Mar 3, 2014

The Birth of Christian Jurisprudence: Doing Legal Philosophy Like a Little Child

Through Moses, God writes in Deuteronomy 6:20-24:
In the future, when your son asks you, 'What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?' tell him: "We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the Lord sent miraculous signs and wonders - great and terrible - upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. But he brought us out of from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers. The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.
The child's question about law does not arise from a professional analytic habit. It is not the "science" that prefixes "Why is it that .... ?" before every proposition it encounters and hopes to find something for the market or journal.

His is a living concern that arises from the distinctive actions of the child's father. God anticipates it as the consequence of the symbols that have been tied on hands, foreheads, doors and gates. This child's father has shown a way of life that seems to point beyond itself to some meaning that is not revealed in the way of life itself. It leads the child naturally to ask what that life's meaning could be.

If we humbly take the position of little children, we could all ask our Heavenly Father, "What is the meaning of the Law?" (This is also the Law that Prof. Pryor spoke of here. The Law that all men know and the truth that they suppress.)

If we could really ask, would we be humble and childish enough to receive the divine legal analysis with satisfaction? Not that we made the Law, but that we were saved by God from slavery. Not that we justify the Law, but that He gave us our place, here, and gave us all a Way to follow for His Sake, so that we might prosper in the fear of the Lord.

Legal philosophy begins truly in the heart of the child who wonders at the strange ways of His Father, at the strange Law that He impresses on His children. Christian Jurisprudence is born when a child of God asks His Father about the Law that He talks about with his children at home and on the road, when the children are lying down and getting up. And, we do talk of the Law even in our confused and childish way for we are working out many laws of tort and crime, property and contract. We look to the Law in all that we are getting up to and as we are passing here and there and back home, making laws all the way. We encounter it in all the things we do now to live and all the ways that we try to reconcile that with the fear of God, with living for something more than our own lives.

What is the meaning of the Law? Moses wrote that the father will tell the child:
the Law is that by which we can live and prosper while fearing and following the Lord. It is the way whereby we at once live ourselves and yet live entirely for the Lord.
We, Moderns, who imagine ourselves orphans or parricides, think that we have no Father to ask. We have concealed from ourselves our Father and a way of of living that points beyond itself. A way that gathers from the memory of deliverance, grows into a life that is conjoined with awed love for God and prospers in the satisfaction of being in the place that we have been given. Place-less, disrespectful, and unsaved, we are not only lawless but we do not even ask the real question about Law.

Christian jurisprudence will grow from our childish concern over the Law. Christian legal philosophy will take place when our fathers in faith engender real concern in their children to ask where their way of life points. Then, legal philosophy will become a true question with a true answer -- "Child of God, the Law is that which lets us now live and yet live in the fear of God."

I must live more childishly to be a Christian legal philosopher, to ask truly what the Law means. I need to be more faithful and better to teach Christian Jurisprudence, to generate the Question of Law in God's other children.

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