James Bruce

Dr. James E. Bruce is an associate professor of philosophy at John Brown University. His first book, Rights in the Law: The Importance of God’s Free Choices in the Thought of Francis Turretin, was published by Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht in 2013.

Does California Care about Students who Question their Sexuality?

California Senate Bill 1146 (SB 1146) created an earthquake of controversy.

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Faith, Reason, and the Law

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A plausible concern animates Francis J. Beckwith’s Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith. If you don’t get religious rites, you can’t uphold, defend, or even understand religious rights. As Beckwith notes, many with “real legal and political power” as well as “highly respected and influential academics, writers, and media figures” mischaracterize and seem to misunderstand religious beliefs and the people who hold them. One side of the culture wars “sees itself and its advocates as the guardians of rationality” and its opponents as people who adopt “nonrational delusions that deserve no greater constitutional protections or civil respect…

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The Permissive Natural Law

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Brian Tierney succeeds in his own aims for Liberty and Law: The Idea of Permissive Natural Law, 1100—1800. In his introduction, the noted Cornell medievalist openly admits that this book is “deliberately more descriptive than analytical” and says its chapters should not be read as “a continuous narrative” but as “a series of studies, focused on a common theme and intended, hopefully, to enhance our understanding of its scope and significance.” What Liberty and Law achieves is nothing short of remarkable: it follows the thread of permissive natural law through 700 years of intellectual history. Having written on Rights in the…

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Can Social Justice Be Rescued?

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The book Social Justice Isn’t What You Think It Is isn’t what you think it is. The dust jacket of the latest from Michael Novak (with coauthors Paul Adams and Elizabeth Shaw) promises to rescue the term from “its ideological captors” by clarifying “the true meaning of social justice.”

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Boringly Familiar and Wildly Utopian

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This plebian reviewer read Professor Sir Anthony Barnes Atkinson’s Inequality: What Can Be Done? so you wouldn’t have to. Inequality inadvertently persuaded me that its topic is even less important than I’d thought it was when I began. But make no mistake, Atkinson’s a celebrated lion of the Left—the economist whom Thomas Piketty called “the Godfather of historical studies on income and wealth.” If he can’t persuade us inequality is a problem, no one can.

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The Contexts of Individual Liberty


At the end of the day, the best and most deeply committed collectivists ought to be advocates of a small and limited government. Why? Because the state isn’t the only collective; it’s just the most obvious one. State collectivism received a devastating critique in James R. Otteson’s recent book (reviewed here), and I want to supplement Otteson’s case: In addition to the solitary individual staring down the centralized bureaucracy, we can think about the collections of individuals in civil society who are greater than the sum of their parts.

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The End of the Road to Serfdom


Future students of our age may well treat Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom and James R. Otteson’s The End of Socialism as bookends on an era. Hayek raises the specter of state collectivism in his classic work from 1944. In this new book, Otteson charts socialism’s end, in both senses of that word: the goals it fails to realize as well as its inevitable collapse.

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Don’t Print the Narrative


Here’s my story: I’m sick of narratives. My story, vision, dream—whatever—speaks against the so-called “grand narratives” that populate our rhetorical landscape like so many garden gnomes or pink flamingos. It’s not just that they’re awkward and unpleasant. They distract us from what should be the focus of our attention: the facts. Appealing to a narrative makes the speaker sound lofty in his ideals; it makes a politician’s policy decisions seem inevitable—but that’s just not the case. Call me a narrative skeptic.

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Can Natural Theology Solve Our Political Problems?

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The first 40 pages of The Natural Moral Law: The Good After Modernity are exceptional; it’s obvious to me why Cambridge decided to publish it. The book has many admirable qualities: it is daring, encyclopedic, and thought-provoking. Taken as a whole, though, The Natural Moral Law is uneven. Owen Anderson’s “interdisciplinary approach” should have been supplemented with more explicit, rigorous argument. The ideas he considers are too important to leave The Natural Moral Law as his final book on the subject; my hope is that Anderson will write a companion book to this one that is less historical and more…

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Hobby Lobby without God

Ronald Dworkin’s posthumously published Religion without God could instead have been called Law without Religion.

The book is founded in a great hope: that religious believers can be persuaded that they have more in common with atheists than they may think, and vice versa. Dworkin believes that “the zealots have great political power in America now” and that “militant atheism” is “politically inert” (though it is, he adds, “a great commercial success”!).

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