Torrance Kirby - Richard Hooker’s Sapiential Theology: Reformed Platonism?
An webinar lecture with Professor Torrance Kirby (McGill University), delivered August 11, 2020. Part of our summer webinar series on "Reason and Beauty in Renaissance Christian Thought and Culture," presented in collaboration with the American Cusanus Society Richard Hooker (1554-1600) was a preeminent theologian and philosopher of the Elizabethan Church. His seminal book, Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (1593), set out a path for Anglican theology that was distinct from both Puritan and Roman Catholic thought. In Book I, Hooker identifies Law with Holy Wisdom and his treatment echoes the sapiential books of Scripture, viz. Proverbs, Job, and the Wisdom of Solomon. Hooker also appeals to a hierarchical disposition of the species of law in the medieval scholastic conception of the ‘lex divinitatis’, especially as formulated by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and later by Thomas Aquinas. For Hooker, the First Eternal Law concealed in the ‘Bosome of God’ is unutterable, while its external emanation, the Second Eternal Law, is a ‘Voyce’ whose utterance constitutes the beautiful ‘Harmony of the Worlde’. This distinction between two species of Eternal Law owes much to the ancient Neoplatonic metaphysics of Proclus. Both Hooker’s sapiential theology and his invocation of the law of the ‘great chain’ stand in creative tension with his professed adherence to doctrine expressed by the Elizabethan Articles of Religion (1571). In this webinar, Professor Torrance Kirby will examine the tension between Hooker’s sources and his theology and will ask whether Hooker is successful in reconciling his legal metaphysics with his Reformed soteriology.