God used the natural law to lead me to the Catholic Church.
This was something that truly caught me off guard. Catholicism wasn’t something I ever planned on considering. And yet, I suddenly found myself compelled to learn more about the claims of the Catholic Church.
In retrospect, maybe I should not have been surprised given the state of the modern world and utter moral confusion and chaos that we live in. The Catholic Church certainly makes strong claims that they are the unique entity God has tasked with protecting the fullness of God’s truth, His antidote to these problems of the world. Nonetheless, given what I used to think the Catholic Church was and the theological errors it taught, I balked at the idea they had this unique authority. I never thought I would find myself writing an explanation for why I now call the Catholic Church home and why I think everyone should consider doing the same, and yet, here I am.
In this series of posts, I aim to summarize the key reasons and thought process I went through in this journey into the Catholic Church. This first post will be a discussion on how the natural law lead me to investigate the Catholic Church. The next few posts will be a discussion on what for me were the key areas of disagreement between Protestants and Catholics. I will also attempt to explain how I ended up being convinced of the Catholic arguments. These areas are 1) sola fide, 2) sola scriptura, and 3) the authority of the Catholic Church.
I don’t expect what I write here to convince anyone outright of its veracity, but I do hope and pray that it will at least give pause and incite a desire to further investigate the claims I make. I believe that the Blessed Bishop Fulton Sheen had it correct when he said:
“There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”
— Blessed Bishop Fulton J. Sheen
I anticipate that a lot of what follows may be new information for many. I hope it may stir a desire to investigate some of the claims more to better understand the Catholic position as it is a part of the great Christian heritage we all have inherited from.
One thing I took away from converting to the Catholic Church is that all Christians who earnestly seek after truth need to learn more about eachother. We really need to understand the inner logic of what each are claiming before dismissing eachother outright. I can safely say that what I had been taught about the Catholic Church was nowhere near what they actually teach, and once I dug in to understand this inner logic of the Catholic Church more, I saw that not only do they present what I feel is the most compelling system for understanding Christianity, but it is the most complete system for understanding all of reality – from dogmatic theology, to moral theory, to anthropology, and even to all of modern science! The Catholic Church claims to be the full articulation of reality, and upon examination, I can’t help but agree.
I also would like to say at the outset that we who confess the triune God and that Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins are all one Christian family1.
I pray that one day there will be a mass reunification of all Christian denominations into the one visible Church. This is most certainly God’s will (Rom 16:17, Jn 10:16, 1 Cor 1:10, Jn 17:17-23). It is our duty as Christian brothers and sisters to seek after full communion with one another, and I pray these posts help serve God’s will and are received as being written out of love for my neighbors.
I want to pause and give a few preliminary remarks to help better explain the intellectual foundation that my investigation for ultimate truth rests upon.
- A Socratic journey – My journey to where I am now became most serious when I first encountered Christian apologetics and philosophy after flirting with Atheism about 7 years ago. After discovering how deep the Christian intellectual tradition is and how I knew nothing about it, my intellectual journey became one solely of seeking after what is true. I continue to only want to believe what is true and will follow the truth wherever it leads.
- Fallibilism – I hold to an epistemology (theory of knowledge) that all knowledge claims are an inference to the best explanation given the evidence and understanding of the world that we have at any moment. I am a fallible knower. As such, I aim to always be intellectually and doxastically open so that any additional information I receive is tested against what I already know and that I will update my beliefs if any of my current beliefs are falsified.2
- Always steel man your interlocutor’s positions – In the Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas’ form of argumentation was to take the best arguments of his opponents and reformulate them so that they were presented in the strongest form possible. This way, Aquinas thought he could get to truth by refuting only the best objections he could find or think of himself. Likewise, when I investigate any claims of knowledge, I try to do the same so that I hopefully end up at truth.
With that out of the way, let us now begin!
Come now, Let us Reason Together (Isaiah 1:18)
I want to begin with a quote from Pope Benedict XVI that I think cuts right to the heart of one of the greatest intellectual challenges the world now faces today and was a major reason for me researching Catholicism: moral relativism.
How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves – flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true.
Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be “tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine”, seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.3
The world feels like it is in free fall. We live in a hedonist culture rife with addictions to all kinds of immoral practices, and these addictions are often encouraged and celebrated (e.g. pornography and masturbation). We live in a world where even the Disney Channel has cartoons to indoctrinate our young children that bisexual and homosexual relationships are a good and natural way of living.4 We live in an upside down world where people can define to be true about themselves whatever they feel: your sexuality, your identity as a man, woman, your race, and even your species – it’s all up for grabs. There are so many things now claimed to just be mere conventions people construct in their minds (nominalism – more to come on this below).
Many seem apathetic to learning what makes the good life or how to build real virtue and character that aids in living the good life. Instead, we see a world built on maximizing our dopamine intake; a world which aims at satisfying desires and acknowledging people’s emotions as the ultimate arbiter of truth. “You do you” or “speak your truth” we often hear said. As we shall see, the Christian community is far from immune to this. There are many aspects of relativism that have crept into the modern Christian mind, as well.
We also see a world that demands your complete tolerance, acceptance, and often celebration of this relativism. If you don’t fall in line and instead try to proclaim positions of moral realism and objective truth based on God’s revelation and natural law you are canceled; you are singled out, shamed, and even forced out of a job and many aspects of society.
Edward Feser wrote a brilliant essay on this recent phenomenon of cancel culture and how it relates to the very problems that Plato wrote about in his Allegory of the Cave. I highly recommend reading the whole thing, but here is one of the big punch lines:
The improper formation of character yields what Plato calls “misology” or hatred of rational discourse, generating citizens with “no use for reasoned discussion, and an animal addiction to settle everything by brute force.”
The applicability to modern American pop culture is obvious, and only the details need updating. The walls of Plato’s cave have been replaced with cell phones streaming Netflix and pornography, and misology now manifests itself in Twitter mobs and “cancel culture” rather than the executioner’s hemlock (for the moment, anyway).5
Cancel culture is just the logical ends of moral relativism. This is the dangerous climate to which Pope Benedict XVI is referring when he said we now live in a dictatorship of relativism. This storm of relativism is tossing even many good, well-intentioned Christians about and is the background that my conversion story is embedded in.
