It may seem a little strange to say it this way, given the fact that Christianity has been dealing with the subject for 2000 years, but lately the global legal academy has begun to show interest in Christian jurisprudence. Marc has written a couple of posts about the phenomenon, and our latest Legal Spirits podcast discusses it as well–specifically, what Marc has taken to calling the “Australian School.” Here is a new, interesting-looking collection of essays on Christian jurisprudence from Routledge, Christianity, Ethics, and the Law: The Concept of Love in Christian Legal Thought, edited by Zachary Calo (Hamad bin Khalifa University, Qatar), Joshua Neoh (Australian National University), and A. Keith Thompson (University of Notre Dame, Australia). The Australian School seems very much in evidence. The essays focus on how the central Christian virtue of love can influence law and legal philosophy:
This book examines how Christian love can inform legal thought. The work introduces love as a way to advance the emergent conversation between constructive theology and jurisprudence that will also inform conversations in philosophy and political theory.
Love is the central category for Christian ethical understanding. Yet, the growing field of law and religion, and relatedly law and theology, rarely addresses how love can shape our understanding of law. This reflects, in part, a common assumption that law and love stand in necessary tension. Love applies to the private and the personal. Law, by contrast, applies to the public and the political, realms governed by power. It is thus a mistake to envisage love as having anything but a negative relationship to law. This conclusion continues to govern Christian understandings of the meaning and vocation of law. The animating idea of this volume is that the concept of love can and should inform Christian legal thought. The project approaches this task from the perspective of both historical and constructive theology. Various contributions examine how such thinkers as Augustine, Aquinas, and Calvin utilised love in their legal thought. These essays highlight often neglected aspects of the Christian tradition. Other contributions examine Christian love in light of contemporary legal topics including civility, forgiveness, and secularism. Love, the book proposes, not only matters for law but can transform the terms on which Christians understand and engage it.
The book will be of interest to academics and researchers working in the areas of legal theory; law and religion; law and philosophy; legal history; theology and religious studies; and political theory.
In June, the Harvard University Press will release “Marriage and the Law in the Age of Khubilai Khan: Cases from the Yuan dianzhang,” by Bettine Birge (University of Southern California). The publisher’s description follows:
The Mongol conquest of China in the thirteenth century and Khubilai Khan’s founding of the Yuan dynasty brought together under one government people of different languages, religions, and social customs. Chinese law evolved rapidly to accommodate these changes, as reflected in the great compendium Yuan dianzhang (Statutes and Precedents of the Yuan Dynasty). The records of legal cases contained in this seminal text, Bettine Birge shows, paint a portrait of medieval Chinese family life—and the conflicts that arose from it—that is unmatched by any other historical source.
Marriage and the Law in the Age of Khubilai Khan reveals the complex, sometimes contradictory inner workings of the Mongol-Yuan legal system, seen through the prism of marriage disputes in chapter eighteen of the Yuan dianzhang, which has never before been translated into another language. The text includes court testimony—recorded in the vivid vernacular of people from all social classes—in lawsuits over adultery, divorce, rape, wife-selling, marriages of runaway slaves, and other conflicts. It brings us closer than any other source to the actual Mongolian speech of Khubilai and the great khans who succeeded him as they struggled to reconcile very different Mongol, Muslim, and Chinese legal traditions and confront the challenges of ruling a diverse polyethnic empire.
In May, the Cambridge University Press will release “Great Christian Jurists in English History,” edited by Mark Hill (FTB Chambers) and R. H. Helmholz (University of Chicago). The publisher’s description follows:
The Great Christian Jurists series comprises a library of national volumes of detailed biographies of leading jurists, judges and practitioners, assessing the impact of their Christian faith on the professional output of the individuals studied. Little has previously been written about the faith of the great judges who framed and developed the English common law over centuries, but this unique volume explores how their beliefs were reflected in their judicial functions. This comparative study, embracing ten centuries of English law, draws some remarkable conclusions as to how Christianity shaped the views of lawyers and judges. Adopting a long historical perspective, this volume also explores the lives of judges whose practice in or conception of law helped to shape the Church, its law or the articulation of its doctrine.
