Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Doctrine of Creation and the Doctrine of the Church

1662 Memorial to Richard Hooker (1554-1600)
in Bishopsbourne church, line etching by William Faithorne

Alice C. Linsley

Richard Hooker is a saint at repose who in that state must surely be amused that his great theological reflections are gaining some popular attention among modernists and non-Anglicans. He has much wisdom to offer at this time of great confusion about the Church.

I acquired Hooker's complete works from a member of the Antiochian Orthodox Church where I worshiped through a remarkable circumstance, and since that time I have been reading through the volumes at my leisure. (This was one of several peculiar incidents which led me to believe that my Lord Jesus might be directing me back to the Anglican Way.) 

Of course, Hooker's most famous work is the Lawes of Ecclesiasticall Politie, first issued as a folio in sixes by John Windet in 1593. Another volume appeared in December 1597, and after that year "it was customary to sell both volumes together." From 1604, Hooker's work was printed as Books I-IV. 

The story of how the Lawes came to print is remarkable in itself, but by the grace of Almighty God, the work was birthed into the world. Against the puritan dissent of the state's ordinances for the running of the Church, Hooker insisted that they were not qualified for that task by virtue of their poor handling of Scripture, which would certainly produce a polity that was wrong by the measurements approved by Scripture and the Fathers' consensus on Scripture. (The 1571 Canon requiring subscription to the Articles of Religion instructs the clergy “not to teach anything except what is agreeable to the doctrine of the Old and New Testament, and what the Catholic Fathers and the ancient Bishops have collected from the same doctrine.”)

Hooker's Lawes isn't merely about how to run the Church. It is about the nature of the Church as the Body of Christ. The body has structure and works in an orderly way as directed by the Head. In other words, Hooker's understanding of church polity is closely aligned to his understanding of what the Bible teaches about creation. In both the doctrine of creation and the doctrine of the Church, Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, is central and lifted up. Both show forth the glory and beauty of God's holiness. No group may claim to know better how to re-form the Body of Christ. Indeed, no group has this authority; neither Rome, nor the Puritans, nor even the Church of England.

While this connection between the doctrines of creation and the church is well developed in the Lawes, it is in the "Dublin Fragments" that I find the most satisfying delivery of this relationship. This is found in IV: The creation and governance of the world not yet considered as being evill. And touching the first beginning of evill in the World.  I reproduce that section here for readers to contemplate. I have retained the Elizabethan English, which should not be difficult for readers to follow.

It should be noted how far the Church of England departed from Hooker and Scripture on the doctrine of creation in the 1939 report on Doctrine in the Church of England. Is it any surprise then that the Church of England has also departed from the Scriptural understanding of the Church?

This is how the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, subtly dismissed Hooker's contribution:

"I doubt whether he could have entertained any idea that the moral law set out in Scripture was anything other than lastingly valid, and, despite arguments to the contrary, I can't see him easily accepting alternatives to patriarchy as the basis of human (and therefore ecclesial) government. Yet there remains something about his approach to the Church's nature and basis that may offer a few pointers for a theology of Christian belonging less obsessively anxious about the humanly policed limits of the Church than some of our current styles of thought."
(From here.)

Richard Hooker
The Dublin Fragments

IV: The creation and governance of the world not yet considered as being evill. And touching the first beginning of evill in the World.

Wherefore to come to the operations or effects of Gods will, because his eternall and incomprehensible being, is soe allsufficinet, as nothing could moove him to worke, butt only that naturall desire which his goodnes hath to shew and impart itselfe, soe the wisest of the verie heathens themselves, which have acknowledged that he made the World, now that noe other reason thereof can be yeelded butt this, his mere goodness, which is likewise the cause, why it cannot be, butt that the world which he hath created, he should love soe farre forth, as it is the workmanship of his hands.

