Divine law is any law that is understood as deriving from a transcendent source, such as the will of God or gods, in contrast to man-made law. Divine laws are typically regarded as superior to man-made laws, sometimes due to an understanding that their source has resources beyond human knowledge and human reason. They are accorded greater authority, and cannot be changed by human authorities.
Divine laws are noted for their inflexibility. Divine laws are often understood as beyond the authority of humans to change. The introduction of interpretation into divine law is a controversial issue, since believers place high significance on adhering to the law precisely. Opponents to the application of divine law typically deny that it is purely divine and point out human influences in the law. This element of human influence is understood as incorporating some degree of fallibility. These opponents characterize such laws as belonging to a particular cultural tradition. Adherents of divine law, on the other hand, are sometimes reluctant to adapt divine laws to cultural contexts.
Divine law may be transmitted through several mediums. Most frequently, that are transmitted through religious texts. Medieval Christianity understood there to be three kinds of laws: divine law, natural law, and man-made law. Others, on the other hand, understand natural law as a subset of divine law delivered through general revelation from a creator deity. Theologians have substantially debated the scope of natural law, with the Enlightenment encouraging greater use of reason and expanding the scope of natural law and marginalizing divine law in a process of secularization. Some people may understand themselves as receiving guidance through prayer or conscience, although the moral authority of these methods of transmission are much lower.
In Thomas Aquinas's Treatise on Law, divine law comes only from revelation or scripture, hence biblical law, and is necessary for human salvation. According to Aquinas, divine law must not be confused with natural law. Divine law is mainly and mostly natural law, but it can also be positive law.
- Biblical law in Christianity
- Divine inspiration
- Divine judgment
- Glossary of ancient Roman religion § ius divinum
- History of religion
- Law and religion
- Morality and religion
- Regulative principle of worship, debate over the scope of divine law in 17th-century English Christian practices
- Rule according to higher law
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