What is Natural Law?

There are two important factors in understanding law: (1) man’s moral worth; and (2) man’s rebellious nature.

Man has worth. Man was created by God in the image and likeness of God. Thus, there is an inherent value in a person. That worth is not earned but is given in man’s creation. It is often called “moral worth” or “the dignity of man.” Thus, to harm or murder a man is to deny him the value and dignity bestowed upon him by God.

Also, man has a rebellious nature. Man disobeyed God and the result was a change in man’s nature. His nature became self-centered. As such, man will devise ways to achieve his own self-interests, often harming others. Law attempts to control this rebellion in man.

Because of these two factors, moral worth and rebelliousness, God has given two types of law: (1) natural law (which we address in this post) and (2) Biblical law (which we will address next week).

Natural Law. Man, whether Christian or not, has a conscience. The conscience includes a memory bank of rules of right and wrong. Man is born with these rules. As man acts, his conscience views this memory bank, and signals to the man whether he should or should not carry out the action. It is an inherent sense of right and wrong. It is called natural law. Thus, all individuals are held accountable to God for their actions in abiding by or disobeying the built-in understanding of right or wrong known as conscience.

Many cultures, including Judaism and Christianity, summarize this law as the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

The signers of America’s Declaration of Independence referred to the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God and proclaimed that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. They concluded by appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world firmly relying on the protection of divine Providence.

All of the men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1776, identified themselves as Christians and were well acquainted with the Bible, They “believed in and based the nation’s independence on Natural Law; that is, that God in creating the universe, implanted in the nature of man a body of Law to which all human beings are subject, which is superior to all manmade law and which is knowable by human reason.”*

The nation’s founders tied their understanding of Natural Law to a set of God-given rights later codified in the Constitution and, in particular, the first 10 amendments. Those rights come under the broad headings of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Since all men and women are incapable of keeping the law–natural or Biblical–they are forever separated from their creator God. That’s why God, sent his son, Jesus, to provide a way to restore the relationship between God and man. If you’d like to learn more, check out our post, How does one become a Christian?