The Rule of Law – Building on Solid Foundations


Augusto Zimmermann

An underlying theme in legal theory is that the rule of law provides at least part of the solution to the problem of political tyranny.

Building on Solid Foundations: Christian Foundations of the Rule of Law in the West 

As an ideal of legality, the rule of law is a product of particular values, convictions, customs and traditions, so that some societies may not be able to realize it. In western societies, the rule of law was developed over centuries under the dominating influence of Christianity.  And yet, as noted by the late Harold Berman of Harvard Law School,

“the Western belief in the autonomy and supremacy of law – historically based, as it is, on the dialectic of the church and state – can hardly serve as the principal foundation of legality in a world that is only partly Christian.”

Indeed, according to the celebrated English jurist O. Hood Phillips,

“historically, the phrase [‘rule of law’] was used with reference to a [Christian] belief in the existence of law possessing higher authority — whether divine or natural — than that of the law promulgated by human rulers which imposed limits on their power.”

Can the Rule of Law Survive in the West without its Christian Foundation?

It is positively not safe to assume that the rule of law will survive in western societies under the current post-Christian environment, especially when these societies deliberately neglect the Christian faith in favor of secular philosophies which do not recognize an ultimate, transcendental source of fundamental rights and freedoms, nor objective standards of justice and morality that both ordinary citizens and the public authorities have to respect.

The remarkable shift in paradigm from a Christian society to a post-Christian society also explains why the high esteem the greatest (Christian) jurists in our western legal history once held have almost completely disappeared, along with their jurisprudential taught which often are not even properly taught in our law schools.

Prof. Augusto Zimmermann, is a Salt & Light Global Distinguished Fellow. His academic credentials include serving as:

* Professor of Law, Sheridan College – Faculty of Business
* President, Western Australian Legal Theory Association (WALTA)
*Editor-in-Chief, The Western Australian Jurist, and
* Commissioner, Law Reform Commission of Western Australia (2012-2017)

Prof. Zimmermann will present on the above topic at a conference in Tasmania on June 29-30, 2018. 

About the Author

Augusto Zimmermann

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