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Hooker, Richard  

(c. 1554-Nov. 2, 1600). Theologian and leading advocate of Anglicanism. Hooker was born in Heavitree, Devonshire, near Exeter. In 1568 Hooker entered Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He received his B.A. in 1574 and his M.A. in 1577. In 1577 he was chosen fellow of his college. In 1579 he was named reader in Hebrew for the University. He was ordained deacon in 1582, and priest in the same year. On Mar. 17, 1585, Hooker was appointed Master of the Temple in London. He encountered Walter Travers, a leading Calvinist Puritan, at the Temple. Thomas Fuller said, "the pulpit spake pure Canterbury in the morning and Geneva in the afternoon until Travers was silenced." In 1591 Hooker left the Temple and became the rector at Boscombe in Wiltshire. In July, 1595, he became rector of Bishopsbourne in Kent, where he died. Hooker's major contribution was his monumental Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Polity. The first four books of the Lawes were published in 1594, the fifth book was published in 1597, and the last three books were published much later after his death. With the Lawes, Hooker became the great apologist of the Elizabethan Settlement. In the Lawes he created both a distinctive philosophy of constitutional government and an Anglican theology that remains congenial to modern thought. He provided the classical Anglican answer to the Puritan criticisms of episcopacy and the Prayer Book. Hooker affirmed the threefold Anglican sources of authority-scripture, tradition, and reason. He countered the Roman Catholic argument which treated the Bible and tradition as equally authoritative for belief. He also countered the Puritans whose literal obedience to scripture was so absolute that they considered unlawful whatever scripture did not command. He recognized the absolute authority of scripture where it spoke plainly. Reason was to be used in reading scripture. If scripture were silent or ambiguous, wisdom would consult the tradition of the church. On this foundation Hooker built an elaborate theory based on the "absolute fundamental of natural law," the expression of God's supreme wisdom which governs the universe and to which both ecclesiastical and civil polity must yield. Hooker saw the church not as a static but as an organic institution whose methods of government change according to circumstances. He understood the Church of England, though reformed, to be in continuity with historic Christianity. He is commemorated in the Episcopal calendar of the church year on Nov. 3. 




Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.
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