Apr 18, 2008

The Lawyer's Vocation -- Part II

Let's review:

Thinking vocationally means viewing the practice of law as a means to love our neighbors in and through the law. The reality is that God is doing the ministry through us. We are God’s instruments-- limited and sinful instruments, of course, but instruments nonetheless—of mercy, reconciliation, retribution, encouragement, vindication, defense, counsel, or freedom, to, through, or for our clients or law partners (or even legal institutions themselves).

3 Further Points to Ponder

1. If we resist this concept, it is often because we have too narrow a view of the Great Commission or the good news itself. In order to think vocationally, we need to ask: What is the Gospel and what areas of human life and creation does it seek to reach?

In other words, part of our task is to discern Christ’s mission and work in the legal arena. Are there gospel implications in vindicating rights of victims? In the state’s reasonable punishment of criminals? In reconciling parties? In assisting families or groups of individuals to create or shape culture or build wealth? In helping parents leave an inheritance for their children?

2. Being a law student or lawyer, then, involves a diligent seeking for biblical-theological understanding of law and law practice in light of the ministry of the Triune God. What is law? What is the state and what is it for? What is the adversary system and may me be involved and where should we resist involvement? What is the end of criminal punishment? Are there impermissible kinds of punishment? Are corporations helpful tools for carrying out the cultural mandate in Genesis or simply means of avoiding moral responsibility?

Questions like these also lead to other questions, and in our seeking we will begin to find resources and allies throughout the historic and contemporary church. Godly men and women have been thinking through these issues by the power of the Holy Spirit for centuries.

3. For lawyers and law students, this sort of inquiry can be challenging, even for those committed to vocational thinking, because of the biases of American legal education. Law school is not a “hostile” place for Christians, but the foundation of contemporary legal education is generally based on false views about the nature of law and the human person, and, because it is contrary to truth, is hostile to a “Christian” view of the world.

Put simply, a sophisticated historical-biblical-theological approach to law is made difficult by the pragmatism and instrumentalist bent of the American legal academy. Law students, novices at this sort of high level thinking, are at a distinct disadvantage in trying to sort out the truth about torts, contracts, criminal law, and procedural rules. In addition, the conflict in first-order assumptions is made even more difficult to identify in law school, since these presuppositions are just that: presupposed without discussion, acknowledgement or debate.

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