Book I Chapter 10: 8-15

– Tony

In the previous subsections Hooker has differentiated Natural laws and Positive laws; he here moves on to consider other kinds of differentiations within laws. In positive he hits on these three:

Mixedly human laws – These are laws that are required to be followed by Reason but which for one cause or another are not. In order to correct this, the force of positive law is needed, though I imagine Hooker would say that this is unfortunate. Hooker hits an interesting note here, helpful for those of us curious about the relationship between the reformation of laws and the discernment of Reason. Here, as he already has done, Hooker draws attention to customs, such as polygamy, which appear to be founded on Reason and have the force of tradition, yet which must be corrected for their unreasonableness. Unfortunately he is silent on just how it is that there is a persistent disconnect between what is, in his mind, manifestly true and understandable by Reason, and what is not. There are ways of discerning the strength of a law or belief that aid us in judging the reasonableness of this or that, but it is never quite so clear as one might desire. While I appreciate this unwillingness to say too much — Hooker’s natural apophaticism shines through — I’m yet looking for the, to use a convenient word, “apocalyptic” freedom or impulse that might open the critical space to test Reason.

Merely human laws – These are laws that, though guided by what is public good (since all laws are enacted by politic societies), are local, contextual, and not universally binding.

Law of nations – Within these laws there are primary and secondary laws; Primary Laws of Nations are “sincere” and not-fallen in nature. An interesting way to put it to be sure as Hooker has previously laid out that laws are only framed correctly when humans are assumed to be fallen. Examples of this law are hospitality for strangers and laws concerning ambassadors. Secondary Laws of Nations are those that are necessary only because of the fallenness of people and their nations. Laws having to do with war and arms and the like.

The differentiation between primary and secondary is interesting, but some things about it become clearer when looked at in conjunction with other things he says here. Consider this quote:

“We covet (if it might be) to have a kind of society and fellowship even with all mankind.” 10.12

There are several other such quotes. Not only does Hooker, following Aristotle, consider humans a political animal, but he thinks that humans by nature desire universal fellowship. Why would this be the case? Surely if a local political society was well run and allowed for the good life among its citizens, it would be a matter of indifference to “have fellowship” with distant societies? But Hooker says that having fellowship with other societies brings about many goods. We need other people in order to enter most fully into our nature. See the opening lines to the chapter 11.

Might we say, then, that the unfallen nature of humanity longs for the Church? The unlimited peaceful fellowship of gift giving and receiving with and from other humans? I honestly don’t think this a stretch at all. Because this unity is not only for commerce but simply for the good of knowing and being in relation with others. In fact I think it hews quite closely to Hooker here, and it’s something I aim to explore more fully in the future. In Bulgakov’s terminology we could say that Divine-humanity longs for its sophianicity to become full in sobornost.

There are two other little things I wished to note:

– Hooker says that “The chiefest instrument of human communion therefore is speech, because thereby we impart mutually one to another the conceits of our reasonable understanding.” – 10.12 I wonder, if I might be allowed a moment of pure speculation, if certain animals could speak and “impart their conceits” to us, whether we could, indeed whether we might not be required, to enter into a fuller communion with them. I’m thinking in the back of my mind of the talking beasts in Lewis, both in the Narnia books and in Out of the Silent Planet.

– Something else that will be important to think about concerning canon law and even ecumenism is Hooker’s thought on Church councils. General councils enact the “Law of nations” between churches. I’m curious to learn how Hooker differentiates churches and what he thinks of the empirical church. Obviously the Church is not limited to the “physical Church,” including as it does the “spiritual Church,” yet he calls the Church a “spiritual society” here. I don’t really have any specific questions yet, I’m noting only my curiosity.

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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.

Book I. Chapter 10: 1-7


The poor have been rebels, but they have never been anarchists: they have more interests than anyone else in there being some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn’t; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht.