The Antidote: Classical Theism and the Natural Law
After my brush with Agnosticism/Atheism, I discovered Christian Apologetics. Many different philosophers and apologists, such as William Lane Craig and his work Reasonable Faith, helped me believe Christianity is true again. And right after that, I discovered an older Christian intellectual tradition often given the name classical theism. Specifically, I found the Aristotelian-Thomism (A-T) tradition, a philosophical tradition that grew out of the Catholic Church, which argued for a view of reality that I had never heard before. In doing so, A-T created a complete picture of reality with God as the only purely actual source of all creation that holds everything in existence at each moment.6 My eyes were also opened to the idea that everything that exists has an essence (essentialism) and this essence determines what it is and what it is for (teleology).
This was all shocking to me as I was just pulling myself out from the depths of scientism7 and other secular philosophies which had me flirting with hyper-skepticism about everything and a denial of moral realism.
With this discovery of A-T, suddenly, common sense had the most robust philosophical defense I had ever seen. I could actually trust my senses again. I could trust that things truly exist in the world, have essences, and that we can know concrete things about them (viz. what they are and what they are for).
Another unexpected consequence of discovering classical theism was that moral theory can be derived from studying the essences of things, leaving us, again, with a robust defense for moral realism and the tools to adjudicate the moral landscape of any situation. This is commonly called the natural law.
There is an enormous cost to denying the tenets of classical theism. The world we live in today, which doesn’t know what marriage is, what sex is for, or what a man and woman even are, directly results from denying these tenets of classical theism and natural law. I saw the antidote to this chaos was to rediscover our classical theistic roots steeped in Aristotelian-Thomistic thought. What I didn’t realize is this journey would eventually cause me to explore Catholicism in depth.
2 Pillars of the Natural Law
While there is much that could be said about classical theism and natural law, there are two main pillars that I believe to be at the core of the natural law tradition: essentialism and teleology. These two things happen also to be what was rejected in the nominalist medieval tradition, giving rise to the enlightenment period and culminating in the world we see today (more to come on this below).
Essentialism is the heart of the realist view of the world for classical theism.
What something is — its essence or nature — is what separates it from everything else in the world. The essence determines what capacities a thing has to act in the world which we commonly call powers or abilities. For instance, a human has a lot of powers: the power of locomotion, the power to think, the power to communicate through speech, etc.
Essences also set limits for what a thing cannot do. A human cannot naturally fly. A human cannot naturally change colors like a chameleon. It is the essence of being a human that dictates these powers and their limits.
An essence is a real part of reality, not just a name we give a collection of particles. It is the immaterial thing that inheres in matter, making it what it is and determining how it can behave.
Teleology is the study of the order in the natural world around us. By order, I mean that there are natural goals, purposes, or ends, that each thing that exists tends toward. The greek word telos is used to describe these goals.
For instance, an acorn is oriented towards growing into a tree. A kitten is oriented towards growing into a cat. Electrons are attracted to positive charged particles. Things behave according to an order. We don’t see acorns that sometimes grow into elephants.
As you can see, teleology and essentialism are integral to one another. The definition of a thing is its essence, and the essence dictates the powers and limits a thing has for action in reality and the goals it tends towards.
What is Good and Bad
Likely, you can already see the intimate connection teleology and essentialism have with the natural law. Under natural law, a thing is good in proportion to how well it is realizing its natural end, its purpose.
For instance, the philosopher Edward Feser gives an example of a good versus bad triangle. A triangle has a nature towards which anything that claims to be a triangle is pointed at and can be judged by. A triangle’s nature is to be a three-sided closed plane figure in which all its angles add up to 180 degrees (in Euclidian space at least). A good triangle would be one in which someone took the time to use tools to draw all sides as perfectly as possible. A bad triangle would be one in which the sides of the triangle were hastily drawn and not straight. What makes the hastily drawn triangle bad is that it failed to realize fully the nature of what a triangle is.10
We could say the same for biological beings too. A good dog is one that most closely realizes its nature. A dog that is missing one leg, then, can rightly be said to be defective as it is not realizing its natural end fully. A lioness that eats her cubs rather than nurturing them could equally be said to be defective.11
The connection between a thing’s nature and its goodness or badness is imperative as we will now look at the implications of this for human action.
Morality is a Teleological View of Human Action
Humans are unique creatures in creation in that we have a level of awareness to be able to reflect on what is good or bad, what is right or wrong action. In other words, we alone are moral agents. We alone are rational animals.
As we just saw above, since what makes a thing good is in relation to how well it is realizing its nature, this applies to morality as well. To act in accord with our nature is to do good. To act against our nature is bad.
The human intellect is oriented toward truth. As rational animals, it is a human being’s final end to aim at truth, even if we fail to realize it. In other words, to pursue truth is what is good and to fail to do so is bad. This leads to St. Thomas Aquinas’ famous first principle of natural law:
Good is to be pursued and evil is to be avoided.
— St. Thomas Aquinas
The essence of natural law for humans, then, is to act rationally.
Whatever is contrary to the order of reason is, properly speaking, contrary to the nature of man, as man; while whatever is in accord with reason, is in accord with the nature of man, as man. Now man’s good is to be in accord with reason, and his evil is to be against reason, as Dionysius states… . Therefore human virtue, which makes a man good, and his work good, is in accord with man’s nature, just in so far as it accords with his reason: while vice is contrary to man’s nature, just in so far as it is contrary to the order of reason.12
—St. Thomas Aquinas
Nominalism and The Loss of Natural Law
For many complicated reasons, both the concepts of essentialism and teleology mostly have disappeared from secular and Christian thought. There is a common argument that nominalism13, which ironically arose from strains of thought within the medieval Catholic Church and people like William of Ockham (only later to be rejected) , was the cause for this loss of natural law as they rejected many if not all aspects of essentialism and teleology. A nominalist mainly rejects the idea that universal essences exist, such as “redness” or “catness” that all particulars of a kind of thing share. Nominalists, rather, said there are only individual things and we just use words like “redness” as a convention in our minds to help us group things that in reality do not share in these real universal essences. They are just useful fictions.
