Thomas Aquinas

St Thomas Aquinas (c 1225 – 1274) was a Dominican friar and legal theologian whose Summa Theologica, a summary of the Christian doctrine,  places man-made (or positive law) within a larger framework of the natural law and within the overall design of God.

An altarpiece of St Thomas Aquinas by Carlo Crivelli (15th Century)


He believe that human law is derived from the natural law through the exercise of practical reason. Aquinas believed there to be four different types of law, namely:

  1. Eternal Law (the will of God concerning all creation)
  2. Revealed Law (part of the eternal law revealed to humans through the scriptures)
  3. Natural Law (part of the eternal law that humans can discover by reason alone)
  4. Human Law (derived from natural law through the existence of practical reason – a human law is generally not binding unless it is based on natural law)

A law is unjust if contrary to the divine good God’s will) and/or the human good (community interest), and therefore should not be obeyed, unless of course, if disobeying that law would undermine public order or authority of law as a whole.