The Late Great Natural Law Debate: Synopses and Reflections, Pt. 1

Time was, maybe 20 years ago, when “natural law” was a foreign notion to most evangelical Protestants.  “Isn’t that some crazy Catholic idea?  Or some outdated relic of the Middle Ages?” most might ask.  More thoughtful Reformed folks might have an arsenal of theological arguments against the concept—presuppositionalism and all that.  But for a variety of reasons, there was a rapid sea-change.  With the ascendancy of the Moral Majority, conservative Christians found themselves catapulted into the public square, and the more sophisticated were conscious that a raw and undiluted biblicism was not going to get them very far in public debates.  Finding themselves shoulder-to-shoulder with Catholic co-belligerents in the culture wars, evangelicals glanced over at the popish playbook and thought natural law looked like a pretty promising notion.  Accordingly, they took up the idea with gusto.

But now, scarcely a decade into this revolution, the twofold curse of evangelicalism has reasserted itself.  First, evangelicals are always at least twenty years behind; they only jump on the bandwagon of an idea when it is nearing the end of its life-cycle—tired, worn-out, and ready to be discarded by its earlier proponents.  Second, evangelicals are like the second group in the parable of the sower: “this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.”  Having no roots in themselves, evangelical allegiance to a theological concept is often only skin-deep, ready to be abandoned as soon as difficulties and objections present themselves.

So it is beginning to prove now, particularly when it comes to the use of natural law arguments in what seems to be the Somme battlefield of the current culture wars.  Finding that natural law arguments are gaining them no traction in the current debate, evangelicals, and indeed many within the whole cobbled-together conservative coalition, were already wavering and considering withdrawal.  When Catholic and Orthodox stalwarts, then, under whose table we are so often picking up the theological scraps, sounded the horn for retreat, ranks break and a disorderly retreat to our ecclesial safe-havens begin.  

So it was when superstar theologian David Bentley Hart’s opined in an essay for First Things, “Is, Ought, and Nature’s Laws” that natural law is not all that useful, nor all that natural.  The essay provoked a tide of responses and counter-responses in the blogosphere, which continues even now.  For Hart’s remarks went deeper than mere tactical recommendations for conservatives engaging in public policy debates, and struck at the root of the natural law tradition itself, the foundation upon which so much Christian political theory has been built over the centuries.

As the controversy has ended up expanding to incorporate a number of my friends or mentors (Doug Wilson, Peter Leithart, Steven Wedgeworth, Peter Escalante, and Alastair Roberts), as well as high-profile thinkers and commentators such as Edward Feser, Rod Dreher, Alan Jacobs, and as it seems likely to rumble on a bit longer, it seems desirable to give something of a round-up for those who, like me, were somewhat late in listening in on the conversation, and want to be brought up to speed.  So I will seek here to provide a crash-course overview—I cannot be exhaustive, summarizing every contribution, of course, but I will try to take note of the more significant and helpful ones that have come to my attention, and will offer a few of my own thoughts about where the most important faultlines and unanswered questions lie (this is a considerably longer version of the synopsis I posted last week at the PT Blog).  

Although he began by claiming to agree with the basic metaphysical presuppositions of natural law (“a harmony between cosmic and moral order, sustained by the divine goodness in which both participate”), Hart expressed serious skepticism that this order could be rendered transparent to most people, as the natural law tradition claimed.  He characterized this tradition as “a style of thought whose proponents (names are not important) believe that compelling moral truths can be deduced from a scrupulous contemplation of the principles of cosmic and human nature, quite apart from special revelation, and within the context of the modern conceptual world. . . . the natural law theorist insists that the moral meaning of nature should be perfectly evident to any properly reasoning mind, regardless of religious belief or cultural formation.” “This,” he concluded, “is a hopeless cause.”

Why?  Because “Hume’s bluntly stated assertion that one cannot logically derive an “ought” from an “is” happens to be formally correct.”  You cannot get from metaphysics to morality on reason alone, but only by “a belief about nature . . . a supernatural judgment that renders natural reality intelligible in a particular way.”  Indeed, even if we succeeded in generating consensus that a particularly way of life in line with nature conduced most to happiness, a Nietzschean could still insist that the noblest act of human will was to defy nature.  In short, “as long as the will remains unconverted, and unwilling to consider conversion, reason is mostly powerless to change things.”  

