Redeeming Law: Christian Calling and the Legal Profession by Michael P. Schutt, InterVarsity Press, 2007
Professional Schools Ministries (PSM) works with students and faculty to empower lives of obedience and faithfulness in all realms of life, including work and professional practice. Michael P. Schutt’s new InterVarsity Press book, Redeeming Law applies this approach to the legal profession.
Mike serves on the PSM Leadership Team, within Graduate & Faculty Ministries, as National Coordinator for Law School Ministry. He is also an associate professor of law at Regent University and director for the Institute for Christian Legal Studies, a cooperative ministry of the Christian Legal Society and Regent Law School.
In three broad strokes—chapters entitled “The Lost Lawyer,” “Integrity,” and “Integrity in Practice“—Mike paints a vivid picture of why the call to a law career is sacred and how people serving in the legal profession can thrive, despite its unique challenges. His premise is simple: “Most Christians in the legal profession earnestly desire a deeper, more integrated approach to serving God in their work . . . an approach that takes into account the Christian as a whole person—not disintegrated, compartmentalized, and divided by conflicting demands in different roles.”
But most lawyers don’t know how to get that integrated approach. Numerous stumbling blocks prevail for Christians who seek to serve Christ in the study and practice of law; namely:
- A legal education system that lacks moral depth and conveys the concept that law is simply a tool and lawyers are social engineers;
- a weak doctrine of vocation in the church that offers little instruction for those called to law;
- an unwillingness and/or lack of fortitude by many lawyers themselves to “think theologically about the substance of the law,” creating blind spots to the “goodness (or wickedness) of their daily work, which might otherwise be apparent in light of Scripture and the teachings of the church through the centuries.”
The remainder of the book addresses in detail each challenge and offers fundamental and creative solutions for change. At the core of Mike’s thesis is the necessary shift lawyers must make in their own self identity, whereby they begin to understand themselves as integrated, whole, non-compartmentalized people, whose “profession and confession come together” as one.
This stands in contrast to images of “hired gun,” “shark,” and “kind and gentle social engineer,” which are antithetical to the gospel, or in the case of the latter, sub-biblical. According to Mike, the best way to recast one’s identity (or rather, live in the reality of our true identity) is to commit to the following: a unity of knowledge, belief, and action; life in community; and a Christian worldview that encompasses all of life, even the practice of law. Mike develops each of these strategies in great detail, offering instruction for the classroom, law firm, bench, and academy.
There is much that I love about this book and which can be highly instructive for all men and women called to the legal profession. Each chapter ends with insightful study questions. The chapter on vocation is outstanding and would be helpful to any one who seeks to follow Jesus in all realms of life. In addition, Mike offers a very helpful chapter on the unique vices of lawyers, especially as they relate to money, pride, and power.
Throughout the book the practice of biblical and systematic theology is modeled well, as it relates to both the scholarly underpinnings and practice of law. Ideas for what it means to “take every thought captive to Christ” are presented for a wide range of topics, including: compensation for injured parties; contracts; the jurisdiction for the church, state, and family; procedural requirements necessary for justice; and the purpose of punishment. Excellent case studies on the lives of Daniel and Joshua further illustrate what it means to live faithfully amid the challenges a of vocation.
I strongly commend this book to you. If you are interested in law, working with pre-law or law school students or faculty, or have ministry partners in the legal profession, then this is a great resource.