G.K. Chesterton

In chapter 10 Hooker turns his attention to reason’s role within the founding of positive law in matters of government. He begins with what I think is his main concern: to those who consider that “religion and virtue are only as men will account of them” (x.1), he establishes the universality of law governed by reason. Crucially, however, he leaves room for particular instantiations of the law. This is important not only for the order of government, but also for the Anglican tradition vis-à-vis the general councils.

Hooker claims that there are two foundations to any public. The first is the natural desire toward sociality and the second is the common good. Regarding the former, Hooker takes it as axiomatic that “nature itself teacheth laws and statutes to live by” (x.1). Ever the good Aristotelian, Hooker agrees that humans are by nature political. States Hooker,

“But forasmuch as we are not by ourselves sufficient to furnish ourselves with competent store of things needful for such a life as our nature doth desire, a life fit for the dignity of man; therefore to supply those defects and imperfections which are in us living single and solely by ourselves, we are naturally induced to seek communion and fellowship with others. This was the cause of men’s uniting themselves at the first in politic Societies.” (x.1).

Hooker is adamant about the priority of our commonality, it being a part of our “dignity” as humans. Moreover, our lack or our inability to procure all goods for ourselves is not only a sign of our weakness, it is also a sign of our hope – the possibility of a common life. And whether this is admitted or not, we are bound by “the law of a Commonweal,” which is “the very soul of a politic body” (x.1). Since virtue is not a private affair for Hooker, the function of law is to protect what is common and restrain what is private (x.6), nearly the exact opposite of what we have today.

In order to substantiate the universal applicability of natural law, he turns to what he regards as some natural principles; namely, the idea of the paterfamilias. As it stands for Hooker, the notion of fatherhood is wholly natural: “we can see throughout the world even from the foundation thereof, all mean have every been taken as lords and lawful kinds in their own houses.” (x.4).

Hooker then moves to discussing the difference between natural law and the positive laws of governments. Although he recognizes the necessity of positive law in light of our fallen nature, “the corruption of our nature being presupposed, we may not deny but that the Law of Nature doth now require of necessity some kind of regiment” (243), he does not grant positive law universal status.  “In laws, that which is natural bindeth universally, that which is positive not so.” (x.7). Positive law needs to reflect the particularity of specific domains, while natural law is determined through the right exercise of reason and virtue.

A couple of comments:

As we saw in previous chapters, the dispensation of law stems directly from God’s Trinitarian self. Law is therefore not simply a restraint upon a prior order of violence (though this is part of its function), as if the law were given secondarily in response to an “ontology of violence.” Rather, created nature mirrors the Trinitarian processions, and has a natural desire for the supernatural (chapter V). Since the Divine law stems directly from God’s being, there can be nothing insidious about the law; the law in fact directs toward a “right end” (x.1). As such, the law does not simply restrain violence, but can work to indoctrinate virtue and the good. “Laws do not only teach what is good, but they enjoin it” (x.7). Interesting that it is Hooker’s Trinitarian theology that does not allow him the luxury of antinomianism!

Hooker’s defense of natural law by way of the paterfamilias is troublesome and carries little weight today. The issue then is how to think questions of natural theology without ‘locking down’ the natural, but at the same time to avoid privileging indeterminate flux or becoming as an ultimate horizon. I still think Hooker offers some helpful resources in terms of learning how to sail between these two extremes.

And like any other modern person, I’m often uncomfortable with questions of natural law. But I’m beginning to wonder if there is indeed some advantage to having a well-developed theory, such as Hooker attempts, of thinking the difference between divine and positive law and the relation between the two. We have all but lost this nuance today, such that only the positive law exists and, ironically, ends up becoming a divine law at the end of the day. And to the extent that we reject positive law on the basis of a principle higher than the state, we can often only do so in an ad hoc manner or as a “beautiful soul,” effectively leaving the plebs behind (see Chesterton above).

