Saturday, November 03, 2007

Richard Hooker, Presbyter and Theologian, 1600


Todd Granger at the Confessing Reader has posted the following entry in commemoration for Richard Hooker, the great Anglican theologian and presbyter (priest) who was a large mover in the construction of the Elizabethan Settlement that bought England time between the 'warring' factions of the Calvinists and the Roman Catholics... he is an important giant of a theologian and Todd Granger has done a fine job of posting some of the essentials of his life and work. I've posted Mr. Granger's entire post below:


Richard Hooker

Born c. 1554 near Exeter, Richard Hooker was admitted at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, though the influence of Bishop John Jewel. He became a Fellow of the College in 1577, and in 1579 he was appointed deputy professor of Hebrew. Vacating his fellowship on his marriage, in 1584 he was name rector of Drayton Beauchamp and in 1585 Master of the Temple, where he controverted with the Calvinistic views of the Reader, William Travers. In 1591 he became rector of Boscombe in Wiltshire and in 1595 rector of Bishopsbourne, near Canterbury, where he died in 1600.

Hooker was par excellence the apologist of the Elizabethan Settlement of 1559 and is perhaps the most accomplished advocate that Anglicanism has ever had. He developed his thought in his treatise, Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, five of whose eight Books were published during his lifetime. (The other three Books were published several decades later.) In conception the Laws was a livre de circonstance, designed to justify the constitutional structure of the Elizabethan Church, but it embodied a broadly conceived philosophical theology. His opposition to the Puritans, who held to a literal following of the Scriptures as an absolute in the sense that whatever was not expressly commanded in Scripture was unlawful, led him to elaborate a whole theory of law, based on the absolute fundamental of natural law, whose “seat is the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world” (Laws, 1.16.8). This natural law, which governs the universe and to which both ecclesiastical and civil polity are subservient, is the expression of God’s supreme reason, and everything, including the Scriptures, must be interpreted in the light of it. “Laws human must be made according to the general laws of nature, and without contradiction unto any positive law in Scripture. Otherwise they are ill made” (Laws, 3.9.2). The Puritans were wholly mistaken in regarding the Bible as a mechanical code of rules; for not everything that is rightful finds precise direction in the Scriptures. In a similar way the permanence of law does not preclude development of detail. The Church is an organic, not a static, institution, and the method of Church government and ecclesiastical administration will change according to circumstances. Hence the Church of England, though reformed, possesses continuity with the medieval Church. Further, the visible organized Church is a political society, “a court not temporal merely”, yet able to control its own legislation in a way analogous to that in which the civil state through parliament makes its laws.

In particular matters, Hooker has been less universally acceptable to Anglicans. In his unreadiness to condemn the orders of the Continental Protestant churches, he denied the necessity of episcopal ordination. (It should be pointed out that this was a mainstream view in the Elizabethan and Jacobean Church of England, and even such a Caroline Divine as John Cosin, made Bishop of Durham after the Restoration, was unwilling to deny the efficacy of the orders of the Reformed Churches on the Continent.) Hooker’s doctrine of the Eucharist closely approximates in many places to receptionism. His argument on points of detail is not infrequently difficult to grasp and not wholly clear. But Hooker remains one of the greatest theologians that the English Church has ever possessed; and he conveyed his beliefs in a masterly English prose.

    Taken from The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited.

The Collect

O God of truth and peace, you raised up your servant Richard Hooker in a day of bitter controversy to defend with sound reasoning and great charity the catholic and reformed religion: Grant that we may maintain that middle way, not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The propers for the commemoration of Richard Hooker, Presbyter and Theologian, are published on the website of the Lectionary Page.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link, Peter.