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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3 thoughts on “Book I. Ch. 5

  1. Robbie says:

    Nice work!

    I think it’s crucial to link, as you do, “God’s life via participation” to humans acting “as God acts.” To mind, Hookers helps to create the necessary imaginative space for a politics of the good rather than a politics of mitigating sin. “All things that are, are good,” not, “all things that are, are good, but are so fallen that they are no longer recognizable as good and probably therefore won’t help anyway.”

    The short answer to the de Lubac question is yes. Part of the reason why is the strong teleological element that Hooker holds on to. That’s not to say that I don’t have questions about this, but he seems very close to expressing the “natural desire for the supernatural.”

  2. Robbie says:

    I keep going back to this: “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” and “that by proceeding in the knowledge of truth, and by growing in the exercise of virtue, man amongst the creatures of this inferior world aspireth to the greatest conformity with God.”

  3. Chris Green says:

    The genius of Pentecostal spirituality—at least at its best, or in one of its better forms—is that sanctification and fulness of life in the Spirit (nevermind for the moment the unfortunate ways in which these ideas have been calcified in an ordo salutis) are understood to come through and as a life of imitatio Christi . Even participation in the means of grace is understood as “following Jesus.” No doubt, this is indebted to Hooker at a Wesleyan remove!

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