I also think it’s clear that we often lack the legal vocabulary needed to deal with the difficult questions of the [positive] law’s seemingly inexorable sway over our lives (in that to be born is to be subjected to some law). Yet theology knows that the positive law is only provisional, and in the case of Hooker, eudemonic: “All men desire to lead in this world a happy life. That life is led most happily, wherein all virtue is exercised without impediment or let” (x.2).

In light of important questions surrounding war, violence, the state, when rebellion is appropriate, etc., would a theory of eudemonic divine and positive law help? I’m thinking here of a illuminating story that Howard Zinn once recalled about Daniel Berrigan’s mother. As Zinn writes,

They asked Daniel Berrigan’s mother what she thought of her son’s breaking the law. He burned draft records-one of the most violent acts of this century- to protest the war, for which he was sentenced to prison, as criminals should be. They asked his mother who is in her eighties, what she thought of her son’s breaking the law. And she looked straight into the interviewer’s face, and she said, “It’s not God’s law.”

Book I. Chapter 9.

At a mere two sections, chapter 9 is nonetheless an important transitional chapter, forming a bridge from the serious and eternal laws of God, of creation, of angels, and of humans, to positive and political laws created by humans for humans. That is, we are moving from divine and immutable laws to mutable human laws, which creating nonetheless does mimic God’s own creating enacting of laws.

There is an answer to an unasked question here: “Why should humans bother with conforming to the laws of their own nature?” The reason is, “Because it’s good for you!” Not only that we receive natural goods now, but that we receive them at God’s judgment. Moreover, not conforming to God’s will for us not only throws us in disarray, but creation itself. I can’t resist quoting Hooker here. (Am I the only one learning to truly love his prose?)

“Let any principal thing, as the sun, the moon, any one of the heavens or elements, but once cease or fail, or swerve, and who doth not easily conceive that the sequel thereof would be ruin both to itself and whatsoever dependeth on it? And is it possible, that Man being not only the noblest creature in the world, but even a very world in himself, his transgressing the Law of his Nature should draw no manner of harm after it?”

The rest of the chapter is fairly self-explanatory. I think it would be possible to fill in his picture of various ways of breaking the will by an examination of Romans 7 and how St. Paul finds “another will” at work inside him.

Of things that I am anxious to see develop in Hooker, an important one is whether the salvation we receive in Christ supersedes our “nature” or whether it merely restores it. In Christ are we only given again that nature we were first given, or does the Incarnation in fact elevate us further up? Is the second Adam greater than the first? I am hoping it is the case that he sees salvation, as in St. Gregory of Nyssa, as an infinite progress. It’s my conviction that “natural law” must always be relativized, or perhaps qualified, by a faith in transfiguration, and in transubstantiation.

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On Not Quite Agreeing With Hooker’s 8th


We have seen both in this and in previous chapters, that Hooker uses examples from pagan antiquity to substantiate claims that there are some things both about God and about the world that are universally available to be known by the exercise of reason. Humans should be able to know and indeed have known that God creates all things by law; and here in the eighth chapter he adds that by reason there are some particular goods that can be known universally.

Now to be fair, these are fairly limited claims. That God is creator, that all things are ordered by law, and there are some things that are good to do; these aren’t some confident claim that people may know that God is Trinity, or predict the Mystery of Faith, based on the traces of desire and being. For instance he approvingly cites those who knew that all is created by law, yet they still thought God was of nature fire! He also quotes a passage about Zeus from the Illiad. Thus it can hardly be said that these pagans, however they anticipated the Gospel, had anything more than a fleeting and ecstatic glance at who God is. (I pointed these out previously in the comments)

Nevertheless, Hooker will say

“It is not agreed upon by one, or two, or few, but by all. Which we may not so understand, as if every particular man in the whole world did know and confess whatsoever the Law of Reason doth contain; but this Law is such that being proposed no man can reject it as unreasonable and unjust. Again, there is nothing in it but any man (having natural perfection of wit and ripeness of judgement) may by labour and travail find out.”

Allow me to offer a couple points before moving to possible ways of making Hooker more appealing to me here.

