Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity Summary

Moreover, Hooker`s motivation is not to find a “middle way” between Catholicism and Puritanism. On the contrary, it seeks to show that the glory of God should be the first consideration when it comes to ecclesiastical politics, regardless of what Puritan Catholics do. So the question is not, “What does the pope do, and how can we do exactly the opposite?” or “What is the exact form of the policy prescribed in the Scriptures, and how can we best approach it?” Instead, it is, “How can we use reason and Scripture together to develop a form of politics that best glorifies God, given the multiplicity of laws revealed in Scripture and the fact that decisions concerning church policy must be made by the work of reason that responds to the specificities of this Church?” 1 As powerful as reason is, human (civil/ecclesiastical) laws are necessary because we must assume “that man`s will is inwardly stubborn, rebellious, and diverted from all obedience to the sacred laws of his nature” (1:10:1, 188). {This was taken up by John Locke.} People generally want their own good on others, and so a law must be made “to which all men must obey. Men of ordinary ability and judgment are unable (for how could they?) discern what is best suited to each type and condition of the regiment” (1:10, 193). These two movements allowed Hooker to develop the rest of his negative argument against the Puritans. Book 2 responds to arguments that all human action must seek to glorify God in a manner directly commanded by Scripture. Hooker undermines this argument by asserting that a) reason necessarily mediates between Scripture and nature, and b) only “supernatural” laws have salvation as their goal. This, in turn, allows him to make the very useful assertion that there are quite a large number of human actions that have no bearing on our last state before God, and that the laws governing them a) are both changeable and so varied that different actions of the same type can be of equal goodness, b) may (sometimes) be known by reason, with or outside of Scripture. Book 3 then responds to arguments that there must be only one form of ecclesiastical politics that flows from Scripture. Hooker takes the same principles used in Book 2 and applies them to the Church by referring to the Church as a type of society as defined in Book 1 (after affirming a very strict distinction between visible and invisible churches). Laws that regulate church politics are therefore “positive” in the same sense as laws that regulate civil society. Although there are certain doctrinal foundations, the particular forms of each church and the practice of its rites – similar to positive law in society – are changing and diverse, so that different forms of politics can be of equal quality.

Not only do Scripture not command a single form of politics; There is no single “right” form of political regime. On the contrary, reason must discern, in relation to indifferent things, how it can shape the positive laws of ecclesial politics that best glorify God in certain places and at certain times. In it, for better or worse, it aggressively creates a space for the coexistence of different and morally equal forms of life, governed by changing positive human laws, precisely in order to be able to affirm the adequacy of its own status quo without having to claim it as the only true visible form of the Church. The second analysis of the first book then focuses on the nature of the community. Following this rationality between nature, writing, and creatures, Hooker then argues that this law of reason drives human persons to form societies guided by law. In addition to developing an innovative theory of representative government and the welfare state, this allows Hooker to make the following argument: societies must be governed by publicly agreed laws, and although some of them are laws of nature (in terms of human persons as humans), most are “positive” laws that they consider members of society.