The term “natural law” has come to mean so many things to so many people that it has nearly lost its usefulness. I do not generally consider myself a natural law adherent in the most common (as far as I can tell) modern use of the term.
I do believe general revelation is real, that it is a gift from God, and that it does communicate to all people. (See, for example Psalm 19:1-6, Proverbs 6:6-11, and Romans 1:18-32 and 2:12-16.) Of course, I also believe in the superiority of special revelation or Scripture. (See, for example Genesis 2:15-17, Psalm 19:7-14, Romans 10:14-17, and 1 Timothy 3:14-17.) However, I believe that both are necessary. For example, without God’s general revelation in the natural world, I would not know what the Sun or an ant is, and therefore Psalm 19:1-6 and Proverbs 6:6-11 would be mystifying. Further, and again by way of one example among many, even in the Garden of Eden before the Fall, Adam needed special revelation from God in Genesis 2:15-17 to know how to fully obey Him.
Thus, my problems with natural law as it is often used today are: (1) it often seems to assume that virtually everything that needs to be known, excluding probably matters relating to salvation, can be known from general revelation alone without reference to Scripture, and (2) therefore, when making arguments in the “secular” realm (see my writings elsewhere on the blog about the secular-sacred distinction), the Christian should not appeal to Scripture, which governs the “sacred” realm, but rather to natural law which governs all people. By contrast to this type of natural law position, I believe that Scripture is the authority for all of life for all people for all time in all places and cultures. Special revelation was necessary even before the Fall, as indicated above, and certainly can be no less necessary now. Further, humans suppress the truth in unrighteousness, as Romans 1 clearly teaches. Thus, again, special revelation is necessary to remedy the situation. Accordingly, I believe that Scripture is the ultimate authority in all areas of life, is binding on the people and governments of all nations, and defines for us conclusively good, evil, right, wrong, justice, and injustice.
I say all of that to introduce the short quote that is the inspiration for the title. It comes from the book Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law by J. Budziszewski. (The title of the book should clue you in to why I gave the disclaimer above. J. Budziszewski was an Episcopalian when he wrote this book. On Easter Sunday 2004, he joined the Catholic church. You can read an interview about it here. The view of natural law that I reject above is often forwarded and supported by Catholics. For the sake of full disclosure, I am not a Catholic, and I am not becoming one. I reject the semi-Pelagianism of the Catholic church, which gives rise to the very issues noted above. What happened to the intellect or mind at the Fall is of utmost importance in distinguishing a truly evangelical view of natural law (or maybe higher law is a better term) from a Roman Catholic view. But, again, I am digressing. That must be the subject of another post or posts if I am ever to get the quote that inspired this post out.)
Alright, with all of that said, here, from page 44, is the quote: “We get the kind of government we deserve; where knaves rule a rabble, there can be no concern for the common good.” The reference to the common good comes from the fact that Budziszewski is, at this point in his book, discussing Aristotle. The statement applies just as accurately I think to justice or freedom. We can restate it thus: “Where knaves rule a rabble, there can be no concern for true justice or freedom.”
I often complain of the knaves that we have ruling us, as do many others that I know both left and right. So, if this principle is correct, does that make the American people a rabble? Well, obviously all of our rulers are not knaves, and equally obviously not all Americans deserved to be characterized as part of a rabble. I don’t know the answer for sure, but I am afraid that we often vote like a rabble, and, to inartfully paraphrase Forrest Gump, “a rabble is as a rabble does.” Thoughts? Has America become a bunch of knaves ruling a rabble?