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Dogmen- und Theologiegeschichte


Littlejohn, W. Bradford, and Scott N. Kindred-Barnes [Eds.]


Richard Hooker and Reformed Orthodoxy.


Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2017. 355 S. = Reformed Historical Theology, 40. Geb. EUR 110,00. ISBN 978-3-525-55207-0.


Paul Silas Peterson

As the world of Protestant theology in the 16th and 17th centuries continues to undergo new critical examination, the older concept of »Calvinism« is slowly being replaced with the broader terms »Re-formed tradition« and, in the more limited sense of doctrine, »Reformed orthodoxy.« This volume advances this program and seeks to include a very important figure in this subcategory of Protestantism that is usually not associated with the term. The editors have brought together some of the leading figures in Hooker scholarship in order to revisit old questions about Hooker’s theological background, his legacy in the debates and controversies of his time, and after his death in 1600. This is innovative because Hooker’s name usually stands for an approach of theology and church order that occupies the place between Catholicism and various reforming Protestant groups who were critical of the Elizabethan religious settlement. (This latter group was pejoratively labeled »Puritan« by the then pro-status-quo groups.) While Hooker is often presented as the »Prophet of Anglicanism,« this volume situates him in the broader world of 16th century Reformed Christianity. Reformed Protestantism was the dominant religious ideology of Hooker’s age and Hooker fit into this quite well. There was, indeed, something like a via media in English Protestantism at this time (as there was elsewhere), but it did not follow an ideological program of progressive sentiment, compromise for the sake of compromise, or a proto-Hegelian conception of truth-in-the-synthesis. In the introduction the editors argue: »If there was a via media Anglicanism during the time, then it was certainly not one that anyone was consciously identifying with or advocating.« (16) They argue that the consensus of the time was »Calvinist, at least in a general sense«, and, furthermore, Hooker’s magnum opus, Of the Lawes of Ecclesiasticall Politie, »could hardly be expected to diverge radically from that consensus.« (16) In the last thirty years, many scholars have made a point to emphasize this Reformed Protestant consensus in 16th century England, yet many still wish to see Hooker as moving beyond it, as a kind of creator of that form of thought and religious life which would become the idealized concept of via media Anglicanism. The current volume pushes back on this idealized view of Hooker and argues that it is better to see him through the lens of transnational 16th century Reformed orthodoxy.
What then was »Reformed orthodoxy«? This is one of the puzzling questions in the history of theology that remains as disputed as the term »Protestant.« Is it, for example, broad enough to in-clude Jacob Arminius, a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church, and even those doctrines rejected in the Canons of Dort? Who was the typical representative of the group, and where do the Puritans fit into the broader landscape of the concept? The authors of this volume seem to believe that Reformed orthodoxy was a relatively broad phenomenon, and that even on the most controversial issue of Calvinist theology, the doctrine of double predestination, there was some degree of interpretive plurality. The volume has charted new territory in critical scholarship. For example, many of the authors in the volume see the influential legacy of Peter Martyr Vermigli at work in Hooker’s context of English Protestantism. This is also found with John Hooker, John Jewel, Lawrence Humphrey and John Rainolds. This Italian reformer, professor at Oxford and Zürich, and his students and followers deeply influenced the intellectual world that Hooker called home. As the volume demon-strates, the scholastic methods of argument, which made use of natural law theories and harmonizing conceptions of reason and revelation, are also found around Hooker, and among other Re-formed Protestants on the continent.
The first main essay (W. David Neelands) provides a new histor-ical contextualization of Hooker with view to his theological and ecclesial context in 16th century England, giving special attention to Hooker’s understanding of the adiaphora (not compromise, but ra-ther double opposition). The second essay (W. Brown Patterson) argues that Hooker and William Perkins, who sympathized with some of the more reform-oriented forms of Protestantism, were actually closer to one another than is often held. The third essay (Stephen McGrade) shows how Hooker contributed to conceptions of public worship and the broader Protestant world outside England. The fourth essay (Paul Dominiak) analyzes Hooker’s use of scholastic method. The fifth essay (Torrance Kirby) provides a careful look at Hooker’s positive conception of reason in the context of theological argument. The sixth essay (Daniel Eppley) provides a new look at Hooker’s defense of the Church of England, such as his defense of episcopal wealth. The seventh essay (Rudolph Almasy) shows how Hooker constructed sermons with a unique commitment to the Scriptures. The eighth essay (Scott Kindred-Barnes) analyses George Gillespie’s challenge to Hooker, arguing that both thinkers were representing various aspects of a common Reformed tradition. The ninth essay (Andrew Fulford) situates Hooker’s view of Scripture and reason within the broader Reformed orthodox tradition, rather than juxtaposing it to the same. The tenth essay (Bradford Littlejohn), which compares Hooker and Franciscus Junius the Elder on views of law, adds further doubts to the idea that Hooker was promoting a via media conception of Protestantism between Geneva and Rome. The eleventh essay (Luca Baschera) analyzes Hooker’s soteriology and his accounts of imputed and inherent righteousness, anchoring them in the broader European Re-formed tradition, rather than contrasting them to the classic Protestant views that focus on imputation. The twelfth essay (John Fesko) shows how the Puritan John Owen and especially his conception of the union with Christ seem to have echoed Hooker’s theology. The thirteenth essay (Michael J. Lynch) locates Hooker’s proto-Arminian view of Christ’s non-exclusive death for all within a broader conceptual family of Reformed thought, rather than pos-tulating Hooker’s view against the later positions propagated in the Canons of Dort. The final essay (Drew Martin) contrasts Hooker’s sacramental theology with Perkins. Here Hooker appears on the margins of the Reformed consensus, rather than at its center.
If the dominant argument in this volume is true, the view of Hooker as the gifted founder of a new English way of being Protestant in a via media sense of progressive compromise seems very unlikely. In the main points, Hooker followed other English representatives of a broader family of post-Reformation Reformed theology. Further-more, as the authors argue, this Reformed theology did not have Calvin as its gold standard. The implications of these arguments are significant: Ultimately, one must then concede that the later Canons of Dort, and Calvin’s own views on double predestination, are not boundary markers of the »Reformed tradition,« but merely posi-tions (and disputed ones at that) within it. The volume evokes many new questions, not least because Hooker’s elegant theological prose enabled and continues to enable various interpretations. The volume merits high praise for its promotion of new critical research and most importantly its generous conception of orthodoxy.