Edward Feser goes as far to claim that the erroneous ideas of nominalism and its sibling conceptualism are at the heart of almost every theological and philosophical conflict of the past many centuries.
The view that universals, numbers, and/or propositions exist objectively, apart from the human mind and distinct from any material or physical features of the world, is called realism, and Plato’s Theory of Forms is perhaps the most famous version of the view (though not the only one, as we will see). The standard alternative views are nominalism, which denies that universals and the like are real, and conceptualism, which acknowledges that they are real but insists that they exist only in the mind; and like realism, each of these positions comes in several varieties. The debate between the three views is ancient, and extremely complicated.11 It can also seem at first glance to be very dry, esoteric, and irrelevant to practical life. But nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, it is not too much of an exaggeration to say that virtually every major religious, moral, and political controversy of the last several decades — of the last several centuries, in fact — in some way rests on a disagreement, even if implicit and unnoticed, over the “problem of universals” (as it is known).14
— Edward Feser
The Enlightenment era expanded on this skepticism of classical theism and tried to build a rational view of the world without it. I would argue they failed and that the world we are left with today is the result of denying classical theism and specifically essentialism and teleology.15
There are some hopeful signs that these ideas are making a comeback. There seem to be more books and instances in popular media (especially YouTube and Podcasts) of people talking about classical theism. In fact, the popular political pundit, Ben Shapiro, even wrote about these ideas of classical theism in his recent book The Right Side of History.
These ideas of classical theism are mostly absent from the modern culture at large, though, and even within many Christian Denominations. This is where I first ran into areas in Lutheranism that I disagreed with and I found myself agreeing more and more with Catholics.
Luther and Classical Theism
After discovering I not only can trust the world again through classical theism, but it is in fact the most rational view of the world I then realized that this philosophy mainly comes out of the Catholic Church. I also discovered that Martin Luther had a great disdain for the philosophy of the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition. Here were the first places I found myself disagreeing with Luther and being drawn to the Catholic Church.
Many people claim Luther was an outright nominalist:
Heiko A. Oberman, a leading Luther scholar (and admirer), admitted in Luther: Man between God and the Devil that “Martin Luther was a nominalist; there is no doubt about that.” Fr. Louis Bouyer, a former Lutheran pastor and theologian, stated in The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism that this connection to Ockham’s nominalism is the key to the “negative elements” of the Reformation:
No phrase reveals so clearly the hidden evil that was to spoil the fruit of the Reformation than Luther’s saying that Ockham was the only scholastic who was any good. The truth is that Luther, brought up on his system, was never able to think outside the framework it imposed, while this, it is only too evident, makes the mystery that lies at the root of Christian teaching either inconceivable or absurd.16
— Carl Olson
Whether or not Luther was a full blown nominalist (I would argue not), he was certainly trained in their theological camps and demonstrated their influence in many of his ideas.
Luther built the beginning of his career by rejecting much of classical theism and the Scholastic tradition it stems from. In fact, he was responsible for the ban on teaching Aristotle at the Wittenberg (the university that Luther taught at), though others started teaching it again in short order.
… my advice would be that Aristotle’s Physics, Metaphysics, Concerning the Soul, and Ethica, which hitherto have been thought to be his best books should be completely discarded along with all the rest of his books that boast about nature, although nothing can be learned from them either about nature or the spirit … I dare say that any potter has more knowledge of nature than is written in these books. It grieves me to the quick that this damned, conceited, rascally heathen has deluded and made fools of so many of the best Christians with his misleading writings. God has sent him as a plague upon us on account of our sins.17
— Martin Luther
Here is Luther claiming Aristotle is responsible for corrupting God’s teaching on grace:
Again, his book on Ethics is the worst of all books. It flatly opposes divine grace and all Christian virtues, and yet it is considered one of his best works. Away with such books! Keep them away from all Christians! Let no one accuse me of exaggeration, or of condemning what I do not understand! My dear friend, I know well whereof I speak. I know my Aristotle as well as you or the likes of you. I have lectured on him and heard lectures on him, and I understand him better than do St. Thomas or Scotus. This I can say without pride, and if necessary I can prove it.18
— Martin Luther
It seems to me that the seeds of much of Martin Luther’s rejection of Catholic theological teaching also stem from his hostility toward the way in which philosophy was generally used in theology in his day. Here is from his Disputation Against Scholastic Theology (1517):
43) It is an error to say that no man can become a theologian without Aristotle. This is in opposition to common opinion.
44) Indeed, no one can become a theologian unless he becomes one without Aristotle.
45) To state that a theologian who is not a logician is a monstrous heretic – this is a monstrous and heretical statement. This in opposition to common opinion.
50) Briefly, the whole Aristotle is to theology as darkness is to light. This in opposition to the scholastics.19
Here is some interesting evidence that shows some of the specific nominalist influence on Luther’s thought. In a recent paper by Pr. Eric Phillips on the non-translated and often unpublished section of Luther’s Heidelberg disputation, Luther appears to say that God is both pure potency and pure actuality.20 This is a rejection of one of the core tenets of classical theism, divine simplicity, that states that God alone is pure act, without any potencies.21 While we don’t have time to pursue the consequences for natural law and teleology here, briefly, it sets up a voluntarist view of God, which is to say that God has the potential to arbitrarily will whatever He wants to be good or bad. God could will something, like torturing babies for fun, to be good and we would be morally obligated to do so. To me, this seems likely evidence of some of the nominalist ideas that later caused Luther to largely reject the natural law project in favor of a project of building morality solely from the pages of scripture.
In rejecting the philosophy of classical theism, Luther seems to leave us with a mixed bag for how he builds his moral theology. In some places, one can clearly read Luther defending the idea of God’s eternal law, but because of original sin and its effects on man’s ability to reason, Luther seemed to say we cannot be sure of any moral facts apart from scripture22. As a result of this skepticism of our rational faculties, Luther helped to seed the ideas for Christian Liberalism/Individualism23, the idea that anything that isn’t expressly written in scripture (adiaphora) becomes up to the individual conscience to decide its rightness or wrongness.
