Richard Hooker

c.1554-1600. English theologian and apologist. Educated at Exeter Grammar School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he was fellow from 1577 to 1584, he lectured in Hebrew and logic and was rector of Drayton Beauchamp (1584), master of the Temple in London (1585-91), and rector of Bishopbourne from 1595 until his death. Though an able preacher and sensitive pastor, he is primarily remembered as one of the greatest apologists for a Church of England which was not obliged slavishly to copy sister churches. His famous encounter with Walter Travers* at the Temple showed an independent Reformed position on matters like predestination, assurance, and judgment of Rome, in addition to a shrewd insight into the doctrinal and psychological weaknesses of militant Puritanism. Released from duties at the Temple, he produced the first four books of his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity in 1593, followed by the fifth in 1597. The history of the remaining books is obscure, and they were not fully published until 1662. As well as being a classic of English prose, his work was a profound contribution to the English theological tradition. His skillful restatement of Thomism, combined with a careful discussion of the relation between reason and revelation, enabled him to meet Puritan criticisms of the Elizabethan Church at a far more creative level than apologists like Whitgift or Bancroft. He showed that a church could justifiably be ordered without either claiming divine institution for every detail or falling into Roman error by continuing medieval practices; his exposition of law showed an appreciation of historical continuity which was lacking in much Protestant ecclesiology. The defense he offered for the role of redeemed reason helped to inspire the flowering of Caroline theology and has since provided many members of the Church of England with a theological method which has combined the claims of revelation, reason, and history. Though this account of the relationship between church and state was nduly optimistic, it has continued to be influential. He is one of the most important English theologians of the sixteenth century.

The best edition of his Works is the 7th revised edition of J. Keble (1888). For his life, C.J. Sisson, The Judicious Marriage of Mr. Hooker (1940). Recent studies are P. Munz, The Place of Hooker in the History of Thought (1952); G. Hillerdal, Reason and Revelation in Richard Hooker (1962); J.S. Marshall, Hooker and the Anglican Tradition (1963); W.S. Hill, Studies in Richard Hooker (1974).