Richard Hooker and John Milbank

One of the great joys of reading Hooker’s Laws is the experience of absorbing, ever so slowly, his fine English prose. In fact, his language is so finely tuned that at times it seems as if the complexity of his thought is obscured by the clarity and flow of his wit. Take for example the following:

“For that which all mean have at all times learned, Nature herself must needs have taught; and God being the author of Nature, her voice is but his instrument. By her from Him we receive whatsoever in such sort we learn” (1.vii.3).

Another great pleasure is the experience of Hooker’s wrestling with the Christian Neo-Platonic and Aristotelian synthesis found in Aquinas.

Today John Milbank chimed in on a fascinating exchange at the Theology Studio over the question of Aquinas and the desiderium natural visionis dei. Although Milbank only mentioned Hooker in passing, I think it’s worth repeating here:

Aquinas can be seen as central for a kind of patristic longue duree — indeed as Anglicans like Hooker saw before anyone else. That is, he is a point of convergence of Augustine, Dionysius and the Byzantine legacy which he deploys conservatively to integrate Aristolte and yet to head off over Aristotelian renderings of philosophy and sacred doctrine.

Milbank seems entirely correct in his assessment of Hooker’s approach to Aquinas. Unlike certain strands of Thomism, Aquinas does not function for Hooker as some quasi-biblical authority. Rather, he wrestles with the historical deposit of faith – the longue duree of Aquinas’s thought as it developed through the Patristics and the Medieval Mystics.

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One thought on “Richard Hooker and John Milbank

  1. Tony Hunt says:

    The recent anniversary edition of Modern Theology had a Roman Catholic saying that perhaps part of the reason that Anglican theologians have been so creative and resourceful in the last 30 years is because of their “freedom” not to be so strictly bound by fitting into a pre-established “tradition.”

    Obviously this has its own many downsides but I think there is something legitimate about the catholic tradition being able to be approached in a wider way — a way that Anglicans have often been good at.

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