This is the final installment in this series on the First Principles. This final one is equally important to everything up to this point. Before moving to defining the First Principle of Law. If we have bad laws, then it is a product of bad politics. If we have bad politics then it is safe to conclude that there are bad ethics involved. And then finally if we have bad ethics, these must stem from a faulty moral framework.
Working it the other way, bad morals produces bad ethics. Bad ethics begets bad politics. Bad politics, especially at the legislative level produces bad laws. Where do bad morals come from? A faulty worldview. So what then is the first principle of law?
WHAT IS THE FIRST PRINCIPLE OF LAW?
Classical natural law is based upon the universal and inherent understanding that certain behaviors are immoral and, therefore, ought to be illegal. If this is true, it only makes sense that natural law is a necessary prerequisite for positive law. In this sense, natural law provides the basis for a standard of morality. This standard, or moral law, can be thought of as a first principle of jurisprudence upon which all law ought to be based and upon which true civilization depends.
The classical understanding of “natural law, then, is the human participation in eternal law by way of reason. In brief, natural law is the ‘natural light of reason, by which we discern what is right and what is wrong.’ . . . All rational creatures share in natural law. It is the law written on their hearts (Romans 2:15) . . . It can be said that human reason is the basis for natural law only insofar as it participates in the Eternal Reason.”
Hence, human nature was endowed with certain God given qualities that gave humans intrinsic value based upon the eternal nature and moral character of God. As the apostle Paul said, “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the [Mosaic] law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the [Mosaic] law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, the consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them” (Romans 2:14-15).