Tag Archives: bulgakov

Bulgakov and Hooker’s First Divine Law

In I.ii-iii, Hooker, somewhat against general theological wisdom, posited two divine laws rather than one. The second is the law that orders all natural laws – what is generally thought of as the only divine law – but the first is the law that God established for himself to work by.

God is infinite and totally free, but in order to create, inasmuch as a creation necessitates a work fitting to or appropriate for finite existence, God must first determine the way he will work with respect to what is not him. So, since a law is a limit, and since God is limitless, his actions are “naturally” infinite but must be (or are meet to be) “finite” with respect to his working in creation.

Hooker says that some consider a law that which has a superior force at work over it, but he differs in saying that it is rather a boundary. Since God has no superior force over him that causes him to create, yet since he must act finitely in order to create, he imposes freely a limit on his acting, which is a properly called a law by Hooker. (I continue to wonder to myself the ways this differs from the contemporary post-barthian strain that wishes at all times to stress the will of God to be what he wills to be. Sometimes it seems to me that God’s will becomes it’s own primordial “thing” that establishes a law even over God’s being. But I would need to read the sources more closely to confirm this)

Since this law is a boundary for himself and is prior to creation, then there is left still the law that will directly govern creation, yet since this must be dependent on what is superior (since creation does not create itself), namely God, then this law too must be an eternal rather than a natural law. The one for himself the other for all else. From the second issue all the various laws specific to each form.

Now to Bulgakov. Bulgakov doesn’t use the same kind of vocabulary as Hooker and the method of the two are quite far apart, but I was reading The Lamb of God recently and came across this passage:

“A distinction thus enters into our idea of Divinity: the distinction between the life of God according to Himself, as He is in His unchangeable essence, and His life for Himself, as He lives out His essence for Himself in the living act. Here He has the power to change for Himself the mode of the living out of his essence. … For God, self-limitation or, in general, distinction in the mode of the living out of the divine fullness is determined only by God Himself; it is the realization of His aseity and freedom.” 221-223

He goes on to argue against there being any necessity in God’s being and work, which is also a theme in this passage in Hooker. Here we see, I think, two ways of parsing a common insight; the one fairly old and the other quite contemporary and even controversial (I mean Bulgakov’s christology more broadly). It is fascinating to me to see the two come up next to each other. An odd couple indeed.

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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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