Research Handbook on Natural Law Theory
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Research Handbook on Natural Law Theory

Jonathan Crowe and Constance Y. Lee

This thought-provoking Research Handbook provides a snapshot of current research on natural law theory in ethics, politics and law, showcasing the breadth and diversity of contemporary natural law thought. The Research Handbook on Natural Law Theory examines topics such as foundational figures in Western natural law theory, natural law ideas in a variety of religious and cultural traditions, normative foundations of natural law, as well as issues of law and governance. Featuring contributions by leading international scholars, this Research Handbook offers a valuable resource for scholars in law, philosophy, religious studies and related fields.
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Chapter 6: John Calvins natural law theory

Constance Youngwon Lee


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.

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