Richard Hooker is one of the outstanding theologians of the Anglican Church. In the late 16th century, he was a great apologist for the Elizabethan Settlement and the development of the Church of England. This was the time of Queen Elizabeth I, and England had been on a religious roller coaster ride. Roman Catholic when the Roman Catholic Queen Mary reigned, and leading Protestant Reformers were killed, then, when the throne changed hands so did the religion. This lead to a great deal of instability until the Elizabethan Settlement put an end to it. Two Acts of the Parliament of England were made. The Act of Supremacy of 1558 re-established the Church of England's independence from Rome, with Parliament conferring on Elizabeth the title Supreme Governor of the Church of England, while the Act of Uniformity of 1559 outlined what form the English Church should take, including the re-establishment of the Book of Common Prayer.
Educated at Oxford, after ordination Richard Hooker became master of the Temple in 1585. He entered into debate with the Puritans, who were demanding further reforms of the Church of England. In the wake of this debate, he wrote 'Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.'
Hooker offered a reasoned defense of the forms and practice of the Church of England, based on ideas of natural laws given by God in creation. The Puritan's believed, if it is not in the Bible it's forbidden. Hooker argued that the Bible itself depends on God given reason and logic, that its interpretation relies on the basic laws of reason and nature God placed in creation. It is on this basis that the laws of the state and the church must be established, with the addition of scriptural revelation, tradition, reason itself and experience.
The Church of England, therefore, was able to find in Hooker's writings a positive justification for the form it had taken, against the Puritan accusations that its forms and practices were not rooted in Scripture alone. The fifth book of Hooker's treatise is an extended defense of the Book of Common Prayer against Puritan accusations of its continuation of medieval corruption and errors.
BORN: March 1554, Heavitree, Exeter, England.
DIED: 3 November 1600, Bishopsbourne, (near Canterbury), England.