A New Concordance on Discordant Canons: Harold Berman on Law and Religion

Emory Law Journal 42 (1993): 523-560

Emory Legal Studies Research Paper

38 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2011 Last revised: 15 Jan 2020

Date Written: 1993

Abstract

Harold J. Berman was a pioneer in the modern study of law and religion. He critiqued positivist concepts of law and religion, and the separation of legal study from other fields. He argued that law has a religious dimension, religion has a legal dimension, and the spheres and sciences of law and religion interact in a variety of way. At a fundamental level, religion gives law its spirit and inspires its adherence to ritual, tradition, and justice. Law gives religion its structure and encourages its devotion to order, organization, and orthodoxy. Law and religion share such ideas as fault, obligation, and covenant and such methods as ethics, rhetoric, and textual interpretation. Law and religion also balance each other by counterpoising justice and mercy, rule and equity, discipline and love. It is this dialectical interaction that gives these two disciplines and two dimensions of life their vitality and their strength. Without law at its backbone, religion slowly crumbles into shallow spiritualism. Without religion at its heart, law gradually crumbles into empty, and sometimes brutal, formalism.

Keywords: Harold J. Berman; Integration; Synthesis; Law and Religion; Dialectics, Law, rReligion

Suggested Citation

Witte, John, A New Concordance on Discordant Canons: Harold Berman on Law and Religion (1993). Emory Law Journal 42 (1993): 523-560 , Emory Legal Studies Research Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1851136

John Witte (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

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