Article Abstracts
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Scroll down for Abstracts of David’s recent published articles:

‘How does Christianity regard English law?’(2013) 170 Law & Justice 19-48

Fifty years ago it was still possible for Richard O’Sullivan to describe English law as the practical application of Christian philosophy and ethics.  Today, both Christianity in England and English law are complex, diverse and fragmented phenomena.  The attitude English Christians have towards English law can be synthesist, conversionist, social justice, separatist or principled pluralist in orientation.  There is therefore a range of Christian positions on questions such as the criminal law, access to justice, welfare provision, family law, human rights, life issues and sexual morality. Nonetheless, English Christians share a common thankfulness for the lack of corruption in the English legal system and for the stability of British political structures and public order. However, many have anxieties that successive governments are losing a proper sense of the limitations of their powers.  If Richard O’Sullivan was writing today he would be concerned that, step by step, the political classes in Westminster may blunder into legislating away the freedoms which the reasonable Englishman and woman has enjoyed thanks to Christianity’s influence on English laws and law-makers.  It is to be hoped that in the century to come Christianity will continue to influence English law so that justice is available for all, the poor and the weak are protected, civil society is fostered and freedom of faith and conscience is respected.

‘Locke and Rawls on Religious Toleration and Public Reason’ (2013) Oxford Journal of Law and Religion 1-24

Locke’s arguments for toleration are seen to be of little value today because of their explicitly Christian formulation.  They appear to fail Rawls’s test of public reason.  This essay explores both the importance of reason within Locke’s thought and the influence of Locke’s Christian presuppositions even on Rawls’s own position.  It demonstrates how Locke’s commitment to reason as the method for arriving at truth on religious questions shapes both his arguments for the reasonableness of Christianity and his defence of toleration.  Building on his Christian belief that human beings are free and equal, Locke puts forward religious arguments as public reason.  Against this context, Rawls’s idea of public reason is shown to depend on an  a priori commitment to the view that the existence of God can make no difference to our moral reasoning, to concede that the content of public reason is variable over time and space, and may itself depend on the very belief that human beings are free and equal which liberalism has inherited from Christianity.

‘When is a Regime not a Legal System?’ (2013) Ratio Juris 65-84

Robert Alexy defines law as including a claim to moral correctness and demonstrating social efficacy.  This paper argues that law’s social efficacy is not merely an observable fact but is undergirded by moral commitments by rulers that it is possible for their subjects to follow the rules, that the rulers and others will also follow the rules, that subjects will be protected from violence if they act in accordance with the rules, and that subjects will be entitled to legal redress if others act violently towards them otherwise than in accordance with the rules.  Alexy is correct in his conclusion that a system of norms that is not by and large socially efficacious is not a valid legal system but wrong insofar as he follows legal positivism in distinguishing this aspect of law’s validity from law’s claim to moral correctness.

‘Is Secular Law Possible?’ (2012) 169 Law & Justice 19-35

The question: is secular law possible? is a provocative question in twenty-first century Britain, a country where most people still identify themselves as Christians but are ambivalent at best about the interventions of the churches into politics.  However, in order to address this question it is important to understand the different meanings which might be given to “secular”.  Whilst a total separation of religion and politics is not only impossible but dangerous, Christian doctrine has been a key contributor to the idea of secular law itself.

  1. ‘The Mission of Justice’ (2011) 28(3) Transformation 182-94

This paper explores some of the biblical material, renewed attention to which has contributed to the rise in Christian commitment to the mission of justice.  In particular, it looks at the ways in which that imperative has been articulated by evangelicals.  The Old Testament prophets denounce injustice and this finds its echo in the book of James and in Revelation.  Jesus was Justice Incarnate and calls His followers to demonstrate justice.

  1. ‘Christian Finance?’ (2011) 16(6) Ethics in Brief

Debt is a spiritual issue and one which is pressing in our culture. Christians need to practise self-control in their use of money, learning to save and to live simple lifestyles. Christians need to demonstrate generosity and to be prepared to offer interest-free loans to another. Christians need to practise fellowship in financial matters, sharing with one another and offering those in need alternatives to the money-lenders. Christians should be committed to mutual growth, supporting micro-credit initiatives which provide start-up capital to small businesses. These would be key steps towards honouring God with our finances, both individually and collectively.

  1. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ (Winter 2010) The Bible in Transmission 12-14

The idea of humanitarian intervention in a foreign state is controversial and raises important questions about state sovereignty, human rights and the extent of political responsibility.  Is there a Christian basis for such action?

  1. ‘The Right Reason for Caesar to confess Christ as Lord’ (2010) 23 Studies in Christian Ethics 300-315

The ostensible arguments advanced by Oliver O’Donovan for a  confessionally Christian constitutional order are not persuasive, even in the terms of his own scheme, because they presuppose that such a confession may be required as a representative act. Within his theory lies, however, the assumption that confessing Christ is fundamental to all right decision-making, including the political.  This renders the confession of Christ not merely a possibility for legitimate governments but rather essential to just political judgments. If O’Donovan’s ostensible arguments prove too little, the underlying logic of his position claims too much. O’Donovan is mistaken in his assumption that political judgments must be placed within the same comprehensive moral vision as personal decisions. Because political judgments bear only an indirect relationship to absolute right they may be rightly made without the express confession of Christ in the constitutional order.

  1. ‘‘The Use of the Bible by Christian Human Rights Organisations’ (2010) 11 Political Theology 473-485

This paper explores the use made of the Bible by two Christian human rights organizations: Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and International Justice Mission (IJM), identifying the particular parts of Scripture appealed to, the hermeneutic adopted, and asks whether there are other resources in the Bible which they could use to inspire and inform their work. CSW with its focus on the persecuted Church most naturally draws its inspiration from the New Testament, especially the Epistles; whilst IJM whose work principally addresses other forms of injustice such as slavery, forced prostitution, expropriation of land and exploitation of workers, makes greater appeal to the Old Testament. The biblical framework for IJM’s work could be strengthened by a more sustained attention to Jesus’ ministry as a model of human rights intervention and advocacy, by reflection on the significance of the Exodus as indicative of God’s purposes for those who are oppressed, and by consideration of the book of James as an important bridge between the concerns of the prophets in the Old Testament and the mission of the Church in the New. CSW needs to integrate its commendable emphasis on Jesus’ mission as exemplary for Christian human rights action with a holistic reading of the Bible and in particular with a greater exploration of the spiritual and practical importance of the Church as the Body of Christ.

  1. ‘Idols and Grace: Re-envisioning political liberalism as political limitism’ (2010) 11 Political Theology 205-225

This paper looks at the work of Oliver O’Donovan and John Milbank.  It argues that what they have in common is an Augustinian analysis of the dominant version of political liberalism which recognizes it as idolatrous. Nonetheless, because of the parasitic nature of evil, idolatrous human politics may be sustained by God’s grace as God gives people time to respond to God and to re-order their disordered loves in relation to Godself, the supreme good. The express recognition of this function of politics enables the advocacy of political limitism, a re-thinking of political liberalism in the light of eternity, which recognizes that politics has only a limited role to play in securing human goods and that the earthly polis is not the most important society.

  1. The Theology of Law of Professor Sir Norman Anderson’ (2009) 163 Law & Justice 110-126.

Norman Anderson was Professor of Oriental Laws at SOAS in the University of London and one of the leading evangelical figures of the twentieth century.  Through a large number of books and talks he gave an account of the need for Christians to be involved in the legal and moral issues of his time as well as contrasting the Christian understanding of God’s love and God’s law with that of other religions.  This article explores the theology of law which Anderson developed, looking both at his published works and also at his unpublished talks.