The Lutheran theologian Carl Braaten says something similar in an article Protestants and Natural Law that appeared in First Things:
In much of modern Protestant theology, doubt prevails as to the viability of such an appeal to reason and natural law in the construction of Christian social ethics…This partly accounts for the fact that Protestant ethics has tended to be purely personalistic and voluntarist, relying on discrete commands announced by God now and then, in this situation or that. Protestant ethics shows a marked tendency to fall into pure occasionalism, actualism, and situationism. The fundamental givens are either denied altogether or ignored, so that the ethical decision is made existentially in each moment and each situation. With the loss of general rules and enduring principles, it is difficult to find a bridge to the public orders of life in which Christians and non-Christians can work side by side.24
— Carl Braaten
Did Luther Hold to Natural Law?
Did Luther hold to any sense of Natural law, then? He certainly did not in the classical theist sense that is derived from essentialism and teleology. Again, here is another Lutheran theologian, Thomas Pearson, coming to the same conclusion:
 Ultimately, Luther creates a new account of natural law morality: instinctive, not rational; provisional, not ontologically secured; pragmatic, not divinely commanded; chastened by sin, not robust with natural human possibilities. When he invokes natural law, it is with a different insight than that supplied him by the classical natural law tradition.25
— Thomas Pearson
Luther, again, seems to be heavily influenced in his view of natural law by nominalist thinkers, such as William of Ockham rather than Thomas Aquinas.
But was Luther even aware of the Thomistic account of natural law? There have been doubts about the scope and depth of Luther’s familiarity with the works of Aquinas. There can be no question, however, that the Thomist portrayal of a moral and legal natural law was widespread among academics and humanists in Luther’s day. Nonetheless, it was not Aquinas who immediately influenced Luther on this subject, but a movement whose point of departure was in important respects alien to that of the Thomists: nominalism.26
— Thomas Pearson
A nominalist view of the natural law causes one to lose a teleological sense of the world. As such, there is no way we could say Luther held to the classical theistic view of natural law.
 The nominalist representation of natural law also diminishes the teleological element that is vital in the Thomist version. Aquinas adopted Aristotle’s notion that everything seeks its own appropriate end, as the fulfillment of its particular membership in a species. For human beings as rational creatures, this end state is moral perfection and the beatific vision in the complete presence of God. But for the nominalist, any human connection with God is achievable only by means of obedience to the will of God. There is no naturally rational and teleological process of development into a fully realized being for nominalism; only a voluntary responsiveness to God’s commands will accomplish a right relationship with God. This, too, represents a drastic departure from Thomist natural law. In the end, nominalism’s rendition of natural law replaces reason with will, nature with commands, teleology with obedience.27
— Thomas Pearson
A Modern Test Case
It seems to me that these nominalistic ideas that penetrated much of Protestant thought are the seeds for our modern world where we say all kinds of things are morally ambiguous that shouldn’t be, such as contraception, masturbation, etc. If we can’t point to a verse in the Bible that explicitly tells us God’s will on something, we call it adiaphora and leave it up to the individual Christian conscience. And even when we have some verses, we have endless disputes on what those verses mean (e.g. divorce).
I think case and point is contraception. The teleological view of morality argues that all forms of contraception are immoral as they frustrate the natural procreative end (telos) of sex. There is a secondary unitive telos of sex that includes the pleasure of the act helping to bind the spouses together strengthening the family bond, but the primary telos of sex is procreation.
A popular analogy is since the primary end of eating is nutrition, it would likewise be immoral to eat just for the pleasure of taste and then throw up your food to avoid the nutrition. Here, too, we see a primary telos (nutrition) and a secondary telos (pleasure). Likewise, it is immoral to have sex just for the unitive and pleasure part of the act, but actively frustrate the procreative element.
Now if this is the first time you have heard the natural law take on contraception know that there are many objections that often come up. I don’t have time to deal with them here, but I would like to say that the Catholic position on contraception is very nuanced and logical through and through. In fact, it isn’t uncommon for non-Catholics to discover this teaching and implement it in their own lives despite not being Catholic.28
I highly recommend everyone to read two papers on the teleological view of sex. One is by the Lutheran Pr. Heath Curtis29 and the second by A-T philosopher Edward Feser.30 These two works, especially Feser’s, walk through all the philosophical and biblical arguments for the natural law view of sex and deal with most any objection one may come across. See also these great works for more information on contraception and the natural law view of family.31
How quickly the world has disregarded this obvious procreative primary end for the marital act. Before 1930, the entire Christian world agreed about this and decried the Anglican Church when they first allowed for the possibility that Christians can use contraception without breaking God’s moral commands.
THE LUTHERAN CHURCH:
Birth Control, as popularly understood today and involving the use of contraceptives, is one of the most repugnant of modern aberrations, representing a 20th century renewal of pagan bankruptcy.
— Dr. Walter A. Maier, Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.
Carried to its logical conclusion, the committee’s report, if carried into effect, would sound the death-knell of marriage as a holy institution by establishing degrading practices which would encourage indiscriminate immorality. The suggestion that the use of legalized contraceptives would be “careful and restrained” is preposterous.32
— The Washington Post, March 22, 1931.
Now, contraception has become another instance of a topic that is considered adiaphora (even though it really isn’t, see Genesis 38:6-10) and left up to the individual’s conscience, despite its clear violation of the natural law. This was another chink in the armor for me with the Protestant mindset. I was coming across a common idea that our reason is so corrupt that we can’t use it to say something is objectively good or bad apart from scripture. And yet, once I had these arguments of natural law presented to me, it seemed utterly reasonable to me and answered all the questions as to what is wrong with the world today.
A quick side note: the law is good news!
I also want to say that these teachings on natural law are good news! They are not a long list of do not do’s to make life less pleasurable. On the contrary, God gave us human agency to freely pursue Him and the good. In striving after virtue and achieving our telos, we are living the life God wants for us and as a necessary consequence we will find true happiness. True freedom is the freedom to pursue the good. True hapiness is fulfilling our telos, living the life God wants us to live.
