Saturday, December 31, 2011

Richard Hooker’s More Excellent Way (Updated)

Change is not reform.
- John Randolph of Roanoke (1829)
Among the Christmas gifts I was blessed to receive from my wife was a copy of Alexander Rosenthal’s Crown Under Law: Richard Hooker, John Locke, and the Ascent of Modern Constitutionalism.  Rosenthal holds that Hooker is a “bridge” figure, bringing forward medieval ideas on law and government which Locke would later adapt to a changing political situation (as a result of his own evolving understanding) in post-Restoration England.   I have not yet reached the appendices of the book, but Rosenthal aims to demonstrate how Leo Strauss, a founding father of American neo-conservatism, misinterpreted Locke as a “radical modern” thinker.  I may return to that subject in a later post if the implications prove worthy of further discussion.  Heaven knows I dread neo-conservatism.

But regarding Hooker, Rosenthal shows that he was no “modern.”  Indeed, he was thoroughly conservative, but with an important twist that would influence Locke’s conversion to a restrained classical liberalism and advocacy for limited, constitutional government.  But Rosenthal begins with Hooker’s theology.  For me, there is nothing better than a work that deals in the two subjects – religion and politics – that ought not be brought up in social settings.

Rosenthal errs, in my view, by upholding against the scholarship Torrance Kirby (as well as Nigel Atkinson) the notion that the Elizabethan Settlement forged a “via media” between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, and thus brought a new thing called “Anglicanism” onto the ecclesiastical landscape.  To the contrary, I agree with Kirby and Atkinson: via media is a fiction, and “Anglican” is simply a word that identifies churches throughout the world that have doctrinal and liturgical roots in the Church of England.  When Hooker wrote his magnum opus Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie he was certainly defending the Elizabethen Settlement.  But what he defended was the reformed English Church from the harassment of radical Reformers who challenged not only the church’s structure and liturgy, but the civil government of England as well.  More on this to follow.

That Hooker was thoroughly reformed in his theology should be manifestly clear from his Learned Discourse on Justification.  During his studies at Oxford, Hooker’s principal tutor was John Rainolds, a scholar of Calvinist credentials.  But the library at Corpus Christi College also contained an expansive collection of Scholastic writings.  From these Hooker came to understand natural law and the role of human will in salvation and reason.  Hooker’s own views on soteriology and human freedom were closer to those of Luis de Molina and the Salamancan school than to John Calvin.  But Hooker upheld the classical reformed formula of sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus.  And this was the position of the English Church of the settlement that Hooker defended.

Regarding law, Hooker’s system follows the descending order of:

1      1.  Divine law (Scripture)
2      2.  Natural law (reason)
3      3. Positive law (tradition)

As Kirby and Atkinson both affirm, Hooker did not construct a “three-legged stool” with reason and tradition on the same plane as divine revelation.   Man is indeed fallen and can come to the knowledge of things pertaining to salvation only through the illumination of God’s grace.  But, with Aquinas and against the hardcore Calvinists, Hooker held that man’s reason is not so impaired by the fall that he cannot arrive at a measure of truth through the discovery of natural law.  The radical Reformers rejected natural law and tradition in exclusive deference to Scriptural data.  This was a key distinction between Hooker and the radicals who would do away with any rite or ceremony, ecclesiastical as well as civil, that had no express warrant from Scripture.

A decisive factor involved what Hooker and others within the Church called “things indifferent.”   Scripture is not a rule book on every dimension of life.  The New Testament gives only the vaguest “instruction” on how a church is set up.  Churches – and civil polities – evolve along lines of location, experience, and custom.  To the extent that none of those elements undermine the truth of the gospel there is latitude for development.

This idea was repugnant to the radical Reformers.  As Rosenthal notes, they wished to set up a theocracy in England.  Hooker foresaw how this would lead to strife and was proven right a generation later by Cromwell’s War.  Instead, he argued in favor of traditional church episcopacy and (reformed) liturgy, and the “mixed monarchy” of the realm – things passed down from generations by centuries of collective experience and wisdom. 

