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Law as a Seed

In Arts & Letters, Humanities, Law, Literary Theory & Criticism on May 1, 2013 at 8:45 am

Allen Mendenhall

Jesus of Nazareth delivered the parable of the growing seed,[1] which referred to the kingdom of God and its capacity for organic growth.  The principle from that parable carries over into the legal realm.  For the law evolves from the scattered seeds of human conduct; ripens as a result of human care; and then, on its own, apart from human care, imperceptivity and spontaneously sprouts grain, which, in turn, spreads into abundant crops for the nourishment of the human and animal bodies that, one by one, enable the flourishing of the seeds to begin with.  Growth is cyclical in the sense that it consists of these stages, but linear in the sense that the stages are not exactly alike; each stage is different depending upon the conditions present during its lifespan.  Yeats’s gyre is a helpful interpretive parallel in this regard.

Just as the polis cultivating the Word of God will bear cultural and spiritual fruit for itself and its progeny, so the polis prioritizing law will bear cultural and economic fruit for itself and its progeny. This analogy is not intended to endow human law with spiritual qualities or sacrilegiously to equate human law with divine purpose; it is intended to suggest that law should be treated with high seriousness rather than casual interest, although the law is not a savior and ought not to be celebrated or glorified as such.  The laws of human relations remain primarily secular.  That is not a normative statement about what the laws ought to be, merely a comment on what the laws as a human construct are at present.  If we are to be governed by divine law, we can be sure that it precedes human law and that no human law could mirror it.


[1] Mark 4:26-28.

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