So let me tell you a little bit about my recent reading, which will then help you understand where the following comes from. I recently listened through all C.S. Lewis’s Essays, and have now listened to most of The Abolition of Man (again). I am currently reading God Is Not a Story by Murphy (which has made me think yet again that perhaps all really smart people ought to be locked up), and now I just read Mark Horne’s short essay on natural law here.
Mark wonders what good natural law offers us if an entire civilization (ours) can miss out on what that law is saying with regard to something as basic as the creational distinction between male and female. In the wake of Obergefell and Jenner messing with his pronouns, Mark finds natural law “much less credible” than it was previously.
A couple of responses to this concern spring to mind, and then I would like to go on to offer something else as food for thought.
First, we ought not measure the efficacy of anything by whether or not unbelievers deny the efficacy of it.
Mark says this:
“I never thought I would have to resort to divine authority to establish that human beings are male and female and that this biological structure should impact how we culturally define marriage and the family. But that is where we are.”
But what happens when he resorts to the divine authority of Scripture, as he now feels he must do? He is met by the very same unbelief that taunts the tenets of practical reason.
So if we put down our guns whenever the unbelievers tell us to, then why shouldn’t we put down all our guns? Why should we put down one gun but still keep the other one? It seems to me that thinking straight about our “credibility” in the eyes of the world means that either that we put down both guns or we keep both of them. If their denials have authority, they have authority as far as their denials go — which would include Scripture. If they don’t have authority, why should we pay any attention to them at all?
This leads to the second point. We are in fact living in a era of marked intellectual apostasy. This means that unbelievers today will be much more prone to suggested attempts to live “outside the Tao” than they were, say, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. This means that “common ground” arguments ran a better chance of practical success back then, after which point the unbelievers would retreat into hypocritical conformity. Now they advance into hypocritical defiance. The common ground arguments are just flatly denied.
But we should not put the power of the argument up for a vote among the powerless. The heavens declare the glory of God, and it does not matter how many blind men are assembled who cannot see the stars, and who declare in all confidence that the blackness is simply that — all black, no stars, no glory. And as Paul argues in Romans 1, they are not really blind men. They try to function that way, but for all their efforts, they still see the point. The fact that they will not confess the point is a matter between them and God.
So the point about natural law is not that unbelievers cannot deny it. The point is that they cannot deny it and have an reasonable excuse for having done so. They are without excuse.
So here is my thought. I am a presuppositionalist to the back teeth. A finite creature, in order to reason at all, must reason axiomatically. And in order to reason axiomatically intelligently, he must do so knowing what he does.
But what is it that I presuppose before I reason? It is not a Cartesian starting point. It is not a Bible floating in the sky, independent of history. It is not a set of autonomous Thomistic arguments. What is it then?
What I presuppose before I seek to reason is that which would enable me to reason. I presuppose the world as God made it. So I believe the answer is the world as it is. Objective reality. Kant thought we had no access to noumenal reality — to things as they are. I think we don’t have access to anything else.
I am a common sense realist. The world is there because God put it there, I am here because God put me here, I see the world because God gave me eyes, I think about the world because God gave me a brain, I love God because God gave me a heart, and so on. And after about thirteen years of that . . . look! girls!
Not . . . look! androgynous carbon units!
But the heady ones among us (who are going to cause a lot of trouble later on after some misguided soul lets them enroll in a philosophy class) are the ones who are mumbling to themselves, “What is a girl, anyway?” In one way this might be a reasonable question for these guys because they never actually got a very close look.
I do not presuppose general revelation apart from special revelation. I do not presuppose special revelation apart from natural law. I presuppose the world as God gave it to us — and in the world He gave us I have a Bible in my hand and stars over my head.