Richard Hooker (W. Bradford Littlejohn)

Discussion in 'Book Reviews' started by BayouHuguenot, Nov 20, 2019.

  1. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Littlejohn, W. Bradford. Richard Hooker. Wipf & Stock.

    I wish I had something like this in 2008 when I was wrestling with claims of “what is the true church?” The conservative Protestant publishing world had lost giants like Hooker and Chemnitz. Turretin had been recently translated and published, but he still stayed on the periphery.

    Richard Hooker gives us a cosmopolitan vision that is Protestant, yet unashamedly Anglican. I cannot go with him on some points (as I am Presbyterian), yet to interact with his thoughts improves the architecture of the mind. We thank Brad Littlejohn for this little text and for streamlining Richard Hooker for a new generation.

    The Mythical Hooker

    Myth 1: he was a serene philosopher who floated above controversy.
    Myth 2: He is anti-Calvinist.
    Myth 3: He retrieved Thomas Aquinas who had been rejected by the Reformation.

    Richard Hooker: The Book

    In terms of skill and strategy, Littlejohn notes that “the Puritan position had been rendered desperate by the great flanking movements in Books I and II” (Littlejohn). Hooker was unique in that he renounced the standard process of polemics. Earlier polemicists, much like discernment bloggers today, stated the opponent’s position paragraph by paragraph and then refuted each line. This turned small pamphlets into unmanageable tomes. Hooker blessedly repudiated this method. By contrast he offered a text that logically flowed from its prior structural argument.

    I do wish Littlejohn had developed exactly how Hooker outflanked his opponents. He asserted it and pointed to relevant passages (which the reader may or may not have). A fuller discussion would have been appreciated. I do plan, however, to read through the Davenant Series on Hooker.

    The Challenges to Be Answered

    Do the sign of the cross and the wearing of vestments constitute an erasure of the Reformation? To what degree does our appeal to Scripture determine worship? The next question is related to the first one: does anything beyond this jeopardize Christian liberty?

    The presbyterians’ argument was thus: no bishop (or elder) is to have spiritual authority over the others; and royal supremacy was to be challenged. This meant that Good Queen Bess would actually be under clerics’ authority in some spheres.

    Hooker, therefore, had to respond to a (a) strict biblicism, (b) presbyterian government, and (c) the challenge to civil unity.

    A Tour of the Laws

    Preface: people are quick to impute all the problems of a society to the established order, with the result that whatever then claims the strongest sanction receives the victor. Elsewhere Hooker makes a very perceptive point on subordinate, yet legitimate human laws. Human laws can teach (albeit, limited) wisdom. Or rather, these human laws are grounded in Wisdom, which participates in the Eternal Law of God. Therefore, we should honor these “manifold forms” in which Wisdom is revealed.

    Book II: Considering Scripture as the only law. Scriptural warrant is good, but we must be honest, so Hooker argues, in how it is (and perhaps can be) applied.

    [​IMG]

    Hooker as Polemicist

    His famous Preface begins with a subtle attack on the discipline in Calvin’s Geneva, and it is the way in which Hooker crafts his argument that makes him so formidable. He knows that his opponents, the “precisianists,” are acting out of conscience. His concern is that they identify their own probably inferences as infallible truth.

    Hooker as Philosopher

    Nature and Grace. All created things strive towards a comprehensive final good (Laws 1.11.1). And since God is the highest good, all things seek participation in him. Grace hath need of Nature. Even though faith is a gift from God, it takes root in our natural faculties.

    Hooker as Pastor

    Assurance

    [​IMG]


    Hooker drew upon a distinction made by Thomas Aquinas between the object of our knowledge and the nature of our knowledge.

    Key Themes: Law

    Hooker will criticize the hyper-Puritans for not understanding the different kinds of laws. These kinds of laws do not bind the conscience. Rather, they have an intrinsic rationality “that elicits the morally attuned heart’s free response.”

    While this sounds like an open attack on the liberty of conscience (and it probably is), it is little different from Samuel Rutherford’s attack on the Antinomians. One can only attack in liberty if the conscience is in conformity to right reason.

    Key Themes: Church

    Initial premise--the church is perfectly righteous by virtue of its union with Christ, yet it is often hidden in history.

    The problem: how false did a church’s preaching have to be before it was no longer a true church? This was initially applied to Rome, then to the Church of England, and then the separatists applied it to each other.

