Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Lawyering, prophetic witnessing, and working for the man

MOJ’s Rob Vischer calls attention to this piece on Regent University’s law school and reflects on what those involved in Christian legal education can learn from the case of Regent Law alumna Monica Goodling.

Rob’s suggestion is to think about Christian lawyers as prophets, calling corrupt human institutions to a concern with justice. Does this mean that Christian lawyers (or perhaps Christians simply) ought always and everywhere to be in an adversarial relationship with the powers that be? Should they never be "judges" or "kings," but only prophets? I mean that question somewhat seriously. A judge or a king has a responsibility for the less than savory work of administering a fallen human order; prophets don’t. Do we want to train lawyers who are "too good" for the normal workings of a secular state, who are so pure in their pursuit of justice that they’re perhaps impatient with the rule of (imperfect human) law?

I’d like to think that I have my prophetic moments, but they occur mostly at the seminar table or at the keyboard. I hope my students and readers squirm at least occasionally. But I’m neither making law nor administering (or participating in) a flawed (albeit somewhat meliorable) legal system.

Rob is right to point out that it’s tempting to be overconfident in your ability to "do good" by your lights and get sucked into the tawdry politics of Washington, D.C. (or Richmond or Atlanta or Albany or Sacramento or Springfield). As a Regent Law student tells his classmates, "Sin is so appealing because it’s easy and because it’s fun." We can’t help but be tempted, whether we’re working for the man or righteously (self-righteously?) bearing (true or false?) prophetic witness.

Update: Rob responds here. He wonders whether my concern about adversarially prophetic Christian lawyers is a practical one, at least right here and now. I wonder whether those judges who "legislate from the bench," so to speak, don’t to some degree think of themselves as prophets. Rob’s probably right that there aren’t too many unalawyers living in shacks and uttering imprecations about the corruption around us. My concern is with the temptation to prophecy within the system.

Discussions - 2 Comments

Yeah, well I’m waiting for articles questioning Harvard Law School because of, for example, Sandy Berger, or Yale Law School because of the disbarred Bill Clinton, but nah, we won’t see those now, will we?

Regent’s law school may well turn out its share of bad apples like other law schools. But I’ll say this for Regent: it’s less intellectually corrupt than the elite schools that propagandize the best and the brightest future judges of our nation that there is no law beyond positive law. There are very few law schools today -- certainly not those I mentioned -- that even bother to read the Declaration of Independence with its claims about "the laws of nature and of nature’s God." Regent does, and its students and America are better for it.

It�s the same problem that comes up in Stephen Carter�s _God�s Name in Vain_, where he seems to suggest that the only appropriate political engagement for Christians is the prophetic one, the one that demands the Kingdom of God in the here and now. (He qualifies this in various ways, but it�s still an important theme of his).

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