Given the range of pagan sources he uses, I find it questionable to surmise that the ancients knew what they knew about God (or their gods) and about goods by the sole exercise of reason. Given that Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, and these others were in fact pagan idolators, offering gifts at the temples, writing their plays and poems for public festivals in honor of their gods; however sharp they are in reason, I would assert that Hooker is underestimating the extent to which their assertions about God are conditioned and dependent on their own pagan culture. Clearly when Homer says that “Zeus spoke and his counsel was accomplished,” he is not making a claim abstractible from the cultic knowledge of Zeus from which he is working. Likewise for Sophocles in the Antigone.

None of this is to say that pagans do not anticipate in philosophy and art the later revelation of God in Christ — far be it from me! But it’s more oblique and coincidental than Hooker is willing to grant.

So, while I can agree with Hooker in pretty much all of his theology of Law, I think even he misjudges the extent to which this is founded on the Church’s teaching rather than sheer natural reason. I would want to move more toward “reason by faith alone.”

This being said, there are a few concessions Hooker makes that, I think, can be used to move him in a more cultural-linguistic direction.

While saying it is the lesser of the ways that people may come to know goodness, Hooker says that the wide assent of human societies is one way. Which is as much as to say that we learn the good by a traditioned culture. Certainly, as he later says of the failures of idolatry, such cultural assent can often mask something completely against reason and must be disrupted, but it is at least one way.

Similarly, he says that in order to use reason correctly one must be educated in its use. Moreover, it is the special task of those who have “natural perfection of wit and ripeness of judgement.” So even in order to use reason rightly, one must first be formed in its proper methods and limits by an authority.

There remain more of the Laws to explore and perhaps he will provide his own explorations. I remain open. Yet I imagine that Hooker will yet need in the end, at least for me, a cultural-linguistic corrective.

Book I. CH. 8


Chapter VIII turned out to be rather long. Rather than risk a botched summary, I opted to focus on a few key areas.

Knowledge of the Good

One of these areas is Hooker’s exploration of the mode whereby humanity comes to perceive the good in light of fallen reason. (To say that Hooker is concerned with “epistemology” here would be to miss the mark I think. The strong platonic element in this chapter seems to preclude the idea of any pure or objective operations of reason.) He also offers a strong defense of natural theology or the natural knowledge of God.

Hooker begins by again following Aquinas. Both argue that the cause of sin is faulty reason rather than will. “If Reason err, we fall into evil, and are so far forth deprived of the general perfection we seek” (5.1). Closely linked to this is Hooker’s conception of the transcendental properties of the good and the beautiful. Good actions naturally “delight.” Hooker refers to the Grecian term, καλοκαγαθία, a term that links, καλός (beautiful) and ἀγαθός (good) (VIII.1).

Hooker goes on to write that despite all the sure “signs” and “tokens” of the good, the surest way to know the good is by consensus. “If the general persuasion of all men do so account it,” one can be confident that good is present. And so Hooker refers to the vox populi, vox Dei, “the general and perpetual voice of mean is the sentence of God himself” (VIII.8).

A couple of things stand out here. First, Hooker repeatedly distinguishes between goods and the Good. His use of “signs” and “tokens” almost implies a gradation or hierarchy of goods leading to an ultimate Good. Second, Hooker certainly isn’t advocating something like democracy. My guess is that Hooker stresses the concept of conciliarity in regards to both the ecumenical councils and the ecclesial politics of the Church.

The Good and Natural Theology

Still, how can we know the good given the effects of sin? Hooker answers by turning to the role of something like natural theology or the “natural knowledge of God.” Hooker’s Aristotelian-Thomisitc synthesis shines forth here, as he stresses that all knowledge comes from nature, “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” (VIII.3). This is a striking claim and wonderful claim, and one that is extremely unfashionable in certain theological circles.