    Visible and Invisible. This isn’t just the pure body of the elect vs. you sinners. It is also two planes on which even believers experienced their union with Christ. On one hand we rest entirely on Christ alone, yet on the other we commune with the visible body of the saints. According to Littlejohn, Hooker’s goal is more on how the church participates in the life of heaven than what is and isn’t a true church.

    Key Themes: Liturgy and Sacraments

    Doctrine of participation: First, we avoid saying the church is an extension of the Incarnation because this blurs the Creator/creature distinction (see Hooker V.56.4-5).
     
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  2. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    Here is one question that I think many people participating in debates raised by some of the issues mentioned above do not seem to adequately address: How representative was Richard Hooker of the Church of England? The reason I ask is that I have seen some things in the First and Second Books of Homilies, though I have not read either from cover to cover, that seem more "Puritanical" than what you find in Richard Hooker.

    Also, I think that Davenant Institute is too obsessed with Hooker - to the point that they are putting people off their other material.
     
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  3. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Yup.
     
  4. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I don't think they are obsessed with Hooker, at least not anymore. They have only published up to Book IV of his Laws. In the meantime they are releasing new texts by Vermigli and others.
     
  5. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    Certainly, the publication of Peter Martyr Vermigli's Common Places (in several volumes) and other writings is a very welcome development. However, I still think that it is fair to say that it was injudicious to publish/promote so much of Richard Hooker. I am not saying that Hooker should never be read (I have found much of profit in what I have read by him - especially the sermons), but administering smaller doses would have been a better idea in my opinion.
     
  6. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    @BayouHuguenot - does this book address the question of whether or not Books VI-VIII of The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity are original to Richard Hooker? I have read somewhere that these were not original to him and only the first five books were his writings.
     
  7. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    I pegged them as having a clear anti-Presbyterian bias (I mean, the name is a giveaway), from blog posts belittling aversion to pretended holy days etc., and going all in on Hooker. The last thing the church needs is the conformist view of subjection to church authority of the early seventeenth century. I guess it appeals to the episcoterians.
     
  8. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    He addresses the problem of those books. They were posthumous and fragmentary. It's hard to make a conclusion either way. THey are certainly not as important as Book V.
     
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  9. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    My take was that they are publishing guys like Vermigli, whom modern day Reformed publishers really aren't. And I don't think anyone today is saying we should be subject to Good Queen Bess. I can't imagine that Littlejohn would say something like that.

    I just don't see them going all in on Hooker. They have published five 100 page booklets modernizing Hooker. That is a small subsection of their publishing output.
     
  10. pressing_on

    pressing_on Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks, for the reading list of 2020!
     
  11. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I certainly wouldn't submit the church to the Lizard-people who embody the Windsor monarchy. (posted unironically). They are probably Nephilim.
     
  12. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Correction; "church and state authority."
    On the claim about Hooker setting back puritanism, that's disputable and arguable (and easier to argue when you can put the opponent under civil restraint) and whether or whatever weight Hooker had, it was was squandered and destroyed by Laud and Charles in taking Hooker's view of subjection to powers to the extreme over James more restrained but not restrained use of power. If Hooker had been consequential there would not have been so many puritans to take over circa 1640.
     
  13. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Is that sentence meaning "If Hooker had mattered so much, there wouldn't have been as many Puritans taking over?"

    By parity of reasoning we can say that if Presbyterianism had been consequential, it wouldn't have been marginalized by Cromwell (or Cromwell's independents by Charles II).
     
  14. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    The contention as I understood the reported contention is that Hooker won the anglocatholic argument over puritan nonconformist views (which includes Cromwell). There's simply no evidence of that. Compare the impact of the Westminster Standards on the church; who is Hooker? You get the last word.
     
  15. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    That was never my argument, and Littlejohn specifically rejects the claim that Hooker was an anglocatholic.
     
  16. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    I won't argue the backward use of the term but I think it is apt given the puritan and presbyterian opposition to the English Popish Ceremonies. The term used by Gillespie is conformist. In fact, I think it is Hooker who Gillespie singles out at one point in his Dispute as out Bellermining Bellarmine. My last word.
     
  17. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I don't dispute that. My review was simply summarizing and evaluating Littlejohn's arguments.
     

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