To quote again John Randolph, an American statesman of a similar temperament, “I have a respect for all that is antique (with a few important exceptions).”  For Hooker, those “important exceptions” had been dealt with – i.e., reformed – within the church.  He found nothing in English ecclesiastical and civil polity that warranted radical change.

It is not surprising then that the “judicious Hooker” was the darling of high church Royalists and Tories that came after him.  But on the Anglo-Catholic wing of the church: the “middle way” was a fancy of the Oxford Movement in the 19th century.   Its influence is felt in the 1928 Prayer Book.  But it is interesting to note that the 1662 Prayer Book, compiled shortly after the Restoration of the monarchy, has a decidedly “reformed” tone.  The Puritans might have lost the war, but they did have a necessary influence in shaping the church’s theology and liturgy.

But now we come to the twist: Hooker was also a major source of inspiration to English Whigs.  In the Lawes they found Hooker arguing against a patriarchal, divine right notion of monarchy.  Rather, Hooker upheld regency, that is, monarchy under law and by consent of the ruled.  It is noteworthy that Hooker believed a wicked bishop could be deposed (but, as Rosenthal observes, he offered no prescription in the case of a tyrannical king).   

In Rosenthal’s most fascinating section he details how Hooker derived from Aquinas the idea of a natural state of community.  Men are not born under authority to other men (apart from parents).   But men quickly learn the necessity of social cooperation (a line of thought deliciously close to causal-realist economic theory), and because of sinful impulses such cooperation needs guidance.  For Hooker, government is an artifice of man’s reason, not a natural condition or instinct.  Given time, men discover the best means of government (trial and error may include overthrowing bad ones, though Hooker does not go that far).  But here is the rub: Hooker finds sovereignty passing from God to the community (avoiding that ominously amorphous appellation “the people”).   The community, through the discovery of natural law, enacts positive laws fitting its circumstances, and then delegates its authority to one or a few for its guidance and protection.  To cite one example from “primitive” culture, this is precisely how ancient Cherokee polity arose.  Kings rule by consent.  The crown is under law.  Its rule is bounded by the laws and customs of the community.
The lawful power of making laws to command whole political societies of men belongeth so properly unto the same entire societies, that For any Prince or potentate of whatsoever kind to exercise the same of himself, and not either by express commission of God, or else by authority derived at the first from their consent upon those persons they impose laws, it is no better than tyranny.
Rosenthal traces John Locke’s conversion from de facto Royalist to Whig through the study of Hooker’s Lawes.  There is no question that Locke had a major influence on American thought as the colonials sought to protect their ancient English rights from an increasingly despotic empire.  Constitutionally limited government is latent in Hooker’s understanding of the laws of nature and polity.   For Hooker, the “mixed monarchy” of the English realm (before the empire), in which the regent was accountable to the lords and commons, was an ingenious arrangement forged over time.  To overthrow it for a theocracy that excluded natural law and custom was to rip apart the fabric of society and the church.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Anglican Mission ad infinitum

AMiA would functionally become the “Anglican Mission to the World” all reporting back to Chuck Murphy, and with a strange brew of women’s ordination, emergent church theology, and doctrines totally rejected by the Anglican reformers but resurrected by Canon Kevin Donlon.
Joel Martin is working on a fascinating reconstruction of recent events here, here, and, here.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christ Jesus Came into the World to Save Sinners

I hope everyone has a blessed Christmas. Let all that uneasy family dysfunction roll from coast to coast. Christ ever lives to make intercession for us.

A few changes here at Old Hop as we roll, Lord willing, into a new year: I have added a couple of new blogs to The Places I Go: Joel Martin's A Living Text (Anglican) and Michael Vlach's Theological Studies (evangelical premillenial). Joel and I are on different ends of the eschatological spectrum, but I respect his smart writing and deep sense of Anglican history. Vlach is a Facebook friend and a scholar in the dispensational tradition.

I have ditched my link to Lew I still look at LRC every day, but no longer feel the need to link to it here. Some of the articles there have become increasingly paranoid and scare-mongering. Besides, Joseph Stromberg (my favorite historian) stopped writing for that site many moons ago. You can check out his always insightful articles at The Freeman under my list of links.

