John Witte, Jr., Emory University School of Law, has published The Universal Rule of Natural Law and Written Constitutions in the Thought of Johannes Althusius, at Morality and Responsibility of Rulers: Chinese and European Early Modern Origins of a Rule of Law for World Order 167 (Janne Nijman and Tony Carty, eds., Oxford University Press, 2017).
Calvinist jurist Johannes Althusius (1557-1638) developed what he called a “universal theory” of law and politics for war-torn Europe. He called for written constitutions that separated the executive, legislative, and judicial powers of cities, provinces, nations, and empires alike and that guaranteed the natural rights and liberties of all subjects. To be valid, he argued, these constitutions had to respect the universal natural law set out in Christian and classical, biblical and rational teachings of law, authority, and rights. To be effective, these constitutions had to recognize the symbiotic nature of human beings who are born with a dependence on God and neighbor, family and community, and who are by nature inclined to form covenantal associations to maintain liberty and community. Althusius left comprehensive Christian theory of rule of law and political that anticipated many of the arguments of later Enlightenment theorists of social and government contracts.Download the essay from SSRN at the link.