The concept of natural law—that there are universally binding laws which can be discerned by reason—is esteemed by many theologians, though rejected by Karl Barth and his followers. It is held that such laws (e.g. which uphold the sanctity of human life) are recognized independently of any revelation, and so can arguably form a basis for cooperation in social policies for a pluralized society.
Nevertheless, natural law is not alien to the Bible, for both the OT and NT accept that God has laid on the world a certain order and structure and that there are fundamental moral principles given to the Gentile nations even though they do not have the blessing of the Torah. There is a law embodied in nature, which the birds know (Jer. 8: 7) and a covenant made by God with all the sons of Noah, the ancestors of the whole human race (Gen. 9: 9–10). The Mosaic covenant was made with a group of those who were already in covenant with God, and these hints of a primeval law were in due course elaborated by the rabbis. It is possibly what is demanded in the apostolic decree (Acts 15: 29), and what is affirmed by Paul in Rom. 1: 19–21, and 2: 14–15. The good pagan does virtuous acts ‘by nature’ in accordance with the law of God. Similarly in the prologue of the gospel of John it is said that the Word ‘was the light of all people’ (John 1: 4): the Word as light was in the whole world, and those who welcomed it included both faithful Israelites (Hos. 1: 10) and also Gentiles who observe the Noachian precepts ‘by nature’ (Rom. 2: 14–16). All are children of God. Just by being human, all men and women have a capacity for a knowledge of God, and this is apart from, or precedes, the special revelation of God made through Jesus, or the Bible, or the Church.
Subjects: Biblical Studies.