Monthly Archives: April 2012

Some Translations: I.iii

I am finding that snippets of Latin in footnotes without context can be surprisingly difficult to translate. Some I’ve done alright on, but when Hooker is writing in Latin, and when he’s quoting scholastics, he is definitely using Latin in a style to which I am unaccustomed. Luckily my Latin teachers have affirmed that this frustration is normal. One translation is entirely the work of Matthew Briel, a Phd at Fordham and my first Latin teacher. Props go to him for the translation and the helpful text-blocking. I was falling apart trying to put this one together.

I should also note that I’ve found there are extra footnotes in the online text that are not in my Clarendon book that I use for study. I’ll try and get to all these as well but usually the additional notes are more for conferring and are added by the editor rather than by Hooker himself. It seems these are the ones in brackets.

Finally, I am going for woodenly literal here inasmuch as scholastic Latin is trying to be precise. But pay attention to how lovely Hooker’s translations are.

These top four are from footnote 3, iii.3. (Online text pg.205)

“Every thing which in the things of creation are becoming (or occuring), is the subject of eternal law.”


“In no way is anything withdrawn from the established laws of the Most High Creator, by whom the peace of the universe is administered.”


“Now sin, though rightly is it allowed by God, falls from eternal law. Yet laws eternal are subjected to sin, so that the by the voluntary transgression of the law, a certain inconvenient penalty of the soul might be introduced, according to Augustine: “You have ordered, O Lord, and thus it is, that the punishment for every disordered mind is its own disorder.” Not as the foul scholastics say…”


By: Matthew Briel

Quemadmodum videmus res naturales [esse] contingentes,
          hoc ipso quod a fine particulari suo atque adeo a lege aeterna exorbitant,
     in eandem legem aeternam incidere,

     quatenus consequuntur alium finem a lege etiam aeterna ipsis in casu particulari constitutum;

sic verisimile est homines,
          etiam cum peccant et desciscunt a lege aeterna ut praecipiente,
     reincidere in ordinem aeternae legis ut punientis.

There are two main clauses, introduced by “quemadmodum” (with a main verb of videmus) and “sic” (main verb is est).

Now, just as we see that natural things are contingent inasmuch as they turn aside from (exorbito) their particular end and to that extent from the eternal law as well, so that (quatenus) there must follow as a consequence that another end must also have been established by the eternal law for them in a particular case, all of this is similar for human beings, even though they sin and suddenly fall away from the natural law, nevertheless they come back into the order of natural law when they are punished.

For the online footnote of Arnobius see here.

“All which is moved by another is a certain kind of instrument of the first mover. Ridiculous it is, then, as even the ignorant [would say], to propose that an instrument is not moved by another mover than the first mover.”

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Book I. Ch. 3


Hooker begins this chapter by distinguishing himself from many previous theologians who think there is only one Eternal Law. Hooker believes there are two. The first is the one with which he closed the previous chapter, namely, the law that God established for himself to work by. This is not a limit which God puts on himself as such since “the imposition of this law upon himself is his own free and voluntary act.” (II.6) This is why law as an analogue of God’s being cannot go all the way because law is fundamentally about limit (“we somewhat more enlarging the sense thereof term any kind of rule or canon, whereby actions are framed, a law”), while God is infinite. So the being of God is not an eternal law.

The second Eternal Law is what is discussed in this third part. This law is perhaps more like the entire group of laws which limit all created agents, yet these he considers a “part” of the second Eternal Law. It seems that the distinction ought to be maintained if we’re to be clear. So whether the law of Nature, the Angels, Reason, Divine (revelation), or human, these all “are conformed unto this second law eternal.” And these in turn are governed by the first eternal law.

