The Law of Contracts: A Place to Start
Journal of Christian Legal Thought, p. 7, Winter 2011
10 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2011
Date Written: November 23, 2011
This short piece, in some ways more of an essay, considers the law of contracts from a distinctively if not purely theologically perspective. It should be of interest to both those who might be interested in as well as those who are suspicious of the place of religion in the private law square.
I begin by suggesting that three presuppositions underlie contract law: the virtues of love and justice as well as the reality of sin and its deforming effects. These presuppositions work themselves out in history but not history understood as a chronology of social causes and effects. Rather, I utilize history from the dynamic perspective of creation, fall, redemption and, ultimately, consummation. Next I draw on four commonplace doctrines of Christian theology to frame discussion of contract law: the creator-creature distinction, the covenantal structure of understanding, the law of God, and sin (again). Finally, I suggest that we should employ three theological perspectives -- normative, situational, and existential (which loosely correspond to the contemporary articulations of corrective justice, law and economics, and autonomy) -- to balance consideration of any particular legal doctrine.
My previous thinking about "legal theology" has come to expression in several published pieces. Here, however, I develop that theology in more substantial form.
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