Natural Law Revisited

Sex, without babies? Behold the origin of our conundrums in reproductive ethics! Our culture developed the technology to separate the sexual act from procreation, classically with the extramarital use of the Pill (in the sexual revolution), and thus was unleashed a host of problems that have plagued us ever since. So the argument goes. We would have no reproductive ethical dilemmas had we kept together the sexual act and procreation.

So writes Hans Madueme, a research analyst for the Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity in "Natural Law and a Reformed Bioethics: Another Look." Citing a few recent books that seek to revive a natural law tradition among Reformed theologians, Madueme concludes that "when it comes to reproductive ethics, Protestant ethics has typically dropped the ball." He attributes this ball-dropping primarily to Protestantism's departure from natural law.

I wonder if Lutheranism fits a s similar pattern. Some folks at The Hausvater Project pointed out "that the Lutheran Confessions at times also appeal to natural law, natural rights, and the like, even while still maintaining the sola scriptura principle (e.g. Apol. XVI, 11; Apol. XXIII (XI), 6-12, 60). This is possible because natural law, properly construed, will not contradict Scripture." That's looking back to the sixteenth century. Today, many people (Lutherans included) seem more comfortable appealing to personal preferences than articulating their viewpoint in terms of natural law. From Madueme again: "One benefit of recognizing natural law (or with Lutherans, the 'order of creation') is that it recovers a much more robust, ontological, moral realism." It's not just about what I want sex to be, but what God created sex to be, and both nature and scripture reveal that creation plan. Madueme continues:

Properly defined, natural law and biblical revelation are ontologically connected by divine design and that should inform our moral and ethical lives. Bioethics then is not just an intriguing sideshow, a sometimes curious footnote to our otherwise routine lives. The integrity of God's moral order is fundamentally at stake.

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