THE LAWS OF ECCLESIASTICAL POLITY
In Modern English, vol. 1
“That posterity may know we have not loosely through silence permitted things to pass away as in a dream...”
So opens Richard Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, one of the great landmarks of Protestant theological literature, and indeed of English literature generally. Sadly, however, recent generations of church leaders and scholars have come perilously close to allowing his work to pass away as in a dream. Locked away in a rich and beautiful, but labyrinthine and archaic Elizabethan prose style, Hooker’s writings are scarcely read—and for many, scarcely readable—today. This new edition of Hooker’s Laws “translates” his prose into modern English for the first time, without sacrificing any of the theological depth or sparkling wit of the original.
Although the Church of England and its “Puritan” critics have long since moved on from the specific controversy that gave rise to the Laws, the significance of this extraordinary work has not diminished—nor has the urgent need for the wisdom it has to offer, which is as relevant for 21st-century Christians as it was for those in the sixteenth. Addressing such timeless questions as the role of Scripture in the life of the Church, the relationship of conscience to authority, the appropriate use of reason and tradition in theology, and the meaning of Protestantism’s protest against Rome, this first volume of Hooker’s Laws in Modern English promises to challenge and equip a new generation of Christian readers.
Editor: Bradford Littlejohn (Ph.D, University of Edinburgh), is the President of the Davenant Institute and a leading scholar of Richard Hooker’s thought, having authored Richard Hooker: A Companion to His Life and Work (Cascade, 2015), and The Peril and Promise of Christian Liberty: Richard Hooker, the Puritans, and Protestant Political Theology (Eerdmans, 2017).
Editor: Brian Marr is an editor and researcher at Canon Press, an alumnus of New Saint Andrews College.
Editor: Bradley Belschner is a systems analyst at EMSI, a determined generalist, and an enthusiast of Reformation theology.
The Library of Early English Protestantism (LEEP) is an ongoing project by the Davenant Institute that aims to make available in scholarly but accessible editions seminal writings from key but neglected 16th and 17th-century Church of England theologians. This project intends to bring old resources to a new audience, specifically for those Reformed and Anglican readers seeking to deepen and broaden their understanding of their theological tradition. The purpose of LEEP is to make the rediscovery of these sources as easy as possible by providing affordable, comprehensively-edited, modernized-spelling editions for contemporary seminarians, clergy, students, and theologically-concerned laypeople.
Richard Hooker (1553/4-1600) was a parish priest in the Elizabethan Church, and became its pre-eminent theological writer. As a powerful exponent of a moderate and irenic Reformed theology in an age of intense controversy, and a leading architect of what became the Anglican theological tradition, Hooker’s works have left an enduring stamp on Protestant epistemology, ecclesiology, and sacramentology.
PRAISE FOR THIS WORK
“This is a reliable and readable rendition of a classic work of Anglican theology, which deserves a wide readership in today’s church. Richard Hooker is no longer consigned to obscurity with ancient tomes on dusty shelves, but lives again to speak his provocative words of wisdom in 21st century idiom.”
— REVD DR. LEE GATISS
DIRECTOR OF CHURCH SOCIETY AND AUTHOR OF LIGHT AFTER DARKNESS: HOW THE PROTESTANT REFORMERS REGAINED, RETOLD, AND RELIED ON THE GOSPEL OF GRACE
"Richard Hooker was undoubtedly Anglicanism’s greatest theologian in its most embattled century, the sixteenth... Three cheers for this new translation that makes this great English mind accessible to later generations. It is akin to a clear and melodious new translation of Aquinas’ Summa Theologica."
—REV. DR. GERALD MCDERMOTT
PROFESSOR OF ANGLICAN STUDIES, BEESON DIVINITY SCHOOL
“This modernization is an incomparable resource for those of us trying to help new readers understand Richard Hooker and the English Reformation as it really happened. Richard Hooker is worth the considerable effort to read and to understand, but the task is a daunting one, and has turned away many who would delight and learn from the wily scholar and pastor. Here we have an accessible, quickly graspable text, that is in no way dumbed down for beginners. Rather, we have an elevated text, informed by considerable research, that makes us all want to read on, whether we have come to terms with the decorated and beautiful text Hooker left us or not. Words that have changed their meaning, and rhetorical devices that have lost their currency are undated in a seamless and readable version. Others have tried to do this, but without the success we can enjoy here.”
