves the restraint of sin through the exercise of corporal punishment and external force.

This integrated (non-dualistic) understanding of God's law is essential for Christians, as well as for society in general. On the one hand, it provides Christians with a positive foundation for social involvement. As a foundation for 'secular' employment and social ethics, Christians can be assured of God's presence in the world, not only through the gospel, but also through the common moral law written on every human heart (Rom.2:12-16), through the institutions of marriage (Mt.19:4-6) and government (Rom.l3:l-7), through vocation, etc. On the other hand, it provides society both with a legitimation for government as good in principle, and also a limitation for government which is evil in practice. The legitimation of government as a divinely instituted, earthly order, is a protection against anarchy. The limitation of government as a divinely instituted, earthly order, is a protection against tyranny.

The relation of church and state is an issue of crisis proportions today. A decade ago, R.J. Neuhaus published an eloquent warning against totalitarianism in an essay entitled, "Christianity and Democracy" (The Institute on Religion and Democracy, 1981). "As a universal community, the Church witnesses to the limits of the national and ideological loyalties that divide mankind," Neuhaus declared. "Because Christ is Lord, Caesar is not Lord" (p. 1). His primary warning at that time was directed against Marxist-Leninism. Because the Communist state recognizes no limitation of its authority, Neuhaus stated that "Christians must be unapologetically anti-Communist" (p.4).

Significantly, just three years later, Neuhaus published The Naked Public Square (Eerdmans, 1984/86), warning against a growing totalitarian threat within the United States. Noting the increasing secularization of government, Neuhaus asserted: "Religion is the singular institution that...keeps the state under transcendent judgment" (p. 118). Consequently, the repudiation of religious authority may lead to a totalitarian state. Neuhaus reasoned:

The truly naked public square is...a vacuum waiting to be filled...a perverse notion of the disestablishment of religion leads to the establishment of the state as church... The totalitarian alternative edges in from the wings... Most important is that the stage be cleared of those religious actors that presume to assert absolute values and thus pose such a troublesome check upon the pretensions of the state (p.86)

Neuhaus called upon all Americans to recognize that the "sacred canopy" of moral law is the very foundation, source, and guarantee of pluralism: "the transcendent truth that both legitimates and makes necessary the cultivation of democratic diversity." He called upon Christians to resist the idolatrous, totalitarian pretensions of the state, to boldly, but humbly (i.e. as "subject to the truth we possess") challenge the myth of a 'secular' America. As recently as 1952, Neuhaus reminded his fellow citizens, in Zorach vs. Clauson, the U.S. Supreme Court declared: "We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being" (p.80).

Neuhaus concluded that there is a "gathering legitimation crisis in our public life," for which the churches "are in large part responsible" (p.142). It is therefore essential for Christians to recognize the God-given responsibility of the church "as the bearer of transcendent truth to which the nation is accountable" (p.142). As Chesterton said: "When you lose the supernatural, the natural passes into the unnatural all too quickly."

Contemplating the future, in a vision of what is at stake for the nation, Neuhaus summarized:

If law and polity are divorced from moral judgment, then the apocalypse proclaimed by Nietzsche and his imitators is upon us; the slide has begun and it is irreversible; all things are permitted and, given the fertility of our imaginations and technological powers, all things will be done. It is not apocalyptic but simply descriptive to observe that when all things are permitted, when no wickedness is forbidden in order that excellence be exalted, then the end has come. When in our public life no legal prohibition can be articulated with the force of transcendent authority, then there are no rules rooted in ultimacies that can protect the poor, the powerless, and the marginal, as indeed there are now no rules protecting the unborn and only fragile inhibitions surrounding the aged and defective (p.153).

Today many scholars in this country find the most ominous political developments to be the recent Supreme Court decisions, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania vs. Casey, Governor of Pennsylvania, 505 U.S. 833 (1992); and the 6-3 Supreme Court decision this past summer (June 25, 1997)which struck down the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Writing for the majority in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, Justices O'Connor, Souter and Kennedy asserted: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of the meaning of the universe and the mystery of life."

This radical statement can only be understood in the context of postmodern assumptions, as a denial of natural law and the foundations upon which the country was born. Whereas the Declaration of Independence acknowledged: "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God;" and recognized that: "All men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights;" and appealed to: "the Supreme Judge of the World;" and pleaded for "the Protection of divine Providence"—the current statement of the Supreme Court of the United States acknowledges no 'higher law(s);' recognizes no moral absolutes; appeals to no God; and pleads for no providence. As James Dobson expressed it in a recent letter (Family News, October, 1997):

The bottom line of the Casey decision is how we define reality. The new definition flows from a 'postmodern' philosophy that acknowledges nothing right nor wrong, nothing moral nor immoral. Truth does not exist and there are no absolutes that transcend time. Everything is relative and subject to individual interpretation (p. 2).

