Richard Hooker

Richard Hooker

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Richard Hooker was an Anglican priest and an influential theologian
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

. Hooker's emphases on reason, tolerance and the value of tradition came to exert a lasting influence on the development of the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

. In retrospect he has been taken (with Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and, for a short time, Mary I. He helped build a favourable case for Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon which resulted in the separation of the English Church from...

 and Matthew Parker
Matthew Parker
Matthew Parker was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1559 until his death in 1575. He was also an influential theologian and arguably the co-founder of Anglican theological thought....

) as a founder of Anglicanism
Anglicanism
Anglicanism is a tradition within Christianity comprising churches with historical connections to the Church of England or similar beliefs, worship and church structures. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 that means the English...

 in its theological thought.

Youth (1554-1581)


Details of Hooker's life come chiefly from Izaak Walton
Izaak Walton
Izaak Walton was an English writer. Best known as the author of The Compleat Angler, he also wrote a number of short biographies which have been collected under the title of Walton's Lives.-Biography:...

’s biography of him. Hooker was born in the village of Heavitree
Heavitree
Heavitree is a district of Exeter, Devon, England. Part of the historic district is currently one of the wards for elections to the City Council. Formerly an independent Urban District, it became a part of Exeter in 1913...

 in Exeter, Devon
Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

 sometime around Easter Sunday. He attended Exeter Grammar School until 1569. Richard came from a good family, but one that was neither noble nor wealthy. His uncle John Hooker
John Hooker (English constitutionalist)
John Hooker, John Hoker or John Vowell was an English writer, solicitor, antiquary, civic administrator and advocate of republican government. He wrote an eye-witness account of the siege of Exeter that took place during the Prayer Book Rebellion in 1549...

 was a success and served as the chamberlain of Exeter
Exeter
Exeter is a historic city in Devon, England. It lies within the ceremonial county of Devon, of which it is the county town as well as the home of Devon County Council. Currently the administrative area has the status of a non-metropolitan district, and is therefore under the administration of the...

.

Hooker's uncle was able to obtain for Richard the help of another Devon native, John Jewel
John Jewel
John Jewel was an English bishop of Salisbury.-Life:He was the son of John Jewel of Buden, Devon, was educated under his uncle John Bellamy, rector of Hampton, and other private tutors until his matriculation at Merton College, Oxford, in July 1535.There he was taught by John Parkhurst,...

, bishop of Salisbury
Bishop of Salisbury
The Bishop of Salisbury is the ordinary of the Church of England's Diocese of Salisbury in the Province of Canterbury.The diocese covers much of the counties of Wiltshire and Dorset...

. The bishop saw to it that Richard was accepted to Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Corpus Christi College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom...

, where he became a fellow of the society in 1577. On 14 August 1579 Hooker was ordained a priest by Edwin Sandys, then bishop of London
Bishop of London
The Bishop of London is the ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of London in the Province of Canterbury.The diocese covers 458 km² of 17 boroughs of Greater London north of the River Thames and a small part of the County of Surrey...

. Sandys made Hooker tutor his son Edwin, and Richard also taught George Cranmer, the great nephew of Archbishop
Archbishop
An archbishop is a bishop of higher rank, but not of higher sacramental order above that of the three orders of deacon, priest , and bishop...

 Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and, for a short time, Mary I. He helped build a favourable case for Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon which resulted in the separation of the English Church from...

.

Marriage (1581-1584)


In 1581, Hooker was appointed to preach at Paul’s Cross. It was at this time, according to his biographer Walton, that Hooker made the "fatal mistake" of marrying his landlady’s daughter, Jean Churchman. As Walton put it:

“There is a wheel within a wheel; a secret sacred wheel of Providence (most visible in marriages), guided by His hand that allows not the race to the swift nor bread to the wise, nor good wives to good men: and He that can bring good out of evil (for mortals are blind to this reason) only knows why this blessing was denied to patient Job
Job (Biblical figure)
Job is the central character of the Book of Job in the Hebrew Bible. Job is listed as a prophet of God in the Qur'an.- Book of Job :The Book of Job begins with an introduction to Job's character — he is described as a blessed man who lives righteously...

, to meek Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

, and to our as meek and patient Mr Hooker.”


In truth, the Churchman family belonged to the puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

 wing of the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 and they must have been extremely obnoxious to the high church associates of Hooker. Nevertheless, he seems to have been a good husband who treated his wife with respect. The couple would have six children together, only two of whom survived beyond the age of 21. Hooker named Jean executrix in his will.