During my own conversion, it was the moral argument for God that brought me back to faith. After my conversion, I didn’t grow to despise God’s commands and see them as the curse we are under, rather I grew to love God’s law. One reason was because It showed me God was real – where else would our moral sense come from? The second reason was that God wanted me to be happy and He knows that fulfilling our telos (following his law) is the only way to be truly happy. This is why, as a Lutheran, I also started to wonder why the law often gets painted in a negative light when the Bible frequently sings its praises.
Oh, how I love Your law! All day long it is my meditation.
1Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or set foot on the path of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers.
2But his delight is in the Law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.
Of course we all have failed to keep the law perfectly and need God’s mercy (Romans 3:23). The law can be a tool to awaken the unrepentant person to the reality of their sin and the need for God’s mercy (2nd use of the law). The law isn’t just God’s wrath or a tool to show us sin, though. It is also love. This where the pedagogical nature of God’s law comes in. We should meditate on the law day and night because it is the good news that shows us the path to true freedom and true happiness that we can only achieve through God’s grace.
A further problem stemming from nominalism seems to be even when the Bible does speak about the morality of something, say homosexual acts or divorce, the nominalist mindset along with sola scriptura leads to Christians disagreeing what the Bible is actually saying, coming to opposite conclusions.
On the day of writing this (8-4-20), Albert Mohler was talking on his daily news podcast about how appalled he was that a transgender seminarian was allowed to attend at Luther College in St. Paul, MN.33
What you have here are denominations that long ago abandoned the Bible as the Word of God, they’re simply reforming themselves according to the dictates of the culture.
— Albert Mohler
Mohler objects on biblical grounds (which I and most conservative Christians would agree with). But that seminarian and many other Christian LGBTQ+ advocates use scripture to argue it is ok too.
Rejecting natural law leads to theological Liberalism, that everyone can interpret reality and scripture as they personally see fit. (Sola scriptura also comes heavily into play here too, but we will save that discussion for its own post.) To reject natural law for morality is to enter into endless division over interpretations of scripture. Natural law leaves us with objective criteria for determining the morality of cases like these.
Unfortunately, many good and well intentioned Christians don’t realize that these nominalist tendencies from centuries ago to reject essentialism and teleology are the root causes to these modern problems.
3 Philosophical Errors
As I began to explore some of these natural law questions deeper, such as with contraception, I adamantly agreed more and more with the Catholic Church. They seemed to be the only ones that would stand up for these truths of natural law against a culture ardently against it. St. Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humana Vitae34, the document that upheld the Catholic Church’s teaching on human sexuality and marriage in the face of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, is the perfect example of the Church standing up for truth agianst the tides of popular culture. This document was more prescient than St. Pope Paul VI could ever have imagined. The world has far surpassed the the negative consequences the Pope warned us of over 50 years ago.
Briefly, I now want to summarize the 3 main philosophical errors, already alluded to above, that I saw come up again and again in Luther’s and many Protestant’s thought against these teachings of natural law.
I won’t rehash what has already been said about nominalism here, just that it clearly was an influence on Luther’s thought and had major repercussions for a natural law view of the world through the removal of essentialist and teleological conceptions of reality.
As for voluntarism, this creates a view of God that His will precedes His intellect and good and bad become arbitrary to whatever he wills. This would even make logic subservient to God’s will rather than just being a part of God’s very nature. Luther gave many examples where he felt God could will whatever He wanted to be true and it was. He said God could even will 2 + 5 = 8!
The classic illustration was the doctrine of the Trinity, which asserts that three persons are one God. According to human arithmetic this is preposterous, and yet according to divine arithmetic it must be believed. Luther at this point outdid his teachers and asserted that whereas by the standard of human reason two and five equal seven, yet if God should declare them to be eight, one must believe against reason and against feeling. All this Luther could say with his teachers, but such conundrums gave him little concern.35
— Roland Bainton
Luther felt that if God was omnipotent, He had to be free in such a way He could will what we now think of a bad, say murder, to be good.
Luther was clearly influenced by Nominalism in some significant ways, and it affected his understanding of imputation. One manifestation of this influence is found in his belief concerning the nature of the divine will. In Bondage of the Will, Luther defended a voluntarist conception of God’s will, arguing that no cause or ground determines His will, but that His will is the self-determining rule for all things.3 Thomas Aquinas, an Aristotelian Realist, believed that God’s will proceeds directly from God’s nature, which is used to explain why God cannot sin. Luther, contra Aquinas, argued that the goodness of God’s actions is not determined by the inherent goodness of His nature, but out of His declaration that His actions are good.4 For Luther, goodness proceeds out of God’s will rather than His nature, so that the divine will is separated from the divine nature. In other words, God’s will determines what the term “goodness” means rather than his nature being consistent with a particular conception of goodness. In Bondage of the Will, Luther wrote that because power is part of God’s nature, His will cannot be impeded.5 In this sense, God can do whatever he wants—even if it appears to be evil to humans—because His will is supreme.36
This stands in stark contrast to how the entire classical theistic tradition conceives of God:
Divine simplicity also entails, of course, that God’s will just is God’s goodness which just is His immutable and necessary existence. That means that what is objectively good and what God wills for us as morally obligatory are really the same thing considered under different descriptions, and that neither could have been other than they are.37
— Edward Feser
And here is what Pope Benedict XVI has to say about voluntarism in his popular Regensburg address (2006):
In contrast with the so-called intellectualism of Augustine and Thomas, there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which, in its later developments, led to the claim that we can only know God’s voluntas ordinata. Beyond this is the realm of God’s freedom, in virtue of which he could have done the opposite of everything he has actually done. This gives rise to positions which clearly approach those of Ibn Hazm and might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness. God’s transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God, whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind his actual decisions. As opposed to this, the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy, in which – as the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 stated – unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness, yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language. God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf.38
— Pope Benedict XVI
The third error that arises from rejecting the classical theistic conception of natural law is Individualism/Liberalism, the idea that each individual is the ultimate arbiter of interpreting the world around us. In the secular world, this leads into full blown moral relativism. As already stated though, for many Christians, this leads to a kind of relativism too. Since the individual can ultimately decide what scriptures mean or what is right and wrong for things that are not in scripture (adiaphora) it is no wonder there are so many Christian denominations today with differing opinions on every moral issue.
