A Learned Discourse on Justification

In Modern English

BY Richard Hooker
Edited By Rhys Laverty, Brad Littlejohn, & Ken Cook
About this book

The defining doctrine of Protestantism is justification by faith alone—what Martin Luther called “the article by which the church stands or falls.” But does this mean that it is also the article by which salvation stands or falls? Are Roman Catholics heretics for rejecting that doctrine?

In this classic treatise, the great English theologian Richard Hooker tackles this question head-on, seeking to head off two opposite errors: insisting so rigidly on a right articulation of the doctrine that we neglect Christ himself, or minimizing differences over justification as unimportant. In the process, Hooker also offers an excellent blueprint for how to interpret and navigate doctrinal disagreement within the church on any issue.

Centuries on, this remains one of the classic statements of Reformational soteriology, presenting a clear account of what Protestants do and do not believe about the doctrine of justification, along with a careful summary of what their Catholic opponents held. Readers seeking a helmsman who can faithfully guide them through the fog that so often bedevils this crucial conversation need no further.

Paperback | XXXII + 79 pages | 5×8 | Published March 15 2022 | ISBN 978-1-949716-10-8

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“So what is the error of the Church of Rome? It is not that she requires works from those that would be saved, but that she attributes to works both the power to satisfy God’s wrath against sin, and the ability to merit grace on earth and glory in heaven. I willingly grant that this overthrows the foundation of faith; however, I utterly deny that it is a direct denial of the foundation of faith. I have already stated both what it means to hold and to deny the foundation of faith, and if we apply that to the case of the Church of Rome there will be no more fuss.”

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Introduction by Bradford Littlejohn

A Note on the Text


The Real Disagreement Between Rome and Protestants


Could Our Fathers Be Saved?


What is the Foundation of Faith?


Can the Elect Deny the Foundation of Faith?


Does Rome Directly Deny the Foundation of Faith?



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 neglect 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, modernize-spelling editions for contemporary seminarians, clergy, students, and theologically-concerned laypeople.

Praise for this work

“As an evangelical theologian who teaches and writes on Roman Catholic theology and practice, I get many questions from evangelicals about their Catholic family members and friends: Are Catholics Christians? Isn’t Roman Catholicism a works-based religion? If Roman Catholicism has an improper understanding of the doctrine of justification—’not only the remission of sins but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior person’—can Catholics be justified, declared not guilty but righteous instead? This new, highly readable production of Richard Hooker’s book on justification helps us answer those questions in ways that may be surprising!”

– DR. Gregg R. Allison

Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Secretary, Evangelical Theological Society Author, “Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment”; (with Chris Castaldo) “The Unfinished Reformation: What Unites and Divides Catholics and Protestants after 500 Years”; “Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine”

“Happy, secure Protestants recognize that we won’t do ourselves, or our spiritual progeny, long-term good by caricaturing Catholicism. There are problems, yes. Significant problems. The Reformation is not over. Good fences remain. And we will do better to love across such boundaries in the name of Jesus than to pretend they don’t matter. But there’s no virtue in distorting truth by exaggerating errors, or losing our capacity to give a holy benefit of the doubt. If we Protestants love the truth, and not just our tradition (ironically), we might give Hooker the hearing he deserves — and help keep young Protestants from future surprises.”

– David Mathis

Senior Teacher and Executive Editor at desiringGod.org
Pastor at Cities Church (Saint Paul, MN)
Author of “Habits of Grace”

“It is a tremendous service to the church to have this excellent modern edition of Richard Hooker’s bold and nuanced defense of the Reformed doctrine of justification by faith alone against the heresies and corruptions of Rome. As he beautifully puts it, Christ alone has satisfied and appeased God’s wrath, not our blood or our best works, and he is ‘the only garment which, once worn, covers the shame of our defiled natures, hides the imperfections of our works, and preserves us blameless in God’s sight.’ It is an immense joy to read this exposition from a great Anglican theologian.”

– Rev. Dr. Lee Gatiss

Director of Church Society and Editor of “The First Book of Homilies: The Church of England’s Official Sermons in Modern English”

“Brad Littlejohn and his associates have once again provided an accessible yet loyal version of a work of Richard Hooker that should still be known and valued, and that in a theological world wider than Anglicanism. In this extended and ‘learned’ sermon, Hooker shows that a clear loyalty to the Protestant principle of justification by faith does not necessarily deny salvation to those who erroneously deny the principle. We can and should carefully and accurately assert what we understand to be basic Christian theology and yet understand that those who disagree are not thereby cut off from the salvation that is the essence of the Christian Gospel. And we can delight in the learned rhetorical expression of this unity in diversity.”

– Rev. Canon W. David Neelands

Senior Teacher and Executive Editor at desiringGod.org
Pastor at Cities Church (Saint Paul, MN)
Author of “Habits of Grace”

“This volume finally offers contemporary readers an expertly rendered text of what is rightly called ‘one of the classic statements of Reformational soteriology’. Hooker’s Discourse on Justification, here wonderfully presented in modernized English and equipped with a splendid explanatory introduction by Brad Littlejohn, is a crystalline presentation of a central Christian doctrine that has divided Christians for centuries, even as the doctrine’s proper understanding has faded in recent decades. Hooker’s penetrating, measured, faithful and charitable exposition proves to be a powerful medicine for modern confusions and dogmatic apathy. The editors’ accessible edition represents an act of theological generosity of the highest order and deserves to be widely studied.”

– Dr. Ephraim Radner

Professor of Historical Theology
Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto

“A Learned Discourse on Justification in Modern English is a treasure for the church. Hooker’s original work is supremely important. It further develops the question, ‘What is Anglican doctrine?’ For many, Hooker is the Theologian of Anglicanism. In this modern English version, the editors have made this 16th century work accessible and readable for the modern mind. Read this work and be anchored in the article by which the church stands or falls.”

– Bishop Julian Dobbs

Anglican Diocese of the Living Word (ACNA)

About the Author

Richard Hooker

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.

About the editors

Rhys Laverty

Rhys Laverty (GDip Union School f Theology) is the Senior Editor of Ad Fontes, Managing Editor at Davenant Press, as well as Marketing Director for The Davenant Institute, and is currently studying on The Davenant Institute’s M.Litt program. He has written for Ad Fontes, Mere Orthodoxy, and the Theopolis Institute, and podcasts about film and TV on For Now We See. He lives in Chessington, UK with his wife Libby, daughter Noah, and son Seamus.

Bradford Littlejohn

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).

Ken Cook

Ken Cook (Th.M, Westminster Theological Seminary) is the Rector of ST. John’s Anglican Church in Southampton, PA. He is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Westminster Theological Seminary (Th.M.). Further graduate theological study occurred at St. Luke’s School of Theology, University of the South. He is particularly interested in Anglican church history and the theology of Richard Hooker. They have two children and two grandchildren.


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