Announcement of a New Side Project

Tony Sig

“Nothing that can claim to be truly of the Church need shrink from the sober light of “scholasticism.” … Fear of Scholasticism is the mark of a false prophet”  Karl Barth  I. 1 § 1-7 (pg. 274)

One of the first things you hear as you become an Anglican is that “Anglicanism doesn’t have a confession like Lutheranism or Calvinism, neither does it have a Pope, but we do have a prayer book.” (I think this attitude tends to look past the history and place of the Creeds and Articles of Religion but whatev) True as that is in certain respects one is also quickly told that Richard Hooker is a capstone of Anglican theology.

This being, then, the case, it seems obligatory for any of us who would be fashioned a theologian to pass through the fires of “our” Scholastic par excellence. Appropriately famous for sermons such as ‘A Learned Discourse of Justification‘ and ‘Of the Certainty and Perpetuity of Faith in the Elect,’ it is for his Of The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity that he is most highly honored. The fact that historically it is in irregular dogmatics that Anglicans have excelled, not to mention the length and depth of this work, and also because Hooker is often assumed to be merely a lesser son of greater sires, means that he receives praise but the Laws go largely unread, or at least do not continue to wield sustained influence.

But Anglican theology is experiencing a renaissance and thanks to Barth, as well as the continental turn to religion, dogmatics has been loosed from the trap of 18th and 19th century apologetics. It’s hip and cool to bring older authors into conversation with newer ones. It’s a perfect time, then, to look to the learned and judicious divine.

And so a friend of mine, Robb Beck, and I, are setting about the task of blogging through some Richard Hooker. We’ve set up a new site here.  We will be starting to post sometime soon after Easter. Our plan is to blog initially only books I and V but are open to doing more should we actually succeed in the initial task. The pace is purposely slow: The primary reason being that we already are quite busy and don’t want to overcommit, but the second is that we hope this more relaxed pace will give readers an chance to read and discuss alongside. I plan to use this as an opportunity to challenge myself to think harder and more clearly and I hope that at least a few of you will join me there. Theophiliacs will continue to be where I blog more diverse subjects.

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4 Comments

  1. There has been a considerable revival of interest in Protestant Scholasticism in recent years, particularly due to the work of Richard Muller (and if you are interested, I can give you a brief bibliography). Anglican scholasticism is little studied although it is widely accepted – perhaps as an unreflective truism? (and I point the finger at myself here) – that Anglicans were more inclined towards theological rationalism a la Aquinas than theological voluntarism a la Scotus and Calvin. This might be worth asking about. It seems to me, at this point at least, that Hooker’s glowing but passing reference to Aquinas as the greatest of the school men has been taken to imply Thomism on his part. I think that yes, he was a Thomist, but his basic constitutionalism is as much if not more directly a product of English Common Law. And, as Hooker moved among common lawyers during his time as master of the Temple, this should not be surprising.

    Other early Anglican scholastics were Robert Sanderson, Jeremy Taylor, and William Laud. The latter two are best known for their devotional writings today, but Taylor’s writings on conscience and Laud’s Conference with Fisher the Jesuit are both works of scholastic theology. Sanderson’s work was popular into the eighteenth century – far moreso than Laud’s (although it was Laud, not Sanderson, that saw a revival via the Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology). I imagine that if one were to dig more, one would find a far greater prevalence of scholasticism among Anglicans, particularly in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It is important to remember, too, that scholastics could not only write devotional works, but their sermons were often imbued with classical rhetoric. I suspect that in this way, Lancelot Andrewes could be found a scholastic when he makes certain distinctions in his sermons – although I don’t know anyone who has sought to read him in this manner. Historical work on Anglican scholasticism is something very much needed, and I look forward to perusing your new blog!

    Reply

    1. I would, in fact, be interested in a brief bibliography. I know about his four-volume Post-Reformation Dogmatics, I just haven’t even begun to look into all that. I’ll probably get to Hooker and Aquinas before moving on.

      Reply

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