In view of the ability of so many people to arrive at very different conclusions about what nature demands, or to scoff at the whole notion that nature imposes any moral constraints upon us, Hart concluded that “our concept of nature [and its moral implications], in any age, is entirely dependent upon supernatural (or at least metaphysical) convictions.”

This essay clearly struck a chord with a cohort of American Conservative columnists, although their approaches to the issue differed somewhat.  Noah Millman went further than Hart in skeptically dismissing the philosophical integrity of the natural law tradition, as having little ground in nature understood scientifically.  His argument, however, highlighted a concern Hart voiced in his closing sentence: “And, in an age that has been shaped by a mechanistic understanding of the physical world, a neo-Darwinian view of life, and a voluntarist understanding of the self, nature’s ‘laws’ must appear to be anything but moral.”  If “natural law” claims to rest not merely on metaphysical foundations, but on physical foundations (as the classical natural law tradition clearly did; Aristotle took himself to be giving a scientific account of human nature), then we must contend with the fact that the reigning account of the physical universe today is very different.  Ordered teleology has been replaced with chaotic survival of the fittest?  If Darwinism is true, does that destroy the foundations of natural law?  Or can we argue, as Jean Porter does in her magisterial Nature as Reason, that the metaphysical foundations remain largely intact, whatever we concede to physical science?  In any case, as we shall see, Millman’s argument somewhat misses the mark, as most natural law accounts of morality proceed more from the starting point of the nature of human rationality and psychology than the nature of our physical environment.  (Of course, that just raises the question of whether, then, natural law theorists need to be more concerned about studies in psychology and the cognitive sciences.)

Rod Dreher’s response, however, drew considerably more attention than Millman’s angle.  Enthusing over Hart’s article, Dreher summarized:

“This is why I don’t have any faith in the natural-law-based arguments against same-sex marriage. It’s not that I disagree with them necessarily; it’s that a) they are hard for ordinary people conditioned by our culture’s modes of thought to grasp, and b) partly because of this, they (understandably) prompt a, “So what?” response. This is Hart’s point.”

But actually, that wasn’t really Hart’s point.  Or certainly not his main point.  Hart was not simply lamenting that natural law arguments, while formally valid, are hard to grasp for our society, that we’re trying to teach calculus to junior-high students, or noting that they are rhetorically ineffective, like trying to teach anything to students these days without PowerPoint.  Hart was saying, it appeared, that these arguments were formally invalid in the absence of a supernatural premise.  But Dreher’s concern, as he made clear again in a follow-up post, was less about the universal viability of natural law than its contingent viability within our particular cultural context: “we are in a world in which reason is far weaker than we think”; the majority of ordinary people have lost the ability or the willingness to distinguish between a reasoned argument and a mere assertion of opinion. To believe that sophisticated metaphysical arguments for ethical and political conclusions will get us far in the current state of public discourse is a silly fantasy.  

Dreher’s concerns about rhetorical effectiveness, and about the cultural conditioning that has undermined our society’s ability to reason, are important ones, and we encounter them in several other contributions to the discussion.  However, it is important to distinguish, as Dreher did not, between these practical concerns and Hart’s more theoretical question of whether natural law could be compelling to natural human reason as such.

Alan Jacobs seconded Dreher’s general concern, noting that Christians needed to recognize the importance not merely of proclamation, but of persuasion, in the public square, and that “arguments founded on the existence of natural law get no traction in the current intellectual climate.”  His concern went somewhat further, though (and this reveals that there is more connection between the contingent pragmatic claim and the universal theoretical claim than might have first appeared).  If we account for the ineffectiveness of natural law in the current climate by saying that natural law arguments work to those who are reasoning properly, and are only unpersuasive to those who aren’t really listening or thinking carefully, we have a problem: “The unpersuaded people are still there; the social or political problem you’re trying to fix is still there. Is it really the best we can do to say ‘You fail to meet my standards of rationality; therefore I refuse to debate with you further’?”

In part, Jacobs is just making the pragmatic point again—if we conclude that the problem is just that our opponents are irrational, we’re still, both as good Christians and good citizens, left with the responsibility to try and persuade them, and we need to find a compelling way to do so, a way that presumably does not resort to natural law reasoning; so Jacobs concludes,

“In the short term we need to find ways to commend our strongly-held views without recourse to natural law arguments; and in the long term we need to think about how the existence of natural law can be made both plausible and appealing to people who now see nothing in it. I don’t see a responsible way out of either pursuit.”

