Natural Law, Natural Theology, and the Protestant Critique: Are We Really That Far Apart?

Day 3
Session 6
12:00 PM

The standard narrative goes like this: “The Catholic Church teaches that human beings are capable of knowing by unaided reason the existence and nature of both God and his moral law. Protestantism, on the other hand, maintains that our cognitive powers, so corrupted by sin, cannot provide to human beings the power to know God and his moral law apart from special revelation. Moreover, the Catholic Church teaches that the deliverances of natural theology are preambles to faith, and thus implies that in order for faith to arise in the believer he must first know that God exists by way of his natural reason.

On the other hand, Protestantism maintains that it is perfectly rational to have faith in God without the evidence of natural theology.” We will learn that this standard narrative is mistaken, and that Catholicism and Protestantism are not only not that far apart on the matters of natural law and natural theology, but may actually be saying the same things in different ways. We will pay particular attention to the work of St. Thomas Aquinas. The material in this session is based on a chapter in the speaker's recent book, Never Doubt Thomas: How the Catholic Aquinas Can Be Both Evangelical and Protestant (Baylor University Press, 2019)


Recommended Reading

Francis J. Beckwith, Never Doubt Thomas: The Catholic Aquinas as Evangelical and Protestant (Baylor University Press, 2019)

Carl E. Braaten, "Protestants and Natural Law," First Things (Jan. 1992),

Stephen J. Grabill, Rediscovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006)

Carl F. H. Henry, "Natural Law and a Nihilistic Culture," First Things (Jan. 1995),

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