What is a Christian Law School?
A survey of the mission statements of U. S. law schools reveals a variety of values, perspectives, and objectives. Some claim an affiliation with certain Christian denominations; others have their roots in different religions; still others would call their law school “Christian” but have no denominational affiliation. While the vast majority of law schools in America claim no religious motivation, the fact is that the faculty and administration of every school communicate, if not promote, one or more philosophies of law that are rooted in moral values. These values are either based upon concepts of universal, non-optional legal principles, or evolving standards based upon prevailing or desired morality.
So as not to risk mislabeling law schools, I will not address what others think a Christian law school is or should be. I will only comment on Oak Brook College of Law and its emphasis on a high quality legal education in an historical and Biblical context.
When it comes to law and government, there are different philosophies that can undergird a nation’s legal institutions. For example, the United States’ Founding Fathers stated that this nation’s philosophy of law and government is based upon certain undeniable truths. These include the view that all people are created different, but equal in value under the law. All people have certain unalienable rights given by the Creator and the purpose of civil government is to protect an individual’s unalienable rights such as the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which includes the right to own private property and to associate with others for legitimate purposes. The philosophy of law and government stated in our nation’s charter, the Declaration of Independence, includes the proclamation that these foundational truths are “self-evident.”
Other nations may have different philosophies of government based upon their view of the proper role of civil government, the source of rights, and the nature of man. These views will either reflect a source of truth beyond man or they will be humanistic, possibly even to the degree of rejecting any notion of good or evil except what man, through legislation or other means, declares to be so. The point is that whether a nation’s government is an Islamic state, a political dictatorship, a socialistic communist state, or a democratic republic such as the United States, law is based upon a political and legal philosophy. Those in power will either act consistent with the legal foundations of a nation, or will attempt to change those foundations based upon a different political and legal philosophy.
The evidence is clear that the United States began with a philosophy of government that presupposes certain non-optional principles to which all people are subject, whether they acknowledge them or not. It is like the law of gravity. It does not matter whether one believes in the law of gravity he or she is naturally bound by it.
While history reveals that our Founding Fathers discerned non-optional relational and governmental principles through the study of the Bible, that does not make the text of the Bible this nation’s legal code. Our Founders called the principles and truths derived from general revelation and the Bible the “laws of nature and of nature’s God.” These Biblical principles transcend time, cultural differences, and man-made religions. The 18th century English legal scholar, William Blackstone, put it this way, [A]s man depends absolutely upon his Maker for everything, it is necessary that he should in all points conform to his Maker’s will. This will of his Maker is called the law of nature.”
It is also important to note that not everything in the Bible is applicable to civil government, or to its legal system. In fact, the Bible reveals that while God is the Creator of all things and the source of all authority, He delegated certain authority to the family, some to the church, and some to the civil government. These jurisdictional separations of authority are critical to understanding this nation’s legal system and the representative republic we have. Jesus confirmed the jurisdictional separation between one’s duty to God (church) and one’s duty to civil government (state) in his statement, “Render to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). The jurisdictional approach to law and government policy requires a separate and more complete discussion than can be addressed here.
Oak Brook College of Law emphasizes diligent study, creative thinking, and the practical application of true and wise legal principles. Faculty and students recognize that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). They reject the faith of evolution, which denies the Creator and the self-evident truths articulated by our Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence. While Oak Brook College students are exposed to different legal philosophies, they adhere to the philosophy of government stated in the Declaration and manifested in America’s Common Law traditions, which are based upon Biblical principles.
Oak Brook College’s faculty and students all profess a faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God who was born in the flesh through a virgin birth, lived a sinless life, and was crucified as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of those who believe, resulting in a personal relationship with God through His Word and the indwelling Holy Spirit. While this personal faith in Christ may not be necessary to study law, even from an historical/Common Law perspective, it certainly has a tremendous impact on the relationships among students and their desire to encourage and support one another. A personal faith gives the ultimate meaning to life and a desire to manifest the character and love of Jesus Christ in the realm of law and government policy. Also by studying God’s Word, students gain wisdom and insight into human nature, principles of reconciliation, successful strategies, and on the importance of doing the right thing for the benefit of others.
This purpose of manifesting the character and love of Jesus Christ is a fundamental reason for Oak Brook College. Oak Brook College desires students who want to use their legal training to help others. It does not take a Christian to be a lawyer and it certainly does not take a lawyer to be a Christian, but as with any occupational endeavor, one’s motivation, character, and purpose impacts the quality of service and sense of responsibility. Oak Brook College seeks students who identify with its mission and who want to use their professional training and talents as servant leaders, counselors of reconciliation, advocates of truth, and ministers of justice.
Robert J. Barth,