(I would note in passing that there is no true persuasion that does not include an appeal to someone’s reason, and so, if persuasion is by any means possible, the very fact that we can appeal to someone’s reason in a matter of moral argument demonstrates the existence of some kind of underlying natural law.)  But Jacobs’s remark suggests that we have more than just a practical problem, but an intellectual one: are we really prepared to dismiss all our opponents as incapable of reasoning?  What are the consequences of doing so, and what, ethically speaking, does that entail about how we are obliged to treat them?  I will return to this below when addressing Samuel Goldman’s contribution to the discussion.  But let us move on on to the more philosophical/theological side of the debate for a bit.  

Hart’s essay had indiscriminately lumped together and rejected the two rather different theories of old natural law (a continuation of the Thomist-scholastic tradition) and new natural law (the Kantianized version offered by recent Catholic philosophers such as Germain Grisez and John Finnis), and representatives of both camps were understandably miffed.  While some pointed out that Hart had at other times and places spoken more favorably and more advisedly on the subject of natural law, his fellow philosophers and theologians were not about to let him off the hook for this particular utterance.

New Natural Law theorist R.J. Snell rejected the claim that natural law theorists violate the Humean dictum not to derive an ought from an is; on the contrary, the new natural law studiously avoids doing just that.  Instead of beginning with an account of nature grounded in speculative reason, and deducing from this duties of practical reason, they begin with the self-evident (in the sense of innate, underived, or basic) presence of moral first principles in practical reason, the awareness that “good is to be done and evil avoided.”  That is to say, they begin on the ought side of the divide, our experience of ought-ness, and stay there.  The derivation of particular moral precepts from this starting-point is an exceedingly complex and arduous task, and thus it is also a straw man for Hart to describe natural law as insisting “that the moral meaning of nature should be perfectly evident to any properly reasoning mind.”  Nonetheless, Snell argued in a follow-up post that natural law reasoning is not useless, nor does it require total conversion of the will to be heard: “There need not be a fundamental change of metaphysical horizons, supernatural convictions, or religious beliefs; the only requirement is for persons of practical reason to meet themselves, perhaps for the first time, and to pay attention to what they are doing.”  Persuasion by means of natural law reasoning may be difficult, therefore, but it is possible within the horizon of the natural.

Old Natural Law theorist Edward Feser, in a blistering dissection of Hart’s essay, agreed with Snell’s accusation of “straw-manning.”  Indeed, Feser pointed out that it was “only by running together the two main contemporary approaches to natural law that Hart can seem to have struck a blow against either” and that Hart was “directing his attack at a phantom position that no one actually holds.”  For new natural law theorists, as Snell pointed out, grant the validity of Hume’s dictum, and accordingly self-consciously reconfigure their theory in such a way as to avoid violating it, whereas old natural law theorists refuse to grant the validity of the dictum, resting their case as they do on an allegiance to the Aristotelian concept of formal and final causes, “that is to say, in the idea that things have immanent natures or substantial forms and that in virtue of those natures they are inherently directed toward certain natural ends, the realization of which constitutes the good for them.” 

Indeed, says Feser, it is hard to see how Hart can coherently grant the validity of the Humean dictum either, since from this “it would follow that the purely theological ethics to which Hart seems committed, no less than natural law theory, cannot get off the ground.”  Feser likewise contends that Hart misses his target when he objects that natural law arguments depend on controversial metaphysical premises.  Of course they do, grants Feser, as in fact do all moral theories whatsoever, including secular theories.  Feser thus calls Hart’s bluff of conflating “supernatural” and “metaphysical,” and declares that “if its being controversial makes it ‘hopeless’ as a contribution to the public square, then every controversial position is hopeless.”  What is needed, then, is not an abandonment of natural law, but a recognition that if it is to be rendered convincing to our culture, we have a major task in philosophical education before us, as well as the theological task.

This might seem to bring Feser close to Dreher’s point—that natural law arguments might be valid, but few can follow them anymore—but, responding to Dreher in another post, Feser says that this “entails only that the work of the natural law theorist is more difficult than it would have been in previous generations, not that it isn’t worth doing.”  Indeed, it’s very worth doing, and one reason is “that the liberal, who claims to favor intellectual pluralism in the public sphere, needs constantly to be forced to put his money where his mouth is”—if we do not forthrightly argue unpopular convictions in the public square, we can hardly blame the public for dismissing us as lacking any rational arguments.

