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Ministers of the Law: A Natural Law Theory of Legal Authority (Emory University Studies in Law and Religion) Paperback – October 22, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


“Ministers of the Law is a stunning and compelling argument for the importance of the history of Western legal thought for the jurisprudence of political authority. Jean Porter demonstrates with impressive learning that European jurists before the age of legal positivism had placed clear and absolute boundaries on the authority and power of rulers and magistrates. These boundaries were defined by the rights of human beings that transcended the ‘rule of law’ and constitutions. This book should be required reading for every American constitutional scholar and, in particular, every American Supreme Court justice.”
— Kenneth Pennington
Catholic University of America

“In this book Jean Porter uses the formidable fruits of her decades-long study of natural law to construct a thorough, theological account of a vital, though much disparaged, element of human flourishing: authority — natural, political, and legal. Conversing with contemporary legal philosophy and political theology, Porter argues boldly that positive law, national and international, possesses an authority that may trump anti-terrorist expedients and even general humanitarian considerations. Fluently written, methodically clear, and analytically satisfying, Ministers of the Law deploys a Christian ethic of unusual philosophical sophistication to enlighten issues of great public importance.”
— Nigel Biggar
University of Oxford

“A major contribution to modern debates on the grounding of law. The author presents an original account of natural law as a ‘basis of legitimation’ that can validate a variety of political systems and structures of positive law.”
— Brian Tierney
Cornell University

“Jean Porter accomplishes a most unusual thing. She illuminates and at the same time renders subtle in every hue and shade a most difficult set of questions on natural law. I could not stop reading, and in some places disagreeing with, this splendid work. I think it is her best yet.”
— Russell Hittinger
University of Tulsa

About the Author

In Ministers of the Law Jean Porter articulates a theory of legal authority derived from the natural law tradition. As she points out, the legal authority of most traditions rests on their own internal structures, independent of extralegal considerations — legal houses built on sand, as it were. Natural law tradition, on the other hand, offers a basis for legal authority that goes beyond mere arbitrary commands or social conventions, offering some extralegal authority without compromising the independence and integrity of the law.

Yet Porter does more in this volume than simply discuss historical and theoretical realms of natural law. She carries the theory into application to contemporary legal issues, bringing objective normative structures to contemporary Western societies suspicious of such concepts.
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Product Details

  • Series: Emory University Studies in Law and Religion
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (October 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802865631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802865632
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,078,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Julie Balamut on November 29, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dr. Porter has given us another gem. She succiently and carefully argues that the natural law tradition illustrated by Gratian and Aquinas make a good case for our own view of legal authority. This book shows Dr. Porter's growing interest in how the legal system can benefit from looking back to the scholastics to enrich and strengthen what it means to follow legal authority based on the highest standards of human flourishing. She weaves the work of theologians and legal philophers to state her case. Nobody argues as clearly and cogently as Jean Porter. However, be warned, this is not a beach read or an easy text to skim through. It demands careful reading and much reflection to get to the core of her arguments. But you will be glad you kept with it as you won't easily find a more intelligent, exceptionally fine writer as Dr. Porter. Truly a fine addition to a very worthy subject.
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