Alarmed by these developments in an increasingly totalitarian, "Imperial Court," Charles Colson and Father Richard John Neuhaus have joined forces with a wide spectrum of Christian leaders in a statement of concern about the growing moral and constitutional crisis entitled: "We Hold These Truths: A Statement of Christian Conscience and Citizenship."

Like Neuhaus and others, Colson anticipated the current political crisis in a series of publications dating back at least a decade. In his Kingdoms in Conflict (Zondervan, 1987), Colson warned about any political power which denied its accountability to a higher, sacred authority. "In Western civilization," Colson observed, "God had traditionally played the role of legitimizing government. In classical and Christian political philosophy He was the author of natural law—that body of just and reasonable standards that guided human rulers and by which the ruled were bound to respect and obey those given charge over them" (p. 181).

"The American government was established," Colson said, "with the understanding that such transcendent values would affect what otherwise is simply a social contract. When the state forgets or denies those values that were original conditions of the contract, in essence it abrogates its contract with its citizens. It is then that the church must take the initiative and call the state to account" (p. 241). Colson encouraged Christians with examples of Christian social involvement in the past. Even under Hitler, he reminded his readers, the church was "the only institution in Germany that offered any enduring or meaningful resistance" (p.174).

Some writers, like Thomas Molnar, in Twin Powers: Politics and the Sacred (Eerdmans, 1988), have argued that this legitimation and limitation crisis is a global phenomenon. For instance, Molnar has asserted that: "The sacrality of power was a universal characteristic of humanity, without exception... The historical records indicate.. that the strongest cement for community cohesion has always been.. the citizens' belief that, one way or another, their community belonged to a reality higher than their own reality as individuals…a superior agency which stands above the state" (p.viii). Molnar concluded: "My thesis, then, is that there is a crisis today of the foundation of power, a power separated from its sacred source. This is, in essence, the political problematic of our times" (p.xi).

Faced with moral decay and social disintegration, what then are Christians in the West to do? The answer, certainly, is not simply a desperate attempt at moral reconstruction. As H.R. Niebuhr's study, Christ and Culture (Harper, 1951), revealed, those periods of church history have been most problematic when the church either withdrew from the secular world altogether, as an autonomous, evil entity; or when the church so identified itself with the secular world as to lose its own identity and mission to the world. As Stott has phrased it, the church is to be a "counterculture," which is in, but not of the world. A proper understanding of natural law, in the biblical framework of the two kingdoms, is a guard against quietistic fatalism on the one hand, and naive utopianism on the other.

Moralism, alone, poses its own risks, as does radical reform. There is an historical pattern in which periods of anomie and libertinism are followed by tyranny. Tyrants such as Mao Tse-tung have ridden to power under the banner of moral reform. Hitler promised sweeping moral reforms when Germany faced anomie in the 1930s. Almost everyone, intellectuals included, seemed ready to accept tyranny as a fair price for moral stability and economic vitality. As Paul Johnson explained in Modern Times, Hitler's domestic policy up to 1939 was simply: "to persuade the masses to forgo liberty in exchange for security." Theologians were not immune. R.P. Ericksen, in Theologians Under Hitler (Yale U. Press, 1985), has shown how the enthusiastic support for Hitler by Lutheran university professors in Germany was motivated by a fear of anarchy and a reactionary desire for law-and-order.

Ultimately, of course the answer is that given by Augustine, when informed, in 410, that Rome had just fallen. He gathered his flock together, and told them to take comfort, and to remember that "we have here no abiding city, but seek that which is to come" (Heb.13:14). Similarly, Malcolm Muggeridge counseled, in The End of Christendom (University of Waterloo, 1980):

Let us then as Christians rejoice that we see around us on every hand the decay of the institutions and instruments of power... For it is precisely when every earthly hope has been explored and found wanting... that Christ's hand reaches out sure and firm (p.56).

Augustine's counsel was clearly correct. An earthly empire had just fallen. He comforted his flock with words of hope to strengthen faith. However, one might wonder whether Muggeridge's call to "rejoice" over a civilization in the process of crumbling isn't going too far. He was absolutely correct in pointing to Christ as our only lasting hope and sure foundation. But his joy over the decay of earthly order seems misplaced. Our Lord calls us to rejoice in His victory over the world (Jn.16:33). But He warns us against misplacing our joy. "Do not," He commands, "rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven" (Lk.1O:2O).

The complexity of the Christian attitude was well expressed by Chesterton when he said, in reference to a 'sane man': "He is a man who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head." Our temporal experience of this world is full of tragedy; our lasting hope in the world to come is full of joy (Rom.5:2). But we are not allowed to curse the world or to give up seeking earthly justice. On the contrary, we are exhorted to pray for our government leaders and for "all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way" (1 Tim.2:2). Furthermore, in the parable of the widow and the unjust judge, our Lord associates faith with the pursuit of justice. Indeed, He warns that despairing of justice, or giving up hope, will mean the loss of faith (Lk.18:1-8).