Simon Greenleaf University Strategic Planning Committee
Report of the Law School Subcommittee (1992)
A Vision for Legal Education
A. CURRICULAR GOALS
The curricular goals of the School of Law are to develop in students the attributes of competence, character, and perspective.
Competence in the practice of law is ostensibly a goal that every law school has for its graduates. “Competence” implies that a lawyer has the requisite legal skill and ability to meet the needs of his or her clients, and is qualified to perform the kinds of representations he or she accepts. The School of Law desires to train graduates who will not only be able to perform legal tasks well, but to do so with excellence and distinction. Necessarily, students must be well acquainted with modern approaches to legal rules, methods and practice.
Among the more immediately practical aspects of this goal is that students gain the skills needed to pass the First Year Law Students’ Exam (FYLSX) and the General Bar Exam. The FYLSX must be passed to continue legal studies at the School of Law beyond the first year of study, and the General Bar Exam must be passed to receive a license to practice law. Strangely, some law schools today, among them many of the A.B.A. accredited schools, make no conscious attempt to prepare their students for passing a bar exam. The School of Law, however, consciously strives to prepare its students for the bar exam experience.
Character is a personal trait that has been devalued in most law schools today. Modern educators believe that a graduate student’s character has already been set for life, and incapable of significant molding during the law school experience. One result of the modern approach is that lawyers are held in low regard by our society in matters of personal integrity. The School of Law rejects this modern approach, believing that we can have a demonstrable influence on the character development of our students. There is a need for Christian lawyers to exemplify good moral character, and so to be “salt” and “light” in our culture.
Accordingly, the School of Law emphasizes the teaching of honesty, morality and ethics as a significant component of the curriculum. This includes a strong emphasis on God’s revelation of law practice, believing that a lawyer should conform the relational aspects of legal study and practice to the model of Christ as a servant, mediator and counselor. This approach views the law as a form of Christian ministry, and sensitizes students to individual ethical and moral considerations, Christian conciliation, service to the poor, and a concern for public justice.
Perspective is the often unstated, or at least understated, goal of every law school. In most law schools, the goal is stated in terms of basic competence: to train students “to think like a lawyer.” Yet, in reality, “thinking like a lawyer” involves a basic perspective on life which is critical, skeptical, relativistic, and intolerant of absolute principles. Furthermore, most law schools communicate to their students, whether expressly or impliedly, that there is only one “real” perspective of law, namely, prevailing current opinion. Other perspectives are rarely, if at all, discussed or even acknowledged. One result of this modern approach is that lawyers are viewed by society as “hired guns” who can, and will (for a fee), argue any position on any issue, whether right or wrong.
The School of Law rejects this modern approach and is firmly committed to presenting students with a different perspective of law, one which is based on the revelation of God. There is a need for Christian lawyers to advocate positions which are truly right according to a biblical perspective, and this can be gained only by a study of the substantive rules of law revealed by God. Thus, it is hoped our graduates will further the gospel by promoting God’s kingdom in professional service and help change society for the better as a result of understanding law from a biblical perspective.
B. CURRICULUM STRUCTURE – OMITTED
C. CURRICULUM CONTENT
The substantive content of the curriculum of the School of Law reflects a recognition that the law of the United States was founded on a biblical legal perspective, but that modern jurisprudence has significantly departed from, and often abandoned, these principles. Accordingly, the content of the curriculum must ever be directed to familiarizing students with both views of law: the historical biblical perspective, and the modern jurisprudential perspective.
The modern jurisprudential perspective of law is widely available in the texts, treatises and outlines commercially available from the major legal publishers. It is the perspective which governs study and preparation for the FYLSX and the general bar exams. The modern perspective is weighted heavily in favor of recent judicial interpretations, essentially adopting the view that law is whatever the judges say it is.
An integrated view of law receives the Bible as informing the study of law. Biblical principles of law may be discerned from covenantal provisions, case adjudications, historical narratives, etc. An integrated view of law interprets the Bible consistently with the rules which govern the interpretation of legal documents. Consequently, the theories of legal rule formulation used generally in the profession apply to the Bible as well. There is a long and documented historical tradition employing the Bible in this legal fashion, and this scholarship further validates the study of God’s revelation of law in the law school curriculum.
An integrated perspective of law acknowledges that the United States was expressly founded on the basis of “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” “The law of nature” is a well known phrase having the historic understanding of the will of God impressed upon the creation. The law of nature affirms the special revelation of God in the Bible, man’s fallen nature (corrupt reason), and man’s inadequacy to accurately discern God’s will apart from His special revelation. “The law of nature’s God” was historically understood as a reference to the Bible. The Bible does not exhaustively describe the law of nature, but it is perfectly consistent therewith. The Bible informs, checks, and delimits our understanding of the law of nature. Students are acquainted with God’s revelation of law as a means of following the example of Christ as an advocate of the true principles of right and wrong human behavior.
