While there have been a number of books published exploring Christian beliefs about the nature and role of law in society, law professor Michael Schutt has written a book about the practice of law—about how the law can be honored as a Christian vocation. And his book, called Redeeming Law: Christian Calling and the Legal Profession, is not a superficial, moralistic tract about being honest and offering pro bono services from time to time. Rather it raises deep questions about vocation, truth, community, and virtue.
Schutt realizes that a faithful pursuit of the vocation of law requires more than a sound theology of law: it also requires certain sensibilities, “habits of the heart,” to use Tocqueville’s term. Schutt cites Tocqueville’s description of the sort of orientation that characterizes the best lawyers: “Men who have made a special study of the laws derive from this occupation certain habits of order, a taste for formalities, and a mind of instinctive regard for the regular connection of ideas, which naturally render them very hostile to the revolutionary spirit and the unreflecting passions of the multitude.” Schutt observes that the practice of law both produces those sorts of habits and is enabled by those who possess them.
Schutt, who obtained his J.D. from the University of Texas Law School, is sensitive to the misapprehensions about the nature of the practice of law that most law school graduates are likely to have absorbed. “The prevailing jurisprudence teaches that law is simply a tool for engineering human action and lawyers are social engineers.” With such a presupposition at work, lawyers are often confident that the ends justify any means they can imagine. But just as Christian doctors have been forced to examine their practices more carefully as the culture around them has become more post-Christian, so must Christian lawyers eagerly and humbly strive to renew their minds about how the law can be practiced Christianly.
Despite the great opportunities to use the practice of law as a vehicle for building the Kingdom of God, “most Christians in the law do not know what following Christ really means as a practical matter to their daily work. Some struggle with the concept of vocation as Christian calling in the first place, or are unable to accept that law is an appropriate arena in which to serve God and neighbor. Others believe that law can be a high calling, but nonetheless stop short of appropriating the historical resources of the church for the benefit of their law teaching, study, or practice.” Schutt’s book is a remarkably practical and wise guide for Christians striving to think Christianly about the law.