A Reflection: Checking Scholastic Habits with Orthodox Thinking
This Labor Day, under the touching glow of a setting pacific sundown, invest some time reading a little primer entrusted to be by a dear friend- A Biblical Case for Natural Law, by Westminster Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics David Van Drunen.
You’re probably thinking this post is a review of this book. Or, at least it’s on the subject of Natural Law. It’s not.
For the record, after reading the book, I would still probably fall into that category of Christian the author respectfully laments for not sold on seeing and accepting Natural Law as the biblical paradigm for understanding the and conducting government, trade, and economics.
And here is one reason why- the fact that confidently constructing a “biblical theology” of something as paradigmatic and significant as Natural law, are built off of three passages: Gen 1:26-28, Rom 1:19-20, and Rom 2:14-15. And, if we look at the surrounding context, the Big Idea of these passages are not “how do I run a proper government in a world mixed with both the people of God and pagans?”
Next, the author (thankfully) makes steps to present Biblical arguments for exactly what natural law entails. The results: 1) Things that should not be done (based upon Gen 20:9-10; 26:10, and Gen 34:7), 2) the Fear of God (Gen 20 again, where the author also makes a sort of inferential argument from silence, Ex 1:17, and Ex 18:21), and 3) A common humanity (Job 31:13-15, Amos 1:3-2:3, and Gen 4). These are helpful first steps, but still a little vague for building a nation upon. Although I can agree with the author’s use of these passages for the conversation on Natural Law, they are more inferences from the passage used to answer a pre-existing question of our time, versus the main idea of the text.
Don’t get me wrong- what I described above is essentially the definition of systematic theology. And I’m thankful for this disciple- without it, many of history’s questions would not be answered.
Yet, what reading this monograph did for me was take me back to considering the interplay between faith and reason, and to slow down, and to mediate on the gravity, and in some cases, the audacity, of man to make inductive arguments to then declare “this is God’s truth on the subject.”
Over the last few weeks, I have been enjoying listening to lectures on Church History during my drives. As a result, one point of reflection that has captured my attention is the difference in thinking between the Eastern Church and the Western Church, especially as the West ventured into the age of Scholasticism. The contrast between these cultures is probably best embodied in the schism between the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity over one simple phrase: “and the son” (the Filioque clause).
Now, most historians, and theologians, would agree that paramount reason for the split was not because adding this phrase to the Nicene Creed was condemnable heresy (rather it was over the political ramifications of the pope/western churches authority to add the clause). Yet, it was a benchmark in illustrating the difference in Eastern and Western Thinking, and their trajectory for years to come. In the West, theology would become even more deeply intertwined with logic, reason, and academia, and the theologian would be one who wrote and read books in musty libraries. In the East, theology strived more to focus on the ingestion and transformation of Scripture and it’s teaching, verses pushing the journey to explore and to explain the deeper, thicker, and less clear doctrines to which Scripture leaks. A theologian is one who prays, and experiences communion with God, more so than one who loves his library. It is an approach that shares much with theologian Helmut Theilcke, and his concern over the potential dangers of engaging the study of theology, who warns ““a theological thought can breathe only in the atmosphere of dialogue with God.” 
So, I guess I lied- this post did talk a good amount about Natural Law. I suppose that jeopardizes my credibility. But what I hope to share is the spiritual exercise that this study facilitated. The pendulum between the pursuit of knowledge of God and “knowing God” as J.I. Paker would define it is a hard one. And, even putting these two as “opposites” is a bit of a caricature, as they are so deeply intertwined. But I charge you with this challenge- may we learn to read and marinate in Scripture, finding satisfaction and peace in what it does say, I a way that can satisfy the questions which burn, but on which the Spirit didn’t God-breathe a spot on specific answer. May we learn to hunger for eyes that read the text as it’s first readers did,. May we learn to envision ourselves in the context it’s author’s wrote it, and find transformation in meditating on it with a simple, ancient (versus post-modern/ Western) eyes. May learn to be satisfied in what is clear, and to not become agitated over discerning answers for those that are not addressed.
 I am open to receive criticism that this is an oversimplification. I will state, in VanDrunen’s passage on “Natural Law and Human Nature,” he uses many, many more Bible versus about God’s righteous and just nature, and how Gen 1:26 must mean that elements of this nature are created and a part of humanity. However, the many scriptures used in these passages are all mentioned to support the presupposition to the argument that God’s nature is just- they are not passages which from themselves one can make a clear connection that Natural Law exists in the hearts of men.
 Aka the Golden Rule
 Helmut Theilcke, A Little Exercise for Young Theologians, 34.