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Christianity and Constitutional Law – Professor Nicholas Aroney

This chapter draws on Nicholas Aroney and Ian Leigh, “Introduction: Christianity and Constitutionalism,” in Christianity and Constitutionalism, ed. Nicholas Aroney and Ian Leigh (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2022).


Modern constitutional law is the product of several important historical influences. These
include elements of Greek philosophy, Roman law, Christian theology, and Enlightenment
principles. Greek philosophy proposed a classification of the basic types of constitution and
introduced the idea of the rule of law. Roman law contributed the legal concept of
jurisdiction, which is an essential feature of contemporary constitutional law. Christian
theology offered a conceptual framework in which the authority of civil government was
effectively qualified by a higher natural or divine law, and in which the spiritual authority of
the church posed a practical limit on the temporal powers of the civil authority. Christian
theology also provided the context in which the powers of civil and ecclesiastical rulers were
tempered through various means, including the administration of oaths of office and the
issuing of charters guaranteeing the rights of religious, social, economic, and civil
associations of many kinds. The principle of the separation of powers and the establishment
of written constitutions enforced by judicial review, although associated with the
Enlightenment, also owed a great deal to these earlier principles and practices. This chapter
surveys the contribution of each of these influences and argues that although the Greek,
Roman, and Enlightenment contributions have been important, constitutional law would not
be what it is today if it were not for the influence of Christianity.

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