As my heavy workload subsides I look forward to reading more of W.H. Griffith Thomas and posting excerpts from his thoughts at Pectus Theologum Facit, which has lain dormant for nearly a year.

And finally, those of you familiar with my blogging know of my deep attachment to Sam Quinn and the everybodyfields. It looks like the band is slowly getting back together, playing more than a few reunion shows in East Tennessee and elsewhere around the southeast. As a Christmas gift, here is a a link to a free download of a new Christmas recording by Sam (with Josh Oliver and Tom Pryor of the everybodyfields), a cover of The Band's "It Must Be Christmas."

Indeed, it must be, for Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy St. Thomas Day

Check out Nail Holes by Black Eyed Sceva (1995).

From memory:

If there's poetry in God's mystery it's in the way He reveals Himself to me

So you will believe when you see? I say you won't see till you believe. Thomas said "until I see in His hands the print of the nails..." Thomas said "until I stick my fingers in the print of the nails I won't believe"

Thomas saw the nail holes...

After the song fades out there is about two minutes before a hidden track appears, something about Simon of Cyrene, with some killer slide guitar. Way Before the Flood was a critically-acclaimed if not commercially successful album.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ron Paul and the Rise of the New Tertium Quids

Old Hop vindicated!

My hunch that Ron Paul bears resemblance to the old republicans (e.g. John Randolph of Roanoke and John Taylor of Caroline) has been affirmed by Jarrett Stepman at Human Events:

Ron Paul and the Rise of the New Tertium Quids - HUMAN EVENTS

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It’s an Advent Life

A friend of mine who is a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy recently told me that we spend most of our lives sorting out the faith we learn as children. We lived many places in my youth as my dad moved around from one radio station to another, but the most memorable place for me was Canton, NC. That smoky paper mill town nestled at the foot of the Balsam range was where I spent my pre-school and kindergarten days. Dad worked downtown at WPTL (no connection to Jim Bakker); everything in the studio – the control board, the acoustic tile, the water fountains, even the linoleum – reeked of cigarette smoke. There was nowhere in Canton to escape the smell of smoke.

But we lived south of town, toward the towering mountains, in a rural subdivision called the Plott Farm, adjacent to an ancient Cherokee Indian mound excavated by UNC Chapel Hill students in their cut-offs and sandals in the summer. We went to church and I attended vacation Bible school at Bethel Baptist. I remember getting pinched by my mother for wiggling in the pew and the preacher being loud and alarming in his delivery. That unnerved me. I was already shaken by the shrill whines of the regularly scheduled Emergency Broadcast tests and the noonday siren at the VFD. So church, or at least that church, wasn’t my thing. I got a different take on religion when watching Davey & Goliath. They were Lutherans (well, as Lutheran as a dog can be); unlike the austere white blankness of Bethel Baptist, D & G’s church had warm stained glass windows and a cathedral ceiling that stretched into infinity. I knew of such real-life churches in nearby Asheville, and my gaze was always arrested by them. Davey’s pastor wore a black jacket and shirt with a white clerical collar and spoke in reassuring tones. His dad was firm but gentle.

My dad had an old Bible that had to be 10 inches thick. I couldn’t read much of it, but loved to thumb through the pictures of baroque oil paintings of biblical scenes. Jonah being spewed ashore was especially fantastic. But my favorite was Heinrich Hofmann's rendering of a 12 year old Jesus blowing the minds of the scribes in the Temple. Another was Diego Velazquez’ The Crucifixion, with Christ suspended in blackness as dark as the set of the Charlie Rose Show. And then there was Jean Cousin’s spectacular depiction of the Last Judgment, with a distant but powerfully triumphant Christ coming in divine radiance, with contorted multitudes strewn about the oily dark ground below.

From that time on I never doubted that Jesus was real, the true Son of God, and that He would come again and I would see Him – although, it would be a few more years before I fully understood the meaning of the cross, and that He had dealt with my sins.

