Reading for Fun: Richard Hooker-A companion to His Life and Work

As many of you know, I recently attended the ETS and SBL conferences in Atlanta last month. This is always a great time to catch up with old friends, meet new ones, and be surrounded by individuals consumed by the study of topics within your own field and those in tangential fields.

516X7hI2+tL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_During ETS, I got to meet Brad Littlejohn through an old college friend, Mike Lynch. Brad has recently published Richard Hooker: A Companion to His Life and Work through Wipf and Stock. Despite the fact that I’m not familiar with Hooker’s work or Anglicanism and the fact that I’m in many ways a Puritan at heart, he graciously gave me a copy of the volume.

I’m glad he did. As it turns out, the book was written for me—or, at least, those like me. In the preface, Littlejohn writes,

First, I hope to introduce Hooker to audiences that have barely heard of him, if at all. It is a sad fact that a great many educated, intelligent, theologically-interested readers, especially in North America, fall into this category.

Elsewhere in the preface he writes,

Most of what has been written and read about Hooker, it seems, has remained confined to the Anglican Communion, which claims him for its own, and not unreasonably so. But it is unfortunate that so many Protestants in other traditions should have so thoroughly conceded him to the Anglicans as not to even bother reading him. Few theologians, I wager, have so much to teach American evangelicals.

Now, this would be the place in the post where I go and review the book, telling you about everything that it contains and then give you a few places where I think he could have done a better job. But, this blog already does that—and quite well I might add. (And, for the record, I agree with that reviewer’s comment: “This companion to Hooker’s life and work by Brad Littlejohn is fascinating, learned, straightforward, well-written, engaging, and balanced . . . . I really enjoyed it, and the point of this review is that you or someone you love should enjoy it as well. I understand Christmas is coming up.”)

Instead, I want to briefly comment on how nice it was to finally sit down and read something for pleasure that’s completely unrelated to my current field of study. Sure, I read books on text-linguistics (or discourse analysis if you prefer), Greek, the Septuagint, and 1 Clement, and they are all for pleasure. But being able to return to a former love, theology, and take a load off while comfortably making my way through a well-written book that is not full of pretension, but instead gently introduces the reader—as a companion volume should—to the life and thought of another was simply and truly enjoyable.

And I even learned a bit along the way. Like, for instance, that non-Puritan theologians of the time had something valuable to say. (Yes, that was said with the greatest irony possible, especially considering the life and work of Hooker.) In seriousness, one of the best things to glean from the volume is the relevance of Hooker’s theological method for theologians today—mainly, his emphasis on the necessity of discriminating between essential and non-essential issues as it pertains to faith, practice, and, more generally, law.

On that note, I’ll leave you—as I said at the outset, this would be a brief reflection—with Littlejohn’s concluding thought:

If the contemporary church can learn anything from the wisdom of Richard Hooker, then, I hope that it can learn this extraordinary balance of exclusion and inclusion, of dogmatism and relativism, of history and change, of authority and freedom, of certainty and doubt that gives the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity “such seeds of eternity . . . that shall last till the last fire consume all learning.”

 

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4 Responses to Reading for Fun: Richard Hooker-A companion to His Life and Work

  1. Lewis Knudsen says:

    I’m going to try to get this for Christmas, thanks for posting this.

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