It would seem that Hooker is guilty of privileging reason over the priority of revelation over and against nature; or confusing the sharp boundaries between revelation and nature. Herbert McCabe, however, is helpful in explaining Hooker’s Thomism. As McCabe writes, “In St. Thomas’s view, we do not know anything about the world through knowing something about God. God is never, for him, an explanation of the world. The movement is always in the other direction: what we know about the world sometimes helps us to know something about God,” and more pointedly, “our way of talking about God derives from our way of talking about creatures” (God and Evil, 72, 73).

The Natural Law of Reason

In turning to questions of natural law, Hooker quotes Theophrastus: “they that seek a reason of all things do utterly overthrow reason.” Reason is therefore inexorable and is tied into the fabric and logic of the cosmos. After noting a number of classical and biblical examples of this truth, Hooker writes, “notwithstanding whatever such principles there is, it [the law] was at first found out by discourse, and drawn from out of the very bowels of heaven and earth” (VIII.5). Again, this is another idea substantiated and anticipated in classical thought. Hooker points to a sense of preparatio evangelica, noting that the Greeks called Jus or Right “the very daughter of heaven and earth.”

At one time I would have utterly disagreed with Hooker’s take on reason. Given that reason is always contextually and culturally situated, how could we ever posit something like universal reason? But Hooker doesn’t seem to be saying this. Rather, he seems to be saying that reason takes work, that it was “found out by discourse, and drawn from our of the very bowels of heaven and earth.” There is no sense of “clear and distinct ideas” or self-evident truths of reason. Rather, there is the hard work of discovering the good or what is reasonable, and seeking out the mediations of divine illumination through the councils (“consensus”) of the church, the sacraments and the book of nature.

Cleanthes’ Hymn to Zeus: A Translation in Meter (Sort of)

– Tony

In Greek this last semester we read through an old proto-stoic hymn to Zeus by Cleanthes. It’s a lovely little poem and is quite unique. It goes against stoicism by the very fact that it’s a hymn, thus personalizing the divine in a way foreign to stoicism. It’s interesting to contrast this with proper Christian theology, which lines up in certain parts yet most definitely not in all parts. Either way I thought it fitting for this blog.

I tried my darndest to put this thing in meter but I found it incredibly difficult. I need to spend some more time at the feet of Allen Mandelbaum clearly. Ostensibly in Blank Verse, that is, unrhymed iambic pentameter, I allowed myself significant “freedom” to diverge. Thus you’ll find plenty of anapest, amphibrach, and trochaic feet, as well as feminine endings. My scantron is a mess so it’s a good thing I’m not trying to publish this sucker.


Most Glorious Zeus, the Many-Named, eternally
All-Μighty, First Mover of nature; all things do you
direct with law; We hail you, since it is right
for all us mortals to speak of you. From you
we have our birth, and we alone by lot
have obtained the image of your voice;
alone of all the mortals who crawl and live
upon the ground. In this will I hymn you
and sing of your eternal strength. In truth
for you the cosmos turn around the earth,
obeying you to where you lead – Willingly
is it ruled by you. A fiery, two-edged, sword
you hold in your unconquerable hands –
All works of nature move beneath the blow
of your eternal servant; with it you direct
the universal reason; which moves about
through all things, mixing with the Great and small Light.
Thus you have become so great, the most high king
in everything. No work occurs upon
the ground apart from you, O god, neither
on the axis of the divine heavens, nor the deep,
save when evil men act in their foolishness.
But you know how to make the vain things perfect,
and how to order the disorderly –
Even the unloved is loved to you.
For in this way have you so joined all things
in one, the good in the bad, so that one thing
has come to be, which is for all: Thy Word
eternal; which those who flee avoid, Ill-fated
evil mortals; for these do always yearn
to sieze the good, yet they do not behold
god’s universal law, neither do they
hear it. If by this they would be pursuaded
with understanding they might have a good life,
But they in fact do hasten on without
the good – Each to another thing. While some
above their glory hasten on for strife;
Others, no one with order, are turned against
what’s right; still others turned toward liscensciousness,
even the sweet works of the body; the good
they yet desire but bear along now here
now there. They hasten to become the very
opposite of these good things. But Zeus, All-Giver,
Cloaked in black clouds, Ruler of the Thunderbolt,
Deliver thou all human kind from their
so baleful ignorance, which you, O Father,
disperse from the soul, and give to light upon
the mark by which you trust to steer all things
with justice; that we, being honored, may in turn
honor you, hymning your unbroken works,
as is right for mortals so to do,
For there is no gift greater than for men
and gods in common eternally to hymn your law in justice.

