Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Some Specific Teachings by Richard Hooker (Pt. V)

Last week, I got involved in discussing some of the logic and theology of Richard Hooker. Some of the feedback I have gotten from readers is that I may have gotten too technical for 90+ percent of my readership. That was not my intent, but I felt it was necessary because Hooker is so often taken completely out of context by modern theologians and Church history wonks. My pedagogical method in teaching is to have high expectations and to err on the side of potentially presenting too much information as opposed to "dumbing things down." (I can't tell you how many lectures and sermons I've heard in my life that ultimately said absolutely nothing of substance.) Modern American culture often prides itself in being a culture of idiots, imbeciles, and nitwits, where the less you know the better. I mean, is there really anything intellectually stimulating in reality TV or most modern American 24-hour news rants casts? I firmly believe most Americans aren't actually that stupid, but are forced to partake in this culture of idiocy because we are largely left with no other alternatives in the mainstream media.

As such, I feel I need to write one final blurb on Richard Hooker's theology on some particular matters of theology and simply let him speak for himself, with some modern language translations and paraphrasing for ease of understanding and brevity. I include some ideas of his that I think have particular bearing in some of the current discussions and controversies in the Anglican church.

OF THE SACRAMENT OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST
The grace of the Eucharist does not begin, but continues life, so before Baptism we are incapable of being nourished by the Eucharist. Our souls need this Sacrament just as a body needs nourishment. Those who have been born through Baptism now need to be nourished with the Eucharist. The grace of the Sacrament is as present as the food that we eat and drink.
   -Book 5, Chapter 67, Paragraph 2 of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.

ON MARRIAGE
No society can survive with propagation, and while sing life is more angelic and divine, it is still desirable  to fill earth and heaven with souls. That depends on the conjunction of man and woman.
   -Book 5, Chapter 73, paragraph 1 of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.
Because people require a lot of nurture to survive, man and woman need an insoluble bond to succeed in this purpose. All people have regarded marriage as holy.
  -Book 5, Chapter 73, paragraph 3 of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.
Although we are criticized for including the Blessed Sacrament as part of the custom of marriage, the only real criticism we are open to is that we do not include it often enough....what in the Christian religion is more strong and effectual for drawing conscience than the Eucharist?
  -Book 5, Chapter 73, paragraph 8 of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.

ON SACRAMENTS
The addition of rites and ceremonies do not make new Sacraments.
  -Book 4, Chapter 1, paragraph 4 of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.
Sacraments properly understood are narrower that the early Fathers' understanding that counted as Sacrament everything that could not be reasonably discerned. Sacraments consist of two parts: the visible ceremony and a secret supernatural grace. We admire the Sacraments not because of the service we render to God, but because of the sacred gift we receive. Since a Sacrament only has meaning to those within the Church, Sacraments are this duly administered only by the Church.
  -Book 5, Chapter 50, paragraph 2 of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.
Sacraments are the powerful instruments of God to eternal life. Natural life is the union of body and soul; supernatural life the union of the soul with God. There can be no union without a means to accomplish the union so we will consider at length how Sacraments describe and effect how God is in Christ and how Christ is in us.

   -Book 5, Chapter 50, paragraph 3 of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity
 The suggestion that the only use for Sacraments is to teach the mind using different senses from those through which we hear the Word, leads to a careless neglect of the heavenly mysteries. Word is a better mechanism for teaching, so Sacraments will always end up as an inferior teacher. 
Sacraments are more diversely interpreted and disputed than any other part of religion....Their virtue is that God has given them as marks to let us know when God imparts saving grace and as a means to impart that grace. People need a sensible token to know what they cannot see. 
Grace is a consequent, end, and benefit of Sacraments that we receive directly from God. They are thus not physicapl but spiritual instruments that carry the Grace generally offered in Christ to particular people. We employ the instruments, but their effect is God's.
Each Sacrament imparts its own particular grace, while sharing the general kind of grace that Sacraments impart. Thus both Baptism and Eucharist impart a grace appropriate to their kind. 
  -Book 5, Chapter 57, paragraph 1-6 of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity

I would also only additionally note at this point that Richard Hooker appears to believe, like most Reformers, that Baptism and the Eucharist are the only two true Sacraments, although this is far from certain from his writings. I would argue he's largely ambivalent on the other five catholic Sacraments. Hooker never comes flat out and says (at least to my knowledge) what the sacraments are one way or the other. At the very least from what I synopsized above, I think it is fairly clear that Hooker does not consider marriage a Sacrament because he describes it as the "custom of marriage," and yet he considers it holy. So, how in his mind something can be holy but not through means of a sacred-ment (sacrament) is unclear to me.  Likewise, elsewhere in his writings, he touches briefly on Confirmation, which he argues is Apostolic in nature and  performs a grace and otherwise seems to fit his definition of what a Sacrament is, yet he does not seem to consider it as such. 

As such, as I posed in a previous entry, I don't think it is really possible to ascertain what Hooker would have thought of the current controversies involving homosexuality, marriage, and such. For all his talk on Laws and Meta-laws, I do not think Hooker had a strong sacramental theology one way or the other as pertains to anything other than Eucharist or Baptism. Remember also that Hooker lived well before the Anglo-Catholic revival of the Oxford Movement of the early 1800s.

I think if I could have dinner with Richard Hooker, I'd ask him to apply his own logic to things like marriage and other of the "sacramental rites," as the 1979 BCP calls them. I think that would be an interesting discussion. At the very least, I still abide by my earlier assertion that the current controversies should involve the nature of first order things but end up jumping to second and third order things, which is why we have conflict.

If you would like to read more on Richard Hooker, his works are found in their entirety here.

Here endeth my pontifications on Richard Hooker.

And the people say, "Thanks be to God."

2 comments:

The Underground Pewster said...

Encore, encore...

The Archer of the Forest said...

I will also publicly state that I disagree with Hooker on a few of the points of his that I cite in this blog entry, particularly with his assertion that sacraments are de facto poorer teachers than straight up Word teaching.

I will admit that Sacraments can be poorer teachers if we ignore them or don't allow ourselves to be open to the unfolding of their mysteries, but sacraments are the way in which Christ is incarnational, then the Jesus as the Word-the Logos-of God is inherently present in them. Thus, they can be even greater teachers as words themselves can only take us so far in understanding the infinite wonders of God.