Later years (1584-1600)



Hooker became rector of St. Mary's Drayton Beauchamp
Drayton Beauchamp
Drayton Beauchamp is a village and civil parish within Aylesbury Vale district in Buckinghamshire, England. It is in the east of the county, near the border boundary Hertfordshire, about six miles from Aylesbury and two miles from Tring.-History:...

 in Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan home county in South East England. The county town is Aylesbury, the largest town in the ceremonial county is Milton Keynes and largest town in the non-metropolitan county is High Wycombe....

 in 1584.
The following year, Archbishop Edwin Sandys brought Hooker to the attention of Queen Elizabeth I, who appointed him Master (i.e. rector) of the Temple Church
Temple Church
The Temple Church is a late-12th-century church in London located between Fleet Street and the River Thames, built for and by the Knights Templar as their English headquarters. In modern times, two Inns of Court both use the church. It is famous for its effigy tombs and for being a round church...

 in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. There, Hooker soon came into public conflict with Walter Travers
Walter Travers
Walter Travers was an English Puritan theologian. He was at one time chaplain to William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, and tutor to his son Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury.He is remembered mostly as an opponent of the teaching of Richard Hooker...

, a leading Puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

 and Assistant
Lay Reader
A lay reader is a layperson authorized by a bishop of the Anglican Church to read some parts of a service of worship. They are members of the congregation called to preach or lead services, but not called to full-time ministry.Anglican lay readers are licensed by the bishop to a particular parish...

 at the Temple.

Hooker later served as Subdean of Salisbury Cathedral
Salisbury Cathedral
Salisbury Cathedral, formally known as the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is an Anglican cathedral in Salisbury, England, considered one of the leading examples of Early English architecture....

 and Rector
Rector
The word rector has a number of different meanings; it is widely used to refer to an academic, religious or political administrator...

 of St. Andrew's Boscomb in Wiltshire
Wiltshire
Wiltshire is a ceremonial county in South West England. It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. It contains the unitary authority of Swindon and covers...

. The influential character of Hooker's writings, particularly Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, cannot be overestimated. Published in 1593, and subsequently, Hooker's eight volume work is primarily a treatise on Church-state relations, but it also deals comprehensively with issues of biblical interpretation, soteriology
Soteriology
The branch of Christian theology that deals with salvation and redemption is called Soteriology. It is derived from the Greek sōtērion + English -logy....

, ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

, and sanctification
Sanctification
Sanctity is an ancient concept widespread among religions, a property of a thing or person sacred or set apart within the religion, from totem poles through temple vessels to days of the week, to a human believer who achieves this state. Sanctification is the act or process of acquiring sanctity,...

. Throughout the work, Hooker makes clear that theology
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 involves prayer and is concerned with ultimate issues, and that theology is relevant to the social mission of the church.

In 1595, Hooker became Rector of the parishes of St. Mary the Virgin in Bishopsbourne
Bishopsbourne
Bishopsbourne is a small village in Kent, England. It lies in the Nailbourne valley some from Canterbury and about from Dover. It has a public house, The Mermaid, built in 1861, and a church, St Mary's, with 14th-century wall paintings. Author Joseph Conrad lived here and his house, "Oswalds",...

 and St. John the Baptist Barham in Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

. He died 3 November 1600 at his Rectory Bishopsbourne. He was buried in the chancel of Bishopsbourne church, and subsequently a monument to him was erected there by William Cowper in 1632. In Hooker's Will it states: "Item, I give and bequeth three pounds of lawful English money towards the building and making of a newer and sufficient pulpitt in the p'sh of Bishopsbourne." The pulpit can still be seen in Bishopsbourne church, along with a statue of him, and currently an exhibition about his contribution to the Church of England.

Learned Discourse of Justification



An important work was Hooker's sermon of 1585, A Learned Discourse of Justification, Works, and how the Foundation of Faith is Overthrown. In this he defended his belief in the doctrine of Justification by faith, but argued that even those who did not understand or accept this could be saved by God. This therefore included Roman Catholics, and emphasised Hooker's belief that Christians should concentrate more on what united them, rather than on what divided them. Hooker thus further articulated the Reformed nature of the English Church alongside its claim of belonging to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church founded by Christ and the Apostles. Sermons much like this one provoked a reaction that led to his greatest work. Walter Travers, for example, publicly attacked Hooker's extension of salvation to Roman Catholics and elsewhere critics complained that his support of reforms in the church did not go far enough. Hooker responded with his masterpiece, Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie.

Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie



Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie is Hooker's best-known work, with the first four books being published in 1594. The fifth was published in 1597, while the final three were published posthumously, and indeed may not all be his own work. Hooker argued for a middle way or via media between the positions in his time of the Roman Catholics and the Puritans. In these books, it was argued that reason and tradition were important when interpreting the Scriptures, and that it was important to recognise that the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 was written in a particular historical context, in response to specific situations: "Words must be taken according to the matter whereof they are uttered.".

It is a massive work, with its principal subject is the proper governance of the churches ("polity
Episcopal polity
Episcopal polity is a form of church governance that is hierarchical in structure with the chief authority over a local Christian church resting in a bishop...

"). The Puritans, then known in England as the "Geneva Church" for John Calvin
John Calvin
John Calvin was an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism. Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he broke from the Roman Catholic Church around 1530...

