Peter Leithart has kindly responded to my earlier post on the subject of natural law arguments in the same-sex marriage debate. This is a discussion with far broader implications than the current question of same-sex marriage, so I thought that it would be worthwhile to articulate the nature and ground of natural law arguments in more detail. The Calvinist International have kindly hosted a piece in which I address some of the issues raised by Dr Leithart’s position and the debate more generally.
‘Creational order’ is indeed a theological notion, but what it names is a shared reality: it is this reality that lies at the heart of the case that I present. As it is a fact, not an argument, this reality isn’t up for vote or debate. As the ‘creational order’ of which I speak is an order that is present and operative within us as persons and societies and not solely outside of us, it will naturally tend to produce consistent patterns of behaviour. That a dyadic male-female form is a constant feature of marriage in societies throughout history and across cultures – even polygamous ones, which merely allow for men to enter into many such pairings – is a product of this reality, not a conclusion that was reached at the end of a debate or line of reasoning.
As natural law can operate perfectly well without the interventions of our understanding, a case founded upon it is not congruent in form to those of same-sex marriage proponents, for whom constructivist presuppositions prevail and, in most respects, arguments must stand on their own. The persuasive character of the established practice of marriage does not depend primarily upon our arguments but, as natural law is experienced as a proprioceptive conatus (to borrow one of Peter Escalante’s felicitous expressions), arises principally from an instinctive apprehension of the natural order of things, of the ‘grain of the universe’ as we move with it. The appeal to a unified marriage tradition is more than just an appeal to tradition as such, but serves as a testimony to this creational order.
Consequently, we are not thrown back upon ‘imaginations formed by Scripture’. That our culture has been rendered dizzy from sitting too long on the merry-go-round of the sexual revolution does not mean that our disoriented reeling is the natural human condition, or to be remedied solely by appeal to Scripture. If we would just step off for a moment and recollect our senses, we might discover otherwise.
Read the entire article here.