Richard Hooker Companion off to the Publisher

I’m pleased to announce that this week, I sent the final manuscript of my book, Richard Hooker: A Guide to His Life and Work off to Cascade Books. It is somewhat unorthodox, I know, to publish a popularized version of your research before publishing your dissertation for more academic audiences, but the timing just worked out better this way. In any case, this fits well with my commitment to keep the focus of my writing on the church at large, and especially Reformed and evangelical churches here in America, rather than on academic audiences that may or may not really give a damn about what Hooker still has to offer us theologically. That said, I don’t think this work is un-academic; certainly it is the distillation of years of research into the English Reformation, Richard Hooker, and the early Reformed tradition. I still feel like I’m only knee-deep in most of those inquiries, to be sure, but hopefully I have something of value to share with broader audiences.

Here is an excerpt from my Preface, summarizing what I hope to achieve with this book.

“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. Although Hooker is being written about today more than ever, with the segmentation of disciplines and the growing divide between church and academy, he is being read about by fewer and fewer non-specialists. Perhaps the tide has begun to turn on that front; I am not sure. In any case, I hope this book will contribute to that turning of the tide. Even if I had little new to say about Hooker, if publishing a new book meant that more people got to know him (since people always buy new books sooner than old books), it might not be wasted effort.

Of course, while I would like all people everywhere to get to know Hooker, I have my own context, North American evangelicalism and Reformed churches, particularly in mind. 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.

. . .

Second, I hope to digest for general audiences—including general academic audiences—some of the fruits of the extraordinary recent renaissance of Hooker scholarship, which has till now been mostly confined to specialist academic publications and journals. To be sure, one other recent book has tried to do that, Charles Miller’s Richard Hooker and The Vision of God: Exploring the Origins of ‘Anglicanism’. Readers comparing this book with that one, however, will note several important differences, both of objective and interpretation; Miller’s target audience, in any case, is a somewhat narrower one: the Church of England seminarian, above all. And he aspires to derive a much more complete “systematic theology” from Hooker than I do here. In any case, though, the task of distilling the torrents of recent scholarship is a formidable one. Few readers can be expected to have patience for the tedious and sometimes seemingly abstruse debates that Hooker scholars of necessity must concern themselves with, and yet the outcome of these debates does make quite a difference for what sort of thinker we take Hooker to be; one simply cannot try to present a “least common denominator” Hooker, a portrait of Hooker that all would agree on. For, beyond the basic biographical details, there is little, it seems, that everyone agrees on.

I am thus left with the choice of either engaging in detail with the secondary literature in these pages, and thus losing the interest of the readers (not to mention running out of space very quickly), or simply presenting my own reading, without meeting objections or refuting rival readings in any detail. I have opted for an untidy mixture of these two approaches, or, to put it more positively, a via media.

. . .

This leads to my last point. This book is meant to be a companion to Richard Hooker, not a substitute. My task is that of the host at a cocktail party—to introduce newcomers to the eccentric and brilliant professor who has graced us with his presence, and then let him take over the conversation. Hooker is not merely a much better thinker, but a much better writer, than myself, and really, the less I say, and the more I let you hear what he has to say, the better. Accordingly, I have not hesitated to do what otherwise would be a mark of very lazy writing, something I would penalize my students for: use bloc quotes copiously. Hooker has a distinctive style that is difficult to penetrate at first but can be downright enchanting once you grow familiar with it. I hope that by sprinkling his own words generously throughout this text, you will get a sense for how he thinks and writes, and be intrigued enough to explore further for yourself. Critical editions of his writings are fantastically expensive, but some decent inexpensive facsimile reprints are available, and the whole text of the Laws is available online at the Online Library of Liberty. Tolle et lege—“take up and read”—is the best advice I have to anyone wanting to know what Hooker is all about.

Since I am not seeking to tell you all about Hooker, then, but simply help you get to know him for yourself, this has freed me up to take a sort of snapshot approach in this slim volume.”

 

And here is the Table of Contents to give you an idea of what snapshots I try to provide:

Pt. I: Richard Hooker

  1. The Legend
  2. The Man
  3. The Book

Pt. II: Vision and Aims

  1. Hooker as Protestant
  2. Hooker as Polemicist
  3. Hooker as Philosopher
  4. Hooker as Pastor

Pt. III: Key Themes

  1. Scripture
  2. Law
  3. Church
  4. Sacraments and Liturgy

Pt. IV: Conclusion

  1. Richard Hooker: Contemporary

 

And, in case any of you out there are already eager to dig in and start learning more about Hooker, I’ve uploaded the Annotated Bibliography from the book to my Academia.edu page.

 

I’m told the book should be out this Fall before too many leaves have fallen from the trees, even here in Moscow, ID. Stay tuned!

One thought on “Richard Hooker Companion off to the Publisher

  1. Thomas Garrett Isham

    Brad Littlejohn – Congratulations on your book. Completing such a project must give you great satisfaction. Hooker stands out as one of the handful of seminal figures in Anglicanism, if not the seminal figure, as you know better than anyone. Thanks from this Reformed Evangelical Episcopalian for your important labors.

    Like

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