Over the summer, I worked on an article (about which more soon) called “The Death and New Life of Law and Religion.” It is in part a historiography of the field, but it also argues that many of the concerns that motivated the field to emerge in the 1970s and 1980s are now at an end, at least insofar as their scholarly interest is concerned. No doubt, scholars, judges, and others will continue to wrangle over them for a variety of reasons. But the field feels to me like it is in transition–moving from one set of questions and objects toward another, or perhaps toward others. As these changes arrive, they will radiate outward, affecting many things. Including the work of this Center.
So I was delighted to see a new book out this fall by Rafael Domingo that appears to sound some similar themes, though with perhaps a different diagnosis, focus, and endpoint. The book is Law and Religion in a Secular Age (CUA Press).
Law and Religion in a Secular Age seeks to restore the connection between spirituality and justice, religion and law, theology and jurisprudence, and natural law and positive law by building a new bridge suitable for pluralistic societies in the secular age. The author argues for a multidimensional view of reality that includes legal, political, moral, and spiritual dimensions of human nature and society. Each of these dimensions of life needs to recognize the existence, influence, and function of the others, which act as a filter or check on the excesses of each other. This multidimensionality of reality clarifies why no legal theory can fully account for law from the legal dimension alone, just as no moral theory makes perfect sense of morality from the moral dimension—and, for that matter, nothing in physics can fully interpret the physical dimension of reality. The premises of a legal system cannot be fully explained by the legal dimension alone because the fundamental conditions and qualities of justice, freedom, and dignity touch all the dimensions of reality in which the human person acts, including the moral and the spiritual, not just the legal. Building on this multidimensional theory of reality, the author explores the core differences and the essential interconnections between law, morality, religion, and spirituality and some of the legal implications of these connections.
Rafael Domingo reminds readers of the vital role of religion in shaping the conceptual framework of Western legal systems, underscores the spirit of Christianity that inspired legal institutions, principles, and values, and recalls the contributions of specific Christian jurists as central figures for the development of justice in society.
Law and Religion in a Secular Age aims to be a valuable antidote against the dominant legal positivism that has cornered public morality, the defiant secularism that has marginalized religion, and any other legal doctrine that diminishes the spiritual dimension of law and justice.