Richard Hooker (1554-1600)


In a blog article entitled, “The Whos and Whats of mere Christianity,” Mr. Griffin had written:


“Nor did the concept of ‘Mere Christianity’ originate with Lewis. In the sixteenth century, Richard Hooker created a distinctive theology for a denomination that needed one—the new Anglican Church—and the prose he did it in was masterful. As Lewis said in English Literature of the Sixteenth Century, Excluding Drama, ‘The style is, for its purpose, perhaps the most perfect in English.'”


I then was curious about Hooker. Anyway, I looked around the web and found some biographical information:


James Kiefer’s introduction to this work explains its premise well. Richard Hooker said once in a sermon, “I doubt not but God was merciful to save thousands of our fathers living in popish superstitions, inasmuch as they sinned ignorantly.” Keifer explains that “This sentence, which today would be fiercely attacked by those who thought it arrogant, narrow, and bigoted, was at the time attacked on opposite grounds. Walter Travers…said that since the adherents of the Pope did not believe in justification by faith, they could not be justified by faith, which meant that they could not be justified at all, which meant that they were certainly damned, with no exceptions. Hooker, he claimed, had sold out to the enemy.” In response to Travers’ objections, Hooker crafted a masterful sermon on justification. A brief look at the table of contents will show readers the outline of his sermon. This work is a practical application of Hooker’s educated, logical, and authoritative theology.


Along with the biographical information above, I also found the following quote from Doug Wilson’s site:


“There follows from this a vital and liberating point, which I first met in the works of the great Anglican divine Richard Hooker, and for which I shall always be grateful. One is not justified by faith by believing in justification by faith. One is justified by faith by believing in Jesus” (N.T. Wright, What St. Paul Really Said, p. 159).


Wright references Hooker’s defense of the salvation of at least some Roman Catholics (“adherents of the Pope”). My assumption is the part that is italicized by Wright — One is not justified by faith by believing in justification by faith — is verbatim or close to it. It is interesting that people say things like this, when they assert that faith is the “instrumental condition” for justification. I suppose that for many in line with Wright’s/Hooker’s views — which I think are men like Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, John Piper, and Doug Wilson — this “faith” or “belief” is ignorant of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel of Christ (cf. Romans 10:1-4). To the aforementioned men, one can be ignorant of the righteousness of God and nevertheless, still be “believing in Jesus.”

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