Trinity Law School
|Trinity Law School|
|School type||Private non-profit|
|Location||Santa Ana, California, USA|
|Enrollment|| 73 (full time)|
68 (part time)
|Faculty|| 3 (full time)|
20 (part time)
Background & Origins
The Trinity Law School as it is now known was founded in 1980 as Simon Greenleaf School of Law and was originally located at 3855 East La Palma Avenue, Anaheim, California. It was originally named in honor of the Nineteenth century Harvard law professor Simon Greenleaf who was a major authority on the laws of evidence and also wrote The Testimony of the Evangelists, which was a work of Christian apologetics concerning the evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Simon Greenleaf School of Law was the brain-child of John Warwick Montgomery. Montgomery rose to prominence in the 1960s as a confessional Lutheran theologian and as a Christian apologist. He held the chair of Professor of Church History at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois (1964-74). During the 1970s Montgomery began to study for the Bachelor of Laws degree and started writing texts where he attempted to integrate law and theology, and legal principles of reasoning and evidence into Christian apologetics. This was reflected in his book The Law Above The Law where in a series of essays he argued that the foundations of law must be grounded in divine revelation. In that same text Montgomery reproduced as an appendix Greenleaf's The Testimony of the Evangelists. The same kinds of legal, theological and apologetics themes reappeared in his 1986 book Human Rights and Human Dignity.
In 1975 he assumed a teaching post at the International School of Law. Montgomery later wrote:
"I left Trinity to fill the chair of Jurisprudence at the newly founded International School of Law, an institution which was, in the dream of its dean and founder, John W. Brabner-Smith, to restore the biblical foundations of the law as presented in Blackstone and legal instruction during colonial times. I felt that this high purpose should engage my best efforts at a time when the country needed biblically-orientated attorneys and statesmen as never before." (Montgomery, The Shaping of America, p. 13).
However Montgomery left the school when the Board of Trustees decided to eliminate jurisprudence from the curriculum and also abolished Brabner-Smith's own teaching position. Montgomery was scathing of this decision and in his later reflections maintained that the trustees seemed to be more interested in personal piety (see The Shaping of America, pp 178-180). Montgomery relocated to California in 1976 where he taught for a time at the Melodyland School of Theology, graduated with the LLB from the LaSalle Extension University (1977), and was admitted to the bars of Virginia and then California. He also practiced law in the firm Moen, Montgomery and Golden in Tustin, California.
Towards the end of the 1970s Montgomery developed his vision for an evangelical institution of higher learning that would offer undergraduate degrees in legal education and a graduate program in Christian apologetics. The Christian theological and juridical philosophy that Montgomery had already worked on in his books formed an essential component in the educational aims, policies and content of curricula on which the school was based. As Montgomery subsequently wrote in 1992 in an article about the school in the Christian News (see reference list below), the school held to a doctrinal and hermeneutical statement of faith that reflected the twin streams of evangelicalism and Lutheran-Church Missouri Synod theology. Some faculty members were Baptists, charismatics, Episcopalians, and a few were Lutherans.
A founding board of trustees collaborated with Montgomery to establish in 1980 the Simon Greenleaf School of Law. According to the School's prospectus:
"The Simon Greenleaf School of Law reflects the lifestyle of its namesake. (1) It stands for practical legal training against the background of the highest scholarly standards. (2) It stands for thorough education in the American common law tradition while continuoully viewing that tradition from the wider perspective of international and comparative law. (3) It stands for the development of students who will fearlessly represent unpopular causes when justice requires, rather than bowing to the dictates of social conformity or mass acceptability. (4) In an age of dehumanization, it stands for human rights in the deepest and broadest sense of the term. (5) It stands for an eternal perspective on the law, believing with Socrates, St. Paul, Cicero, Blackstone, and the classical legal tradition, that 'the unexamined life is not worth living' and that a depth examination of the law leads to ultimate and unchanging values." (The Simon Greenleaf School of Law Bulletin, 1986-87, p. 8).
It commenced operations by offering evening classes in a four year undergraduate course in legal studies that led to the J.D. (Juris Doctor) degree, and a one-and-a-half year post-graduate course in Christian Apologetics that led to the conferral of a Master of Arts degree.
The founding faculty members, as listed in the inaugural edition of the school's journal The Simon Greenleaf Law Review, in the law program included Ronald S. Ayers, Jack D. Brewer, Beatrice S. Donoghue, Laurence B. Donoghue, Jack W. Golden, Roy W. Hibberd, David L. Llewellyn, John T. Moen, David S. Prescott, Vincent Schmieder and Donald E. Thomas. These faculty members were Christian lawyers who worked in private practices in Southern California.
The founding members of the faculty teaching in the Master of Arts program included: Harold Lindsell, Walter Martin, Josh McDowell, Eugene Moore, Rod Rosenbladt, Alan Scarfe, Michael R. Smythe, Donald D. Stewart, John Stewart and William Welty.
During the 1980s a variety of distinguished Christian and non-Christian lecturers were invited to speak at the school. The school's prospectus for 1986 listed some of these guest lecturers as including Gleason Archer, Harold O. J. Brown, Herman John Eckelmann, Norman Geisler, Vladimir Kartashkin, Armand Nicholi, Karl Josef Partsch, Arthur Henry Robertson, Francis Schaeffer and R. C. Sproul.
Under Montgomery's direction the 1980s curriculum for the J.D., as set out in the school's annual prospectus, not only covered the essential legal topics of contracts, torts, property, evidence, constitutional law, criminal law, trusts and Wills, but also included various electives on topics like legal literature, legal history, English legal system, legal Latin, jurisprudence, and the Marxist conception of Law.