(It should be noted in passing, though I have no space here to develop or discuss it, that Thaddeus Kozinski, in response to Snell and particular Feser, offered a forceful philosophical and theological defense of Hart’s critique of both old and new natural law traditions.  This is well-worth digesting (and perhaps discussing another day), revealing as it does that, regardless of the sloppiness of Hart’s original argument, the matter remains considerably more complicated than pure ONL or pure NNL theorists would have us believe.)

Steven Wedgeworth at The Calvinist International weighed in to offer a Protestant endorsement of Feser’s overall argument, and condemned the writers at First Things for a capitulation to “modernist” presuppositions.  For many Protestants, still skeptical of natural law, it might seem odd why we would want to defend the idea that “objectively true moral conclusions can be derived from premises that in no way presuppose any purported divine revelation, any body of scriptural writings, or any particular religious tradition,” as Feser puts it—mustn’t revelation always be our foundation?  Wedgeworth seeks to explain the importance of something like Feser’s natural law theory:

“That tradition [of Christian philosophy] said that certain metaphysical truths were self-evident and necessary for all other rational discourse. ‘The contrary’ was, to borrow a phrase from other Christian transcendentalists, ‘impossible.’ Certain truths have to be the case in order for reason to be coherent, and since reason itself is necessary to dispute reason’s coherency, those truths’ existence is itself necessary or self-evident. Thus objective truth is itself self-evident and capable of being appealed to.” 

As Christians committed to the existence of objective truth and to the idea that God created man a rational being, naturally capable of knowing Him and the world around him, natural law is crucial.  

My friend Ben Miller seeks to eludicate this concern from a more biblical perspective in a post here, offering this excellent closing observation:

“If we surrender the metaphysical ground that man is made in God’s image and that as such he is (though fallen and in dire need of God’s Word and Spirit) both subject to and at some level aware of the moral order of the universe, we leave ourselves in a position where we can, in fact, only thump our Bibles – and worse, our biblically intelligent hearers will recognize that we have actually given up on what our Bible says. If they hear us cite the Bible, but see that we have no confidence that God’s moral order is operative within them and they within it, or that His moral order is known to them (in other words, if they see that we have accepted their moral autonomy as real), then we have yielded not just the authority of natural law but also the authority of the Bible.”


Meanwhile, however, the more practical and political sides of the question remained.  In response to Feser, Samuel Goldman at The American Conservative wondered just how much Feser thought that philosophical argument could achieve.  Does Feser think “that the metaphysical foundations of natural law theory can be demonstrated such that any rational and sufficiently attentive person would be compelled to accept them?”  Goldman is skeptical of such a strong claim.  In any case, if that is our claim, we are bound to find that, in point of fact, plenty of people are not “rational” or “sufficiently attentive.”  Accordingly, anyone who hopes to generate “consensus” is deluding themselves.   But

“fortunately, consensus is not the only good produced by public discussion. Participants can also clarify the premises and implications of their own intuitions, learn where others see things differently, and seek unexpected areas of  agreement. In short, they can learn to muddle through: agreeing where they can and tolerating when they must.”

Goldman’s brief post, like Jacobs’s, invites us to wrestle with the question of how we are to understand and handle moral disagreement.  This is a very serious question, because for many of us who have been attracted to natural law theory, coming out, perhaps, of an evangelical biblicism or a belligerent Reformed presuppositionalism, its attraction lies in its potential to replace war with dialogue.  From the standpoint of the various fideisms that dominate the conservative theological landscape, moral disagreement is not at all surprising, or difficult to account for.  “Well, of course they hold to nonsense and wickedness,” we say; “after all, they’re sons of Belial.”  Outside of faith in Christ is only darkness of the mind and hostility toward truth, and only conversion or conquest (and regrettably, the two are often rather blurred together), not persuasion, can be our answer.  We thus find ourselves trapped in a situation where we are confident, a priori, that we will not find common ground with the world around us, and this conviction becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Of course, quite clearly, Scripture leads us to believe that on many points, this is precisely the case—the unbelieving mind is enmity against God; you are either for Christ or against him.  

