PAPER NO. 25
MORAL LAW AND CULTURE
The City with Foundations
Part I: Foundation and Culture.
- The City of God has foundations (Hebrews 11:10; Revelation 21:19-20). The City of God embodies the corporate life of the people of God in its fullness—the Christian worldview expressing itself in culture.
- The wise man builds his house on the rock, and so it endures (Matthew 7:24-25).
- A wise masterbuilder lays the foundation; anyone who builds on this foundation has lasting fruit (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
- Foundation is necessary for maturity, fruitfulness, unity and fullness (Hebrews 6:1-2; Ephesians 4:11-13). Without foundation there is division and apostasy in the Church and decay and collapse in the culture.
- The foundational, elementary, first principles of faith (in the City of God) must displace the first principles (stoichea) of unbelief in the world (in the City of Man) (Colossians 2:8, 20; 2 Peter 3:10, 12; Galatians 4:3, 9; Hebrews 5:12; 6:1).
Part II: There are several levels of Foundation.
- Philosophical Foundation is grounded in the clarity of general revelation. It affirms that the basic things about God and man and good and evil are clear to reason. It proceeds from epistemology to metaphysics to ethics.
- Theological Foundation is grounded in the basic teachings of special revelation (Scripture). It affirms the doctrines of Creation, Fall, Redemption (Genesis 1–3) and interprets Scripture in light of this worldview.
- Historical Foundation is based upon the work of the Holy Spirit leading the Church into all truth, summed up in its Creeds and Confessions. By challenge and response the Church becomes more conscious and consistent in its faith (John 16:13; Acts 15; Ephesians 4:10-16).
Part III: The Biblical Foundation for Culture: the knowledge of God is through the work of dominion.
- Man is created in the image of God for dominion: “Let us make man in our image . . . and let them have dominion” (Genesis 1:26).
- Dominion is the call to name the creation, the natural and the human world, and to rule over both.
- Naming is the work of the sciences and the humanities; ruling is the work of technology and all the human arts. Technology develops the powers latent in nature. The arts communicate the truth concerning the human condition and develop the powers latent in man.
- Dominion requires the work of all of mankind throughout all of history: “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it and rule over it” (Genesis 1:28).
- By dominion mankind develops culture, from the Garden of Eden (Gen. 1) to the City of God (Revelation 21).
- The goal of dominion is the earth being filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9).
- The hope that man will complete the work of dominion is given and reaffirmed continually in the Sabbath (Genesis 2:2-3).
- Creation is revelation. The Fall was permitted to deepen the revelation of God. Unbelief in every form and degree of admixture with belief is permitted to come to expression in world history.
- Through a spiritual war, which is age-long and agonizing, good will overcome evil. Every thought raised up against the knowledge of God will be made subject to Christ. Dominion now extends over sin (Genesis 3:15; 2 Corinthians 10:4).
- The work of dominion will be completed by Christ, the seed of the woman in the place of Adam, through the Church, the body of Christ. He must rule until all his enemies are subdued to him (1 Corinthians 15:25).
Part IV: There are necessary and sufficient conditions to complete the work of dominion which comes to expression in the City of God.
- The unity of the Historic Christian Faith: that they may be one that the world may believe (John 17:21).
- Common Ground is the set of conditions necessary for thinking and discourse by which we find meaning and settle disputes. Common Ground affirms reason, integrity, Rational Presuppositionalism and the Principle of Clarity. The Principle of Clarity is opposed to fideism in the Church and skepticism in the world.
The good is one, not many; it is the source of unity in each person and among all persons.
- The good for man as a rational being (made in the image of God) is meaning, which is grounded in the knowledge of God.
- Eternal life is the highest good (the summum bonum), not merely the common good. Eternal life is knowing God (John 17:3).
- Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. Man is to glorify God in all that by which he makes himself known, in all his works of creation and providence (SCQ 1, 101; WCF 4.1, 5.1).
- The prologue prepares man to hear the gospel: it requires understanding clarity and inexcusability, sin and death, and curse as call back (given with the promise). The foundation of the gospel requires understanding the promise (Christ in the place of Adam), repentance and faith, and justification and sanctification. Without Prologue and Foundation the gospel is not preached (Genesis 1–3; John 1; Romans 1–3).
- There is a moral law which is clear, comprehensive and critical. It is the basis of all culture.
Part V: The Moral Law is the basis of culture.
- The Moral Law (ML) is given to every human being in human nature. It is also given by special revelation in the Ten Commandments (the Decalogue), which summarily comprehends the revealed will of God for all men (Deuteronomy 30:11-14; Romans 2:14-15; SCQ 39-42).
- The ML is universal, for all mankind, whatever their present culture; it is not heteronomous (imposed by another from outside) since it is given in the nature of each, which is the same in all. It is the source of unity for all mankind.
- The ML is not positive (merely posited arbitrarily) either by the will of man (autonomous human law) or by the will of God (theonomous divine command). It is clear to all, already present in man’s heart (structured into his being/nature) and in his mouth (present in his thoughts and words).
- The ML is perpetual, the same for all time, from the time of man’s creation in the image of God to time everlasting. It does not change from age to age, through varying dispensations of God’s covenant. The civil application of the moral law varies from age to age, but the general equity remains the same.
- The ML is total, comprehensive, for all moral actions in every area of life. Its application is knowable by good and necessary consequences, through meditating on the law day and night.
- The ML is spiritual, not merely legal; it reaches to the thoughts and intents of the heart. It is not comprehended by legalism, but it is summarily comprehended by the command to love God with the whole heart and love one’s neighbor as oneself.
- The ML is teleological, aimed at the good; it is not deontological, aimed at virtue, which is the means to the good; it is not consequential or hedonic, aimed at happiness, which is the effect of possessing the good. Virtues without the good become vices; happiness without the good becomes empty, leading to excess.
- There is one ML over all institutions: Family, Church and State (vs. one institution over all other institutions, i.e. totalitarianism). The moral law is applied differently in each institution according to the form and function of each institution. The civil law of the State applies to crime only, not to all sin. It is only one part of the moral law. The moral law is a unity; no civil law can set aside the moral law.
- The ML cannot be understood apart from the good, which is the knowledge of God. Both the good and the moral law are objectively clear so that ignorance from not seeking is without excuse. Each law assumes and aims at the good. The good cannot be achieved apart from the moral law.
- There is no knowledge of God apart from God’s self-revelation, and no self-revelation by God apart from his works of creation and providence (including redemptive history and redemptive revelation). There is therefore no direct (beatific) vision of God in heaven. The good can be achieved only through the cultural work of dominion based on the moral law. The good is achieved when the earth is filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9).