I was seeing without natural law and the authority of the Catholic Church, everything has a tendency to descend into theological and moral relativism.
All three of these errors and their rejection of the natural law have been wrapped up into what Pope Pius X famously called the heresy of modernism. While, of course, not everyone who rejects natural law is guilty of all these things per se, there are guaranteed to be elements of modernism in anyone who rejects classical theism and the natural law.
Indeed, I would say that liberalism is a Christian heresy and one that seems now to be approaching its full metastasization. I would say that it is the moral and political component of the broader heresy of modernism, which is at high tide and sweeping all before it, the flood now having penetrated deeply into even the innermost parts of the Church. It is like Arianism both in its breathtaking reach and in its longevity. It is worse than Arianism in its depravity. Its god is the self — the sovereign individual of the liberal, and the subjective religious consciousness of the theological modernist — and in seeking to conform reality to the self rather than the self to reality, it tends toward subjectivism, relativism, fideism, voluntarism, and other forms of irrationalism. And there is no limit to the further errors that might follow upon such tendencies. That is why, as Pope Pius X said, modernism is the “synthesis of all heresies.”39
— Edward Feser
Synthesis of Philosophical Errors
It appears that Luther’s disdain for Aristotle and the natural law undergirded his entire theological project and his subsequent errors. I now believe this rejection of the Aristotelian-Thomistic natural law to be one of the biggest keys, if not the biggest, to understanding how Luther fell into theological error. His denial of free will and man’s ability to use reason to know the natural law lead to his rejection of the living authority of the church in favor of sola scriptura. This split the church and caused many revolutions in thought within Christendom and the secular world from which the negative consequences are still unfolding in the world today.
Here is a brilliant summary of all these ideas from a highly recommended book America on trial: A defense of the founding by Robert Reilly found on pages 138-140.
Philosophy, of course, is a work of reason, and Luther turned as vehemently against it as he did against reason itself: “I indeed believe that I owe to the Lord this service of barking against philosophy and urging to the study of Sacred Scripture. . . . One should learn philosophy only as one learns witchcraft, that is to destroy it; as one finds out about errors, in order to refute them.”…Luther contemptuously inveighed against Aristotle, as he had against Aquinas, who, he said, “never understood a chapter of the Gospel or Aristotle”.
Rejecting the medieval view that one could not be a theologian without the aid of Aristotle, Luther declared, “No one can become a theologian unless he becomes one without Aristotle.” In the same document he wrote, “In vain does one fashion a logic of faith.” Therefore, Luther concluded, “Aristotle is to theology as darkness to light.” In 1517, he wrote, “Should Aristotle not have been a man of flesh and blood, I would not hesitate to assert that he was the Devil himself.”…
Luther declared that “virtually the entire Ethics of Aristotle is the worst enemy of grace.”
Luther’s vitriol against Aristotle was based on Luther’s emphatic denial that virtue is attainable through the practice of good works. For him, Aristotelian virtue had to be impossible; otherwise, his teaching of salvation by faith alone would be imperiled. Peter Redpath explains that Luther
“could not tolerate naturally-acquired virtues of the soul that were generated, maintained, and lost over time through habitual practice. . . . Because Aristotle was the chief source of the philosophical teaching about natural virtues and habits, Aristotle haunted Luther like the ghost of Banquo haunted Macbeth. These natural habits, virtues, simply had to go. While Luther could not drive Aristotle out of Athens, he did the next best thing. He tried to drive his ghost out of Western culture.”
Luther no doubt was worried about Pelagianism, the heretical teaching that man could effect his own salvation, but he took this concern to the extreme of denying that man’s actions have any effect, either good or bad, on his salvation. Good works are not efficacious. Luther declared: “He that says the Gospel requires works for salvation, I say flat and plain he is a liar.”
It appears that Luther’s extreme scrupulosity, which imbued him with such panic at the prospect of God’s judgment, drove him to figure out some way to disassociate his acts from any moral significance. This seems likely to have inspired the solution that he could be saved by faith alone. Philosopher Edward Feser states: “The prospect of judgment by the terrifying God of nominalism and voluntarism—an omnipotent and capricious will, ungoverned by any rational principle—was cause for despair. Since reason is incapable of fathoming this God and good works incapable of appeasing Him, faith alone could be Luther’s refuge.” Although this new doctrine no doubt provided him with enormous relief, the price was high: human actions become morally irrelevant. Exaggerating for effect, Luther urged:
“Be a sinner and sin on bravely, but have stronger faith and rejoice in Christ, who is the victor of sin, death, and the world. Do not for a moment imagine that this life is the abiding place of justice: sin must be committed. To you it ought to be sufficient that you acknowledge the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world, the sin cannot tear you away from him, even though you commit adultery a hundred times a day and commit as many murders.”
It is worth reflecting for a moment on what a momentous change Luther represents from the Aristotelian-Thomist understanding of human nature at the heart of Western civilization heretofore. That understanding held that the natural end of the intellect is truth. In turn, the natural end of the will is the choice of those actions that bring one into conformity with the truth. The highest end of intellect is knowledge of God. Therefore, the highest end of free will is the choice of those means that make possible the attainment of knowledge of God. With Luther, all of this becomes anathema. In 1517, he wrote: “It is false to state that the will can by nature conform to correct precept. . . . One must concede that the will is not free to strive towards whatever is declared good.” This is because, as he said elsewhere, “men are flesh and have a taste for nothing but the flesh, it follows that free choice avails for nothing but sinning.”
— Robert Reilly
At this point, I was still very much Lutheran because I thought the Catholic Church anathematized the Gospel at the Council of Trent and I believed Martin Luther to be correct on the doctrine of sola fide (salvation by faith alone).
At the same time, I concluded that our reason is not totally corrupt and we all should submit to the objective authority of God’s natural law. It was beyond frustrating to me that many good, conservative Christians chose their own subjective feelings on moral topics over the authority of God’s natural law. I ran into these issues all the time, and especially at Church and in Bible studies. I kept hearing so many things excused that were contrary to natural law and even explicitly dealt with in the Bible. I then wondered how Protestants could be surprised the moral sense of the world has fallen so far and so quick when many of them also hold to relativist positions by rejecting or not being aware of the natural law.
