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Ministers of the Law
A Natural Law Theory of Legal Authority
POD; Published: 10/21/2010
ISBN: 978-0-8028-6563-2
Price: $ 32.50
384 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9
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Series: Emory University Studies in Law and Religion (EUSLR)

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.
Catholic Press Association, Third Place,
Nigel Biggar
— University of Oxford
"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. "
Brian Tierney
— Cornell University
"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."
Russell Hittinger
— University of Tulsa
"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."
William O'Neill
— Jesuit School of Theology
"Seldom are books on practical wisdom as wise or practical as Jean Porter's magisterial Ministers of the Law. Inspired by scholastic jurisprudence, Porter engages contemporary theorists in a theologically informed interpretation of the nature and limits of legal authority. Erudite yet always eloquent, her groundbreaking work shows how natural law remains the touchstone of political legitimacy and the conventional rule of law. This splendid contribution to critical jurisprudence will be welcomed by scholars and ministers of the law alike."
Kenneth R. Himes
— Boston College
"In this work Porter employs her acknowledged expertise in natural law theory to articulate a theory of authority — moral, political, and legal. Porter does not settle for rehearsing past treatments but, rather, advances her own serious positions on fundamental matters of authority in human communities. Ministers of the Law gives readers an opportunity to reflect with and learn from one of our finest scholars of Christian ethics."
Kenneth Pennington
— Catholic University of America
"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."