“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.
Richard Hooker (1553/4-1600) was a parish priest in the Elizabethan Church, and became its pre-eminent theological writer of the Elizabethan church. 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.
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).
Brian Marr is an editor and researcher at Canon Press, an alumnus of New Saint Andrews College, and a devoted servant of the liberal arts.
Bradley Belschner is a systems analyst at EMSI, a determined generalist, and an enthusiast of Reformation theology.
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.