This isn’t to say that holding to an Aristotelian-Thomistic natural law view of the world is outright incompatible with Protestant thought.40 There are those that try, and I was one of them. The problem I was finding was that it was usually done in a somewhat arbitrary fashion, using some elements of natural law while rejecting others.
The founding of the American system of government is a perfect example where the founders often appealed to aspects of natural law theory (such as natural rights), but rejected many of the core tenets of Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy.41
Many of our founders clearly saw that our country and its ideas of liberty cannot stand without a virtuous people.
Liberty can no more exist without virtue and independence, than the body can live and move without a soul. When these are gone, and the popular branch of the constitution has become dependent on the minister, as it is in England, or cut off, as it is in America, all other forms of the constitution may remain; but if you look for liberty, you will grope in vain; and the freedom of the press, instead of promoting the cause of liberty, will but hasten its destruction, as the best cordials taken by patients in some distempers become the most rancid and corrosive poisons. 42
— John Adams
“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”
— Benjamin Franklin
“Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics.”
— John Adams
While their aim at achieving a good and virtuous society was certainly good, not basing these natural law impulses on essentialism and teleology has lead to a slow unraveling of what they tried to establish. It has lead to a modern world that is very confused on what virtue even is or just jettisons it altogether. I fear the Protestant project, which predates America’s founding, is now seeing the consequences in their churches stemming from the same problem: the rejection of classical theism and the natural law.
This made me want to figure out how the Catholic Church could be right about all this moral theology and philosophy while getting the most basic and important doctrine on justification wrong. The Catholic Church is full of brilliant thinkers, how could they miss something so theologically obvious?
I had enough and decided to try to answer that very question. Knowing that the Church stands and falls on the doctrine of sola fide I had to start there. Thus began my deep dive into what Catholicism teaches.
Again, none of these things disprove Lutheranism or Protestantism outright. Rather, they were the impetus for me to dig into what Catholics taught. I had to find out if the errors of the Catholic Church that Lutherans had taught me about were true. I had to find out if the Reformation project was good and maybe just needed to rediscover some important things from classical theism. Or, were the Reformers, in fact, the ones in error and these problems listed here the foundations of their theological mistakes?
The rest of the posts in this series will go over what I found when I investigated what the Catholic Church teaches on the key theological areas of dispute. Again, I will cover 1) sola fide, 2) sola scriptura, and 3) the authority of the Catholic Church in each of their own posts.
I also want to reiterate that I don’t expect this to change anyone’s mind out right. I do hope that it will at least pique enough interest to make you investigate some of the sources I mention and try to better understand the inner logic of the Catholic position on things. I firmly believe that all Christians should be united, and God apparently does too (Rom 16:17, Jn 10:16, 1 Cor 1:10, Jn 17:17-23). While reunification may not be likely in the immediate future, we can at least continue to take appropriate steps towards working on the true substance of our differences. And who knows what God has in His plans for us!
I also hope that every Christian will realize that the natural law is one of those things that all Christians should be united on to help save the Christian culture as a whole. This is what the world needs now to stop the complete destruction of the western Judeo-Christian edifice that built the foundations for the liberty that the modern world stands on.
With that background out of the way, next we move into what happened when I explored Catholicism for the first time.
John 10:16 (NIV)
I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
Important Natural Law/ Aristotelian-Thomistic Resources
- An introduction to ethics: A natural law approach by B. Besong.
- Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide, Edward Feser
- The Last Superstition, Edward Feser
- Five Proofs of the Existence of God, Edward Feser
- PASCENDI DOMINICI GREGIS, Encyclical of Pope Pius X
- Summa Theologiae, Thomas Aquinas
- Philosophy for Understanding Theology, Diogenes Allen
- Luther and late medieval Thomism: A study in theological anthropology, Denis Janz
- Ideas Have Consequences, Richard Weaver
- Catholic Republic, Timothy Gordon
- America on trial: A defense of the founding, Robert Reilly
- CCC 838, Unitatis redintegratio 3 ↩
- For more on the philosophy of falibilism, see Dougherty, Trent. Fallibilism. In Bernecker, S. (2014). The Routledge companion to epistemology. London: Routledge. ↩
- HOMILY OF HIS EMINENCE CARD. JOSEPH RATZINGER. DEAN OF THE COLLEGE OF CARDINALS . Vatican Basilica. Monday 18 April 2005. http://www.vatican.va/gpII/documents/homily-pro-eligendo-pontifice\_20050418\_en.html ↩
- The new show “Owl House” is about an openly bisexual character that has a same sex romance. <https://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/owl-house-disney-first-bisexual-lead-character> The short filem “Out” is about a gay character coming out of the closet to his family. <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/24/arts/disney-pixar-gay-out.html> Remember, this Disney we are talking about and very young children that will be exposed to this that have do not, nor should yet, have the capicity to understand the moral gravity of what is being shown to them. ↩
- Feser, Edward. Woke Ideology Is a Psychological Disorder. https://americanmind.org/essays/woke-ideology-is-a-psychological-disorder/ ↩
- Here is a link to Feser’s simple explination on his blog of the basics of classical theism: <https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/09/classical-theism.html> and here is a link to Feser on why Act and Potency distinction is the corner stone of the classical theistic method: <https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/05/act-and-potency.html> ↩
- This is the belief that we can only gain knowledge through scientific inquiry. It is a self-defeating claim as you can’t scientifically test the claim itself! It is a philosphical claim, which just goes to show that we have many other modes of gaining knowledge other than science. ↩
- for more on essentialism, see my post here: https://follyofthecross.com/down-is-the-new-up-3-biggest-pieces-of-classical-theism-missing-from-the-modern-mind-pt-4-essentialsm/. For a deep dive, see David Oderberg’s book Real Essentialsim for the more robust modern day A-T defense of essentialism. ↩