Miscellaneous Notes:

  • I found it interesting that Hooker believes that the law of a thing is dependent on its form. For instance, a single carbon atom or a molecule with carbon, though fundamentally composed of the same stuff, operates under a different law than carbon in a living organism or, more simply, in a gas. Hooker seems to reject a sub-christian platonic version of forms as a realm of pure, abstract, ideas (4); nevertheless, he does see the second eternal law as in some way a “guide”  or “draught written in the bosom of God himself.”
  • Most things are called agents even if they are distinguished from voluntary agents. I’m not entirely sure how to tease this out but it’s fascinating since agency is a rich and suggestive word. What might it mean for a rock to be an agent, even if not a free and voluntary one?
  • Hooker remains here persistently doxological. Consider the rising rhetorical questioning at the end of section two. “Now if nature should intermit her course…if…if…etc…”  The true workings of nature are not knowable in their entirety — “[the nature of things] hath in it more than men have as yet attained to know, or perhaps ever shall attain…that perceiving how much the least thing in the world hath in it more than the wisest are able to reach unto, they may by this means learn humility.”  The perception of the depth of things has a “moral” dimension, it’s pedagogically oriented to teach the proper response to God’s working.
  • If we affirm that natural science is able to perceive truth, even if sometimes in a limited or skewed way, then I don’t see that even apocalypticists could deny this level of law.
  • I was quickly struck by Hooker’s phrase “divine malediction.” Surely God is not malicious, yes?! But I did some looking into the word’s English usage in the Oxford English Dictionary and malediction here, it seems, means “curse,” therefore this is a reference to the Fall. The reason that nature does not always operate as it ought is due to the Fall, which Hooker must see in a “cosmic” light if its effects are that far reaching.
  • That it is due to the Fall is something only revelation can uncover.
  • He uses the Eternal Law to demythologize the pagan notion of fate. Natural destiny is nothing other than the providence of God, which is as far from the ancient view of destiny as you can get. Fate was blind and arbitrary, binding even on the gods, God’s providence is the result of his freedom.
  • So too, he says that the pagans assigned gods to natural forces when they ought to have been seeking the one God who orders everything.
  • The laws are teleologically “social,” they ought to “prefer the good of the whole before whatsoever their own particular.”

I’m working on a few translations. Just a random note without context can be pretty hard to translate, actually.

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Book 1. CH. 2

– Robb

The book of this law we are neither able nor worthy to open and look into.”

Tony’s introduction laid some excellent groundwork and effectively set the stage for the issues we will continue to face. What is the relation between praxis and theory as laid out in the Laws? Does not an over zealous connection between divine law and the revealed law, making up the matrix of church, state, rite and custom, preclude the possibility of rebellion? In a rationally ordered universe, what are the grounds for critique of the law, which is said to reflect a divine ordo? Finally, is the identification between natural law and God’s law a dangerous idea?

Book I, Part II of the Laws addresses these concerns. As Hooker makes clear, the law is not a meditation on static first principles, let alone a formula for blind obedience of seemingly arbitrary divine decrees. Law is more akin to trust; trust in the obscure Trinitarian operations of God’s own self that forms the basis of all reality as marked by the Incarnation.

Hooker concludes Part I by noting the breakdown in trust and what is at stake for England:

“The laws of the Church, whereby for so many ages together we have been guided in the exercise of Christian religion and the service of the true God, our rites, customs, and orders of ecclesiastical government, are called into question: we are accused as men that will not have Christ Jesus to rule over them, but have willfully cast his statues behind their backs, hating to be reformed and made subject to the scepter of his discipline” (I.i.3).

In light of these concerns, Hooker begins his defense against the Puritans with a reflection on natural law. Again, this is not an argument based upon first principles, but a reflection on law that extends to the whole of reality; nature and the supernatural; nature in light of the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ. Hooker is therefore not operating with a sense of “pure nature” or nature as sundered from a teleological order (let alone a mechanistic or atomistic conception of nature, as found in Bacon, Hobbes, etc.). Nature itself is dynamic in the biblical sense of straining toward perfection. All nature moves toward “some fore-conceived end for which it worketh” (II.i.1). And this is the basis of law: “so that no certain end could ever be attained, unless the actions whereby it is attained were regular; that is to say, made suitable, fit and correspondent unto their end, by some canon, rule or law” (I.ii.1).

