Subscribe to Christianity Today
Donald A. Yerxa
What Is Written in the Law?
Christian Perspectives on Legal Thought
edited by Michael W. McConnell, Robert F. Cochran, Jr., and Angela C. Carmella
Yale Univ. Press, 2001
518 pp.; $26.95, paper
How to bring faith and learning together? The bookshelves in my office overflow with the output of hundreds of Christian scholars who have reflected on this question, whether in the broadest terms or with respect to specific disciplines, and from the perspective of virtually every theological tradition, in a wide variety of historical and social contexts.
Surprisingly, however, given the pervasive influence of the law, American legal theory is one area of learning about which Christian scholars have been relatively silent. To be sure, law and religion has attracted attention. John Witte, Jr., directs an innovative Law and Religion program at Emory University, established in 1982. Several journals cover this terrain, which is also being explored by a growing number of scholars. The work of legal historian Harold Berman, for example—particularly The Interaction of Law and Religion (1974) and Faith and Order (1993)—is widely recognized for its depth of insight. Milner Ball—in books such as Lying Down Together: Law, Metaphor, and Theology (1985), The Word and the Law (1993), and Called by Stories: Biblical Sagas and Their Challenge for Law—has given the subject sustained reflection grounded in a deep knowledge of legal practice. In a very different vein, there is a body of literature focusing on what it means to be a Christian and a lawyer; Thomas Baker and Timothy Wood, eds., Can a Good Christian Be a Good Lawyer? (1998) and Joseph Allegretti's The Lawyer's Calling (1996) come to mind.
Still, except for a few specialized areas such as church-state law, American legal thought has largely escaped the Christian faith-and-learning enterprise. The reasons for this are not entirely clear, but the upshot has been that there are comparatively few resources to which one can turn to find Christian perspectives on the law and ...