Thursday, June 21, 2007

Richard Hooker

Serious respect to Richard Hooker (1554-1600). He manages to be iconic for vast swathes of the Church of England, because he is big on what most people think is important about their own group.

So theologically, he was pretty much Calvinist. Some people tend to argue with that - it's mostly because they haven't read enough of either Hooker or Calvin and think that just because Hooker disagreed with a bunch of people who called themselves Calvinists means that he disagreed with Calvin too. He didn't. The people he disagreed with went a long way beyond Calvin.

Most Calvinists automatically rejected stuff if it was what the Roman Catholics said. A chap called Cartwright even argued that it was safer copying the Muslims than the Roman Catholics. But Hooker didn't, and that was both unusual and mature of him - lots of people still haven't got to this stage in their thinking 400 years later.

Where Rome keepeth that which is ancienter and better; others whome we much more affect leavinge it for newer, and changinge it for worse, we had rather followe the perfections of them whome we like not, than in defectes resemble them whome we love.

This meant that Hooker was much more into ceremonies and so on than most of the people he agreed with theologically, because he saw that visual stuff can often have a bigger impact than just words.

The end which is aimed at in setting down the outward form of all religious actions is the edification of the church. Now men are edified when either their understanding is taught somewhat whereof in such actions it behoveth all men to consider or when their hearts are moved with any affection suitable thereunto; when their minds are in any sort stirred up unto that reverence, devotion, attention and due regard which in those cases seemeth requisite. Because therefore unto this purpose not only speech but also sundry sensible means besides have always been thought necessary and especially those means which being object to the eye, the liveliest and most apprehensive sense of all other, have in that respect seemed the fittest to make a deep and a strong impression...

Hooker was also big on radical inclusivity - he wanted to get as many people as possible coming into churches and feeling welcome, though he recognised that that didn't mean they were saved or Christians, but it meant they could hear and see and maybe understand more.

So what can we learn from Hooker? For me, the main thing is a reminder not to ignore ideas just because they come from people we don't like or disagree with.

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