dimanche 25 juin 2017

Dooyeweerd: Consequences of Scholastic absolutizing of “moral law”

Dooyeweerd: Consequences of Scholastic absolutizing of “moral law”(Extracts from Herman Dooyeweerd’s ‘Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy’ Vol II)

[pp 218-219] We then arrive again at the real Scriptural view that all temporal aspects of the divine law find their deeper unity in a common root: the central religious commandment: to serve and love God with our whole heart and all our strength; and our neighbour as ourselves, as a fellow member of the religious community of mankind - with its common root (origin). 

This is the fullness and absolute unity of divine law, as Christ Jesus taught us. Only in this religious sense is the law of God supra-temporal, does it transcend the temporal cosmos, does it have meaning for eternity.

One can easily fail to grasp the full religious meaning of this command if one applies it only to human existence as perceived according to the Greek doctrine of substance, whereby the other temporal creatures such as inorganic things, plants and animals, are left out. Such a view certainly fails to do justice to the deeper sense of the Christian law-idea. It fails to appreciate that the entire temporal cosmos is religiously rooted in the human race, which is why the radical fall into sin has dragged this whole temporal cosmos with it.

No, the full meaning of the central religious command was already given in the order of creation itself. This command includes nothing less than the divine demand of centering the entire temporal cosmos, with all the forces and potentialities placed in it, upon the religious service in love of God and neighbor. For God created the human being as the lord of the entire temporal creation. The entire meaning of the temporal cosmos is included in the heart of his existence.

Only for that reason does this central command indeed include the deepest religious unity of all divine ordinances for temporal reality, without exception. This implicitly condemns the view that it would only contain the religious meaning of the “moral law,” which itself merely governs a temporal aspect of our existence - that of morality. [NB "Moral" = "Ethical" law-sphere. See pale blue band near top of yellow list on chart above]. 

The concept of the “moral law” as the unity of norm for human action is derived from Greek, and especially Aristotelian and Stoic philosophy, but is utterly foreign to Scripture. It was originally inspired by the rational form principle in the religious ground-motive of form and matter. According to Thomas [Aquinas] the moral law as the norm for our actions is founded upon the rational form of “human nature”. 

[pp 220-221] This view of the moral law left no room for an investigation into the various modal normative aspects for human action.

Aristotelian-Thomist “natural ethics” developed a “doctrine of virtues” that was not at all based on the nuclear moment of the moral aspect, the temporal relationship of love in its normative sense. [...] The modal nucleus of meaning of what is moral [ethical] was never made into an issue here.

The theology of the Reformation accommodated this Greek concept of the moral law to Scripture by identifying the moral law with the Decalogue, which in turn was concentrically compressed into the central religious command. Thus one could reject autonomous “natural ethics” and declare only a ”theological” moral law valid, while still taking one’s philosophic orientation from the Greek view of the moral law as the unity of norm. 

However, the great cultural mandate, given to humankind at creation, could not possibly be squeezed into the framework of “moral law”. The result was that the view of the moral law as the absolute and only norm for our actions simply could not be squared with Scripture.

Again, this whole concept of the norm was the fruit of the scholastic urge to accomodate. But it left science completely in the dark when it saw itself confronted with the task to investigate the normative aspects of reality in their specific law-spheres (and those are all the aspects that come after the psychic-sensory aspect in the cosmic order of time) [Note "Sensory/ Psychic (feeling)" law-sphere on yellow panel list above].

The prejudice that the unity of norm for human action would be given in the “moral law” led to the following situation. It became impossible to accept norms for historical culture, for social interaction, for economics and justice in the irreducible character for each of them, and the danger of identifying the norms for faith with the moral law was ignored altogether. 

But absolutizing the moral [ethical] aspect of reality at the same time led to an intrinsic disturbance of insight into the modal structure of this moral law-sphere itself, which is inseparably interwoven with all other law-spheres in time in its analogies [retrocipations and anticipations].

As a result, basic problems such as the relation of morals and history, of justice and history, of economics and history, etc., were addressed in a fundamentally erroneous manner -- if they were addressed at all.

[pp 223-224] As long as Christian thinkers refuse to be led by a truly Scripturally-directed idea of the law, they cannot gain insight into the proper relation between faith and the laws of nature. As long as the entire view of the law is not transformed, miracles have to remain in conflict with the concept of natural law for the scientist.

But humankind held onto a theoretical view of reality, determined by the dialectic, unscriptural ground-motives. And so, from the standpoint of accommodation, the same irreconcilable dualism retained the upper hand in the understanding of the law. It prevented scholastic anthropology from penetrating to the root and deeper unity in human nature. It created the same theoretic dichotomy between the “moral law” and the “natural laws” - discovered by modern science - as between “material body” and “rational soul”

From this starting point one cannot possibly penetrate to the radical unity of all the aspects of the law. Indeed, the dualistic starting point of one’s theory made the entire insight into the various modal structures of the law-spheres impossible.

The wealth of modal structures was lost due to a theoretic dichotomy in the temporal order which the divine law-order displays in time.

[p 224] As soon as theoretic thinking was again concentrated upon the radical all-encompassing meaning of divine law, the levelling dichotomy in the theoretical law-concept also had to be broken.

When we direct our theoretical glance in time from a Scriptural starting point, the religious unity and meaning-fullness of God’s law breaks up into a multicoloured wealth of law-spheres, which are merely the modal aspects it displays in time. 

Just as sunlight is refracted by a prism into the color spectrum of the rainbow, time functions like a prism that breaks up the meaning of the religious fullness of the divine law.

The temporal aspects of this law possess sphere-sovereignty and sphere-universality. In their modal structures they are inseparably interwoven, so that not one of them can be lifted out of this coherence and made into absolute law.

Extracts from Herman Dooyeweerd’s ‘Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy’ Vol II, Paideia Press 2013) 

[NB Confusing cover says: "SERIES A -VOLUME SIX". This is in fact the central volume of a trilogy called: "Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy". See info on Amazon's rear cover image.]

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