Thursday, March 24, 2011

Theonomy in the Middle Ages (by Marc Clauson)


Prevailing wisdom among political theorists and historians classifies most, if not all, of the medieval theorists of law as advocating some form of natural law. While not denying the natural law strain in these writers, this paper seeks to show, using Thomas Aquinas as a representative example, that this assessment may be overstated if not outright distorted. 

The alternative proposed is that Aquinas was a Theonomist, that is, that his commitment with respect to legal theory was more toward law derived directly from the Christian Scriptures rather than the natural law theory. Theonomy is the name given to a modern movement which seeks to apply biblical law of the Mosaic civil code to political ethics and, practically, to society, through legislation. Several definitions of Theonomy are possible, based on a historical analysis of the legal thought of the Middle Ages through the recent period. 
One such defintion, known as "general equity" theory, asserts that the Mosaic judicial laws are valid and binding on the magistrate, not in exhaustive detail, as some Theonomists avow, but in their general principles. Neverthless, it is the Mosaic law that is applied and not natural law. This paper seeks to prove that this general equity theory of Theonomy was held by Thomas Aquinas. Moreover this was, it is shown, his prevailing theory of law, with natural law being secondary.


No comments: