Nov 21, 2016

The Equity of the Mosaic Law of Slavery and the People's Rights Against Tyranny


Ex 21:26 "If a man hits a manservant or maidservant in the eye and destroys it, he must let the servant go free to compensate for the eye. 27 And if he knocks out the tooth of a manservant or maidservant, he must let the servant go free to compensate for the tooth.
Reformed thinkers have always looked to God's law to learn general equity, principles of right that apply always and everywhere. As Paul showed, the general equity of a law is not limited only to the immediate subject of a precept of the Law. Thus, he shows in 1 Cor 9:9-10 that a law providing for the care of oxen may also teach us today a general equity for people, particularly their right to enjoy a share of the produce of their labor: 
For it is written in the Law of Moses: 'Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.' Is it about oxen that God is concerned?" Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?
Though I understand that the immediate subject of a Mosaic precept and the ultimate reach of its equity might be far apart, I had never considered how the equity of the Mosaic law of slavery might be applied in other areas. 

Samuel Rutherford, however, in his Lex Rex, Q. 4, offers an interesting perspective on the general equity of the Mosaic laws regulating the treatment of slaves in the context of the limitations on government and the obligation of lesser magistrates to vindicate the people from the tyranny of their superiors. Alongside considerations of the duties of children to parents and freedmen to their patrons, he asks whether the obligations of subjects to their rulers could be greater than that of servants to their master? 

In the light of precepts like those set forth in Exodus 21:26-27, he argues that if even a bond servant has the right to freedom after receiving a substantial injury from his master, then a people -- even if we were to think of them as the slaves of their rulers -- should also be relieved of their obligations to their rulers if they are substantially injured by tyranny. Of course, he argues the relative status of a subject in relation to a ruler is higher than that of a slave to a master. Therefore, he concludes that the servant's right to freedom after substantial injury belongs more strongly to a free people injured by its rulers.

Rutherford finds the same equity exemplified in Roman law:
... there was a proviso in Roman law that a slave whom his master did not tend in illness should be regarded as free. And what is even more important, a slave is by a provision of the written law free to accuse his master of high treason. But who is more liable to this accusation than the tyrant who openly subverts all rights divine as well as human? But, you will rejoin, before whom shall he be accused? I answer, either before those who since they possessed the authority to elect him, also possess the authority to judge him, or before those who are the chief defenders of the supreme power and from whom there is no appeal.
Similarly, although under Roman law, freedmen owe every respect to their patrons, so much so that in ordinary law they can institute only civil actions against them, yet for special reasons, that is if they have suffered some terrible injustice at the hands of their patron or have caught him in adultery with their wives, they can in virtue of the civil law lay a capital charge against him.
My purpose with these arguments is not to tighten the conscience (of men) by means of the civil laws or the pronouncements of philosophers as if by most reliable rules, but only to show as clearly as may be how unjust is the opinion of those who would leave men no means at all by which they may avail to break the onset of imminent or openly aggressive tyranny, however cruel and unjust the matter might be.
 Rutherford's argument suggests a broader rule. Principles of justice concerning those of the lowest status set forth general lower limits on the rights of all. The formal end of slavery does not mean that the precepts of the Mosaic law do not continue to illuminate universal rights. Rather, God uses discussions in the Mosaic law of examples pertaining to those with the least legal status, e.g., oxen and slaves, to underscore the minimum rights pertaining to all.


Oct 25, 2016

Law Faculty Position Opening II

Yesterday I posted here the notice of a full-time academic support and law professor opening at Concordia University School of Law. Concordia has a second opening, this one for a standard tenure-track position:

Background: Concordia University School of Law, located in Boise, Idaho, invites applications for a tenure-track position beginning in the 2017-18 academic year. Candidates for the position must clearly demonstrate the potential for excellence in research and teaching and have a record of (or clear potential for) distinguished scholarship. Our goal is to recruit dynamic, bright, and highly motivated individuals who are interested in making significant contributions to our law school and its students. Practice experience is preferred, and teaching experience is desirable. As a Lutheran institution of higher education, we seek candidates who will support our mission and promote Lutheran values.
 
Special Instructions to Applicants: Questions about the position can be directed to the Chair of the Committee.  Applicants should submit a current Curriculum Vitae, a statement of faith, and a letter of interest to https://cu-portland.csod.com/ats/careersite/JobDetails.aspx?id=118.  Please also provide the names and email addresses of three individuals prepared to speak to your professional qualifications for this position. Please note: these references will not be contacted immediately, but may be contacted at an appropriate later point in the review process. Additional materials related to teaching excellence and samples of scholarly publications may be emailed to the Victoria Haneman, Chair of the Committee, at vhaneman@cu-portland.edu.  Review of applications will begin immediately and continued until the position is filled. Concordia University reserves the right to give preference in employment based upon religion in order to further the Lutheran objectives of the University and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

Oct 24, 2016

Law Faculty Position Opening

Background: Concordia University School of Law, located in Boise, Idaho, invites applications for a Director of Academic Success and law professor position beginning in the 2017-18 academic year. This is a full-time faculty position that may lead to long-term successive contracts. Our goal is to recruit a dynamic, bright, and highly motivated individual who is interested in making significant contributions to our law school and its students. Experience in academic support and bar exam support is preferred, and teaching experience is desirable. As a Lutheran institution of higher education, we seek candidates who will support our mission and promote Lutheran values.

