Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Response to John Frame on Natural Law, II

Frame’s second argument is that “natural revelation was not sufficient after the fall.” Again, if by “sufficient” you mean that God would find no reason to say anything else, then Frame would be correct. But I believe that the real issue is whether or not natural law is important in governing human beings through human government and law. If the “insufficiency” of natural law means that natural law has no role in human government, then Frame’s argument is incorrect. After the fall, natural law still plays a huge role in God’s governing of human beings. In Romans 13 and I Peter, we see that God says the purpose of human government is to act as His servant, rewarding good and punishing evil. God makes this statement of all human governments. But very few human governments have any conscious knowledge of the Scripture or God’s special revelation. Between the time of Adam and the time of Noah, the Scripture records very little of God’s special revelation. When God speaks to Cain, He does not provide an explanation to Cain of why Cain’s sacrifice is unacceptable. Instead, He indicates that Cain knows what the right thing to do is—he just needs to do it. This seems to support the existence of adequate moral knowledge in Cain for him to be accountable to God and to know what God wanted him to do. Frame seems to want to separate moral accountability and moral knowledge. But unless the moral knowledge is accurate enough to convict us of sin, it cannot bring moral accountability. While our moral knowledge is distorted by sin and repressed by our sinful willfulness, it is still accurate enough for practical purposes. We know enough for God to be just in judging us for not doing what we know we should do or abstaining from that which we know we should not do. The fact that human beings repress moral truth does not mean that general revelation is inactive or valueless. As we alluded to above, the majority of human governments throughout human history have not been aware of special revelation and have been governed almost exclusively by general revelation or the natural law. Even today many human governments such as those in the darkness of Islam and other false religions refuse to consult the Scripture and are practically unaware of its statements. Yet they have human governments, and those human governments are still God’s servants to reward good and punish evil. It is through the moral knowledge provided by the natural law that they are able to do so. While governments would undoubtedly do a better job of caring out God’s service if they abided by the more clear and understandable statements of Scripture, there is no question but that the natural law is still effective and a helpful guide. Without common grace or general revelation, human government could not be said to serve God in the way Scripture indicates.

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