Law is therefore first and foremost fitting or appropriate rather than arbitrary or positivistic. God did not choose to create the law. Rather, the law is primarily an instance of God’s being. According to Hooker, a teleological ordered universe is a real analogue of the Trinitarian processions. The canon of nature “doth first take place in the works even of God himself” (I.ii.1-2). Here Hooker adamantly rejects the notions of God’s potentia absoluta and voluntaristic conceptions of God, going so far as to claim that “they err therefore who think that of the will of God to do this or that there is no reason besides his will” (I.ii.5). And this is crucial: Hooker’s rejection of voluntaristic theology in favor of Thomas’s rational-appetite theory hinders the possibility of seamlessly aligning his thought with Luther or Calvin.

Although it is too soon to claim that Hooker is advocating something like “participationist ontology,” the connection Hooker draws between the rational ordering of the universe as an analogue of the law operating among the persons of the Trinity is striking. Hence the title of this blog: “God therefore is a law both to himself, and to all other things besides” (props go to Tony for the title). Whatever this may all mean in the end, Hooker powerfully reminds us that the Trinity is not something that we simply gaze upon from a safe distance.

So, is the identification between the lex aeterna, the being of God, and the revealed law making up the matrix of church polity, state, custom and rite, a dangerous idea? And if so, what then are the grounds for rebellion? Although we can’t make Hooker into something he is not – a figure driven by liberal democratic concerns – his refusal to draw a direct connection between a given set of phenomena (his so-called “pragmatic” defense of the episcopacy comes to mind) and something like an appeal to “God’s will” is telling. Hooker says, “the particular drift of every act proceeding externally from God we are not able to discern” (I.ii.4) and that,

“the book of this law we are neither able nor worthy to open and look into. That little thereof which we darkly apprehend we admire, the rest with religious ignorance we humbly and meekly adore” (I.ii.5).

Perhaps a case can be made that there is an apophatic pause in Hooker’s thought; moments when he resists a strict identification between divine and revealed law. To compare Thomas Hobbes, who saw no basis for rebellion because there is only one law, Hooker’s Thomism allows him to appeal to God’s law; the very law that makes breaches of the law just in certain circumstances (cf. ST, II-II, Q 66, Art. 7). At the end of the day, is this apophaticism enough to  ‘save’ Hooker’s political thought?

My hunch is that Hooker strikes the right balance: the laws of God are apophatic, but no less sure. We can trust in the ordinances of “rite, customs, and orders of ecclesiastical government” (I.i.3), in the same manner that we can trust in reason, however fallen. Hooker reminds us that despite the worst offences of the papacy, the Holy Spirit did not abandon the church from the time of the Apostles to the sixteenth century. This trust in law is a powerful reminder that the universe is not one giant throw of the dice, nor is it simply a providential ordering by decree, but a teleological universe tending toward perfection.

Book I. Ch. i


I started and read through several books of the Laws a year or so back, so I am already somewhat familiar with some basics that Hooker is about to get to in this book. Yet how much difference a couple years makes! My ability to understand and to weigh a work seems to grow by the year such that I almost always get more out of a piece that I’ve read before than I did when I first read it. This applies no less to the opening chapter of the Laws.

Lest I be accused of some tiresome trope, I do not come to this work impartially. On the one hand, I am committed to becoming a confessional Anglican theologian; While by no means do I think with that school that used to imagine Anglicanism some divinely ordained group meant to unite all Christians through her blessed Via Media and her leading role in ecumenism, I am thoroughly committed to dwelling in the Anglican church, to serving her and breathing her air, learning her language. Hooker is a fundamental person to work with in order to accomplish this goal.

In addition, I have been schooled by that group of antifoundationalist theologians that eschew Natural Law in favor of a hermeneutics of faith. Even Reason is done through a context by which it is in large part, indeed in invisible parts, constituted. Reasoning cannot be separated from the form of reasoning and the traditions to which one is committed or to which one reacts. Nevertheless, I have persisting questions about this precisely because it seems that something akin to “natural law” can and even must come precisely from that position of faith in Jesus as the Word of God by and through whom all things were made and from whom we receive our very being. I can’t hold to a voluntarist ethics. Hooker, I am told, is not naïve about the fact that Reason very often is fallen and clouded. I look forward to learning how he coordinates sin and reason and faith and feel it’s important to how we conceive justice and law.

