Rowan Williams on Hooker

Drawing attention to this recent lecture by Rowan Williams, “An Appreciation of the Ecclesiastical Law Society on the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of its Foundation.” In the light of Hooker, Williams highlights the importance and need for theological reflection on the law.

As our national society evolves, it seems to me more and more important that we have, in addition to whatever we say about the sovereignty of our society, a thoroughly robust doctrine of what the law is in our society: as the protection of liberties; as that which guarantees access for all to justice and redress; as that which is beyond any particular settlement of power, influence or privilege in any social setting. In that sense, the law is not at all inimical to the Gospel. Quite the contrary. If the Gospel is about the freedoms that belong to human beings by virtue simply of their humanity before God, the law is one of the most effective ways in which we witness to that and work with the grain of it…

I hope that the principle that Richard Hooker worked from – that law as the basis of Church and society is, at its fullest and richest, a reflection of the lawfulness, the harmonic regularity of the whole universe under God – is something that remains not only in our thinking and our action as people involved with the law, but in our prayer and our contemplation as well. What is wonderful about Hooker… is of course his ability to link the practice of the law in all its pragmatic complexity with the vision of God. And although it may seem a long way from the Uxbridge Magistrates Court to the courts of heaven, nonetheless the sense that we do live in a universe where we can trust the environment we inhabit is part of what the law seeks to secure in pragmatic terms, both in society and in the Church…

Woe betide us then, if as a Church we play down what the law can and should mean. Woe betide us, if we forget that order is the servant of freedom, not its enemy.

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