's influence on them, advocated the demotion of clergy and ecclesiasticism. Hooker attempted to work out which methods of organizing churches are best. What was at stake behind the theology was the position of the Queen Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

 as the Supreme Governor of the Church. If doctrine were not to be settled by authorities, and if Martin Luther
Martin Luther
Martin Luther was a German priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517...

's argument for the priesthood of all believers
Priesthood of all believers
The universal priesthood or the priesthood of all believers, as it would come to be known in the present day, is a Christian doctrine believed to be derived from several passages of the New Testament...

 were to be followed to its extreme with government by the Elect, then having the monarch as the governor of the church was intolerable. On the other side, if the monarch were appointed by God to be the governor of the church, then local parishes going their own ways on doctrine were similarly intolerable.

The Laws is remembered not only for its stature as a monumental work of Anglican
Anglicanism
Anglicanism is a tradition within Christianity comprising churches with historical connections to the Church of England or similar beliefs, worship and church structures. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 that means the English...

 thought, but also for its influence in the development of theology, political theory, and English prose (being one of the first major works of theology written in English).

Scholastic thought in a latitudinarian manner


Hooker worked from Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, O.P. , also Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, was an Italian Dominican priest of the Catholic Church, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis, or Doctor Universalis...

, but he adapted scholastic
Scholasticism
Scholasticism is a method of critical thought which dominated teaching by the academics of medieval universities in Europe from about 1100–1500, and a program of employing that method in articulating and defending orthodoxy in an increasingly pluralistic context...

 thought in a latitudinarian
Latitudinarian
Latitudinarian was initially a pejorative term applied to a group of 17th-century English theologians who believed in conforming to official Church of England practices but who felt that matters of doctrine, liturgical practice, and ecclesiastical organization were of relatively little importance...

 manner. He argued that church organization, like political organization, is one of the "things indifferent" to God. He wrote that minor doctrinal issues were not issues that damned or saved the soul, but rather frameworks surrounding the moral and religious life of the believer. He argued there were good monarchies and bad ones, good democracies and bad ones, and good church hierarchies and bad ones: what mattered was the piety of the people. At the same time, Hooker argued that authority was commanded by the Bible and by the traditions of the early church, but authority was something that had to be based on piety and reason rather than automatic investiture. This was because authority had to be obeyed even if it were wrong and needed to be remedied by right reason and the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

. Notably, Hooker's affirmed that the power and propriety of bishops need not be in every case absolute.

Legacy


King James I
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

 is quoted by Izaak Walton
Izaak Walton
Izaak Walton was an English writer. Best known as the author of The Compleat Angler, he also wrote a number of short biographies which have been collected under the title of Walton's Lives.-Biography:...

, Hooker's biographer, as saying, "I observe there is in Mr. Hooker no affected language; but a grave, comprehensive, clear manifestation of reason, and that backed with the authority of the Scriptures, the fathers and schoolmen, and with all law both sacred and civil." Hooker's emphasis on Scripture, reason, and tradition considerably influenced the development of Anglicanism, as well as many political philosophers, including John Locke
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

. Locke quotes Hooker numerous times in The Second Treatise of Civil Government. In the Church of England he is celebrated with a Lesser Festival
Lesser Festival
Lesser Festivals are a type of observance in the Church of England, considered to be less significant than a Principal Feast, Principal Holy Day, or Festival, but more significant than a Commemoration. Whereas Principal Feasts must be celebrated, it is not obligatory to observe Lesser Festivals...

 on 3 November; the same day is also a Lesser Feast in his honor in the Episcopal calendar of saints
Calendar of saints (Episcopal Church in the United States of America)
The veneration of saints in the Episcopal Church is a continuation of an ancient tradition from the early Church which honors important people of the Christian faith. The usage of the term "saint" is similar to Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions. Those in the Anglo-Catholic tradition may...

.

Further reading

  • Brydon, Michael, The Evolving Reputation of Richard Hooker: An Examination of Responses, 1600–1714 (Oxford, 2006).
  • Faulkner, Robert K., Richard Hooker and the Politics of a Christian England (1981)
  • Grislis, Egil, Richard Hooker: A Selected Bibliography (1971)
  • Hooker, Richard, A Learned Discourse of Justification. 1612.
  • Hooker, Richard, Works (Three volumes). Edited by John Keble
    John Keble
    John Keble was an English churchman and poet, one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement, and gave his name to Keble College, Oxford.-Early life:...

    , Oxford, 1836; Revised by R. W. Church and F. Paget, Oxford, 1888. Reprint by Burt Franklin, 1970 and by Via Media Publications.
  • A. C. McGrade, ed., Richard Hooker and the Construction of Christian community (1997)
  • Munz, Peter, The Place of Hooker in the History of Thought (1952, repr. 1971).

External links