The Teachings of Modern Christianity on Law, Politics, and Human Nature - Vol. 1

By John Witte Jr.; Frank S. Alexander | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 25
An Ecumenical Christian Jurisprudence

HAROLD J. BERMAN

I say as do all Christian men that it is a divine purpose that rules, and not fate.

— KING ALFRED

THE CONTRIBUTORS TO this volume have brought together a panoply of distinguished nineteenth- and twentieth-century Christian writers who sought to counteract the secularism of the prevailing legal theory and to restore an understanding of the spiritual foundations not only of law but also of political and social institutions generally. Leo XIII, Maritain, Murray, Kuyper, Bonhoeffer, Niebuhr, Soloviev—these and others represented here are great names, and they have important Christian messages for persons who seek to think deeply about the nature and functions of law in society and politics. Most twentieth-century legal philosophers, however, paid little or no attention to those messages. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and into the twenty-first, prevailing scholarly thought in North and South America and in Europe, including Russia, has simply ignored the various versions of Christian jurisprudence presented in these chapters.

The divorce of modern Western legal scholarship from its Christian heritage is usually attributed to a decline of Christian faith in the West, at least among scholars, since the so-called Enlightenment of the late eighteenth century, and to the accompanying tendency in all the social sciences to look to political, economic, and other material factors, rather than to moral or spiritual values, in explaining social institutions and public policies. Yet responsibility for the radical separation of prevailing legal thought from its Christian philosophical roots lies not only with the secularists, I shall contend, but also with modern Christian philosophers themselves, including those represented in this volume.

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