Color and vividness were shaping my understanding of the faith. Words could do it as well, as long as the words weren’t shouted at my hypersensitive ears. Among my fondest memories was an evening at our home on the Plott Farm, sitting on the bare living room floor while my dad and some friends from the radio station discussed Bible prophecy. A smaller Bible was open on his lap. It did my heart good to hear him take the lead in such discourses. There was a lot going on in the late 1960’s – not the least of which was the capture of Jerusalem by Israeli paratroopers led by Moshe Dayan with his black eye patch. Was the barren fig tree beginning to put forth its leaves? Vietnam was going badly (though no one would admit it) and the radical student protests had all the ordinary folk on edge (our neighbors across the road had a hippie granddaughter living with them who had nude pictures up in her bedroom). Perhaps the end of the age was really upon us.

Of course, similar things have been going on since the days of Noah. I’ve been teaching my younger chaps that we live in a post-1971 inflationary economy that is slowly but surely unraveling. And a post-911 world in which our government is shredding the Bill of Rights in the name of national security.

“Will Jesus come soon?”

“His coming is always imminent, and it’s our hope. In the meantime He wants us to tell the good news of repentance and salvation in His name and do the right thing in every situation.”

We know not the day or the hour. But we are to keep our lamps trimmed and burning (and nobody does a better version of that song than Luther Dickinson).

Davey & Goliath didn’t seem to worry with biblical prophecy. Eschatology is not a fixation of Lutheran theology. As with Anglicanism, it is mostly amillenial (or “panmillenial,” which is shorthand for “whatever happens will happen; it’ll all pan out in the end”). Amillenialism does not read too much into what is going on in this world. The end will happen when it happens, then the redeemed will go to heaven – whatever that looks like. I never embraced amillenialism. It seemed fairly clear to me that Christ was coming back here to start something new. Neither did I embrace postmillennialism, for which Christ’s return could yet be thousands of years away.

My belief about the end of this age was summed up quaintly by none other than Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worcester, church reformer, burned at the stake with Nicholas Ridley under Queen Mary in 1555:

“It may come in my days, old as I am, or in my children’s days, the saints shall be taken up to meet Christ in the air, and so shall come down with him again.”

In that sentence Latimer affirms a very plain reading of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 and, by inference, Revelation 20:1-4.

That’s right, folks: an Anglican premillennialist. Latimer, it turns out, wasn’t the only one. Henry Alford (1810-1871), Dean of Canterbury and renowned Greek New Testament scholar, wrote concerning Revelation 20,

“…I cannot consent to distort words from their plain sense and chronological place in the prophecy, on account of any considerations of difficulty, or any risk of abuses which the doctrine of the millennium may bring with it. Those who lived next to the Apostles, and the whole Church for 300 years, understood them in the plain literal sense: and it is a strange sight in these days to see expositors who are among the first in reverence of antiquity, complacently casting aside the most cogent instance of consensus which primitive antiquity presents.

“As regards the text itself, no legitimate treatment of it will extort what is known as the spiritual interpretation now in fashion. If, in a passage where two resurrections are mentioned, where certain "souls lived" at the first, and the rest of the "dead lived" only at the end of a specified period after that first,--if in such a passage the first resurrection may be understood to mean spiritual rising with Christ, while the second means literal rising from the grave; --then there is an end of all significance in language, and Scripture is wiped out as a definite testimony to any thing. If the first resurrection is spiritual, then so is the second, which I suppose none will be hardly enough to maintain: but if the second is literal, then so is the first, which in common with the whole primitive Church and many of the best modern expositors, I do maintain, and receive as an article of faith and hope.”

Bishop J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) wrote,

“The plain truth of Scripture I believe to be as follows: Christ will come again to this world with power and great glory. He will raise His saints, and gather them to Himself. He will punish with fearful judgments all who are found His enemies, and reward with glorious rewards all His believing people. He will take to Himself His great power, and reign, and establish a universal kingdom. He will gather the scattered tribes of Israel, and place them once more in their own land. As He came the first time in person, so He will come the second time in person. As He went away from earth visibly, so He will return visibly. As He literally rode upon an ass--was literally sold for thirty pieces of silver--had His hands and feet literally pierced--was numbered literally with the transgressors--and had lots literally cast upon His raiment--and all, that Scripture might be fulfilled--so also He will literally come, literally set up a kingdom, and literally reign over the earth, because the very same Scripture has said that it shall be so.”

