23.4.10

Richard Hooker on Women Bishops

I have finally finished my essay on Richard Hooker's theological method and its significance for Anglicanism. I did not get on too well with Nigel Atkinson's appraisal and I think I challenge his appropriating Hooker for his anti-ordained women stance. I am not too sure how successful I have been and I am aware that I come to the Ecclesiastical Lawes with my own agenda.

Actually, in some ways, it is quite freeing to think that we can not help but consider anything without our own baggage getting in the way. I  have become friends with a TEDS Graduate (Trinity Evangelical Divinity seminary) through Facebook, a Dr in Biblical Studies and an ex-Pentecostal preacher (I know, great combination for spiritual/ theological discussions) and he is writing to me about Bultmann whom I hope to start reading soon. Bultmann discusses 'Is Presuppositionalist Exegesis Possible?' in Existence and Faith: shorter writings of Rudolph Bultmann, and concludes that it is not because we all have presupposition (Vorverstandnis).

Anyway I include below my interpretation of some of Richard Hooker's thoughts about how the church can change:

(In my essay for a module on Anglicanism)

What has been handed down by tradition is 'true only so far forth as those different ages do agree in the state of those things, for which at the first those rites, orders, and ceremonies, were instituted.'1 Hooker explains how '...some answere that to learne... we have no other way then onely tradition... But is this enough?2

In response to his own question, he limits the ability of tradition and steers our return to Reason and then Scripture by arguing:

Reason or '...learning and judgment... [must be employed]... to discern how far the times of the Church and the orders thereof may alter without offence,'3 and changes to tradition must be tested against scripture so that they 'be proved to be of God'.4

If this all seems like rather circular reasoning, it is because of the exquisite interdependency of the three strands. Harrison describes how Hooker enables Anglicans to declare with confidence that 'Life has changed and so must the structure of the church, in order to be truly faithful.'5 Tradition is the sum of the customs adopted by our forebears, which they deemed appropriate by application of their reasoning faculties, inspired as they were by the Holy Spirit as they read the Scriptures. The theological method must always involve the interplay of Scripture, Tradition and Reason for a church that will continually change and respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Article 34 states 'It is not necessary that traditions and ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like, for at all times they have been diverse, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men's manners, [yet] so that nothing be ordained against God's word.'6

As Hooker describes it, 'Canons, Constitutions, and Laws which have been at one time meet, do not prove that the Church should always be bound to follow them.'7

There are interesting implications in Hooker's reasoning for the debate currently impacting Anglicanism, the consecration of women. Although Atkinson8 uses Hooker to support his conservative stance, Hooker reasoned that the church must change if change is justified by considering 'the ende for which it was made, and by the aptnes of thinges therein prescribed unto the same end.'9

Hooker's appeal to the Puritan conscience, disturbed by episcopacy, might speak today to those whom, for matters of conscience, can not accept the episcopacy of women. Hooker describes how if 'Things were disputed before they came to be determined; men afterwards were not to dispute any longer, but to obey.' Hooker calls for an obedience to the majority decision as 'ground sufficient for any reasonable man’s conscience... whatsoever his own opinion were as touching the matter before in question.' 10

So Hooker's call is for obedience, except if there is 'any just or necessary cause'11 against it. However, necessary causes must not be those that can not be substantiated by everyone else's consciences being equally disturbed. He explains, 'Neither wish we that men should do anything which in their hearts they are persuaded they ought not to do, but,' and the “but” betrays, with what follows, that he will not look kindly on individual dissenters, when 'my whole endeavour is to resolve the conscience ... [to] follow the light of sound and sincere judgement, without either cloud of prejudice, or mist of passionate affection.'12 Passionate affections can lead people astray, is the implication, and dissenters are to be guided by the majority opinion on a matter of possible controversy.

Hooker's aim, in the middle of controversy, is for unity.

1 Preface, Ch. iv. 4
2 Book III, Ch. viii. 14
3 Preface, Ch. iv. 4
4 Book I, Ch. xiv. 5
5 Harrison, 'Prudence and Custom'
6 C of E, The Thirty Nine Articles
7 BOOK VII, Ch. xv. 14
8 See Atkinson, 'Hooker’s Theological Method and Modern Anglicanism'
9 BOOK, III, Ch. x, 1
10 Preface, Preface, Ch. V. 3,
11 Preface, Ch. vi. 5, 6
12 Preface, Ch. vii. 1, 2
 

1 comment:

Sarah Wilson said...

Hi, there! Found your blog post today on Richard Hooker and thought you might be interested in a brand new pre-publication offer from Logos Bible Software ! This brand collection contains all of Hooker’s works. Thanks and let me know if I can help in any way!

Sarah Wilson

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

.

.
A little background reading on the two theological integrities in the Church of England regarding women in ministry.