Review of Stephen J. Grabill on natural law

Travis McMaken of DET has written a fine review of the new book by Stephen J. Grabill, Rediscovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics (Emory University Studies in Law and Religion; Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006). The book seeks to defend a Reformed conception of natural law in the wake of its eclipse in the twentieth century due largely to the Barth-Brunner debate. Grabill thus looks behind Barth in order to examine what the Reformed tradition has to offer toward the development of a natural theology on Reformed theological soil. McMaken’s review is a solid overview of the book which criticizes Grabill for pushing Barth aside much too quickly.


Adam said…
"... the development of a natural theology on Reformed theological soil." There is a big difference between so-called natural theology and natural law, don't you think? Grabill certainly does.
D.W. Congdon said…
Certainly there is a difference, but they not a "big difference." Natural law is a kind of natural theology. Law is just as theological as anything else. Barth's debate with Brunner is an attack on natural law as well as natural theology, since the two are intrinsically related. If Grabill is trying to go behind that debate, he is essentially working toward a kind of natural theology, even if his interest is in natural law.

Do you have a different distinction in mind? How do you understand the two terms?
WTM said…
I would just like to note that Grabill's discussion of natural law in the theologians that he examines is always prefaced by discussions of natural theology and the related epitemological questions. The two are of a piece in the volume, and I think that is as it should be.
Adam said…
I don't think that natural law is necessarily a kind of natural theology. Anyway, 'natural theology' is little more than a pejorative term (I can't think of any serious theologian who would identify herself with the term as it is defined by her interloctors) used to describe a position which seemingly privileges reason over revelation.

I'm not trying to start a serious conversation here--but I thought it fair to chime in because you've once again posted a rather dour review of a book which you didn't read in the fist place.

Also, I think Grabill's book is an evocative step in ecumenical dialogue because it rehabilitates the possibility for conversation with Catholic social thought. I would have thought that a good thing, especially given your stance on torture, politics, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.
WTM said…

Are you accusing me of not reading the book? It is I who reviewed it; David is simply working from my review.

Furthermore, discussions of natural law are intimately related to those of general / natural revelation, and therefore fall under the aegis of natural theology.

Finally, it is great to have good conversations about theology with the Roman Catholics, and to learn from their tradition and from the common Great Tradition, but I am not personally convinced that their social ethics move us forward at all. Grabill, of course, thinks there is value to this.
Harold said…
Natural Law and Natural Theology both fall under the category of Natural Religion. This is in contrast to Revealed Religion. You need to see Dr. Robert Morey's refutation of Natural Theology, Law, Philosophy etc. Revealed Religion has man as the receiver of truth via revelation. Natural Religion has man as the origin of truth, the measure of all things. Thanks for the review, looks like it took lots of work.