Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Richard Hooker and Anglican Moral Theology

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Richard Hooker and Anglican Moral Theology

Article excerpt

Richard Hooker and Anglican Moral Theology. By A. J. Joyce. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. xi + 264 pp. $125.00 (cloth).

Remarkably, given Richard Hookers enormous stature within the Anglican tradition, Alison Joyces new book comes as the first systematic, booklength study of Hookers moral theology. As such, this volume is a great gift to scholars, and, given its graceful and lucid writing, to the general reading public as well.

Although Hookers magnum opus, the Lawes of Ecclesiasticall Politie, was both much broader and much narrower in scope than the discipline of moral theology, Joyce persuasively demonstrates Hookers keen interest in both moral principles and their concrete application. Most of the familiar questions of moral theology-the relationship of reason and will in moral actions; the relative authority of natural law and scripture; the tension between general norms, particular applications, and exceptional cases; and the goal of the moral life and its relation to salvation-occupy Hooker's attention in the Lawes and elsewhere, though not always as systematically as we might like. Joyce effectively collates and summarizes this material in chapters 4 through 7, which are the central chapters of the book; chapter 1 is introductory, chapter 2 provides historical background, chapter 3 analyzes Hooker's rhetorical method, and chapter 8 briefly applies the insights of the preceding chapters to a case study: Hooker's understanding of matrimony.

Joyce describes her agenda at the outset: "to examine in detail the moral dimension of the writings of Richard Hooker in its own terms, and to attempt to set this within the broader context of his theological thought. . . with no investment in claiming his perspective for any particular theological, ecclesiological, or moral tradition" (p. 15). To the extent that her book stays true to this course she has set for it, she renders a singularly valuable service for the contemporary reader seeking an introduction to this profound and still profoundly relevant thinker. She neither shies away from the complexities and tensions within Hooker's wide-ranging and polemically engaged theological vision, nor does she shirk the task of seeking to integrate these into a coherent whole.

However, as stated, her agenda is somewhat inadequate, since we can hardly consider the writings of any thinker, particularly one so synthetic as Hooker, strictly "in its own terms." We will need to consider both his influences and his adversaries, to learn in what respects he is original, and to discern what he intends to critique, and why. Joyce is not, in fact, unaware of this, and accordingly devotes significant attention to Hookers debt to Aquinas and the scholastic tradition on the one hand, and to his fierce quarrel with the disciplinarian Puritans on the other. …

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