Richard HookerRichard Hooker (March 1554 – 3 November 1600) clearly articulated a via media (middle way) eschewing Roman additions and puritan, protestant subtractions. His strongly eirenic position and methodology is as relevant today as four centuries ago. In response to the catch-cry sola scriptura (the Bible alone – the absolute sufficiency of scripture), Hooker highlighted the importance of tradition and reason – forming the classic “three legged stool” (scripture, tradition, reason). One need only look around to see the ever-increasing fracturing that sola scriptura leads to. Sola scriptura is unsupported in the Early Church, clearly unworkable, and surprisingly (or not!) unknown in scripture!

Hooker’s reflections equally apply currently to church leadership and unity. The English puritans maintained that no church could claim to be Christian unless it followed Calvin’s construct of each congregation being governed by a group composed of two thirds laymen elected annually by the congregation and one third clergy serving for life.

Hooker responds using scripture, reason, tradition, and experience founded on a philosophical base which is Aristotelian with natural law eternally placed by God in creation. He has little sympathy with oversimplifications that pass for scholarship, commencing his The Laws Of Ecclesiastical Polity with “Those unto whom we shall seem tedious are in no wise injuried by us, seeing that it lies in their own hands to spare themselves the labor they are unwilling to endure.” Even Pope Clement VIII (his contemporary with whom he so strongly disagreed), said of The Laws Of Ecclesiastical Polity: “It has in it such seeds of eternity that it will abide until the last fire shall consume all learning.”

Hooker, furthermore, does not need all to agree mentally with everything on a list of assertions, as his understanding of God is not of a “captious sophister, eager to trip us up whenever we say amiss, but a courteous tutor, ready to amend what, in our weakness or our ignorance, we say ill, and to make the most of what we say aright.” In this Hooker expresses a similar thought to Queen Elizabeth I, who sought unity through shared spiritual practice and said, “I have no desire to make windows into men’s souls.”

Collects:

God of peace, the bond of all love,
who in your Son Jesus Christ have made the human race
your inseparable dwelling place:
after the example of your servant Richard Hooker,
give grace to us your servants ever to rejoice
in the true inheritance of your adopted children
and to show forth your praises now and ever;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Common Worship (CofE)

O God of truth and peace,
who 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.

TEC (USA)

The Complete Works of Richard Hooker (2-Volume Set)

Online version of Richard Hooker’s works and another site

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