Guyer’s Weblog

November 30, 2010

In Praise of Rhetoric? Anti-Covenantal Myths of Puritanism and Anglicanism (Part Two)

Filed under: Communio Anglicana,Theologoumena — guyer @ 2:59 am

In part one of this essay, we noted the ways that the anti-Covenant lobby misconstrues Puritanism. In what follows, we turn to their abuse of Anglican orthodoxy, particularly the work of Richard Hooker. We conclude that adoption of the Anglican Covenant is wholly faithful to Hooker’s claim that even as the Church must remain faithful in doctrine, it is free to construct its polity as it sees fit.

Those unfamiliar with the broad outlines of Hooker’s theology may wish to peruse the article “Law, Liturgy, Wisdom: An Introduction to Richard Hooker (or here, with illustrations).

Myths of Anglicanism

No Anglican Covenant Coalition (hereafter, NACC) launched its website on November 3, 2010, stating the feast day of Richard Hooker was the “ideal” day for beginning their campaign.  However admirable this sentiment may be, their understanding of Hooker fails on three fronts.  First, they tell us that “Hooker argued that the Church should use the full range of reasoning faculties in matters of faith and should develop in light of changing circumstances.  New ideas and differences of opinion, therefore, have a proper place within the Church.”  It is worth noting that NACC offers us only one citation of Hooker on their website: “The Church hath authority to establish that for an order at one time, which at another time it may abolish, and in both do well.”  Regrettably, they do not offer the reference, thus disguising that they have, in the worse sense of the phrase, given us a mere “proof-text.”  Second, and like MCU/IC, NACC misunderstand what Hooker and the Puritans were arguing about, especially in terms of reason.  They claim that Puritans believed that the Bible “wholly transcends reason” and thus denied reason a place in the Christian life.  As Hooker himself notes, this is quite wrong.  Finally, they claim that Hooker “is best known for his appeal to three authorities—scripture, reason, and tradition—often described as his ‘three-legged stool.’”  Yet, this latter claim has been decisively rejected by current Hooker scholarship. (more…)


In Praise of Rhetoric? Anti-Covenantal Myths of Puritanism and Anglicanism (Part One)

Filed under: Communio Anglicana,Meta-Category,Theologoumena — guyer @ 2:57 am

“…this present age full of tongue and weake of braine…”

– Richard Hooker, Of the Lawes of Ecclesiasticall Politie, I.8.2


Écrasez l’infâme! Such is the clarion call of a recent ad in the Church Times directed against the Anglican Covenant.  Jointly authored and sponsored by Inclusive Church and Modern Church, the ad proclaims that the Anglican Covenant would be “the biggest change to the Church since the Reformation.”  Without hesitation, the authors of the ad even claim that the Covenant is intended “to re-establish a Puritan dogmatism” within Anglicanism.  Similarly, on 3 November, the feast day of Richard Hooker, a group calling itself No Anglican Covenant Coalition offered to the wider Anglican Communion a second protest against the Covenant.  Like the Church Times ad, No Anglican Covenant Coalition claims to uphold a historic Anglican orthodoxy which they neither delineate nor define.  In what follows, we query the identification of the Covenant with Puritanism, just as we reject the forced union of Richard Hooker with anti-Covenant sentiment.  Rhetoric is no substitute for logic; logic has nothing to fear from historical study.  Our argument is simple: the Anglican Covenant is wholly un-Puritan, and instead maintains the rich liturgical legacy of historic Anglicanism.  Are the images of Hooker and Puritanism, used by the anti-Covenant lobby, accurate?  This question offers a corollary: if the anti-Covenant crowd is incapable of evincing even the slightest understanding of Hooker and Puritanism, why should we pay attention to their denigration of the Anglican Covenant?  We propose that a failure to understand the past yields an in ability to grasp the present.


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