After having listened to several great lectures on natural law at ISI’s Honors Program in Quebec, I wonder if I can clarify some of the issues that have bedeviled this group. This time from a creational as opposed to a legal or regal (i.e. Christendom) angle.
I think most Presbyterians would admit that all persons, except in rare cases of retardation and disease, are born with the capacity for language. They would also say that language is one of the things that comes to men and women as part of the image of God. As such, language is a natural capacity. I may be much more learned than the horse and buggy drivers in Quebec City, but they speak two languages and I can only speak one. So language is not a function of intelligence. It is fundamentally human.
But then there are people who are more gifted in languages than others. Some of these talented folks can speak a multitude of langauges. We call them linguists. Then there are other people who have a great facility with one language and can do remarkably creative things with it. We call these people writers and poets. In each of these cases, linguists and poets, people take a natural gift and develop it. That is, they take a gift from God and improve on it. Oftentimes that improvement requires another gift from God, such as intelligence or creativity. (For the W2K despisers out there, please notice that I have attributed none of these natural goods to autonomy from God. Please also observe that I have located these goods in the order of creation or nature, the thing that God created and sustains. In other words, I still have my redemptive hands and Christ as mediator tied behind my back.)
So if something so fundamentally human as language is a natural gift, and if the development of it requires another natural gift such as intelligence, where does grace come in? Well, the Pentecostal answer is that the regenerate and spirit-filled will speak a new language or tongue. But we Calvinists are not so spirit-filled. In other words, we are dualists when it comes to language. All people have the same capacity for language, some have even greater gifts for language, but regeneration does not make someone more talented or gifted at language. A Christian needs to work as hard to learn other languages as a non-Christian. And a Christian writer is not inherently better than a non-Christian because of regeneration. He is no more fluid or clever than a non-Christian.
If it is possible to make these distinctions when it comes to language, if it is possible to be a dualist about what is human, that is, that some things are natural and some are supernatural in the life of a Christian, why do people get so jumpy about similar distinctions applied to the political order and to culture more generally?