We are all familiar with the mantras developed by those who adhere to an understanding of the natural law based on a personal interpretation of the Will of God, or whatever happens to be put in the place of God. "God wills it." "It's perfectly legal." "It says in the paper." "According to (my understanding of) the Bible, the pope, the prophet," etc., etc., etc. All of these are expressions of faith, and are valid within a certain context. As precepts for building a just social order and providing an environment within which each human being has the optimal opportunity to acquire and develop virtue and so become more fully human, however, they are sadly lacking. It could even be argued that, for anyone who doesn't manage to break out of "the box" that such dicta construct, they are forever trapped in whatever state or condition others have imposed on them, to be damned or saved as others see fit.
Admittedly, it is very difficult to break out of such a box. Readers familiar with Mark Twain's "children's" novel Huckleberry Finn will recall Huck's agonizing over helping the slave Jim escape, and his decision to help Jim even though, by the precepts of his society, he figured he was sure to go to Hell. Basing the social order on a private understanding of the Bible and economic expedience, as did the people in Mark Twain's fictional south (the reality was somewhat different, although Twain achieved an extremely accurate condensation for his purpose), resulted in a situation in which the moral order was clearly (to the presumably objective reader) turned completely upside-down — and still almost succeeded in preventing Huck from doing the right thing.
As Dr. Heinrich Rommen hinted in the quote we gave in the previous posting, the advantage to basing the natural law on the Will is that accepted precepts become changeable at the will of whoever is doing the interpreting. The notion of an objective standard is eliminated, for anything that comes into conflict with one's personal interpretation is, ipso facto, in contradiction to one's personal faith. This is a position from which there can be no recourse. This is because the Will-based interpreter of the natural law believes he has God's personal assurance that he is correct. Anyone holding a contrary position, despite all the arguments and evidence he brings to the table, is necessarily wrong because he is opposing God's Will as presumably revealed to the Will-based interpreter.
The problem is that humanity has an almost infinite capacity to rationalize its own desires — especially when those desires relate to gaining power over others. Anyone who accepts a Will-based interpretation of the natural law inevitably finds it very easy to justify everything he wants to do. He does this by referring to his personal faith, and basing his argument (such as it is) on his conviction that his understanding and interpretation of God's Will is the only one that could possibly be correct. Everyone else's interpretation is necessarily evil and, inevitably, everyone else is as necessarily evil as their interpretations. This is particularly true when others persist in attempting to argue or present evidence to the contrary.
Thus a socialist will find support for the abolition of private property in various expressions of what he believes to be God's Will. A totalitarian will discern a holy command that he or she impose control on the rest of humanity. A capitalist will be delighted to discover that God has decreed capitalism as the only acceptable form of society. An anarchist will be equally elated to realize that God finds an organized society that acknowledges absolutes outside his or her understanding and laws based on them just as irritating as he or she does — and so on. This lends credence to a belief, while nonsensical to anyone who bases the natural law on the Intellect, is nevertheless widespread in today's society. That is, man forms God in man's own image and likeness.
What this leads to we will examine in the next posting in this series.