Iain Benson sums up the influence of Christianity on the Western legal tradition.
The influence of Christianity on the Western legal tradition is extraordinarily significant. Everything from our conception of the person, the importance of the family, the nature of the community, the relationship between groups and the state – what we understand now as the state, or what was understood previously as the sovereign, the role of power – all of these things have been influenced by our conceptions that we get from our religion, from Christianity.
Now religions – broaden it from just Christianity itself – are always the big influence on culture. Historians like Christopher Dawson, the Gifford Lecturer from the 50s, have written extensively about the importance of religions to culture. Jacques Ellul, the French philosopher; in our own day, a whole host of writers – Charles Taylor, Alasdair MacIntyre – a huge number of theorists have pointed out how important religious conceptions are, and remain, to understanding the relationship between the person, the law, and the state.