An integrated perspective of law will enable graduates to articulate and defend well-reasoned and supported answers to these legal apologetic questions, among others: 1) What is law? Today, modern scholarship (A. A. Leff, Critical Legal Studies) has abandoned all hope that any such thing as an unchanging, transcendent law exists; 2) Where does law come from? Modern scholarship believes that law comes from whoever holds the most power in society (might makes right); and 3) What are the true rules of law? The modern view reflects the view that law is whatever the judges say it is.
An integrated perspective of law should inform each course offered in the curriculum of the School of Law. To develop the desired traits of character and perspective in law students, they must be constantly exposed to God’s revelation of law and its historical understanding as they consider each subject in turn. Currently, an integrated perspective of law is at least partially integrated with the modern perspective of law in about 30% of the courses offered in the School of Law. Our goal is that the School of Law will be able to hire additional full-time members of the law school faculty so as to develop, within the next five years, supplemental materials and lecture outlines which more fully develop an integrated perspective of law with all of the courses required for the J.D. degree.
In developing an integrated perspective of law, it would be helpful to keep the following guidelines in mind. We want to continue to recognize the absolute authority of Scripture and live by the Scripture telling the truth in love, and having humility. Hostility to the discussion of the Bible’s relevance to law or human rights, or the relevance of the canons of evidence in legal science and what they have to offer concerning apologetics is to be avoided. Apologetic offerings and discussions should include a defense of the whole Christian worldview, not just the core matters of God’s nature and the means of salvation. We should develop in students the biblical, exegetical, hermeneutical, and logical tools they need for their own legal system building and decision making.
In all that we do, we should humbly share our own examples of what we have to offer as a working model, at the same time exposing students to other models and the critique of those models. We need to emphasize the teaching of method rather than indoctrinating students into particular synthetic conclusions. Students ought to be informed that topics of study are not self-contained and self-sufficient. Academic disciplines all inter-relate. Law or human rights – or for that matter art, physics or any subject – cut loose from our knowledge of God and His revelation is like a barge set adrift in a river with no tug or mooring.
Utilization of a modified version of the Socratic method is to be encouraged in courses for teaching legal thinking from a biblical perspective. Question asking as a means of teaching is biblical itself despite abuses of this truth. True, the socratic method can be used by the unscrupulous to manipulate or program, but it can also be used to teach people to synthesize solutions to problems or critiques to other opinions. It is helpful in building test taking skills as well. Indoctrination, on the otjer hand, does not accomplish this. If a person has not reasoned through what they believe, then they cannot defend it.
Finally, we want to develop critical thinking skills in students, and train them in the skills of correct argumentation. We should avoid using informal fallacies, poor hermeneutic techniques, bad scholarship, or faulty research. Such mistakes in method will come back to haunt us even if they, by accident, bring us to the right conclusion. To knowingly do anything less than employ the very best methods of scholarly research is to engage in self-deception. We also want to bring to students’ attention the particular passages of Scripture relevant to the topic being discussed. When legitimate controversy exists among evangelicals on the proper application of a particular passage, it should be acknowledged for the sake of academic honesty.
D. CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT
The integration of a biblical world view with the study of law is challenging, in large measure, because of the lack of consensus among Christians as to what an integrated perspective of law looks like. There is also a dearth of available law study materials written from an integrated law perspective. To carry out the mission of the School of Law, we should meet the challenge of seeking a consensus (to the extent possible) among Christian lawyers and theologians, and then creating lecture notes, outlines, treatises and casebooks which advance this mission. The School of Law has a unique opportunity to be a national, and even a world, leader in the integrated Christian law perspective if it will rise to this challenge. Whatever institution first produces law study materials which can be used by Christian teachers at secular schools, by Christian law students at secular schools, and by Christian lawyers already in practice to integrate biblical principles with legal study will become the recognized leader.
Presently, there are no commercially available casebooks written from a Christian perspective of law. There are no comprehensive, scholarly outlines or treatises setting forth an integrated law perspective. Thus, the foundational component of a program to produce Christian law study materials is the development of a scholarly Christian integrated perspective in every law school subject, which viewpoint will inform and guide the creation of all other study materials. As these position papers are produced, one by one, they should spawn the writing of treatises, casebooks and other materials. Pending the creation of these materials, instructors will need to develop their own outlines for classroom lectures, and put together their own supplemental reading materials to balance the legal perspective promoted in commercially available texts.
