Distinctively Christian Perspectives on Legal Thought?
The plural in the title of Christian Perspectives on Legal Thought immediately suggests one problem in reviewing this collection of essays: identifying unifying themes is difficult precisely because there are a variety of Christian perspectives represented here. Christian perspectives include those of Anabaptists and their modern successors such as Mennonites (who regard law as simply irrelevant to their Christianity), those of the nineteenth-century Catholic church (which was hostile to democracy and religious toleration), and those of the modern Catholic church (which endorses religious pluralism and the preferential option for the poor – among many others). What, then, might be distinctive about Christian ‘perspectives, given their diversity? We can approach this question in stages. First, what – if anything – distinguishes religious perspectives on legal thought from secular ones? Second, within the class of religious perspectives, what distinguishes Christian perspectives from other religious perspectives? I consider here some of the answers suggested by some of the essays in this collection. First, several authors treat the perspective they derive from Christian belief as producing results that nonChristians and even nonbelievers should accept. Second, other authors treat their perspective on legal thought as Christian because they are Christians and feel (in a psychological sense, I think) that their perspectives arise organically from their Christian belief, but they do not explain the nature of that connection or why an outsider should think that there is any nonpsychological connection. Third, a handful of the authors do something – argue isn’t precisely the right word, but perhaps show is – to make the connection between their Christian belief and their perspective on law apparent.