The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity in Modern English

Vol. 1

By Richard Hooker, Modernized by Brad Littlejohn, BRIAN MARR, AND BRADLEY BELSCHNER

$29.95

Publication Date: Februrary 21, 2019

About this book

“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. This volume contains of the material found in all four shorter volumes of the Laws published by The Davenant Press.


Paperback | 347 PAGES | 5×8 | PubliSHed February 21, 2019 | ISBN: 978-1949716917

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From the Book

“THOUGH for no other cause, yet for this—that posterity may know we have not loosely through silence permitted things to pass away as in a dream—for this I write, offering to posterity an account of the present state and legal establishment of the Church of England, and a vindication of those who have fought so hard to preserve and uphold it. I know I have little reason, beloved, to expect from you anything but your usual harshness and bitterness toward all who disagree with you, but this bitterness will never drown the love which we have for all who claim the name of Christ. Man is naturally impatient when it comes to insults and slanders, but we hope that the God of peace will give us the grace to be patient, for the sake of the work which we desire to complete.

I first decided to undertake this project when I saw how fervently
you presbyterians protested against the established government and liturgy of our church; was it true, as all your books insisted, that all good Christians were obliged to join with you in promoting this new church government, which you call “the Lord’s Discipline”? I will confess that, initially, I was disposed to think there must be some very strong reasons why so many well-intentioned and pious men were so worked up about this issue. Unfortunately, however, when I looked into the matter (at least, as far as my own poor abilities would permit) in obedience to St. Paul’s admonition to “prove all things” and to “hold fast that which is good,” (1 Thess. 5:21), I had no choice but to conclude otherwise. Specifically, I arrived at two conclusions. First, no law of God nor reason of man has yet been offered that would prove we do ill to stubbornly resist the alteration of the present form of church-government which the laws of this land have established. Second, the new presbyterian scheme which you propose in its place has no compelling claim to be called “the ordinance of Jesus Christ,” since you have at least thus far offered no clear proof to this effect.

In this book, I have undertaken to offer for you a proof of these
two theses. I heartily beseech you, for the love you have for Jesus Christ, that if you really care for the peace and quietness of this church, if you have in you that gracious humility which is the crown of Christian virtues, if you care, as I am sure you do, for the integrity of your souls, hearts, and consciences (which cannot with integrity refuse to acknowledge truth merely on account of personal animus), you will “hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons” (Jas. 2:1) and you will regard the truth of what I am writing, not the fact that it is I who am writing it. Please do not think that you are reading the words of someone who is out to oppose the truths that you have embraced, but rather the words of someone who is eager to embrace the same truths, insofar as they are indeed truths. God knows this is the only reason that I have undertaken such a laborious and painstaking project as this. To make all this clearer, let me begin by going back to the very beginning, and showing where this presbyterian discipline was first attempted in this our present age.”

Read a Portion of the book here

TABLE OF CONTENTS


Introduction


A Preface to Those who Seek a Reformation (as they call it) of the Ecclesiastical Laws in England
 

Book I

Concerning Law and Its General Kinds

Book II

Concerning the Claim that Scripture is the Only Rule to Govern Human Actions  

Book III

Concerning the Claim that Scripture Necessarily Contains an Unchangeable System of Church Polity  

Book IV

A Response to the Claim that our Church is Corrupted with Popish Forms of Worship

About the Authors

Richard Hooker (1553/4-1600) was the pre-eminent theological writer of the Elizabethan church, and many would say in the entire history of the Church of England.

Dr. Bradford Littlejohn (Ph.D., University of Edinburgh) is the Founder and President of the Davenant Institute. He also works as a Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and has taught for several institutions, including Moody Bible Institute-Spokane, Bethlehem College and Seminary, and Patrick Henry College. He is recognized as a leading scholar of the English theologian Richard Hooker and Has published and lectured extensively in the fields of Reformation history, Christian ethics, and political theology. He lives in Landrum, SC with his wife, Rachel, and four children.

Brian Marr is an editor and researcher at Canon Press and an enthusiast of Reformation theology.

Bradley Belschner is a systems analyst at EMSI and an enthusiast of Reformation theology.

Endorsements

“Richard Hooker was undoubtedly Anglicanism’s greatest theologian in its most embattled century, the sixteenth. His way of charting a via media between Rome and Geneva continues to be the most careful guide to Anglican method and sensibility. 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 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.”

– Rev. Dr. Lee Gattis

Director of Church Society and author of Light After Darkness: How the Protestant Reformers Regained, Retold, and Relied On the Gospel of Grace.

“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


“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.”

– Rev. Dr. Mark McDowell

Executive Director of RTS-Dallas and Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology


“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.”

– The Most Rev. Dr. Ray Sutton

Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church

“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 Anglican Church, New York City

“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

“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


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