Which brings me to a final note: This antifoundationalism also tends to breed a healthy pseudo-anarchist political bent in me. By pseudo-anarchism I mean that while I have faith in institutions and regulations, these must be able to be disrupted by gestures toward justice even where said justice cannot be properly reasoned at the time. Which is only, I suppose, a politics of semper reformanda. This has also lead to an ecclesial critique of the state. This is, it must be noted, not merely some new thing “Radical Orthodoxy” thought up, but it goes at the least back to the Oxford Movement and its resistance to a church controlled by the state. This led soon to a lively tradition of anglo-catholic socialism that is meet to be revived in my opinion lest anglo-catholicism continue to hemorage as a pathetic movement interested mostly in liturgical fancies rather than a robust doctrine of the Church, which is what I take catholicism to be most about.

Then, without further ado, let us examine the first chapter and a give money quote:

“He that goeth about to persuade a multitude, that they are not so well governed as they ought to be, shall never want attentive and favourable hearers.”

Hooker is not at all oblivious to the charges against the Church of England nor to the government. (btw, whenever I say “government” or “state” I am not trying necessarily to talk about “Government” or “State” as an abstract universal. I shall try to be clear when I want to wax meta). This instantly sets him apart, imo, from those who are un-self-aware in supporting a status quo. He understands that he will be seen as one who either “hold[s] or seek[s] preferment.”[1] He is setting out, then, not to simply have a go at demolishing the arguments of people much dumber than he is, since most people are dumb compared to someone of his learning, but to show how certain policies in fact help to make for justice. “We are accused as men that will not have Christ Jesus to rule over them, but have wilfully cast his statues behind their backs, hating to be reformed and made subject unto the sceptre of his discipline.”[3]  This obviously doesn’t mean that everything he says will then simply be right, but it means that he takes the risk of understanding the critiques of his puritan opponents and opening up the laws and himself to be examined, lest they fail the test. “for better examination of [the laws’] quality it behoveth the very foundation and root, the highest well-spring and fountain of them to be discovered.” [2]

The Laws model what +Rowan Williams is rather well known for, then: Any kind of political engagement that would seek genuinely to aim at the well being of all a nation’s neighbors must be one that is open to dialogue and challenge. This is manifestly not simply a liberal toleration and public contestation of competing will and claims; Hooker’s very stark non-liberalism comes out at many key junctures (like, for instance, Bk. V); it is, rather, an engagement that takes ones sparring partners seriously and the good of all seriously. At the same time, easy answers and cheap shots will not yield genuinely fruitful results. “there will come a time when three words uttered with charity shall receive a far more blessed reward than three thousand volumes written with disdainful sharpness of wit.” For Hooker, in order to accomplish this discussion it will take the hard work of patient and exacting thinking.

“Albeit therefore much of that we are to speak in this present cause may seem to a number perhaps tedious, perhaps obscure, dark, and intricate; (for many talk of the truth which never sounded the depth from whence it springeth; and therefore when they are led thereunto they are soon weary, as men drawn from those beaten paths wherewith they have been inured;) yet this may not so far prevail as to cut off that which the matter itself requireth, howsoever the nice humour of some be therewith pleased or no.”[2]

I think Hooker would be sympathetic to Milbank here:

“If, like an enthusiastic undergraduate, I had trotted out phrases such as “we need a new theology on the side of victims,” I would no doubt have been commended for making a “contribution” to the fate of the poor, the environment, etc.. But eschewing such rhetorical regurgitation, I was seeking indirectly to tackle our seeming inability to discover any theoretical or practical grounds for opposing the new global sway of neocapitalism, which is the source of the hunger of the poor, the poisoning of nature, obliteration of sexual difference and equality, the lapse of beauty, the loss of historical memory, and so forth.- “On Theological Transgression,” p171 in The Future of Love

Likewise Hooker doesn’t use Puritan rhetoric about “the Bible” or about “obedience,” nor does he trot out pious language simply to add strength to an otherwise weak argument, because such rhetoric is empty if it doesn’t actually point to concrete ways of enacting laws that make for the good of a citizenship.

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