- For more the idea of teleology, see my post here: https://follyofthecross.com/down-is-the-new-up-3-biggest-pieces-of-classical-theism-missing-from-the-modern-mind-pt-3-teleology/. See also Teleology: A shopper’s Guide by Edward Feser. https://www.epsociety.org/library/articles.asp?pid=81 ↩
- Feser, E. (2015). Neo-scholastic essays. South Bend, IN: St. Augustines Press.P. 380-382 ↩
- An important point here is that the word “defective” is being used in a technical sense. It is simply stating anything that doesn’t realize that end perfectly (like a perfect circle) is defective to some degree. It isn’t being used to assign the value of worth. This would be an important distinction because any person that has defects does not have less worth because of them. In fact, every person has defects of one kind or another, as we all fail to realize our telos perfectly. Because we are God’s creation, made in his image, we all have infinite worth. Thankfully, in the life to come, everything will be perfect and we will all realize our telos perfectly. The book of Revelation especially talks of the perfection of the life to come as in Revelation 7:13-17 and Revelation 21:4-8 ↩
- Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologiae. I-II q. 71 a. 2 ↩
- For a good and brief overview of nominalism and its repercussions, see: Olson, Carl E. What’s in a Name? ©2005 Catholic Answers, Inc. https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=6802 ↩
- Edward Feser (2012-08-15T05:00:00+00:00). The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism MOBI2 (Kindle Locations 910-914). St. Augustine’s Press. Kindle Edition. ↩
- see my series on classical theism and the repercussions of its rejection here: https://follyofthecross.com/down-is-the-new-up-3-biggest-pieces-of-classical-theism-missing-from-the-modern-mind-pt-1/ ↩
- Olson, Carl E. What’s in a Name? ©2005 Catholic Answers, Inc. This item 6802 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org. https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=6802 ↩
- Kusukawa. (1995). The Transformation of Natural Philosophy. Cambridge University Press. p. 42 ↩
- Luther, Martin. An Open Letter to The Christian Nobility (Proposals for Reform: Part III). Translated by C. M. Jacobs. Works of Martin Luther: With Introductions and Notes Volume II (Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, 1915 ↩
- Martin Luther’s 1517 Disputation Against Scholastic Theology. https://williamroach.org/2017/08/20/martin-luthers-1517-disputation-against-scholastic-theology/#:\~:text=This%20is%20the%20full%20text,is%20contrary%20to%20common%20knowledge.&text=It%20is%20the%20same%20as,of%20all%20doctors%20of%20theology. ↩
- Phillips, Eric G. Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation Revisited in Light of the Philosophical Proofs. CTQ 82 (2018) p. 238-239 ↩
- see Edward Feser’s simple explanation on his blog of the basics of classical theism: https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/09/classical-theism.html and also see Feser’s books The Last Superstion, Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide, and Five Proofs for the Existence of God for much more detail on why Divine Simplicity is necessary and God, as such, is pure act. ↩
- Baker, R. C., & Ehlke, R. C. (2011). Natural law: A Lutheran reappraisal. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House. loc. 92 ↩
- By Liberalism, I mean that in the classical liberal sense, which is to say that the individual is free to create their own view of the world. It is a rejection of an outside authority (other than God) to tell us what scripture and reason means, and instead makes the individual the authority in interpreting God’s revelation through scripture or reason. ↩
- Braaten, Carl E. PROTESTANTS AND NATURAL LAW. January 1992. https://www.firstthings.com/article/1992/01/protestants-and-natural-law ↩
- Pearson, Thomas D. Luther on Natural Law. https://www.elca.org/JLE/Articles/472 ↩
- ibid. ↩
- ibid. ↩
- See Scott Hahn’s book Rome Sweet Home for an example of contraception finding its way into his family life well before he began his study of Catholicism and converting. ↩
- Should Christian Couples Use Contraception? What the Bible, the Church’s Witness, and Natural Law Have to Say About Birth Control. https://www.pseudepigraph.us/2015/12/22/should-christian-couples-use-contraception-what-the-bible-the-churchs-witness-and-natural-law-have-to-say-about-birth-control/ ↩
- The Perverted Faculty Argument. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4SjM0oabZazWC1SRmN0WXVpYkE/view ↩
- Patrick Coffin “The Contraception Deception”, Sebastian Walshe “Understanding Marriage & Family: A Catholic Perspective”, and Scott Hahn “The First Society: The Sacrament of Matrimony and the Restoration of the Social Order” ↩
- The Position of the Church on Artificial Contraception. https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/position-of-the-church-on-artificial-contraception-9635 ↩
- PART II Liberal Denominations Welcome the Transgender Revolution: A Rejection of Biblical and Biological Reality. https://albertmohler.com/2020/08/04/briefing-8-4-20 ↩
- http://www.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae.html ↩
- Roland Bainton. Here I Stand – A Life Of Martin Luther ↩
- Luther ‘s Doctrine of Imputation Nominalism vs. Aristotelian Realism – Joshua Price – p.49 ↩
- Feser, Edward. God, Obligation, and the Euthyphro Dilemma. https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/10/god-obligation-and-euthyphro-dilemma.html ↩
- Meeting With the Representatives of Science. Lecture of the HolyFather. Aula Magna of the University of Regensburg. Tuesday, 12 September 2006. http://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/speeches/2006/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20060912_university-regensburg.html ↩
- Feser, Edward. Continetti on post-liberal conservatism. https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2019/06/continetti-on-post-liberal-conservatism_2.html ↩
- There is much that could be said here about the third use of the law. When I was Lutheran, I was a big proponent of emphasizing the pedagogical nature of God’s eternal law. However, upon further study into Catholic thought, I now see the Law/Gospel distinction as a false hermeneutic and the natural law more as a part of the New Law, or the general moral law that God does expect us to uphold (Matthew 7:21-23, John 14:15, Matthew 5:48, Philippians 2:12-13 , Matthew 5:17-20, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, John 5:1-16, Romans 1:18-32). More to come on this in the post on sola fide. ↩
- Gordon, T. J. (2018). Catholic republic: Why America will perish without Rome. See also America on Trial: A Defense of the Founding, Robert Reilly ↩
- Mark R. Levin. Rediscovering Americanism: And the Tyranny of Progressivism mobi (Kindle Locations 1647-1652). Threshold Editions. Kindle Edition. ↩