Archive Nota Bene Steven Wedgeworth

Prof. Pryor on Property and Contracts

Professor Scott Pryor of Regent University School of Law has posted a short response to Dr. Littlejohn’s initial essay on private property, and you can read it here. While appreciative of Dr. Littlejohn’s argument, Professor Pryor emphasizes the necessary role of contracts in property rights, and he argues that both “rights” and “right order” are inescapably interlocked with one another, thus allowing for neither to be more basic than the other. He concludes with these paragraphs:

With that we’ve come full circle. Human beings, even sinless ones, had primary rights. Those rights were and are grounded in our human nature both as images of God and as finite, embodied, social beings. Human cultures, even ones untainted by sin, would have needed coordination rules. Rights of the sort we humans have, and would have had, are primary. Such rights would have included contract and property. And such primary rights would have entailed rules. These rules would not have needed to address the wrong of opportunistic breach but some would have been in place regardless of the presence of sin.

“Property” as use alone would have been insufficient to build a sinless human culture. Somesort of rights to possess, exclude, and convey would have been appropriate. No doubt these rights would not have appeared as extensive or as absolute as we see today in commodified Western culture. Yet I believe that primary rights would have included some sort of property given the divine mandates to grow and develop human society and culture. Property is therefore not entirely adventitious.

By Steven Wedgeworth

Steven Wedgeworth is the Rector of Christ Church Anglican in South Bend, Indiana. He writes about theology, history, and political theory, and he has taught Jr. High and High School. He is the founder and general editor of The Calvinist International, an online journal of Christian Humanism and political theology, and a founding member of the Davenant Institute.