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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15 thoughts on “Book I. Ch. 3

  1. Tony Hunt says:

    To elaborate on my first bullet point: If a thing’s law is fundamentally tied to its form, then what we normally think of as “law of science” — which would be what we’re sort of talking about here — something like an abstract universal, doesn’t quite jive with what Hooker is saying. the law is coterminous with the concrete “form” of a thing. This seems to play nice with the theory of relativity just fine, imo, since relativity is based on planets, mass, energy, etc…

  2. Robbie says:

    I like how Hooker’s Thomism continues to shine forth in these sections. There’s no sense of a God who creates, then bails, thus leaving us to figure out the rest. The starting point for Hooker is “In Him we live, move and are” (4), so much so that God is “both the Creator and Worker of all in all” (5); in other words, Hooker maintains a strong sense of primary and secondary causality.

    I think this is important because Hooker is continuing to lay the groundwork for an account of human and ecclesial agency. That is, the church and her members are not simply passive bits of matter or punctiliar moments of sociability, but agents who can and should act for the good, the true and the beautiful. Yoder likes to remind us that things go wrong when the church attempts to get a handle on history, but I’m beginning to think that Hooker wouldn’t quite agree with this – not only for the obvious reasons of disagreeing with the Anabaptists – but in the sense of what a statement like this says about teleology.

    • Tony Hunt says:

      I haven’t really read enough Yoder to make a comment on that. I can say that at least Hauerwas would be able to fit here inasmuch as virtue ethics and his attendent ecclesiology involve a teleology. The telos is to be conformed to Christ in obedience.

      And that Hooker links teleological law with providence (election?) means, at least as I see it, that the patient surrender to providence in Hauerwas could link up quite well, actually. But the relationship between politics and church will probably mean Hooker would come down on a different side here. (Oliver O’Donnovan and his political supersessionism and historicist politics might help bride the gap. See here, here, and here.)

      It would be quite interesting to compare Hooker with With The Grain of the Universe here.

      • Robbie says:

        For sure, a comparison between Hooker and Hauerwas’s With the Grain of the Universe would be interesting.

  3. Chris Green says:

    This is more or less beside the point of your reading, but I find it interesting that many early Pentecostals depended on this notiono of a divinely-created law for the ordering of creation. It comes into play most often in soteriological and sacramental discussions. So, for instance, J.H. King explains how the eucharistic wine is ordered by this law as the sign for the life-bearing, life-giving blood (the law also determined that this is where “life” would exist) Christ shed in giving his life, which giving had been decided in “eternity past” as the covenant-sealing event. Obviously, they’re indebted to the Anglican tradition (via Wesley).

    • Tony Hunt says:

      That’s terribly interesting to me. I of course had no idea that any Pentecostals ever had a “eucharistic theology” until I met you.

    • Robbie says:

      I agree. It’d be interesting to trace the link from Hooker’s Anglicanism, to Wesley, to the Methodist and finally to the Pentecostal tradition. From what I can gather Chris, this is in part what you’re up to, right? Or something similar?

      • Chris Green says:

        Robbie, yep, that’s a part of the project. Although I’d have to say that my ultimate concerns are constructive/ecumenical, I’m bound to do serious historical work as well. I’ve been happy to find that there’s a wealth of eucharistic theologies among early Pentecostals, a treasure funded by the Anglican (Cranmerian especially, I think, but to some degree Hookerian as well), Wesleyan, Methodist, and Holiness tradition (or web of traditions). I didn’t expect to find that, of course, and I’ve yet to find anyone who believes me without extended “proving” on my part!

  4. Chris Green says:

    Now, a question that actually pertains: can you say more about why the need for two eternal laws? I mean, why is the one insufficient? And if two are needed, why not twenty-two?

    • Tony Hunt says:

      Just a note of clarification, and I know you’re not saying this but I want to keep my bases clear here, I’m trying to summarize what Hooker is saying, and this doesn’t necessarily mean I am signed up completely, although I’m finding all of this to be quite agreeable. Now, to your question:

      I think Hooker would say something like this: God is infinite and totally free, but in order to create, inasmuch as a creation – something totally dependent and thus finite – necessitates a working fitting to, appropriate for, the end that God desires, God must first determine the way he will work with respect to what is not him. So, since a law is a limit, and since God is limitless, his actions are “naturally” infinite but must be (or are meet to be) “finite” with respect to his working.

      Hooker says that some consider a law that which has a superior force at work over it, but Hooker differs and says that it is rather a boundary. Since God has no superior force over him that causes him to create, yet since he must act finitely in order to create, he imposes freely a limit on his acting, which is a properly called a law by Hooker.

      Since this is a boundary for himself and is prior to creation, then there is still the law that will directly govern creation, yet since these must be dependent on what is superior (since creation does not create itself), namely God himself, then this must be an eternal rather than a natural law.

      The one for himself the other for all else. From the second issue all the various laws specific to each form, and these are far more than twenty-two.

    • Robbie says:

      Tony, when Hooker attempts to distinguish himself from those theologians who claim only one law, to whom is he referring? Any ideas? And do you think his talk about dual laws is akin to Luther’s two kingdoms or something like that? Of course, he’s NOT being like the Cont. Reformers in that he’s still willing to discuss the celestial hierarchy.

      • Tony Hunt says:

        I’m honestly not sure. When he talks about there being a twofold law he appears to quote Aquinas and Augustine favorably, even though I don’t see anything to indicate a twofold law in the passages quoted.

  5. Chris Green says:

    A final (for now) observation by way of appreciation. I like very much your claim—whether it’s true of Hooker or not, it’s true in general—”The perception of the depth of things has a ‘moral’ dimension, it’s pedagogically oriented to teach the proper response to God’s working.” I’d tweak this only by adding “TO GOD AND to God’s working.” But well put.

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