But both the Catholic natural law tradition and all the more so the Protestant one, founded on the two-kingdoms foundation, assert that this cannot be the case for all of life.  If it were simply the case that our rational faculties were destroyed by sin, then grace would not perfect nature, but would replace it.  Scripture would have to tell us everything whatsoever, which it clearly doesn’t; or rather, even this would not work, because we would be deprived of the rational apparatus needed to grasp and apply Scripture (one of Hooker’s key arguments).  Immediate revelation by the Spirit would be our only guide, and since each person’s revelation would be immediate and interior, there would be no possibility of rational discourse among believers.  (A bit of a straw man, maybe, but this is the logical trajectory of a rejection of natural law.)  Therefore, our epistemic paralyzation must apply only within a certain realm, or at any rate, must be total only within a certain realm and limited in its effects elsewhere.  To be sure, the tradition, both Catholic and Protestant, has generally asserted that within the realm of ethics, the Fall has more severely affected our faculties than it has in more abstract and impersonal areas of inquiry.  Indeed, neither Aquinas nor Hooker, for all their reputed optimism about the powers of reason, was under the impression that we could get along just fine in moral and political matters without divine aid.  James Chastek pointed this out with regard to Thomas and from Hooker, we could cite this passage, from among many:

If then it be here demanded, by what means it should come to pass (the greatest part of the Law moral being so easy for all men to know) that so many thousands of men notwithstanding have been ignorant even of principal moral duties, not imagining the breach of them to be sin: I deny not but lewd and wicked custom, beginning perhaps at the first amongst few, afterwards spreading into greater multitudes, and so continuing from time to time, may be of force even in plain things to smother the light of natural understanding; because men will not bend their wits to examine wherewith they have been accustomed be good or evil.

. . . . Unto this . . . somewhat besides may be added.  For whatsoever we have hitherto taught, or shall hereafter, concerning the force of man’s natural understanding, this we always desire withal to be understood; that there is no kind of faculty or power in man or any other creature, which can rightly perform the functions allotted to it, without the perpetual aid and concurrence of that Supreme Cause of all things.  The benefit whereof as oft as we cause God in his justice to withdraw, there can no other thing follow than that which the Apostle noteth, even men endued with the light of reason to walk notwithstanding ‘in the vanity of their mind, having their cogitations darkened, and being strangers from the life of God through the ignorance which is in them, because of the hardness of their hearts.” (LEP I.8.11)

The natural law theorist, need have little difficulty accounting for the fact that in our society today, natural law seems to have so little traction.  Perhaps we have fallen victim to “lewd and wicked custom”; perhaps we have caused God to withdraw the light of reason from among us.  Perhaps, then, we are in something like the situation that the belligerent biblicists assume our culture is in—estranged from the truth, incapable of reason.  And if this is so, then aren’t we right back in a culture-war mentality?  That is to say, it’s all well and good to explain what sort of moral reasoning a “rightly-functioning intellect” is capable of, but if this leads us to conclude that all of our interlocutors are simply irrational and immoral, we don’t seem to have advanced very far at all in our ability to engage in civil public discourse within a pluralist society, we have not advanced at all in retrieving the possibility of persuasion.  We seem to be back in a situation where we must simply give up on the rest of “irrational” society and retreat to our strongholds, or else aggressively assert the superiority of our own reasoning and call upon our opponents to subject their reasons to the yoke of Christ.  

Is there an alternative?  How can we still go about persuading, and in the absence of consensus, how may we still live together? 

I will attempt to explore and perhaps even address these questions in a second installment next week, by interacting with a second phase of the Late Great Natural Law Debate, one prompted by Peter Leithart’s First Things post, “Gay Marriage and Christian Imagination.”

The Soul of a Christian Commonwealth

(An excerpt from a recent thesis chapter draft; citations removed)

Nowhere is Hooker’s dependence on the dictum “grace does not destroy nature, but perfects it more true than his treatment of the role of religion in the commonwealth. While Hooker understood public religion as a natural and civil phenomenon, not as exclusively Christian or spiritual, this did not mean it was a mere simulacrum of the spiritual; rather, although achieving its effect through natural and outward instruments, Christian worship can serve as a real pathway toward our growth in grace.  The key point, however, was that the civil kingdom, in addition to being concerned with all the mundane concerns of public order, economic prosperity, and outward protection that characterize our modern conception of the domain of politics, was also properly a religious order; it existed under God, toward God, and animated and structured by worship. 

