Quod semper, quod ubique quod ab omnibus.

What was right was right for all times and places.

I am not convinced that I am going to be able to argue easily that Richard Hooker would have supported my ordination. I am having trouble fathoming just how much accord he gives to tradition.

Nigel Atkinson uses Hooker to reason that we ought to concern ourselves over the consecration of women in the Anglican church because it breaks with what has come before. Atkinson is not so much preoccupied with biblical hermeneutics as he is with the fact that decisions about women in the church were built initially on a dodgy premise which seemed to disrupt clear teaching on the movement of priest to bishop. Women have been prevented from fulfilling the office of bishop up until now by hitting a glass ceiling at priest. They could be priests but not bishops.Could it be then that in now legitimising the consecration of women, the church is redeeming itself of this past error?

What I have discovered is that Richard Hooker, contrary to much scholarly and popular thinking, did not champion reason over Scripture and never proposed a kind of enlightenment reason, whereby our thinking and reasoning governs us. Reason always was about divine revelation anyway. But as regards tradition, which is probably the least important of the three chords for him, he did nevertheless accord it great weight saying that:

'Neither may we . . . lightly esteem what hath been allowed as fit in the judgement of antiquity, and by the long continued practice of the whole church; from which unnecessarily to swerve, experience hath never as yet found it safe'.
(Hooker, Ecclesiastical Lawes, Book V, ch vii, 1)

Now here he certainly is correct. These are unsafe times for the church indeed. There is so much infighting and the elections for Synod are going to be crucial, Reform encouraging their men and women to take a stand so that their desires might be realised and me hopeful that Open Evangelicals will put themselves forward. 

So how far does antiquity give us a pattern for the organisation of the church in future societies, according to Hooker? Can I argue that his thoughts about the 'Gafcon'ites and 'Cana'ites, might have construed him to think that they, like the puritans,  are attempting to form their own form of government and he might have questioned the legitimacy of that. 

Regarding women in the offices of priest and bishop, I have to think about whether in his esteeming antiquity, he would have aligned himself with the past or whether tradition for him does not necessarily govern the future. 

Emm, much more work to be done methinketh!

If I could just find a more sensible online edition of all his writings that would help. There are either hundreds of unsearchable PDFs because they are photographed rather than in a text edition or they are small and scribbly and very hard to read. 

Any advice would be appreciated.


Thomas Renz said...

Do you know the Online Library of Liberty? See http://goo.gl/3XQI

Rachel Marszalek said...

Yes thank you, worked out this afternoon that rather than downloading Pdfs which are then deemed unsearchable, it is best to use the advanced search option live online to find the quotations to which the critics are alluding.

Dear me, the research alone takes forever, never mind the writing of the reply to the question set. I reckon you need 5 yrs for Hooker's Ecclesiastical Lawes, not 5 weeks Ahhhhh!! College gave us one 1 hr lecture! Great!!

Thanks Thomas
God bless

Peter Carrell said...

A lot turns on the word 'unnecessarily'. Would Richard Hooker/his arguments, played out in the world of England in the 21st century view expansion of the priesthood and episcopacy as 'necessary' or 'unnecessary'? Something also turns, I suggest, on Hooker's vision for the CofE being a church for the whole of England. Hooker was a man of Scripture and would see, as we see, that there is significant involvement of women in the leadership of the NT church. Then he was a servant of a mistress ruler of the church, Elizabeth as Governor!

Rachel Marszalek said...

Neat point - thank you Peter. I think I am beginning to rather enjoy this.

Rachel Marszalek said...

Thanks again Peter, wondering now if this can be used to reinforce your point:
"True it is, the ancienter the better ceremonies of
religion are; howbeit not absolutely true and without exception; but true only so far forth as those different ages do agree on the state of those things for which at the first those rules, orders, and ceremonies, were instituted." Preface, IV, 4.

Peter Carrell said...

Perhaps. But Hooker would be more than sharp enough in his mind to recognise that attempting to justify women presbyters and episcopoi today on the basis that they once existed, though hidden from us as we read the New Testament, is forlorn. Justifying women presbyters and episcopoi today works from (what I call) significant involvement of women in leadership of the earliest church, but involves theological reflection on the implications of men and women being one in Christ rather than fruitless searches for the non-existent.


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A little background reading so we might mutually flourish when there are different opinions