On Friday and Saturday 29 and 30 June 2018 WALTA President and Sheridan College professor, Dr Augusto Zimmermann, attended “A World Without Christianity”, a colloquium held by the Christopher Dawson Centre for Cultural Studies in Hobart, Tasmania.
The dinner address was delivered by former Prime Minister, the Hon Tony Abbott MP, who spoke candidly about his own personal faith and how Christianity helped to shape our values and traditions in the West, including the values of democracy and the rule of law.
Besides the former Prime Minister and Dr Zimmermann, the following authors presented their papers: Dr Hal Colebatch, Dr Peter Cunich, Mr Eric Lockett, The Rev Campbell Markham, Dr Philippa Martyr, Mr Erik Peacock, Dom Pius Mary Noonan OSB, Mr Karl Schmude, Prof Margaret Somerville, Mr Ben Smith and Dr Nigel Zimmermann.
The paper presented by Dr Zimmermann was entitled “Building on a Solid Foundation: Christian Foundations of the Rule of Law in the West”.
In a few words, the paper reminds us that an underlying theme in legal theory is that the rule of law provides at least part of the solution to the problem of political tyranny. As an ideal of legality, the rule of law is a product of particular values, convictions, customs and traditions so that some societies may not be able to realise it.
In western societies, reminds Dr Zimmermann, the rule of law was developed over centuries under the dominating influence of Christianity. Indeed, according to the English constitutional lawyer O. Hood Phillips, ‘historically, the phrase [‘rule of law’] was used with reference to a [Christian] belief in the existence of law possessing higher authority — whether divine or natural — than that of the law promulgated by human rulers which imposed limits on their power’.
In his presentation, Dr Zimmermann endeavoured to explain why it is positively not safe to assume that the rule of law will survive in western societies under the current post-Christian environment, especially when these societies deliberately neglect the Christian faith in favour of secular philosophies which do not recognise an ultimate, transcendental source of fundamental rights and freedoms, nor objective standards of justice and morality that both ordinary citizens and the public authorities have to respect.
The presentation by Dr Zimmermann was very well received. As a result of his presentation, he received numerous expressions of appreciation from participants and organisers of the colloquium.
The papers presented in this colloquium will be available in a book published by Connor Court later this year.