Seing then that good is before evill in dignitie and in Nature (for we cannot without good define and conceive what evill is:) and of good things that come to passe by the will of God, the first is the end which his will proposeth, and that end is to exercise his goodness of his owne nature, by producing effects wherein riches of the glorie thereof may appeare: for as much as all other effects are grounded upon the first existence or being of that which receiveth them; the first determination of God for the attainement of his end, must needes be creation, and the next unto it governance. For that he which created should governe, and that he which should guide, seemeth reasonable in all mens eyes. Whereupon wee come to observe in God two habilities or powers, his power to create, and his power to rule; in regard of the one, wee terme him our God, in respect of the other, our Lord, and King. As God, Creator or Father of all, he hath noe will but only to be gracious, beneficiall, and bountifull. As Lord, both mercie and wrath come from him; mercie of his owne accord, and wrath by occasion offered. Butt his providence, the roote of both is over all. All things have their being from him, by him their continuance, and in him their end. In power he ordaineth them, butt yett with gentlenes; mightily, butt yet in amiable manner. Soe that under him they feele noe unpleasant constrait, framed they are to his inclination without violence to their owne, such is the course of his heavenly Regiment, such his wisdome to ovre rule forceably without force. This providence of God is both generall over the kindes of things, and such alsoe as extendeth unto all particulars in each kind.

Of things created, the noblest and most resembling God, are creatures indued with the admirable guifte of understanding. St. Augstin comparing the first matter whereof all things are made with these last and worthiest workes of Gods hands, saith of the one, it is little above the degree of nothing; the other, little inferior to God, the Creator of all. If God then, clothe the lilies of the field, and provideth foode for the birds of the aire, should we thinck that his Providence hath nott allwayes as especiall care, as well of each particular man, as of mankind, and that for our greatest good everie way, unles some great thing occasion the contrarie. The work of Creation itselfe therefore, and the government of all things simply according to the state wherein they are made, must be distinguished from that which sinne arising afterwards, addeth unto the government of God, least wee runne into their error, whoe blende even with Gods verie purpos of creation a reference to eternall damnation and death.

