Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Summa Theologica, Law and Religion
Eternal law supersedes everything as it rests with God. Divine law descends from this and consists of the Old and New Testaments. Divine law punishes those that avoid Human and Natural law. According to Aquinas, the Old (Testament) laws depended on temporal rewards and fear while the New laws promoted eternal rewards and depended on love. The Old laws were written for "children" but the New laws are made for "adults". It makes me wonder what we would be if we didn't need Divine laws. Indeed Aquinas does say that the virtuous man does not need laws, therefore it is possible. However, who determines who is virtuous?
Don't sin, unless God says its OK.
The Natural law is the pursuit of the good, which is the natural inclination of all creatures. It contributes to Human law, involves "reason", and doing what is virtuous (following your conscience). Interestingly, as Aquinas says, Natural law can be changed by instances such as "by the command of God, death can be inflicted on any man, guilty or innocent without any injustice whatever. In like manner adultery is intercourse with another man's wife who is allotted to him by the law emanating by God. Consequentially intercourse with any woman by the command of God is neither adultery nor fornication. The same applies to theft". Therefore, laws do not apply to God or his servants. Let's hope people think God's on your side.
How do these laws work together? If for example you murder someone you break three laws:
1) Divine Law: Thou shall not murder
2) Natural Law: Murdering is irrational and against the common good
3) Human Law: Murder is a crime