The First Grace: Rediscovering the Natural Law in the Post-Christian World

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9781882926824: The First Grace: Rediscovering the Natural Law in the Post-Christian World
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The last two decades or so have seen a marked resurgence of interest in natural law thought. Russell Hittinger has been a major figure in this movement. The First Grace: Rediscovering the Natural Law in a Post-Christian World reveals the power and subtlety of Hittinger's philosophical work and cultural criticism. Hittinger first defines the natural law, considers its relationship to the positive law, and explains how and when judges are to be guided by natural law considerations. Then, in the book's second section, he contends with a number of controversial legal and cultural issues from a natural law perspective. Among other things, he shows how the modern propensity to make all sorts of rights claims undermines the idea of limited government; how the liberal legal culture's idea of privacy elevates the individual to the status of a sovereign; and how the Supreme Court has come to see religion as a potentially dangerous phenomenon from which children must be protected. Throughout, Hittinger convincingly demonstrates that to oppose freedom and law is to misunderstand the nature of both.

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About the Author:

Russell Hittinger has taught at Fordham, Princeton, and Catholic University, and is currently the Warren Chair of Catholic Studies at the University of Tulsa, where he is also Research Professor of Law. The author of A Critique of the New Natural Law Theory, Hittinger is on the editorial board of First Things and the advisory board of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture. In 2001, he was elected to the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas in Rome.

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Once closely tied to Christian theology, the concept of natural law has metamorphosed into a secular form that Catholic moral theorist Hittinger finds dangerously corrosive. Because the secularizers of natural law have severed its connections to God as its source, Hittinger argues, it no longer reinforces moral duty but instead legitimizes amoral individualism and anti-religious jurisprudence. Though Hittinger's analysis relies heavily upon Catholic dogma and scholarship, his closely reasoned logic connects at key points with Protestant traditions--and bears upon numerous points of public policy. Consequently, although relatively few non-Catholic readers will be interested in the treatment of natural law in recent papal encyclicals, Protestant scholars may heed Hittinger's call for a reintegration of natural law into scriptural contexts, and legal theorists of various religious backgrounds will glean insights from his dissection of the natural-law casuistry practiced by the Supreme Court. Of particularly keen interest is Hittinger's parsing of the sharply conflicting natural-law arguments deployed in the nation's bitter debate over abortion. Not written for general readers but sure to attract serious scholars of church-state issues. Bryce Christensen
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