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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Christian Legal Scholarship

David A. Skee, Jr. (Penn) has posted two papers on Christian legal scholarship on SSRN:

The Paths of Christian Legal Scholarship:

The history of twentieth century Christian legal scholarship -- really, the absence of Christian legal scholarship in America's elite law schools -- can be told as a tale of two emblematic clashes: the first an intriguing historical footnote, the second a brief, explosive war of words. In the first, a tort action in Nebraska circa 1890, William Jennings Bryan and Roscoe Pound served as opposing counsel; the second was a war of words in the 1940s between a group of neo-Thomist scholars and defenders of Oliver Wendell Holmes. Using these two incidents to frame as a starting point, this essay briefly chronicles the disappearance of Christian legal scholarship from the elite law reviews for much of the twentieth century. In the past few years, however, there have been signs of a possible renaissance. The second half of the essay focuses on the signs of renewal. To organize the discussion, I address three very basic questions: What?, Who?, and How? - What are the most promising directions for Christian legal scholarship? Who is a Christian legal scholar? And how can Christian legal scholarship best be facilitated?

The Unbearable Lightness of Christian Legal Scholarship, 57 Emory L.J. ___ (2008):

When the ascendancy of a new movement leaves a visible a mark on American politics and law, its footprints ordinarily can be traced through the pages of America's law reviews. But the influence of evangelicals and other theologically conservative Christians has been quite different. Surveying the law review literature in the 1976, the year Newsweek proclaimed as the year of the evangelical, one would not find a single scholarly legal article outlining a Christian perspective on law or any particular legal issue. Even in the 1980s and 1990s, the literature remained remarkably thin. By the 1990s, distinctively Christian scholarship had finally begun to emerge in a few areas. But even today, the scope of Christian legal scholarship is shockingly narrow for so nationally influential a movement.

This Article argues that the strange trajectory of Christian legal scholarship can only be understood against the backdrop of the fraught relationship between religion and American higher education starting in the late nineteenth century. As the nation's modern research universities emerged in 1870s, leading reformers began to promote nonsectarian, scientific approaches to scholarship. These developments increasingly excluded religious perspectives. But the disdain did not run in one direction only. For much of the twentieth century, American evangelicals absented themselves from American public life. Theologically conservative Christians who remained in legal academia operated under cover, a stance reflected in the absence of Christian legal scholarship except on church-state issues, in the Catholic natural law tradition, and in a handful of other areas.

The first half of the Article is devoted to this historical exegesis and to a survey of current Christian legal scholarship. The Article then shifts from a critical to a more constructive mode, from telling to showing, as I attempt to illustrate what a normative, and then a descriptive, Christian legal scholarship might look like.

See also:

I have blogged the robust tax scholarship in recent years incorporating Judeo-Christian themes:

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While it's a general interest project intended for Christian laypersons (rather than a formal scholarly work), those reading this discussion thread may be interested in my forthcoming book "The Believer's Guide to Legal Issues". Release date is April 1, 2008, and it's available now for pre-order on, etc. I'll be eager to hear thoughts and comments from my fellow attorneys in the academic community!

Posted by: Stephen Bloom | Feb 18, 2008 5:39:45 PM