Archive Natural Law Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism Simon Kennedy

The Eschatological Purpose of the Natural Law

In his comments on Romans 8:20, John Calvin makes a profound observation about the natural order in creation pointing to the redemption of the cosmos. What Calvin points us to is the eschatological end of creation, and the way in which the natural law, set in motion and sustained by God, points to a future hope:

He sets before us an example of obedience in all created things, and adds, that it springs from hope; for hence comes the alacrity of the sun and moon, and of all the stars in their constant courses, hence is the sedulity of the earth’s obedience in bringing forth fruits, hence is the unwearied motion of the air, hence is the prompt tendency to flow in water. God has given to everything its charge; and he has not only by a distinct order commanded what he would to be done, but also implanted inwardly the hope of renovation. For in the sad disorder which followed the fall of Adam, the whole machinery of the world would have instantly become deranged, and all its parts would have failed had not some hidden strength supported them. It would have been then wholly inconsistent that the earnest of the Spirit should be less efficacious in the children of God than hidden instinct in the lifeless parts of creation. How much soever then created things do naturally incline another way; yet as it has pleased God to bring them under vanity, they obey his order; and as he has given them a hope of a better condition, with this they sustain themselves, deferring their desire, until the incorruption promised to them shall be revealed. He now, by a kind of personification, ascribes hope to them, as he did will before.

It is a rather beautiful picture of the natural order in creation stretching itself toward the hope of a rebuilt universe. I know that I feel that in myself, sometimes. It’s a powerful thought to imagine the entire universe leaning toward the sure hope of God’s promises for restoration.

By Simon Kennedy

Simon is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Queensland. He resides in Geelong, Victoria with his wife and four children.