Special Instructions to Applicants: Questions about the position can be directed to the Chair of the Committee.  Applicants should submit a current Curriculum Vitae, a statement of faith, and a letter of interest to https://cu-portland.csod.com/ats/careersite/JobDetails.aspx?id=118. Please also provide the names and email addresses of three individuals prepared to speak to your professional qualifications for this position. Please note: these references will not be contacted immediately, but may be contacted at an appropriate later point in the review process. Additional materials related to teaching excellence and samples of scholarly publications may be emailed to the Victoria Haneman, Chair of the Committee, at vhaneman@cu-portland.edu. Review of applications will begin immediately and continued until the position is filled. Concordia University reserves the right to give preference in employment based upon religion in order to further the Lutheran objectives of the University and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Sep 20, 2016

Law and Logos: Aristotle, Witte, Wolfe and Confucius



Aristotle taught that a language as a set of symbols was artificial and arbitrary in the following sense: He taught that spoken or written words  -- like "cat" -- are connected to what they signify --- the actual fur-bearing mousers -- only artificially by discrete acts of naming propagated thru cultures, and arbitrarily, because there is no necessary connection between the nature of any given name like "cat" and the referent actual furry cat.


I've always found this Aristotelian and very commonplace view to be not just wrong but surprisingly irritating. First, in one direction, it doesn't cover the universal failure of all attempted artificial languages -- Cu vi parolas Esperanton? -- nor our belief that artificial languages will always fail. My quick-and-rough but strongly felt abduction is that we can't make an artificial language that works because the workings of language are not artificial. If all languages are artificial anyway, as Aristotle argues, then why can't we intentionally make a decent one that catches on?

Second, in another direction, Aristotle's view doesn't address our established ability to improve our existing organic languages by altering them according to our sense of a linguistic ideal, which our actual languages plainly tend to fall short of. This universal intuition of a perfect language is suppressed in the contemporary way that grammar and usage issues are addressed without reference to reason and authoritative examples of beautiful and wise speech. But we know by revelation (as the insightful commenter below notes) that man's naming of things can partake of his original perfection and that the confusion of tongues is associated with our sin. In any case, we all feel that words should be a particular way. Some words should mean one thing rather than another.  

Given my intuitions, naturally, I delighted in this Telegraph report of empirical evidence that all human language is universal and united in the tendency of all men to assign certain linguistic symbols for certain things. Babel burst it apart but evidence of the link between certain symbols and certain ideas remains to be found.

There's a great deal of interest in language right now as an important source of insight into the human condition. Of course, Prof. Witte recently published Berman's long-lost book, Law and Language. If you haven't read it, you should. It delves deeply into the role of law as language and the work of language (including legal language) in creating political and theological communities -- creating real relations between man and God and among men through "communification"-- thus pointing to the deep roots of language in the divine Logos as He for whom and by whom and through whom all exists. All being and beings fundamentally refer to Christ and are directing themselves through Him to God the Father through the outbreathing work of the Spirit. The fine anti-liberal novelist Tom Wolfe (the Bonfire of the Vanities, A Man in Full, I Am Charlotte Simmons, Back to Blood) has also weighed in with a new book this year, The Kingdom of Language, where he presents human language as evidence against Darwinian evolution of man and the modelling of man as mere material machine.

I believe that there is a Logos, who relates to all and can reconcile us with God. (The Vulgate's translation of Logos as verbum or word as linguistic symbol, I think following Erasmus and Calvin, is a less valuable translation than sermo.) Christ is not an individual spoken term (i.e. a verbum or language token like "cat"), a word in the linguistic sense, rather a discourse, a speech, an utterance, i.e., a word in the sense of a preacher offering a word of prayer or reading the word of God. This Logos does not relate us to God arbitrarily -- as per the Aristotelian theory -- but in necessary ways through the Incarnation, Cross and Resurrection. Jesus is the Name that must be spoken and heard. The curse of Babel is that we no longer speak this language of the Name and all the Names which flow from it naturally on our lips just as, because of the curse of the Garden, we no longer do in our hearts. But we should. Aristotle's is perhaps a true report on the way we are, but not on the way we should be or will be.

I think Confucius spoke with esoteric understanding of Babel and eschatologically of Pentecost when he identified 正名, Zhengming or "the rectification of names,"  as the first thing to be done in the reformation of a political system. Analects 13.3. Truly, the curse of Babel will remain the fundamental problematic of our political and social dealings until the fullest realization of the Pentecost in Christ. Here, he is:
If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success. When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will no be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot.
Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.
Confucius' prior discussion, equally famous, in 12.11 summarizes the seed of a potentially Christian Logos-Ethos very well.
The Duke Ching, of Ch'i, asked Confucius about government. Confucius replied, "There is government, when the prince is prince, and the minister is minister; when the father is father, and the son is son.” [jun jun, chen chen, fu fu, zi zi, 君君臣臣父父子子] "Good!" said the duke; "if, indeed, the prince be not prince, the minister not minister, the father not father, and the son not son, although I have my revenue, can I enjoy it?”
This is a very interesting piece to translate. I think it should be rendered in light of the idea of zhengming or the rectification of names as: There is government, when the "prince" [i.e. the one called prince] is prince [i.e. actually a prince], "minister" minister, "father" father, "son" son.

Today, if we had the right words, we would all say there is no government in our land and we, people, would understand. Or, we would point to those who actually work to punish wrongdoing and commend those who do right (1Pe 2:14) and say here is our king.

But, back to the translation issue, I can equally see it rendered: There is government, when the prince is "prince," minister "minister," father "father," son "son." That is, we can debate whether the essential political problem is that we know public duty and fail to rule and obey, or that we don't know and so fail to identify those who should be ruling and obeying.

Equally, one could interpret the passage in a more Platonic fashion: There is government when the prince is prince ... That is, the problem is that princes need to be more princely, more intensely what they are. But this runs the argument in a different direction from language to ontology.