Natural Law vs Natural Values

Natural law is a concept about which the average man may have some vague understanding, but in general has no thorough knowledge. Natural law, in a nutshell, is the belief that there is a law higher than the temporal laws of earthly governments. For example, the idea that it is wrong to murder, even if it were legal,  comes from an understanding of natural law.

It may be easiest to grasp this concept by looking at where natural law comes from. I believe that natural law, in its most rudimentary form, exist because all men are created equal. Due to the fact that we are all equal, there are certain principles that govern us.


Imagine two equally powerful magnets that are placed to where they repulse each other. One will not be able to force the other to do anything because they are both equal. One of them will not suddenly move toward the other. Instead, they will both remain equally far from each other. It would be unnatural for one to suddenly move against the other or to begin pushing the other about.

The same goes for men. Because they are equal, one cannot force another to do something against his will. However, this does happen. When this happens, we say that natural law has been violated. If one man were to murder another, that would be unnatural because it would break the equilibrium that is created by two equals interacting.

Additionally, magnets can be placed where they attract one another. When they are placed in this position, it would be unnatural for one to suddenly get up and move away from the other. They are both in a state of equal attraction, and they cannot leave it without breaking the laws of physics.

A man can also be put into a similar sort of binding situation. When a man enters a contract with another man, the contract is equally binding and it would be unnatural for one of the men to suddenly break his end of the bargain. When contracts are broken, natural law is violated.

Natural law is, in my opinion, the measuring stick by which man made laws are to be measured. Governments have the right to punish murderers, rapist, and thieves because doing so restores the balance. Governments also have the right to enforce contracts because doing so sees that natural law is not broken.

In addition to natural law, I believe that there are natural values. However, googling “natural values” doesn’t really turn anything up. I first heard the term from a friend of mine, Shaun Connell, who coined the term. All the same, I have been thinking about these values ever since I first heard the term.

So what are natural values? This question is best answered by looking into the source of natural values. In philosophy and classical logic there is a concept called the law of noncontradiction. The law of noncontradiction, for our purposes, states that the truth cannot be self contradictory. Understanding this is the first step in understanding natural values.

If I say that others ought to value my life or my inherent worth, then I must, in order to be non contradictory, value other’s lives and inherent worth. Essentially, I must do unto others as I would have them do unto me, although this is an oversimplification. Natural values, then, are values that do not contradict each other.

Natural values are important because they tell us what we ought to value. For example, God is the highest natural value because his existence precludes even our ability to have other values. Life is the second highest natural value because it must be present for us to have any other values.

These values, unlike natural law, cannot be violated. They can, however, be replaced with unnatural ones. A man who loves playing video games more than feeding his family, for instance, has unnatural values. Whenever natural values are done away with and unnatural values are substituted in their place, life loses meaning, significance, and purpose. A life based upon unnatural values quickly goes off course and runs amuck.

So how should natural law and natural values be contrasted? First, laws are ultimately forced upon the people, while values must be accepted by the people. In order for a law to be just, it must be in agreement with natural law, the perfect law of which it is supposed to be a representation. Values, however, cannot be forced upon the people because natural law does not force them upon the people. They exist, but they are not forced upon all moral actors like the natural law is, and thus they are ultimately a matter of personal choice and not of legal force.

It is natural for me to value all human being’s life, as I am a human being and wish for my life to be valued. However, a man cannot be legally bound to value human life, he can only be legally obligated to not violate it. Natural law tells us that we cannot murder; natural values tell us that we should actively value human life. Ultimately, however, it is our choice, and not something that is legally binding, to value the right things.

Boiled down, natural law obligates us to not murder, to not rape, and to not steal. Natural values, on the other hand, are not legally obligatory and only instruct to go above and beyond simply refraining from violating other people’s rights to actively working to protect and better the rights of others.

Although we are in accordance with natural law when we chose to ignore a starving child, when we do so, we actually have a system of unnatural values. Natural values tell us to go beyond just natural law and to be active, not passive, in life.

Violating natural law violates other people, while having unnatural values violates us and those for which we are responsible.  For a worthwhile life, we must have natural values. Our creator should be first and foremost. Without him we could do nothing, for we would not exist. We must be active in worshipping God, protecting life, and loving those around us, for that is what natural values demand of us.

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