We deny to claim "any Superiority to ourself
to defyne, decyde, or determyn any Article or Poynt
of the Christian Fayth and Relligion,
or to chang any Ancient Ceremony of the Church
from the Forme before received and observed
by the Catholick and Apostolick Church."

Norman Simplicity

Norman Simplicity
Click image for original | © Vitrearum (Allan Barton)

Saturday, July 4, 2015


One notion of great importance to me is acknowledging the need for balance with the competing claims of edification and sanctification (which some people are inclined to gloss as the concepts of faith and works, which they then set in firm opposition).

The Puritans wanted more and more edification and so they opposed the fixity of the liturgy and the lectionary and promoted their notion of 'lively' preaching. They also had no use for a book of homilies: everything must be carefully crafted to precisely the present moment. Thus, anything prepared in advance had to fail to meet this requirement.

Anyone who teaches knows the importance of a certain fluidity and interplay between fixity and improvisation. To lecture -- and to brook no interruptions from those assembled -- is to embody a specific concept of person and pedagogy; likewise, to attempt total improvisation. This means being committed exclusively to jazz, even if it is very bad jazz indeed.

Church, of course, is different but the same tension needs to be held in balance. But for many, it is either all edification or all sanctification. But life for extremists is easy. For those, pursuing the better course, most difficult indeed.

An example (from W. G. Witt):

Hooker’s position could be described as Reformed Catholic. With the continental Reformers, he affirmed the primacy and sufficiency of Scripture, as well as justification by faith. He also endorsed Calvin’s distinction between justification and sanctification.

However, Hooker’s understanding of law—which is central to his entire project—depends on Thomas Aquinas, not the Reformers. Hooker always speaks positively on law, and there are no parallels to the Reformers’ (especially Luther’s) negative assessment.

Hooker affirms a high doctrine of eucharistic presence, although he declines to speculate as to the “how.” Of course, Calvin himself affirmed a doctrine of presence through the Holy Spirit—which echoes the Orthodox rather than Roman position. (Neither was anything like a Zwinglian.)

Hooker’s doctrine of sanctification has parallels to the Orthodox doctrine of deification, and the Roman Catholic doctrine of infused grace. Indeed, he uses the term infusion in reference to sanctification. He interprets sanctification in terms of (ontological) union with Christ’s ascended humanity, and draws a close connection between sanctification and partaking of the body of Christ through participation in the Lord’s Supper.

As do Jewel and Cranmer, Hooker endorses baptismal regeneration, and draws parallels between Christ’s action and presence in the Eucharist and in baptism. (Of course, Hooker insists—as does Aquinas—that if faith does not follow infant baptism, that the sacrament is ineffective.)

While Hooker does not unchurch those Reformation churches that lack apostolic succession, he argues that episcopacy can be traced to the apostles, and that it is the preferred form of church polity, intended by God and preserved by providence.

In defending Article 17 (on predestination), Hooker affirms (contrary to Calvinism) unlimited atonement, and resistible grace. He rejects negative predestination (reprobation) as well as monergism, and affirms that the elect are those whom God knows to respond to the gospel with faith and persevere, i.e., he is an “Arminian.”

As do Cranmer and Jewel, Hooker argues that the Anglican position is in continuity with the patristic church, and that medieval Roman Catholicism departed from the catholicity of the early church. As do Cranmer and Jewel, he appeals repeatedly to the church fathers to confirm his position. While affirming the sufficiency of Scripture, he interprets Scripture within the hermeneutics of the Rule of Faith—as do Cranmer and Jewel. While Cranmer, Jewel, and Hooker are often critical of Rome, they are so because they insist that Rome is NO LONGER catholic, and the C of E has returned to the catholic faith of the patristic church! To the extent that Rome has preserved practices dropped by the continental Reformers, e.g., liturgical worship and episcopacy, Hooker insists that Rome is to be preferred.

While Hooker does not regard the deuterocanonical/apocryphal books as canon, he insists (contrary to Puritans) that they are edifying and to be read as part of the church’s worship.

Witt goes on to remark, sagaciously: "people should actually read the Parker Society volumes ... They are full of surprises, not least of which that certain extreme Protestant readers of the Anglican Reformers are simply mistaken."

Although it is not impossible to obtain volumes of the Parker Society, that task has now been rendered much easier thanks to the reprint series of the publishers Wipf and Stock.

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