Christianity has a complex relationship to law. It does not prescribe rules of conduct in the way its sister faiths, Judaism and Islam, do. There is no Christian law of inheritance, for example. Yet Christians have reflected on the idea of law, and on Christianity’s role in informing civil law, for centuries. And those reflections have influenced the development of Western law in ways that are undeniable, even in our secular age.
It’s entirely appropriate, therefore, for American law schools to offer courses in Christian Legal Thought. The problem is the lack of good materials–until now. Patrick Brennan (Villanova) and William Brewbaker (Alabama) have just written a new casebook, Christian Legal Thought: Materials and Cases, for use in law school classes. It looks great. Here’s the publisher’s description:
This text examines law and legal institutions through the broad lens of Christian thought, both Catholic and Protestant. The book addresses methodological issues in Christian legal scholarship (What makes legal thought “Christian”?); the relevance of Christian theological doctrines—such as creation, the Christian conception of the human person, the kingdom of God, and the natural and divine laws—for reflection on law; the significance of historical context for Christian legal thought; Christian reflection on important jurisprudential issues and concepts, such as equality, justice, rights, and the rule of law; and Christian perspectives on various legal subjects, such as contracts, torts, and property. The point of the book is less to prescribe what a Christian legal theory should entail in the way of outcomes than to use the Christian faith as a lens through which to understand, and reflect critically upon, law and legal institutions.
Congratulations to Patrick and Bill! Can’t wait to get my copy.
Coming soon from InterVarsity Press, Sinai and the Saints: Reading Old Covenant Laws for the New Covenant Community, by James M. Todd III (College of the Ozarks). The publisher’s description follows:
What should Christians do with all the laws in the Old Testament?
The Old Testament tells the story of the beginnings of God’s salvation history, and it is part of the authoritative canon of Scripture affirmed by the church. But what role should the laws of the old covenant play in the lives of those living under the new covenant?
Can Christians embrace the commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” but ignore the laws regarding clean and unclean food? Some have suggested that Christians remain under the moral laws of the old covenant, while others have argued that some of the Old Testament laws—for example, the Ten Commandments—still apply to Christians.
James Todd makes a bold claim by contending that as followers of Jesus Christ who stand under a new covenant, Christians are no longer subject to any of the Old Testament laws. Focusing on the laws of the Pentateuch, he then addresses the proper role and benefits of the Old Testament laws in the Christian life. With wit and insight, Todd helps Christians to understand how the laws given to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai should be read by those called to live as saints.
This month, Brill will release “Order in the Court: Medieval Procedural Treatises in Translation,” by Bruce C. Brasington (West Texas A&M University). The publisher’s description follows:
In Order in the Court, Brasington translates and comments upon the earliest medieval treatises on ecclesiastical legal procedure. Beginning with the eleventh-century
“Marturi Case,” the first citation of the Digest in court since late antiquity and the jurist Bulgarus’ letter to Haimeric, the papal chancellor, we witness the evolution of Roman-law procedure in Italy. The study then focusses on Anglo-Norman works, all from the second half of the twelfth century. The De edendo, the Practica legum of Bishop William of Longchamp, and the Ordo Bambergensis blend Roman and canon law to guide the judge, advocate, and litigant in court. These reveal the study and practice of the learned law during the turbulent “Age of Becket” and its aftermath.
