Category Archives: Natural Law

Some Initial Thoughts on Charles Camosy’s Book on Abortion

Reading Charles Camosy’s book: “Beyond Abortion Wars: A way forward for a new generation.” Chapter one is statistically interesting. And I like it. Chapter 2 which I’m almost finished reading isn’t as appealing. Some old arguments there. Kneeft used them WAY back in the day. Talking 80’s. Basing arguments on natural law theory and a proper definition of “potential.” Ultimately, it seems as if Camosy’s is attempting to speak to a secular audience so he uses natural law arguments (self-evident rationalization?) over “religious”/philosophical arguments. My problem with this is that you HAVE TO come back to the question of personhood which is a religiously/philosophically based question. You can’t escape this. I really don’t do well with attempting to answer these kinds of questions without reference to religious/philosophical assumptions at their base level.

Let me give an example. Camosy wants to say that attempts to locate personhood is a grey area. The reason for this is similar to that time between day and night. We call that “dusk” but it isn’t fully day nor fully night. Neither is it less than day nor less than night. So which is it? For Camosy, personhood is murky water. However, on religious grounds,  going back as far as the Old Testament, according to some scholars, personhood begins at embodiment. And that’s it. We don’t have to go any farther back than that. We don’t have to ask about personhood with regard or reference to this “in-between” stage. Wherever you see HUMAN embodiment you see a person. You have a psychosomatic whole.

According to J.P.Moreland, in his book, “Body and Soul: Human Nature and the Crisis of Ethics,”the soul or spirit can live without the body, but the body cannot live without the soul. This is called “substance dualism.” Personally, I don’t have any problems with this as it regards this question of personhood and the further ramifications for the abortion question (however, let’s keep in mind this is but a portion of the religious argument). The point being the concept of “psychosomatic whole”–this side of the coin of things. Not talking about whether we have to accept all the ramifications of substance dualism, but merely whether the body can exist on its own. So the question becomes, “When does embodiment occur?” That’s all we need to know. And when is that? The earliest point is conception according to these religious philosophers. If this is the case, then Camosy might want to ask if conception is a “moment” or a “process?” Is there a time/point the fertilized egg is in process of being embodied or is it a moment in time? It seems to me though, that whether it is a moment or a process, one cannot have embodiment until said event has occurred but said event (embodiment) begins at conception.

Natural Law and Evangelical Universalism

Thinking about Natural Law today. Here’s a quote from Budziszewski’s, “Evangelicals in the Public Square” and some of my thoughts.

“According to Calvin, the law of God—as well as human statute law, when it is well modelled on the law of God—functions in three ways: (1) as a mirror, because by exhibiting God’s standard of righteousness, it makes fallen humans aware of their sins and imperfections; (2) as a curb, because it restrains the unregenerate through fear of penalties; and (3) as a teacher, because it instructs the regenerate in the requirements of sanctity. Surprisingly, Henry’s retrospective on The Uneasy Conscience makes plain mention of only the second use: “Even at its best, of course, statute law does not impart moral power, but rather compels obedience under the threat of penalty. He does follow this statement with an obscure hint of the third use: “But if law lacks moral force in public life it is not because regenerative powers cancel it. But because secularist society has lost sight of law’s revelatory foundation and heritage.” –J Budziszewski: Evangelicals in the Public Square

Later Budziszewski says that as a mirror, the law has two branches:

1. When God at last condemns man, man cannot claim ignorance of the standard by which they are judged.
2. The law prompts us to flee to God as refuge.

Now this is the Holy Spirit using even such things as the laws of the land to convict us of falling short. In other words, statute law can serve not as a means of salvation but as a preparation for it. That is, tell me, if you bomb a marathon, the more vividly you conceive of the law that it is wrong to murder, would you not the more sharply feel your sin?

Also, if sin is mis-relating between God and man, does this not work itself out in ethical imperatives? In other words, part of my mis-relating to God and man is ultimately not loving God and man. What does it mean for me to not love God and man? Faith without works is dead, right? I ultimately mis-relate to God when I don’t follow through on the ethical imperatives about loving God and my fellow human. For example, again, if I love God, I will not murder. I may even try to save a life. Why? Because I do it out of love for God and my fellow human being. If I don’t follow this imperative then I’ve mis-related to God.

Now, I can still believe in Universalism (of the Evangelical type via the likes of Thomas Talbott and Robin Parry and Eric Reitan) because whatever brought me to that point of deep mis-relation needs some surgery to remove or purge me of that which does not make me fit for Heaven.