And of course William Henry Griffith Thomas, principal at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford who was slated to be made the first professor of theology at the new Dallas Theological Seminary before his death, held similar premillenarian views.

We are a rare species, we Anglican premils. I know of only five or six on the earth at the moment – my family and maybe our pastor. But the fact that this interpretation of biblical prophecy has hung on, however tenuously, since the time of the English Reformation (if not before), is icing on my cake. I didn’t get the stained glass and the towering cathedral ceilings that cheered my young heart. A pastor with the black shirt and collar will have to do. But the sorting out of the faith imparted to me as a youth keeps coming together. And this season in the church year, because it has as its focus the coming again of our Lord and Savior, has grown to be a favorite of mine.

Happy Advent.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Support the Troops

The last segment of this video is rather manipulative.  But the education on U.S. foreign policy provided by Chalmers Johnson is indispensable.

Monday, December 12, 2011

At Every Turn, Unilateralism Being Challenged

"In such matters of the internal governance of this Diocese, out of the great depths of our love and concern for our people, we will continue to assert the autonomy that is historically and constitutionally ours and we will do so consistent with our belief that God alone dictates our future."

Friday, December 9, 2011

Call Me Papaw

On a much happier note: my daughter Sarah gave birth to her first child, a son, Lane Tucker Dulin, this past Wednesday, December 7 (easy date to remember).  Lane weighed in at 8 pounds, 10 ounces, and was 21 inches long.  He was delivered by Caesarean section after about 12 hours of labor.  Mom and baby are fine.

This is my first grandchild.  In keeping with the ancient and honorable tradition of the Hicks family, I will be known to this young man as Papaw.

I turned 50 in October.  My own papaw, Rev. Kenneth Hicks, died just shy of his 50th birthday (I was not quite 7 when he passed).  I thank the Lord that He allowed me to see this day.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On a Much Higher Note...

‎"What happens when God grows up in the neighborhood? Or presents himself on the road, as he did with his dejected disciples? This God didn't wait for us to discover him; he spoke and acted first. As a result, the gospel creates not speculative pundits, spiritual gurus, or moralists, but witnesses.
‎"Modern culture approves the universal element in religion (namely, the search for transcendent meaning and moral improvement). It also leases space to faith, as long as it stays "indoors." The important thing in religion is the moral law within, not external creeds or rituals. But for Christians, it is exactly the reverse. The gospel preached and administered in baptism and Communion does not make a point about something else; it is the point. It comes from God, not from us, and it sweeps us, heart and all, into the new creation. Whatever intuitions and spiritual principles we drag up from the basements of our hearts, however practical, will lead only to ruin, and we will alternate between despair and self-righteousness.

"The gospel is wildly improbable—except that it happened. The gospel is not the conclusion of a logical syllogism or an intuition of our universal moral experience. It's not a timeless truth. Rather, it is the announcement that "when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Gal. 4:4-5).
Why We Need Jesus | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Prophecy Fulfilling

Our old friend Joseph Stromberg has a new article at The Freeman, this time exploding some the myths surrounding the Progressive Era.  Of interest is a few sentences toward the end of the piece, citing the Jeffersonian Progressive John T. Flynn, who was no fan of American imperialism:
Flynn’s checklist for realized fascism was as follows: perpetual public debt, autarchy, socialization of investment, bureaucratic supervision of society, public-works militarism, overseas empire, executive dictatorship, and the institutional changes to make them all work together. Seventy-some years later, we are well along.
Flynn was wrong of course about autarchy in the short run. He did not anticipate that one imperial State could become strong enough to force its economic rules on most of the world, while preaching about free trade.
Flynn was right, however, about what would hold American fascism together: executive power effectively above the law.
Given the bald disregard for habeas corpus exposed in this weeks Senate proceedings over the National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1867), we find that we are moving even further along.