Radicalism: When Reform Becomes Revolution

The Preface to Hooker’s Laws: A Modernization

By Richard Hooker, Modernized by Bradford LittleJohn, Brian Marr, and Bradley Belschner
About this book

Introducing a timeless work in modern English

Richard Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity is one of the great landmarks of Protestant theological literature, and indeed of English literature generally, but is scarcely read today on account of its difficult and archaic style. The time has come to translate it into modern English so that Hooker may teach a new generation of churchmen and Christian leaders about law, reason, Scripture, church, and politics.

In this initial offering of a multi-year translation project by the Davenant Institute, we present a short and accessible sample of Richard Hooker’s profound insight and rhetorical genius, in the form of his Preface to the work. This wide-ranging discourse on the psychology of religious and political radicalism, and the need to balance the demands of conscience with legal order, is much more than a mere preface, with startlingly relevant insights for the church and the task of Christian citizenship today.

This fully revised second edition contains a much-expanded introduction to the life of Richard Hooker, and a comprehensive revision of the translation for greater clarity and accuracy.

Paperback | 102 pages | 5×8 | Published December 14, 2017 | ISBN 978-0999552735

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From the Introduction

The great 20th-century political theorist, Eric Voegelin, lauded Hooker as the great analyst of the psychology of radicalism in general, showing how his diagnosis of Puritan would-be revolutionaries applies just as well to 20th-century political movements, and indeed to the 21st-century insurgencies that have upended the American political process in the last ten years. Hooker’s basic contentions that “when the minds of men are once erroneously persuaded that it is the will of God for them to do those things they fancy, their opinions are as thorns in their sides, not allowing them to rest until they have put their speculations into practice”, and that “it is not how passionately someone is convinced, but how soundly they argue, that should convince us that their views genuinely come from the Holy Spirit, and not from the deceit of that evil spirit”, are warnings to every age to be careful about valuing too highly the rightness and righteousness of our own opinions.

To Read More, View a free sample!


A Preface to the Preface

I: The Cause and Occasion for Writing This Work and What Is Hoped for from Those for Whom Such Pains Are Taken

II: The First Establishment of Presbyterian Discipline by John Calvin in Geneva and the Beginning of the Conflict in the Church of England

III: How So Many People Come to Be Trained to Approve of This Discipline

IV: What Has Made the More Learned Approve This Discipline

V: Their Call for a Trial by Debate

VI: No End to Conflict until Both Sides Submit to a Decisive Judgment

VII: An Outline of the Remaining Books

VIII: How We Have Many Good Reasons to Fear the Consequences of Your Reformation, If It Indeed Took Place

IX: Conclusion

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.

Bradford Littlejohn (Ph.D, University of Edinburgh), is the President of the Davenant Trust and a leading scholar of Richard Hooker’s thought, having authored Richard Hooker: A Companion to His Life and Work (Cascade, 2015), and The Promise and Peril of Christian Liberty: Richard Hooker, the Puritans, and Protestant Political Theology (Eerdmans, forthcoming 2017).

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.


The Davenant Institute endeavors to restore wisdom for the contemporary church. We seek to sponsor historical scholarship at the intersection of the church and academy, build friendships and facilitate collaboration within the Reformed and evangelical world, and equip the saints with time-tested resources for faithful public witness. Below are some of the works we’ve published towards that end.

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