Divine law

by Fr Thomas Crean OP


Divine law is a subcategory of revelation, in which God tells man what He wants him to do. It was through disobedience to divine law that the Fall of our first parents was brought about, and it was through obedience of their descendants — Noah, Abraham and the other patriarchs — that God prepared the salvation of the human race.

The “old law”, or “old covenant”, culminated in the law given to God’s chosen people through Moses. Obedience to the precepts of Mosaic law was rewarded not only with God’s grace but with His temporal favour and protection. 

“Wherefore the law was our pedagogue in Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal 3:24). 

The moral, ceremonial and judicial precepts of the old law were in themselves powerless to redeem the human race from the sin of Adam. The infinite offence of his disobedience to God required a new covenant with the Son of God Himself, contracted “neither by the blood of goats or of calves, but by his own blood” (Heb 9:12).

The new law, unlike the old law, is not primarily a question of exterior observances but of an interior law of grace, perpetuated throughout the Christian era through the gospel of Christ and the laws of the Church.


Fr Thomas Crean OP




Course programme

In this first session, Fr Crean considers what is meant by divine law, and why it is necessary. We shall see that it forms a part of God’s revelation to mankind, and God gave different laws to mankind before the Fall and at the time of the patriarchs, culminating in the “old law” given to Moses for the people of Israel. We shall look at the Mosaic law and see how it contained moral, ceremonial and legislative precepts.

DATE: Thursday 24 November 2022
TIME: 18:00 (UK time)


Did God sanction divorce and slavery in the law of Moses? What does the old law have to say about warfare? Are Christians bound by its prohibition on lending money at interest? Did God ever contradict His own commandments? This session will look at some of the more controversial parts of the Old Testament, and whether they are compatible with the gospel of Christ.

DATE: Thursday 1 December 2022
TIME: 18:00 (UK time)


In this session, we shall see how the law of Moses prepared the way for Christ, and how it was fulfilled by Him. We shall consider what the Church has said about whether it is permissible today for Christians to observe the old law. We shall also see how Jesus Christ is the giver of a new law as well as a new priesthood, which together form the new and eternal covenant.

DATE: Thursday 8 December 2022
TIME: 18:00 (UK time)


In this session, we will consider why the new law is called “the gospel of grace” and why it is primarily something interior. We shall see, however, that it is also concerned with outward actions insofar as these cause grace, spring from grace or are incompatible with grace. We will also look at the distinction between counsels and commandments, and see how Christ’s law is the basis of canon law.

DATE: Thursday 15 December 2022
TIME: 18:00 (UK time)


“The law of Christ ought to prevail in human society and be the guide and teacher of public as well as of private life” (Pope Leo XIII).

In this session we shall see why and how divine law is binding on societies as well as individuals. We shall consider what is meant by Christendom, whether it is desirable today, and what the duties are of politicians and citizens in non-Catholic societies.

DATE: Thursday 12 January 2023
TIME: 18:00 (UK time)


The final session will consider how Christ gave to the Church the power to declare what is contained in His Law. We shall see how the Church does this both by her ordinary and universal Magisterium and by the solemn judgements that are made from time to time by popes and councils. We shall also consider the duties of the laity if pastors should fail to exercise their teaching authority.

DATE: Thursday 19 January 2023
TIME: 18.00 (UK time)


Fr Thomas Crean OP

Fr Thomas Crean entered the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) in 1995 and was ordained to the priesthood in 2001. He received a doctorate in theology from the International Theological Institute in Austria. He has worked in parish, student, and hospital ministry and has taught theology and philosophy in Ireland, Austria and the United States. He has published in Augustinianum and New Blackfriars, and is the author of several books, including A Catholic Replies to Professor Dawkins, The Saints and the Mass, and Integralism: A Manual of Political Philosophy (with Alan Fimister). He is a member of the Dialogos Institute and the Albert the Great Center for Scholastic Studies. His book on the procession of the Holy Spirit and the Council of Florence, Florence Became a New Sion, is due to be published shortly by Emmaus Academic.


St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae

1a 2ae, Q. 91, a. 5 “Whether there is but one divine law”
1a 2ae Q. 98, a. 1 “Whether the Old Law was good”
1a 2ae, Q. 100, a. 8: “Whether the precepts of the Decalogue are dispensable”,
1a 2ae, Q. 100, a. 11: “Whether it is right to distinguish other moral precepts of the law besides the decalogue?”
1a 2ae, Q. 108, a. 1: “Whether the New Law ought to prescribe or to forbid any outward works”

St Augustine of Hippo

On the Spirit and the Letter, chapters 28–36 (XVI–XXI)
Cf. extract of St Augustin, Retractions, book II, chapter 37
Against Faustus, book VI

Pope Leo XIII

Tametsi futura, 1900

Pope John Paul II

Veritatis splendor, 1993, § 27
Evangelium vitae, 1995, § 57, 61–62

International Theological Commission

The Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church, 2014, nos. 61-64