Concerning his intended worke of creation and government simplie in itselfe considered by the effects which are seene, it may in part be understood what his secret purposes were, and that amongst sundry other more hidden determinations which were in God, these for examples sake are manifest: amiablie to order all things, and sutablie with the kindes, degrees, and qualities of their nature; not to be wanting unto reasonabe creatures in things necessarie for the attainement of their end; to give unto Angells and men happiness in the nature of a reward, to leave them indued with sufficient abilitie in the hands of their owne will; to enjoyne them their dutie, to shew them the danger which they might avoide, and must sustaine if they did not avoide. It being therefore the will of God to make reasonable creatures the liveliest representations of his owne perfection and glorie, he assigned by actions of mist dignitie, proceeding from the highest degree of excellencie, that any created nature was to receive from him. To Angells and men there was allotted a three fold perfection, a perfection of the end whereunto they might come, eternall life, a perfection of dutie whereby they should come, which dutie was obedience, and a perfection of State or qualitie for performance of that dutie. The first was ordained, the second required, and the third given. For presupposing that the will of God did determine to bestowe eternall life in the nature of a reward, and that rewards grow from voluntarie duties, and voluntarie duties from free agents: it followeth that whose end was eternall life, their state must needes implie freedome and libertie of will. A part therefore of the excellence of their nature, was the freedome of their will, and in this respect necessarie, that he whose will was to governe them in Justice, should strictly tie them to the constant observation of requisite offices, by the possibility as well of endlesse perdition and woe if they fell away, as of like felicitie if they continued for a tyme, that which they ought and might have done. Out of the libertie wherewith God by creation indued reasonable creatures, Angells and men, there insued sinne through their owne voluntarie choice of evill, neyther by the appointment of God, not yet without his permission. Not by appointment, for it abhorreth from the nature of God, to be outwardly a sharpe and severe prohibitor, and under hand an author of sinne. Touching permission, if God doe naturallie hate sinne, and by his knowledge foresee all things, wherefore did not his power prevent sinne, that soe his naturall desire might be satisfyed? Because in wisdome (whereupon his determinate will dependeth:) he saw it reasonable and good, to create both Angells and men perfectly free, which freedome being a part of their verie nature, they could not without it be that which they were; butt God must have left them uncreated if not indued with libertie of minde. Angells and men had before their fall the grace whereby they might have continued if they would without sinne, yet soe great grace God did not thinck good to bestowe on them, whereby they might be exempted from possibilitie of sinning, because this latter belongeth to their perfection whoe see God in fullnes of glorie, and not to them, whoe as yet serve him under hope. He saw it reasonable alsoe to graunt them power touching all events on their libertie, to shew them how they might use it to their owne everlasting good. Butt if himselfe having thus with great good reason determined, his power should after have interposed itselfe for the hinderance of their choice eyther in good or evill, asto hinder them the one way, could not have stood with the puritie of righteousness, soe the other way to lett them, had beene against the constancie of wisdome, which is in him whose greatnes nothing doeth more beseeme, then to be one and the same for ever. and not to stop the events of mutabilitie in himselfe.  Consider (saith Tertullian:) what divine fidelitie requireth, and thou wilt never mervaile, although for preservation of that which was according to the will of God, his power hindred not that which was greatly against his will. Wee see therefore how sinne entred into the World. The first that sinned against God was Satan. And then through Satans fraudulent instigation man alsoe. The sinne of Devills grew originallie from themselves, without suggestion or incitement outwardie offred them. They kept not the State of that first beginning which they had from God, and as our Saviour himselfe saith of them, they stood not in the trueth, whereby it may be verie probablie thought, that happiness even of Angells depended chiefly upon their beleif in a trueth which God did reveale unto them, the trueth of that personall conjunction which should be of God with men. For Christ,although a Redeemer only unto men, might notwithstanding bee revealed unto Angells as their Lord, without any reference att all to sinne, which the knowledge of Christ a Redeemer doth neessarilie presuppose: Soe that man their inferior by degree of Nature, they must in Christ, the Son of God advanced unto soe great honor adore. Which mysterie the too great admiration of their owne excellencie being soe likelie to have made incredible, it is unto us the more credible, that infidelitie through pride was their ruine. As alsoe envie maketh them ever sithence the first moment of their owne fall, industrious as much as in them lyeth to worke ours, which they can only doe as solicitors and instigators. Our sinne therefore in that respect, excuseth us not, butt wee are therewith justlie charged as the authors of it ourselves. Touching God, though he stopp it not, he neither coveteth nor approacheth it, he noe way approoveth, he noe way stirreth, or tempteth any Creature unto it. It is as naturall unto God to hate sinne, as to love righteousness. Amongst the Jewes twoe hundred yeares before Christ, there were, as it seemed, men which fathered sinne and iniquitie upon Gods ordinance: under the Apostles there is some shew that the like was broached. The Valentinians, the Mationites, and the Manichees being perswaded, as the trueth is, that one and the same God cannot wish, love, or approove both vertue and vice, both good and evill, ascribed willingly the one to that God most just and righteous, whome wee all worship: but vainely imagined that the other hath growne from some other God of equall power and of contrarie disposition. Of late the Libertines have reduced both unto God againe, they have left noe difference betweene good and evill, butt in name only. They make all things in Gods sight to be alike, God the worker, man, but his instrument, and our perfection to consist only in casting out that scrupulositie, conscience, and feare, which wee have of one thing more than another. Of all which heretical devices, the fountaine is that secret shame wherewith our nature in itselfe doth abhorre the deformitie of sinne, and for that cause studie by all meanes how to finde the first originall or if elswhere. Butt for as much as the glorie of God hath beene defended first by Jesus the Sonne of Sirach, against blasphemers in his tyme; by St. James against the wicked of the Apostles dayes, against the Valentinians and afterwards by Irenaeus, by Tertullian against the Marcionites, against the Manichees by St. Augustin, and against libertines, last of all Calvine. To whose industrie alone, wee owe the refutation of their impietie. Wee may well presume, that of this the whole Christian world agreed, all denying God to be the author of sinne.

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