This month, Urim Publications will release “Rabbinic Authority: The Vision and the Reality, Beit Din Decisions in English – Volume 2,” by Rabbi Yehuda Warburg. The publisher’s description follows:
In the second volume of his groundbreaking series on rabbinic authority in English, Rabbi Warburg continues his in-depth discussion of rabbinical court arbitration decisions. He is the first rabbinic arbitrator to publish Piskei Din on cases in Jewish civil law. It is important that those who interact with the institution of a Beit Din know the inner dynamics and reasoning of those who issue rulings. This volume focuses on a number of topics such as the halakhic identity of an investment broker, the propriety of a civil will, contemporary issues relating to domestic violence, and the role of a rabbinical advocate in the Beit Din process. These topics and more are closely examined in “Rabbinic Authority” volume 2.
In March, Palgrave Macmillan will release “Islamic History and Law: From the 4th to the 11th Century and Beyond,” by Labeeb Ahmed Bsoul (Khalifa University). The publisher’s description follows:
In Islamic History and Law, Labeeb Ahmed Bsoul undertakes an extensive examination of Islamic intellectual history, covering ages that witnessed different movements and doctrinal trends. While political and geographical factors certainly influenced the Islamic religious sciences, internal and intellectual factors exerted a much more substantial influence. This study gives priority to jurists’ intellectual operations throughout the Muslim world, covering the historical development of Islamic jurisprudence from the middle of 4th century. Bsoul’s examination of jurisprudential advances takes into account the shifting dominance of particular centers of legal scholarship in light of competing doctrines and their adherents. This work sheds light on jurists of North Africa and the Andalus, who are rarely mentioned in general modern works, and also aims to demonstrate Muslim women’s important role in the history of jurisprudence, highlighting their participation in the Islamic sciences. Bsoul relies mainly on Arabic primary sources to give an impartial presentation of these jurists and produce an accurate memory of the past based on objective knowledge.
In February, I.B. Tauris will release “Minority Jurisprudence in Islam: Muslim Communities in the West” by Susanne Olsson (Södertörn University). The publisher’s description follows:
According to many Islamic jurists, the world is divided between dar al-Islam (the abode of Islam) and dar al-harb (the abode of war). This dual division of the world has led to a great amount of juridical discussion concerning what makes a territory part of dar al-Islam, what the status of Muslims living outside of this is, and whether they are obliged to obey Islamic jurisprudence. Susanne Olsson examines the differing understandings of dar al-Islam and dar al-harb, as well as related concepts, such as jihad and takfir. She thereby is able to explore how these concepts have been utilised, transformed and negotiated throughout history. As the subject of Muslims living in Europe is such a topical and sometimes controversial one, this book will appeal to researchers of modern Islam as integral to the Western experience.
Last month, the Catholic University of America Press released Knowing the Natural Law: From Precepts and Inclinations to Deriving Oughts, by Steven Jensen (University of St. Thomas, Houston). The publisher’s description follows:
Recent discussions of Thomas Aquinas’s treatment of natural law have focused upon the “self-evident” character of the first principles, but few attempts have been made to determine in what manner they are self-evident. On some accounts, a self-evident precept must have, at most, a tenuous connection with speculative reason, especially our knowledge of God, and it must be untainted by the stain of “deriving” an ought from an is. Yet Aquinas himself had a robust account of the good, rooted in human nature. He saw no fundamental dierence between is-statements and ought-statements, both of which he considered to be descriptive
Knowing the Natural Law traces the thought of Aquinas from an understanding of human nature to a knowledge of the human good, from there to an account of ought-statements, and finally to choice, which issues in human actions. The much discussed article on the precepts of the natural law (I-II, 94, 2) provides the framework for a natural law rooted in human nature and in speculative knowledge. Practical knowledge is itself threefold: potentially practical knowledge, virtually practical knowledge, and fully practical knowledge.
This distinction within practical knowledge, typically overlooked or underutilized, reveals the steps by which the mind moves from speculative knowledge all the way to fully practical knowledge. The most significant sections of Knowing the Natural Law examine the nature of ought-statements, the imperative force of moral precepts, the special character of per se nota propositions as found within the natural law, and the final movement from knowledge to action.