Book I Chapter XII

Tony

To our three readers, I do apologize for having taken such a long break in what already is a generous posting schedule. I’ll not bore you with all the details but instead shall endeavor to continue commentary on Book I, which is not too far from coming to a close, after which we shall begin the monumental and amazing Book V.

Having just stated that there are no natural means of salvation, and assuming the framework he has already been working with, Hooker examines “The cause why so many natural or rational Laws are set down in Holy Scripture.” The question must be raised given the focus Hooker has placed on the knowability by Reason of natural laws. Both this and the previous chapter help to address questions I have been consistently asking and ones that are unavoidable for those who have made the post-critical turn: If there are all these Laws that are supposedly able to be known by all people endowed with Reason, why is it that so many are not known and even outright rejected in entire societies? I presciently¬†knew a bit about this because of the essays on Hooker which I have read by Rowan Williams — for whom, following a rather recent tradition of Hooker interpretation, Hooker is not so much a classical “Natural Law” theologian of the 18th¬†and 19th C. school but one who, in a patristic and scholastic synthesis, chastened any naive notion of simple Natural Law with an ascetical theology that knows the tendency of humans to pervert reason through sin. Hooker states that the reason there are so many natural laws in Scripture is because not everybody is actually skilled with reason enough to know natural laws. Moreover, we don’t know many natural laws because of “imbecility.”

Again, being so prone as we are to fawn upon ourselves, and to be ignorant as much as may be of our own deformities, without the feeling sense whereof we are most wretched; even so much the more, because not knowing them we cannot so much as desire to have them taken away; how should our festered sores be cured, but that God hath delivered a law as sharp as the two-edged sword, piercing the very closest and most unsearchable corners of the heart, which the Law of Nature can hardly, human laws by no means possible, reach unto?

All in all, we’re messed up, and often don’t even know when we’re messed up, so we’re helped along by Scripture containing Natural Laws, seeing as without such help, who knows when we’d stumble upon even some basic natural laws? For Hooker, it’s not enough simply to say that it is difficult to discern even natural laws because of the Fall. He goes further: It is practically impossible for fallen humanity to know such things as they ought to know for salvation, and so “that which is desired naturally must now be supernaturally attained.”

Here, I believe, is the “post-liberal” avenue into Natural Law in Hooker. The reason we will need to check Reason against Revelation is because we are prone to fawn upon ourselves, prone to be convinced of convenient untruths even in the name of tradition.

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One thought on “Book I Chapter XII

  1. Robbie says:

    Nice. You got me to wondering again if there is also an implicit Irenaeun current of salvation-as education or divine pedagogy operative in Hooker, in the sense that Scripture and revelation help us along. And not just in some general sense, but as essential to salvation itself.

    And yes, agree about the post-liberal avenue in Hooker.

    I’m going to be honest, very much looking forward to Book V.

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