My Book is Now Published!

Littlejohn.RichardHooker.Littlejohn.RichardHooker.47351I’m pleased to announce that my book, Richard Hooker: A Companion to His Life and Work is now published and available to order from Cascade Books. Here’s the description from the back cover:

Although by common consent the greatest theologian of the Anglican tradition, Richard Hooker is little known in Protestant circles more generally, and increasingly neglected within the Anglican Communion. Although scholarship on Hooker has witnessed a dramatic renaissance within the last generation, thus far this has tended to make Hooker less, not more accessible to general audiences, and interpreters have been sharply divided on the meaning of his theology. This book aims to draw upon recent research in order to offer a fresh portrait of Hooker in his original historical context, one in which it had not yet occurred to any Englishman to assume the label “Anglican,” and to bring him to life for all branches of the contemporary church.
Part One examines his life, writings, and reputation, puncturing several old myths along the way. Part Two seeks to establish Hooker’s theological and pastoral vision, exploring why he wrote, how he wrote, whom he was seeking to persuade, and whom he was seeking to refute. Part Three analyzes key themes of Hooker’s theology–Scripture, Law, Church, and Sacraments–and how they related to his late Reformation context. Finally, the concluding chapter proposes Hooker’s method as a model for our confused contemporary age, combining fidelity to Scripture, historical awareness, and a pastorally sensitive pragmatism.

 

I really do think that a renewed appreciation for Richard Hooker is profoundly important for the Protestant church today—in all its branches—and so I hope you will consider ordering a copy and spreading the word.


Endorsements for my book on Richard Hooker

I am pleased to announce that my book, Richard Hooker: A Companion to His Life and Work, should be coming off the presses at Cascade Books within the next couple weeks.  Over the coming weeks, I’ll be posting some excerpts and summaries, Lord willing, but first, it is with deep gratitude that I share the kind endorsements of two of the very finest Hooker scholars currently writing, Prof. Torrance Kirby and Rev. Can. Prof. Paul Avis:

“’Richard Hooker’ is a name that many church people have heard of, but few have ever dipped into his works. When encountering this greatest of Anglican theologians for the first time, we need a guide and interpreter. Dr Littlejohn’s compact study of Richard Hooker will fill a gap in the literature and prove an eye-opener to non-specialists. He brings to bear an impressive range and depth of scholarship and critical insight to set Hooker in the context of the controversies of his times and guides us through the maze of contemporary interpretations of Hooker’s thought and significance.”—Rev. Can. Prof. Paul Avis, Honorary Professor of Theology and Director of the Centre for the Study of the Christian Church at the University of Exeter

“Brad Littlejohn’s monograph on Richard Hooker offers a splendidly accessible introduction to the ‘life and work’ of this eminent but popularly neglected early-modern English theologian and philosopher.  The book situates Hooker helpfully both in the broad context of the continental Reformation and in the polemics of the late Elizabethan church. Chapters investigate Hooker’s reputation as a pastor, philosopher, and polemicist. His standing among the early leaders of magisterial protestant reform is given particularly close and careful attention. The Hooker portrayed here is not the customary hagiography, but rather an illuminating revisionist impression. Littlejohn provides an insightful guide to Hooker’s approach to Law, Scripture, the doctrine of the church, and political theology. He observes in passing that ‘Protestants are often unsure where to turn to in finding a robust foundation for ethical and political reasoning in our tradition.’ This volume offers an excellent point of departure in this quest, and is highly recommended to both scholars and to a general, non-specialist readership.” —Prof. W.J. Torrance Kirby, Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Director of the Center for Research on Religion at McGill University


Everyman’s Hooker #2: “Jealousies, Heartburnings, Jars, and Discords”

 

From Preface, Chapter 2, paragraph 2:

It was the manner of those times (whether through men’s desire to enjoy alone the glory of their own enterprises, or else because the quickness of their occasions required present dispatch), so it was, that every particular Church did that within itself, which some few of their own thought good, by whom the rest were all directed. Such number of Churches then being, though free within themselves, yet small, common conference before hand might have eased them of much aftertrouble. But a greater inconvenience it bred, that every later endevoured to be certain degrees more removed from conformity with the Church of Rome, than the rest before had been: whereupon grew marvelous great dissimilitudes, and by reason thereof, jealousies, heartburnings, jars and discords amongst them. Which notwithstanding might have easily been prevented, if the orders which each Church did think fit and convenient for itself, had not so peremptorily been established under that high commanding form, which tendered them unto the people, as things everlastingly required by the law of that Lord of Lords, against whose statutes there is no exception to be taken. For by this mean it came to pass, that one Church could not but accuse and condemn another of disobedience to the will of Christ, in those things where manifest difference was between them; whereas the self same orders allowed, but yet established in more wary and suspense manner, as being to stand in force till God should give the opportunity of some general conference what might be best for every of them afterwards to do; this I say had both prevented all occasion of just dislike which others might take, and reserved a greater liberty unto the authors themselves of entering into farther consultation afterwards. Which though never so necessary they could not easily now admit, without some fear of derogation from their credit; and therefore that which once they had done, they became for ever after resolute to maintain.

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Everyman’s Hooker #1: “To Pass Away as in a Dream…”

This week, I am beginning a new project here at this blog, which I hope to keep up with on a weekly basis for the foreseeable future.  I’m calling it “Everyman’s Hooker,” and it’s an attempt to make the thought of Richard Hooker, specifically his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, accessible to general audiences. Hooker had a beautiful, but notoriously difficult, writing style even for his own time, and with the passage of 400 years, even highly educated readers of modern English often find it difficult to get a handle on just what he’s saying. We have reached the odd and unfortunate point that authors like Augustine, Aquinas, and Calvin, who wrote even longer ago and not in English, should be much easier for contemporary English readers to engage with than one of the great masters of their own language, Hooker. Why? Because we have modern translations of the former, but not the latter. The best we have is a mere modernization of spelling, by A.S. McGrade, which is priced way too highly for most readers to even dream of buying.

It might be a bit impertinent to try to publish a fully paraphrased version of Hooker’s great work, not to mention being an enormous amount of work, but for now I have a more modest goal: to introduce readers to a few key ideas and passages, beginning with the first page of the Laws, and moving along from high point to high point, posting a paraphrase and commentary once a week. I recognize that to paraphrase Hooker at all is something of an abomination, given the exquisitely-crafted nature of his prose, but I’ve finally come to realize that this is a necessary evil if Hooker is ever really to be introduced to the wide readership he deserves. I will do my best to maintain as much as possible the eloquence of the original.

Each post will begin with the original text, in the mostly-modernized spelling and punctuation of the 19th-century edition of Hooker available at the Online Library of Liberty. Then I will provide a paraphrased version, paragraph by paragraph, along the lines of what you might find in Shakespeare Made Easy, followed by a bit of commentary on what we can learn today from this passage.  Once I figure out how, I’ll format the two versions of the passage in a double-column style, side-by-side, but for now, it’ll just be one underneath the other.  Some passages will be more difficult, and thus in much more obvious need of paraphrase, than others, but I will not try to prioritize on this basis, instead just following the order of the text.

So, without further ado, here is the first, taken from the first chapter of the Preface to the Laws. Read More


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.

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