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Book I. Ch. 7

– Tony

Taken in itself the statement that “By reason man attaineth unto the knowledge of things that are and are not sensible” could be said to mean that reason is simply the exercise of logic, or of tracing the “chain of being;” but that is to miss the conclusion to the previous chapter which Robb so expertly exposited: The right use of reason requires “education and instruction;” furthermore, Hooker claims that reason is dependent on teloi and desire. No thing is able even to “move” without there being an end toward which it moves, and the provocation of the desire of that end. (I’m not entirely sure if it is important to note that Hooker says nothing can move without an end/desire rather than that nothing does move. It’s probably nothing) “End” need not imply a static and fixed point of orientation but can mean simply that movement or action is itself the desired end.

Whatever else it means that we are made in the image of God, it means that we “resemble him also in the manner of working.” We work “wittingly” and “freely,” such that we can choose even not to do things which may or ought to be done. From here Hooker moves into a tightly packed set of sentences:

“To choose is to will one thing before another. And to will is to bend our souls to the having or doing of that which they see to be good. Goodness is seen with the eye of the understanding. And the light of that eye, is reason. So that two principal fountains there are of human action, Knowledge and Will; which Will, in things tending towards any end, is termed Choice.”

Let us attempt to summarize Hooker to this point.

There are teloi, but these do not move anything to action. The desire of the end is what provokes to action/motion. We know that an end is desirable and/or good by apprehension, by Knowledge. But, again, it is not knowledge but desire that provokes motion. Yet sometimes we might not desire unless we first knew to desire, or if knowledge awoke desire. We come to know by reason. Having known, by will we choose, but it is only choice if we might have been able not to do.


Yet to will is different in fundamental ways than to have appetite, an “inferior natural desire.” “The object of Appetite is whatsoever sensible good may be wished for; the object of Will is that good which Reason doth lead us to seek.” (emphasis added). It lies not entirely within our power to choose to have joy, grief, or fear. It is the non-reasonableness and lack of will to choose which marks appetite. Appetite can in some ways be controlled, though, by Will. “Appetite is the Will’s solicitor, and the Will is Appetite’s controller.”

Hooker calls the objects of appetite a “sensible” and a “natural” good. I am curious, then, if we might choose by will not to do something for which we have an appetite, will the objects of appetite therefore also sometimes be not-good? I’m guessing that here Hooker is being quite subtle: for he says that we cannot desire a non-good because non-goods do not exist according to the normative notion of evil as privation. Yet surely if by reason we comprehend that the end or doing of an appetite is better to be left undone, then isn’t it the case that appetite sometimes does “desire” a not-good end? Since if it were better and reasonable, should it not necessarily be better to do it than not to do it? As he goes on to say, we can only will to do such things as reason teaches are possible. All true goods are possible goods. Yet appetite is not so constrained. Therefore appetite does not always wish for that which is good insofar as it does sometimes wish for that which is not possible. Perhaps then, with section 6, it is the case that there is a “goodness which is or seemeth to be joined with it. Goodness doth not move by being, but by being apparent;” (emphasis added)

I’m left, therefore, with more questions about what appetite is.

The reason that we sometimes will the less-good or even evil is not because such knowledge lies entirely outside the possible knowing of reason, but because our reason and will are weakened by the Fall, by “divine malediction.”

I’m not gonna lie, this little chapter was tough for me to wrap my head around. Please to help if you see weaknesses in my reading.

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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.