Hauerwasian Christian Legal Theory

Law & Contemporary Problems, Vol. 75, No. 4, Pg. 115, 2012

U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 12-02

19 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2012 Last revised: 17 Dec 2012

See all articles by David A. Skeel

David A. Skeel

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Date Written: Fall 2012


This Essay, which was written for a Law and Contemporary Problems symposium on Stanley Hauerwas, tries to develop an account of public engagement in Hauerwas’ theology. The Essay distinguishes between two kinds of public engagement, “prophetic” and “participatory.” Christian engagement is prophetic when it criticizes or condemns the state, often by urging the state to honor or alter its true principles. In participatory engagement, by contrast, the church intervenes more directly in the political process, as when it works with lawmakers or mobilizes grass roots action. Prophetic engagement is often one-off; participatory engagement is more sustained. Because they worry intensely about the integrity of the church, Hauerwasians are more comfortable with prophetic engagement than the participatory alternative, a tendency the Essay calls the “prophetic temptation.” Hauerwasians also struggle to explain what can or should participatory engagement look like.

After first comparing Hauerwas’s understanding of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount with that of his two twentieth century predecessors, Walter Rauschenbusch and Reinhold Neibuhr, the Essay turns to Hauerwasian public engagement and the prophetic temptation. The Essay then considers the implications of Hauerwas’s theology for three very different social issues, the Civil Rights Movement, abortion, and debt and bankruptcy.

Keywords: Stanley Hauerwas, law and religion, theology, political theory, civic public or political engagement, Hauerwasian Christian legal theory, the Sermon on the Mount, abortion, bankruptcy, civil rights movement

Suggested Citation

Skeel, David A., Hauerwasian Christian Legal Theory (Fall 2012). Law & Contemporary Problems, Vol. 75, No. 4, Pg. 115, 2012, U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 12-02, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1982631

David A. Skeel (Contact Author)

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