Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hooker’s Tractate in contemporary English: An opportunity to meet on your terms the Judicious Mr. Hooker!

Anglicans of all shapes and sizes seem to agree that Richard Hooker (d.1600) is a leading if not the leading Anglican theologian.

Many have attempted to read his massive Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity but few seem to get very far into it, before giving up because of the density of the prose and the complexity of the sentences. In 1950, John S. Marshall, professor of philosophy at The University of the South, published Hooker’s Polity in modern English…abridged and paraphrased, to try to build a literary bridge into Hooker’s profound thought. Then he did the same again in 1956 for Book Five of the Polity, the Book which is on the theme of Common Prayer. Both books were published by the University Press where he taught.

Before Hooker wrote the Polity he published other things, notable amongst which is that which he entitled, A Learned Discourse of Justification, Works, and how the Foundation of Faith is Overthrown. This is a Tractate of some 20,000 words or so and was written to set forth the Reformed Catholic position, as given legal status in the Elizabethan Settlement, over against both the Puritan (zealous Calvinist Protestant) and the Roman Catholic (via Council of Trent) positions. In other words, it is a classic Anglican exposition of Justification by Faith, of Works as the fruit of Faith, and of the place of this doctrine in the basis and foundation of the Church of God. And it has implications for the moral life, the devotional life and for the structure and content of Liturgy, not to mention dialogue with Rome and Calvinist Protestants.

Like both his earlier and later writings this Tractate does not make for easy reading today, because of the long and involved sentences and of the complexity of the thought contained in them.

So, since the relation of the Anglican Way to both popular Protestantism and to Roman Catholicism is still very much at the center of religious consciousness and expression in American Anglicanism, it seemed good to the Board of the Prayer Book Society to follow the example of Professor Marshall (whose relatives have long supported the Prayer Book Society) and render this important Tractate into contemporary English. The aim was to retain the teaching and the doctrine but to simplify and shorten the sentences.

It will be available by the middle of September 2007 or earlier under the title, On Salvation and the Church of Rome, from the Prayer Book Society as a 64 page booklet.

To order a copy (and to receive with it a free copy to pass on to a friend) send a check to the Prayer Book Society for $7.50. The Prayer Book Society, P. O. Box, 35220, Philadelphia, PA. 19128-0220.

The two copies will be posted to you as soon as stock arrives from the printer in early September. Orders from abroad will be sent by sea-mail.

This offer of 2 for 1 price is NOT and will NOT be available at the PBS website, and will last through September only.

So please do two things: with reference to On Salvation and the Church of Rome:

(1) acquaint yourself via this Tractate with “the judicious Mr. Hooker,” whom John Keble so admired that he edited and published his works in the nineteenth century.

(2) pass on this note to all your thinking Anglican friends so they too may spend $7.50 and read this learned divine.

Finally, kindly be aware that The Prayer Book Society has the whole of the Polity in the Keble edition together with the resource book, Anglicanism, edited by F.L.Cross et al, as one CD available on for a very reasonable price.

Happy and edifying reading.

Dr Peter Toon, President of The Prayer Book Society of the U.S.A.

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