The school also convened a summer program in Strasbourg, France, where Montgomery and other faculty members taught students elective courses in the interrelationship between theology, law, human rights and apologetics. The summer program also involved students being enrolled simultaneously in the annual study session of the International Institute of Human Rights that was founded in 1969 by Nobel Peace Prize winner René Cassin. Montgomery partly profiled the school's summer program in an essay he wrote about the work of Cassin and the International Institute of Human Rights (see references below "Strasbourg: Tha Capital of Human Values").
The Master of Arts curricula involved students being enrolled in both coursework and completing a dissertation in order to qualify for graduation. The courses included topics such as cultural apologetics, comparative religions, cults and the occult, history of apologetics, scientific apologetics, philosophy of religion, evidentialism and presuppositionalism, social ethics in law and theology, biblical criticism, church history, and systematic theology. The program was initially co-ordinated by Walter Martin and then by Harold Lindsell.
A number of graduates from this program went on to further their higher education at other institutions with many also becoming published authors in apologetics such as Francis Beckwith, Ross Clifford, Elliot Miller, Kerry McRoberts, Dan Story, and John Weldon.
The Christian philosophical stance adopted by the school was further reflected in the annual publication of its journal The Simon Greenleaf Law Review. The inaugural edition of 1981-82 included a photolithographic reproduction of Edmund Bennett's 1899 book The Four Gospels from a Lawyer's Standpoint, and a student's essay analysing Thomas Paine's Age of Reason.
The second edition for 1982-83 carried an essay by Francis Schaeffer on Christian faith and human rights, as well as other essays on the natural law tradition, abortion and the Roe v. Wade decision, and the California criminal justice system. The third edition of 1983-84 was exclusively devoted to publishing Montgomery's thesis The Marxist Approach to Human Rights: Analysis and Critique, for which he earned the M.Phil in law at the University of Essex (1983).
The fourth edition of the Law Review (1984-85) republished an abridgement of Lord Hailsham's spiritual autobiography The Door Wherein I Went. It also included an essay evaluating Lord Hailsham's work in Hamlyn Revisited. Other essays examined the law, politics and social sciences, and the legal philosophy of Alf Ross.
The fifth edition of 1985-86 was themed around right-to-life issues of abortion and infanticide. The sixth edition of 1986-87 reprinted the two apologetic texts by the eighteenth century apologist William Webster, the 1985 Warburton Lecture on the early Christian bishop Cyprian, and an excerpt from Edward Carpenter's study of the work of Thomas Sherlock the eighteenth century apologist and chaplain to the English legal profession.
The seventh edition of 1987-88 included apologetics essays about G. K. Chesterton and Reuben A. Torrey, as well as legal arguments in defense of Christ's resurrection, an analysis of Oliver Wendell Holmes' juridical philosophy, and a report on an apellate case in Greece concerning three Christian evangelists whom Montgomery defended against charges of violating Greek anti-proselyting laws.
Trinity International University Amalgamation
During the administration years that Montgomery held the post as the Dean of the school, efforts were made to meet the criteria needed for full accreditation. Towards the end of the 1980s Montgomery became enmeshed in a personal dispute with a former member of faculty and with some of the Board of Trustees. Montgomery resigned as Dean and severed his connections with the School and subsequently assumed a professorial chair in England at the University of Luton (now University of Bedfordshire). Montgomery subsequently related his side of the story in an article published in October 1992 in the Christian News.
In the wake of Montgomery's resignation and the departure of other faculty members, the school reorganized itself and in 1989 renamed itself the Simon Greenleaf University (SGU). However the new administration found that SGU faced tremendous financial difficulties in sustaining its operations and a parallel problem of how to successfully meet the American Bar association's requirements for full accreditation. During the 1990s the aim was to amalgamate the law school into an existing Christian tertiary institution. In the process of various negotiations the apologetics programme was relinquished into the care of Biola in La Mirada, California.
In 1997 the remaining law school became a part of Trinity International University (TIU), an evangelical Christian institution of higher education headquartered in Deerfield, Illinois, and operated by the Evangelical Free Church of America.
In 2005, TLS enrolled 80 full-time and 79 part-time students.
TLS is approved by the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California and regionally accredited by the North Central Association accreditation when it came under TIU's umbrella, but the law school has never had accreditation by the American Bar Association.
- The Simon Greenleaf School of Law Bulletin, 1986-87, (Anaheim: Simon Greenleaf School of Law, 1986).
- The Simon Greenleaf Law Review, Vols 1-7, (issued annually from 1981-1988).
- " 'Athens Three' Found Innocent," Moody Monthly, (July/August 1986), p. 88.
- Ross Clifford, John Warwick Montgomery's Legal Apologetic: An Apologetic for All Seasons (Bonn: Verlag fur kultur und Wissenschaft, 2004). ISBN 3938116005
- John Warwick Montgomery, The Law Above The Law, (Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1975). ISBN 0-87123-329-0
- John Warwick Montgomery, The Shaping of America, (Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1976). ISBN 0-87123-227-8
- John Warwick Montgomery, "Strasbourg: The Capital of Human Values," Human Rights, Vol. 9, no.1 (Spring 1980), pp. 38-41.
- John Warwick Montgomery, "Simon Greenleaf," Eternity, (November 1986), p. 21.
- John Warwick Montgomery, Human Rights and Human Dignity, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986). ISBN 0-310-28571-2
- John Warwick Montgomery, "What Can Be Learned When A Christian Institution Falls From Greatness," Christian News, October 5, 1992. [Montgomery's account of the School under his administration and his subsequent dispute and resignation from it]
- Law School, Trinity International University (official site)