The “Rediscovery of the Law” project is a series of publications, at least one each year, designed to produce a scholarly Christian integrated perspective in every law school subject. These position papers will compare and contrast biblical, historical and modern views which relate to the subject matter. The first subject will most likely be Jurisprudence (the philosophy of law), which will set forth the foundational principles upon which all law study is based, to begin in May, 1993, and to be finished by October, 1993. The second subject would probably be Constitutional Law, should be completed in Fall, 1994. All law school courses are to be similarly treated, eventually.
Five years from now, we should have produced full-fledged casebooks in at least two subjects. By 1996-97 we should have fully developed lesson plans, supplemental materials, examinations and curricula integrating the study of law with biblical truth in all courses required to be taken by the School of Law.
The development of these materials will require a painstaking, deliberate and continuous effort on the part of the law faculty, interacting with other members of the University community and selected other interested persons. The rate at which Christian law study materials will be developed will most likely be directly proportional to the funds available to the School of Law to hire full-time faculty, as well as student assistants hired for the express purpose of developing such materials.
The development of position papers must be conducted in a spirit of humility by all participants in the project. The approach must be inter-disciplinary, taking consideration of theological, historical, sociological and other perspectives as appropriate. Where evangelical Christians clearly differ in legal perspective, such differences should be noted. Papers will most likely need to indicate alternate viewpoints and their ramifications throughout. Such papers will also, for the sake of the body of Christ, be submitted for review by scholars from a variety of disciplines.
Curriculum development itself is a process which usually takes place during the teaching of a course. First, the instructor must be familiar with the modern jurisprudence of the subject. Next, he must become familiar with the biblical principles informing that subject, usually by reading available materials and by interacting with other faculty members. Relevant scripture texts can begin to be interwoven with the discussion of various topics within the course subject. Often, the instructor will prepare a list of supplemental reading materials, or bibliography, from which excerpts can be taken and reproduced for student reading.
When the instructor teaches the same subject a second time, refinements can and should be made. Lecture notes can be improved by correlating scriptures with topics to which they most directly apply. The application of biblical principles may suggest some topic reorganization in order to give a more coherent structure to the presentation of the subject matter. Some class periods may need to be devoted exclusively to historical or biblical considerations as a means of laying a foundation for an in-depth study of the material which follows. Reading supplements can be refined by adding new readings, or substituting new sources for old ones. Reading supplements are greatly enhanced if the instructor adds his own comments to the materials as a means of guiding the reader through what other people have written, and as a means of giving more obvious structure to the supplements.
After an instructor has taught the same course a few times, he may be ready to fashion a casebook, incorporating his supplemental materials with selected cases taken from a standard text. Often, in their quest for presenting the latest opinions on the subject, casebook editors omit, or reduce to a single paragraph summary, key opinions which marked a turning point in judicial understanding of a given topic. Standard casebooks often omit portions of opinions consistent with biblical principles. Secular editors also “stack” cases on a particular topic that is currently “hot,” while virtually ignoring topics of great historical significance. The Christian casebook editor has an opportunity to make up for these deficiencies in standards legal texts. However, the editing of a casebook is time consuming, and should not be expected from anyone until they have taught the same course several times.
There are several levels of expectation concerning biblical integration, as described by the following ascending levels of preparedness. First, we should expect an instructor in every course to prepare, as part of the course syllabus, a statement of the manner in which the integration of biblical principles with legal studies will occur. This is a de minimus standard for every course and every instructor. Second, experienced instructors would be requested to develop lesson plans or lecture outlines which demonstrate biblical integration, and to provide a file copy of such outlines for the Registrar. Third, instructors would be asked to prepare a bibliography which would direct students to outside reading materials for further integration study. Fourth, instructors would be asked to prepare supplemental reading materials for classroom use in addition to standard legal texts. Fifth, instructors could, if they chose, develop and publish their own legal treatises or casebooks.
We recommend the continuation of a standing law curriculum committee, made up of members of the law faculty, to review all courses in the law school curriculum. The Curriculum Committee would meet three times each semester. The first meeting each semester would be to make sure every course has a syllabus stating the manner in which the integration of biblical principles with legal studies will occur. The second meeting each semester would be to review the progress of all law school courses and suggest revisions to the overall curriculum, as needed. The third meeting each semester would be to review student comments and faculty evaluations for all law courses offered. The Curriculum Committee, in consultation with the law faculty, would report to the Academic Senate as needed to inform that body of recommended changes to the law curriculum.
In all of the above processes, it would be well to remember the words of St. Augustine: