Monthly Archives: May 2012

Book I. CH. 6


In chapter VI, Hooker turns to the formative role education plays in the perfection of knowledge. To my mind, one of the more interesting aspects of this chapter is Hooker’s linking of education to perfection or salvation. This raises a whole host of interesting questions.

As we move through the Laws, it is becoming clearer that Hooker does not share the Continental reformers’ disdain for salvation as the perfecting of virtue or the purifying of reason. And as Hooker continues reiterating the patristic tradition of tying salvation to perfection/deification, I wonder if thereby implicitly elevates something like “culture” or tradition, along with the soteriological role these play. More on this below.

Hooker begins by noting the key difference between humanity and angels. Angels possesses the visio Dei and have “the full and complete knowledge in the highest degree that can be imparted unto them” (vi.1), whereas humanity must, “search by what steps and degrees it riseth unto perfection of knowledge” (vi.1).

Again, the contrast to many of the Continental reformers is striking: salvation is about the “steps and degrees” leading toward the visio Dei, the reformation of the rational appetite, and less about humanity’s legal status before God.

But if salvation is about the visio dei, or something like purifying vision by degree, then doesn’t salvation have much to do with education, culture and time? Hooker writes, “till we grow to some ripeness of years, the soul of man doth only store itself with conceits of things of inferior and more open quality, which afterwards do serve as instruments unto that which is greater.” Notably, our previous ‘status’ before the gift of salvation is not necessarily something that hinders divine intervention; rather, our previous selves can serve as “instruments,” helping us to receive grace and the purification of the rational appetite. Culture, education or tradition can augment our capacity for receiving the revelation of Christ. This being the case, wouldn’t it then make sense to build an ecclesial culture? I was reminded here of the Catholic Worker’s goal of attempting to build a society where it’s easier for people to be good. But isn’t this a dangerous idea, something that history has rejected?

Further, isn’t Hooker downgrading the role of interventionist grace, making grace subservient to a principle other than Christ or claiming that humanity itself creates the necessary conditions for receiving Christ?

Not quite – Hooker’s Thomism saves him here. As he writes in the last chapter, “all things in the world are said in some sort to seek the highest, and to covet more or less the participation of God himself” (v.2). Only if we didn’t have a natural desire for the supernatural would he be guilty of something like Pelagianism. The point, I think, is that humanity cooperates with grace and that reason plays a formative role in our salvation. As Hooker states, “education and instruction are the means, the one by use, the other by precept, to make our natural faculty of reason both the better and the sooner able to judge rightly between truth and error, good and evil” (v.4).

Of course, Hooker is aware of the dangers of plaguing knowledge: “the curiosity of man’s wit doth many times with peril wade farther in the search of things than were convenient” (v.4).

Finally, I suppose some lingering questions have to do with the soteriological role of culture, education and tradition, and the question of the capax Dei.

On a personal note, I found Hooker’s emphasis on the self’s instrumental role in the drama of salvation to be very encouraging. I often find people who think that the ‘event’ of Grace must be something like a Flannery O’Connor motif (who, by the way, was an avid Thomist), an absolute interruption that changes, destroys and creates something entirely new in its wake, or it is not grace at all. But more often than not, Christ’s grace does come by slow and steady increments; we move from glory to glory. Our previous selves, the selves before the new creation, do have some significant role to play in the continuing drama of our lives.


A “New Edition” of Keble

By chance I stumbled across this blog post and found that the author has, for all our convenience, done the work to release a new printing of the classic Keble text. Something to think about if you can’t afford the Folger Library ed. like me.

Book I. Ch. 5


In V, Hooker begins the move into Human Law, having just given a brief introduction to Angelic Law. He announces the total non-conformity of Human Law to God’s own “law:”

“God alone excepted, who actually and everlastingly is whatsoever he may be, and which cannot hereafter be that which he is not; all other things besides are somewhat in possibility, which as yet they are not in fact.”

God is actus purus, God has fullness and abundance of life, there is nothing which he lacks, nothing which might make him the more perfect, no single ounce of potentiality that he must through appropriation realize in order to become who he is not — There is in him no shadow of turning. I remain confused by the accusation that those who hold to the traditional analogia entis end up making God rather too much like us, when to me it is instead the idea of God having the same kind of life as us, imperfect, potential, and unrealized, that much more clearly places God within the sphere of human becoming. Whatever else Human Law is, it is not the same Law as God’s own being. Obviously I come down with Hooker here against the cosmological-hegelians.

Indeed the first “law whereby man is in his actions directed” is “to the imitation of God.” In the following two ways especially: In the desire for the continuation of their being, manifested in the production of offspring, and also in the desire to work “in the constancy and excellency of those operations which belong unto their kind.” That is, Humans desire — and desire, ὀρέγω, is the important word — to live God’s life via participation, and act as God acts.

For the longest time I never really got Anselm’s Ontological Argument because I never really understood why is should be better to exist than not to exist. But as I’m coming to understand some of the classic Christian reflection on being, it makes much more sense to me. It is better to be than not be because not-being is to be cut off from God, indeed to be non-existent. The reason it is better to exist is because existence participates in the life of God, and how could this not but be the best possible thing?

And so humans long for the participation in God. Hooker quotes Aristotle: “For all things stretch out for this.” Much of the classical usage of this word is in relation to reaching out to embrace a loved one. The glory of humanity is, in a funny way, its many deficiencies. We are deficient in so many things because there are so many parts of our existence which aspire to greater perfection. Perhaps Robb might be able to answer this: Is this desire that Hooker is expressing akin to the “natural desire for the supernatural” in de Lubac? It feels like it is.

Some desires, like these first two, often go unnoticed because they are so ingrained into our normal patterns of life; some have to be awaken. These that must be ignited are fanned into flame by the growth in knowledge and virtue.

Hooker translated his third footnote, but only does a part of his second. Here’s my attempt:

“In these nature lacks what is best, if it is possible to come into being more and more. Nature always aims at the best of what is possible.”

On a final anti-climactic note, it seems I might need to learn about this Mercurius Trismegistus since Hoooker quotes him so often.

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Book 1. CH. 4


Martin Luther once remarked that the church should “shun like the plague that ‘Mystical Theology’ of Dionysius.”[1] Hooker seems to have a different take on the matter, favorably quoting Pseudo-Dionysius throughout the Laws. Building upon the previous chapter, Hooker outlines the correspondence between angelic and ecclesial orders, which in turn anticipates liturgical mediation (more to come in book 5). Although subtle, the celestial hierarchy outlined here ends up defending ecclesial and political hierarchy.

According to Hooker, angelic speculation is a warranted endeavor – this on the basis of prayer whereby heaven and earth are united (iv.1). Likewise, angles are characterized by “a kind of corporation amongst themselves” which extends to a “society of fellowship with men” (iv.2).

Hooker’s recalling of the hierarchical orders seems almost perfunctory at times. His retelling of the celestial hierarchy is brief, though pointed. After noting the fall of the “dii inferi,” the “gods infernal,” Hooker closes by stating, “thus much therefore may suffice for angels” (iv.3). As if to say, “with that out of the way, we can now move along.”

Does Hooker really need an account of angelology? How does this fit into the overall theme of the Laws? And why was Hooker not as put off with Pseudo-Dionysius as Luther  was?

With that said, I’m looking forward to chapter XVL where Hooker lays out again the “correspondence” between heaven and earth.

[1] See Karlfried Frochlich, “Pseudo-Dionysius and the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century,” 44.