Constance Lee’s chapter considers the possibility of retrieving a natural law theory from the theological works of John Calvin. She begins by acknowledging that, on first impressions, Calvin’s bleak anthropology appears adverse to a system of natural law. Nonetheless, Lee contends that unfair interpretations of Calvin’s texts are responsible for the orthodox reluctance to develop natural law theory from the Reformer’s works. Heavily caricatured readings of Calvin have overshadowed his statements that ‘some sparks [of the divine image] still shine’ in human nature. Lee proposes that on a nuanced reading of Calvin - being mindful of the dialectical method he employs and the broader relational framework in which his exegeses unfold - a formal doctrine of natural law is entirely possible. By applying a hermeneutic methodology and taking account of authorial intent, readers can see how Calvin successfully holds two seemingly irreconcilable notions in tension: the natural moral agency of humans, on the one hand, and their fundamental fallibility, on the other.
Jonathan Crowe and Constance Youngwon Lee
Jonathan Crowe and Constance Lee’s introductory chapter outlines and explores a broad definition the natural law outlook as the view that (1) there are certain forms of life that are intrinsically good for humans by virtue of their nature, and (2) these forms of life play a fundamental role in explaining the nature and purpose of social, political and legal institutions. The natural law tradition focuses, in other words, on exploring what constitutes a flourishing human life and uses this to understand the ways we connect with each other in communities. This outlook entails that any adequate theory of ethics, politics or law - whether descriptive or normative in its objectives - must begin by exploring the nature of human goods, before asking how pursuit of these goods shapes human communities and institutions. It makes little sense, on this view, to talk about rules (or related concepts, such as rights and interests) without embedding them in discussions of the good. The chapter then briefly summarises the other contributions to the volume.