—REV. DR. DAVID NEELANDS
DEAN EMERITUS OF DIVINITY AT TRINITY COLLEGE, UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
“As an Anglican priest who regularly teaches church history, and especially our Reformation heritage to my congregations, I welcome Davenant's new modern rendering of Hooker's Laws. With the passage of time, Hooker's glorious prose has become increasingly impenetrable for the modern interested reader. Davenant's faithful and readable translation is a welcome ministry tool for acquainting modern congregations with the riches of our Elizabethan Anglican theological heritage and the unique genius of our worthiest of divines, Richard Hooker.”
—REV. DANIEL F. GRAVES
PARISH PRIEST, DIOCESE OF TORONTO, AND ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF THE RICHARD HOOKER SOCIETY
"The post Reformation English scholar Richard Hooker has been called the greatest Chalcedonian theologian of the Church. His profound way of using the Biblical insights of early ecumenical councils to address doctrinal controversy of his day shaped a way of thinking that is both patristic and reformed. Those issues about which he was concerned still confront the Church today, and beckon the need for his illuminating approach. Dr. Littlejohn has brought such an important voice from the past into the present with his modern translation of Richard Hooker's classic work.”
—RT. REV. RAY SUTTON
PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE REFORMED EPISCOPAL CHURCH
“The retrieval of Richard Hooker as a leading interlocutor for reformed theology is well and truly in full swing. With this excellent new ‘translation,’ readers are given an impressive and accessible entrée to a figure whose thought has oftentimes been enlisted to prove and defend a whole host of differing positions. This new volume invites the reader to analyze Hooker's hermeneutic for themselves, to trace his thinking on key topics that touch down directly on current theological debates, and to engage one of the most significant theologians of Protestant theology.”
—REV. DR. MARK MCDOWELL
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF RTS-DALLAS AND ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY
“Richard Hooker wrote his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity in order to preserve and pass on wisdom to posterity, that this wisdom might not “pass away as in a dream.” Sadly, his wisdom is hardly remembered by the present church. This amnesia in theology is deadly, because when we cannot recall lessons learned in the past, we inevitably act like fools. Hooker's wisdom is one much-needed antidote to our current follies. Although his original language is elegant, it is arduous for the contemporary reader; these modernizations deliver his wisdom whole and hearable. Take it and read it, and recall a wisdom worth remembering.”
—REV. DR. JAMES SALLADIN
RECTOR OF EMMANUEL CHURCH, NEW YORK CITY
“Littlejohn, Belschner, Marr, and Duncan offer a readable and straightforward rendition of the Preface and first four books of the Laws which is suitable for college students, or anyone seeking an introduction to Reformed theology. They have taken the ‘elaborate labyrinths’ of Hooker’s prose and turned it into simple, agreeable, contemporary prose, and for that reason the editors ought to be commended for so capably maintaining the sense of what Hooker wrote. This edition will introduce Hooker’s subtle and persuasive arguments about the relationship of faith to reason to a new generation of readers, and to Richard Hooker himself, the learned theologian who has been regarded throughout the centuries as one of the great apologists of the faith.”
DR. ROBERTA BAYER
ASSOCIATE PROF. OF GOVERNMENT, PATRICK HENRY COLLEGE; FORMER EDITOR, ANGLICAN WAY MAGAZINE
|A Preface to Those who Seek a Reformation (as they call it) of the Ecclesiastical Laws in England|
|I||Concerning Law and Its General Kinds|
|II||Concerning the Claim that Scripture is the Only Rule to Govern Human Actions|
Concerning the Claim that Scripture Necessarily Contains an Unchangeable System of Church Polity
|IV||A Response to the Claim that Our Church is Corrupted with Popish Forms of Worship|
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The Davenant Institute seeks to retrieve the riches of classical Protestantism in order to renew and build up the contemporary church. We build networks of friendship and collaboration among evangelical scholars committed to Protestant resourcement, publish resources old and new to equip the evangelical churches, and offering training and discipleship for Christians thirsting after wisdom.
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