Richard Hooker

I am really thankful for this opportunity to delve into Hooker at ETSS. I am starting to see his relevance for many of the things I grappling with (Federal Vision / New Perspective type issues; the social nature of the faith; the right use of Scripture; the Greek speaking church fathers; etc.). A part of me is thinking, “Why focus on so much on ancient Greek speaking Easterners when we have (English speaking) Hooker?” That’s not to say that we should not read the Greek fathers, but maybe we should, to a great extent, let Hooker interpret them for us.

His Laws is mainly an argument against the “Puritans” (in this case, names like Travers and Cartwright) who said “Scripture alone is the rule of all things which in this life may be done by men.” In the Laws he is defending a certain ecclesial — and actually cosmic — liturgical order of things, including organizational features of the church not explicitly or directly authorized in Scripture (ie, we are talking about, among other things, bishops).

He has many key themes and distinctions, but none is more important than his emphasis on society. For Hooker, the chief end of man is to enjoy — with and in the Triune God and other people — the society of God.

He presupposes a traditional view of the atonement which includes the idea (listen for overtones of NT Wright here) that Christ offered himself for the forgiveness of sins. (Let me just say that, when it comes to the atonement, that is good enough for me right there. And I have felt this way for about a decade, ever since I read something along these lines by CS Lewis about how no “one theory” about how the atonement works ought to be absolutized, and I distinctly remember disagreeing with RC Sproul on this.)

It does seem to me that Hooker, with his upfront emphasis on society (divine and human, of course), implies something that NT Wright implies: soteriology is really ecclesiology.

Atonement is not where the action is for Hooker, relying as he does on the Fathers. The action is in the divine society and our participation in it.

I want to write so much more, but Ellie Bay is starting to cry.

Suffice to say that Hooker is opposing the Puritans, who want simply to “go back to Scripture” by relying more on the Nicene and Chalcedonian orthodoxy, which, in turn, rely upon Scripture. (So Hooker is explicitly relying on both tradition and scripture.) It is a different sort of argument.

One last point: it seems to me that Hooker is a really good blend of Calvinist / Reformed thought (Creator / creature distinction: “the finite cannot contain the infinite”) and Thomism (teleology: obeying the teleological law of our nature is a necessary condition for true society).

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