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April 10, 2007

A challenge to Christian legal scholarship

In looking over a recent AALS report, I was surprised at how many of the newer law schools in this country are affiliated with Christian Universities.  One would expect that this would correlate to a rise in Christian legal scholarship, but I'm not sure that I am seeing that within the broader academy-- Christian scholarship does not seem to engage those who are not part of Christian schools as much as it should. 

Nosing around this issue, I stumbled upon David Skeel's working paper entitled "The Unbearable Lightness of Christian Legal Scholarship," available for download at SSRN.  From what I can tell via Westlaw, the article has not yet been published in a journal. 

The following is from Skeel's abstract of the paper:

When the ascendency of a new movement leaves a visible mark on American 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 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 such a nationally influential movement.

While I disagree with some of Skeel's points, it is hard to deny his challenge to Christian scholars to engage more broadly with the rest of the academy.

-- Mark Osler

April 10, 2007 | Permalink


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