"Ministers of the Law is an argument for the importance of the history of Western legal thought for the jurisprudence of political authority. Jean Porter demonstrates 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.-Kenneth Pennington Catholic University of America This book is a theological account of a vital element of human flourishing: authority-natural, political, and legal. Porter argues that positive law, national and international, possesses an authority that may trump anti-terrorist expedients and even general humanitarian considerations.-Nigel Biggar University of Oxford The author presents an original account of natural law as a 'basis of legitimization' that can validate a variety of political systems and structures of positive law."-Brian Tierney Cornell University
How do ordinary people come to know what is virtuous? Do our moral convictions merely reflect our cultural background and upbringing, or do we somehow understand what is virtuous by ourselves and in a failsafe manner? Thomas Aquinas believes that we do. In his view practical reason is guided by our natural knowledge of the end of the moral virtues. The ends of the moral virtues pre-exist in practical reason (Summa theologiae II-II.47.6-7). This book delves into this argument, its historical background, and its implications for Aquinas' account of the cognitive foundations of deliberation. For Thomas, the naturally known overarching ends of the moral virtues and human life are love for God, self and others. They are first principles of practical reason. This order of love determines the content, logic and workings of natural law. In this way, Aquinas not only develops a compelling account of natural law, but also bridges the gap between natural law and virtue. The fundamental content of natural law is tied up with the shape and structure of the moral virtues. Aquinas' innovative wedding of Aristotelian and Augustinian accounts of deliberation constitutes an important chapter within mediaeval moral philosophy. It can also contribute much to contemporary reflection on practical reason, natural law and virtue ethics.
Traditionalist Christians who oppose same-sex marriage and other cultural developments in the United States wonder why they are being forced to bracket their beliefs in order to participate in public life. This situation is not new, says Steven D. Smith: Christians two thousand years ago faced very similar challenges. Picking up poet T. S. Eliot’s World War II–era thesis that the future of the West would be determined by a contest between Christianity and “modern paganism,” Smith argues in this book that today’s culture wars can be seen as a reprise of the basic antagonism that pitted pagans against Christians in the Roman Empire. Smith’s Pagans and Christians in the City looks at that historical conflict and explores how the same competing ideas continue to clash today. All of us, Smith shows, have much to learn by observing how patterns from ancient history are reemerging in today’s most controversial issues.