From the way a newborn baby is transported home from the hospital to the way human remains are dealt with after death, the law governs it all.
This is why André Schutten, a professor in Redeemer’s law and public policy minor, says we should care about and teach students about the law and policy from a Christian perspective.
“The law touches every aspect of human life and citizenship,” says Schutten. “It makes authoritative claims on your life. Why would Christians want to abandon that?”
It’s what led both Schutten and Kris Kinsinger, among other well-qualified experts in their fields, to lend their time and expertise to the law and public policy minor, launched in 2022. Both lawyers, Schutten specializes in constitutional law and is legal counsel and teaching fellow with the Association for Reformed Political Action Canada, while Kinsinger is pursuing a litigation practice and is the national director of the Runnymede Society.
Kinsinger recently edited a collection of papers developed from the Runnymede Society’s March 2022 academic symposium, “The Unwritten Principle of Constitutionalism in Canadian Jurisprudence.”
“It’s a volume on the unwritten principle of constitutionalism, a principle that has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada,” Kinsinger says, adding that constitutionalism and the rule of law are companion principles. The rule of law means the exercise of civil authority needs to be done in accordance with rules or laws. Constitutionalism is a specific application of that principle, simply meaning that the exercise of authority needs to comply with the constitution. “There’s been a lot of scholarship on the rule of law, but not as much on this unwritten principle of constitutionalism, so we wanted to put together a collection that broadly engaged with some of the themes that emerge when thinking about this principle.”
Kinsinger says it was a fun project to work on that aligned well with a lot of the work he is doing with the Runnymede Society, which he says could be described as “a coalition of constitutionalists of different stripes.” Many of the contributors were members of the Runnymede Society, but it also reached further afield. Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Peter Lauwers contributed an article and has been generous with his time. Of an appearance in a Redeemer law class, Kinsinger says, “It was really cool for students to hear about the role of judges.”
Kinsinger speaks highly of his experience at Redeemer, and particularly of Redeemer students.
“They were bright, engaged and keen to take their understanding of the Christian faith and apply it to the study of law,” he says. He was pleased to see students engage in open-minded but rigorous discussion. “I don’t try to hide my own viewpoints … but I try to encourage a robust open dialogue where students can feel free to disagree,” he says. “We need to continue to engage with the broader scholarship and the broader mission of the university. We need to be thinking about ideas that are in the public square and look at how Christians are responding to them. How as Christians do we try to bring our understanding of Scripture and theology to bear on public debates about the law?”
Schutten says it’s important to recognize some key components of Redeemer’s program that students won’t find elsewhere. He speaks of the profound positive impact Christianity has had on the development of the law.
“The gospel has shaped in profound and positive ways the development of the western legal system. If you don’t recognize that, if you don’t point it out, it won’t be appreciated,” he says, adding that the idea of universal human rights comes out of Judeo-Christian presuppositions. “We can be thankful for, celebrate, learn from and lean into that. It helps Christians have some confidence that they have something good to offer the world when it comes to the shaping of public policy and the development and
practice of law.”
“The gospel has shaped in profound and positive ways the development of the western legal system. If you don’t recognize that, if you don’t point it out, it won’t be appreciated.”
Without a Christian law school in Canada, Redeemer’s minor is one of only a few universities where students can learn about the law from a Christian perspective, Schutten points out.
“There’s an entire branch of government that is exclusively reserved for lawyers. We need to have lawyers that are Christians. They have to think Christianly about the law. I think that’s what Redeemer’s minor is going to help them do. It’s going to be such a valuable start. They will be well equipped to ask the critical questions that they need to ask, so they can remain Christian thinkers as they practice law.”