Thursday, 3 April 2014

Ecclesiastical Polity: Three Quotes

Three citations in conjunction with research mentioned in the preceding post:

From LEP 3.1.14: "For although the name of the Church be given unto Christian assemblies, although any multitude of Christian men congregated may be termed by the name of a Church, yet assemblies properly are rather things that belong to a Church. Men are assembled for performance of public actions; which actions being ended, the assembly dissolveth itself and is no longer in being, whereas the Church which was assembled doth no less continue afterwards than before...But a Church, as now we are to understand it, is a Society; that is, a number of men belonging unto some Christian fellowship, the place and limits whereof are certain. That wherein they have communion is the public exercise of such duties as those mentioned in the Apostles’ Acts, Instruction, Breaking of Bread, and Prayers. As therefore they that are of the mystical body of Christ have those inward graces and virtues, whereby they differ from all others, which are not of the same body; again, whosoever appertain to the visible body of the Church, they have also the notes of external profession, whereby the world knoweth what they are: after the same manner even the several societies of Christian men, unto every of which the name of a Church is given with addition betokening severalty, as the Church of Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, England, and so the rest, must be endued with correspondent general properties belonging unto them as they are public Christian societies. And of such properties common unto all societies Christian, it may not be denied that one of the very chiefest is Ecclesiastical Polity."

From LEP 3.2.1: But we must note, that he which affirmeth speech to be necessary amongst all men throughout the world, doth not thereby import that all men must necessarily speak one kind of language. Even so the necessity of polity and regiment in all Churches may be held without holding any one certain form to be necessary in them all. Nor is it possible that any form of polity, much less of polity ecclesiastical, should be good, unless God himself be author of it.

From LEP 8.3.5: Dissimilitude in great things is such a thing which draweth great inconvenience after it, a thing which Christian religion must always carefully prevent. And the way to prevent it is, not as some do imagine, the yielding up of supreme power over all churches into one only pastor’s hands; but the framing of their government, especially for matter of substance, every where according to the rule of one only Law, to stand in no less force than the law of nations doth, to be received in all kingdoms, all sovereign rulers to be sworn no otherwise unto it than some are to maintain the liberties, laws, and received customs of the country where they reign. This shall cause uniformity even under several dominions, without those woeful inconveniences whereunto the state of Christendom was subject heretofore, through the tyranny and oppression of that one universal Nimrod who alone did all. And, till the Christian world be driven to enter into the peaceable and true consultation about some such kind of general law concerning those things of weight and moment wherein now we differ, if one church hath not the same order which another hath: let every church keep as near as may be the order it should have, and commend the just defence thereof unto God, even as Juda did, when it differed in the exercise of religion from that form which Israel followed.

Taken from Richard Hooker, The Works of that Learned and Judicious Divine Mr. Richard Hooker with an Account of His Life and Death by Isaac Walton. Arranged by the Rev. John Keble MA. 7th edition revised by the Very Rev. R.W. Church and the Rev. F. Paget (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1888). 3 vols. Accessed from on 2012-03-05

Notes on Hooker's Ecclesiology

A few notes I took two years ago, consulting Richard Hooker, The Works of that Learned and Judicious Divine Mr. Richard Hooker with an Account of His Life and Death by Isaac Walton. Arranged by the Rev. John Keble MA. 7th edition revised by the Very Rev. R.W. Church and the Rev. F. Paget (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1888). 3 vols. Accessed from on 2012-03-05.

LEP = Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity
  • the two natures or aspects of the church (not Hooker's phrase): the church is a supernatural society; its visible form, however, is a political society (LEP 1.15.2)
  • the failure to distinguish between the two natures is "the mother of all error" in ecclesiology as much as Christology (LEP 3.3.1)
  • the Church of Christ as "body mystical" cannot be but one although we cannot discern it as such (heaven/earth; mixed multitude); the true members of the church are only known to God (LEP 3.1.2)
  • the Church is, on the other hand, a discernible, known company; the visible church is defined as those who profess to be servants of one Lord who acknowledge one faith and were initiated by one baptism - outward profession is the basis for the unity of the church (LEP 3.1.)
  • communicatio idiomatum applies in ecclesiology as well as Christology, hence human laws for the external polity "church" must not contradict the positive law in scripture, "otherwise they are ill made"; unless in disagreement with scripture we must heed the laws of the Church (LEP 3.9.3)
  • excommunication cuts off from the Church but not the Commonwealth; it bars people from full participation in public worship without denying their Christian identity (LEP 8.1.6)
Hooker proceeds from the assumptions that all members of the Commonwealth are Christians and hence members of the Church and argues from this for the union of Commonwealth and Church and royal supremacy (cf. Daniel Eppley on "Royal Supremacy", chap. 18 in W. J. Torrance KirbyA Companion to Richard Hooker (Brill's Companions to the Christian Tradition, 8; Leiden: Brill, 2008).

Pierre Lurbe, "Theologico-political Issues in Richard Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity and Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan" in LISA 9/1 [2011], online, goes so far as to claim: 
"The main effect of the Reformation was to transform the English monarch into the Head of his national Church, thus combining in a single man —or woman— the two distinct functions of Head of State and Head of the Church."  
He contrasts Hooker and Hobbes succinctly: 
"For Hooker, religion is a set of beliefs that is so beneficial that it is the duty of the commonwealth to promote it through the agency of a state church. For Hobbes, religion is a passion that is so dangerous that it is the duty of the commonwealth to hold it in check through the agency of a state church."
Royal dominion over the church is based on the consent of the English community not on divine right which is why Scripture is not the source to consult on this matter but the laws and traditions of the realm. God mandates neither presbyterianism nor royal dominion in the church (Eppley, "Royal Supremacy," 511).

Hooker argues that "the power to authoritatively interpret scripture belongs to the crown in parliament with the convocation" (Eppley, "Royal Supremacy," 523) because this represents the collective wisdom of the entire church and the approval of the church as a whole is the most certain guide to reasonable interpretation; he stresses the necessity for incontrovertible argument.

See chapter 3 ("Ecclesiology: The Doctrine of the Two Churches") of  W. J. Torrance Kirby, Richard Hooker's Doctrine of the Royal Supremacy (Studies in the History of Christian Thought, 43; Leiden: Brill, 1990). Cf. William H. Harrison, "The Church," chap. 12 in A Companion to Richard Hooker.


The Apostle and the Run-Away Slave

Sarah Ruden, Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own Time (New York: Image Books, 2011) argues that the apostle Paul wants to do more than emancipate the run-away slave Onesimus because emancipating him may well have jeopardized the man. (Manumission did not make someone a citizen.)

Paul had a much more ambitious plan than making Onesimus legally free. He wanted to make him into a human being, and he had a paradigm. As God chose and loved and guided the Israelites, he had now chosen and loved and could guide everyone. The grace of God could make what was subhuman into what was more than human. It was just a question of knowing it and letting it happen.
The way Paul makes the point in his letter to Philemon is beyond ingenious. He equates Onesimus with a son and a brother. He turns what Greco-Roman society saw as the fundamental, insurmountable differences between a slave and his master into an immense joke (160).

picked up from Scot McKnight.