Given Hooker’s argument in Book I, it is not hard to see why this should be the case.  Human nature is not satisfied with mere finite, earthly ends, but constantly seeks a happiness beyond the bounds of temporal existence, a happiness to be found in God.  This restless longing for God, which subordinates and orders all other desires, will always, thinks Hooker, be reflected in the life of human society, which will always establish some kind of religious devotion at the heart of its public life.  Because of the centrality and ultimacy of this religious devotion, worship is not merely of value for its own sake, but serves as an anchor for the public life of the community, guaranteeing unity around a common object of love, and reverent esteem for the magistrates who are the guardians of this common life.  Hooker describes the importance of religion for the commonwealth at the outset of Book V: 

We agree that pure and unstained religion ought to be the highest of all cares appertaining to public regiment: as well in regard of that aid and protection which they who faithfully serve God confess they receive at his merciful hands, as also for the force which religion hath to qualify all sorts of men, and to make them in public affairs the more serviceable, governors the apter to rule with conscience, inferiors for conscience’ sake the willinger to obey.  It is no peculiar conceit, but a matter of sound consequence, that all duties are by so much the better performed, by how much the men are more religious from whose abilities the same proceed.  For if the course of politic affairs cannot in any good sort go forward without fit instruments, and that which fitteth them be their virtues, let Polity acknowledge itself indebted to Religion; godliness being the chiefest top and wellspring of all true virtues, even as God is of all good things.

Hooker then goes on to outline how religion helps preserve and perfect each of the four cardinal virtues, to the great benefit of the commonwealth, going so far as to say, regarding the greatest of the cardinal virtues, “So naturall is the union of Religion with Justice, that wee may boldly deny there is either, where both are not.” 

Hooker will return to this argument early in Book VIII, where he constructs his defence of the Royal Supremacy on two chief pillars.  The first is the personal identity of the visible Church (being an outward society of those who profess the faith) and the Commonwealth in Elizabethan England.  The second is the natural responsibility of commonwealths for religious concerns, for which Hooker is not afraid to cite Aristotle: 

“That the scope thereof is not simplie to live, nor the duetie so much to provide for life as for meanes of living well,” and that even as the soule is the worthier part of man, so humane societies are much more to care for that which tendeth properly unto the soules estate then for such temporall thinges as this life doth stand in need of.  Other proof there needes none to shewe that as by all men the kingdome of God is first to be sought for: So in all commonwealths things spirituall ought above temporall to be provided for.  And of things spirituall the chiefest is Religion.  

From all this, however, it might appear that Hooker has been so eager to demonstrate nature’s receptivity to the supernatural, religion’s integral place in the commonwealth, that he has perhaps naturalized religion altogether, reducing Christianity to a mere prop of political order.  He anticipates this objection in V.1 and V.2, attacking both skeptics and atheists.  The latter conclude from the “politique use of religion . . . that religion it selfe is a mere politique devise, forged purposelie to serve for that use.”  The former imagine “that it greatly skilleth not of what sort our religion be, inasmuch as heathens, Turks, and infidels, impute to religion a great part of the same effects which ourselves ascribe thereunto.” Against these objections, he takes care to argue that on the contrary, it is not merely religion, but true religion, after which all men instinctively seek, and that finding the true religion, Christianity, makes a great difference, both in this life, and in that which is to come.  He has no hesitation in recognizing the many virtues and benefits which flowed from heathen religion, as “certain sparks of the light of truth intermingled with the darkness of error,” but he maintains nonetheless that “the purer and perfecter our religion is, the worthier effects it hath in them who stedfastly and sincerely embrace it.”

Hooker thus develops his account of public religion under his overarching logic of nature and grace.  The desire for and worship of God is natural to man, and indeed, so central to human nature that it serves to ground and orient the other virtues, and is a mainstay of civil polity.  Fallen as man is, however, this religious devotion is tainted with “heaps of manifold repugnant errors,” on account of which we desperately need the gracious revelation of true religion.  This true religion, then, serves not only to set us on the path to everlasting life, which the false religions cannot even begin to do, but also reorients our temporal existence, crowning the natural virtues with a perfection beyond the capacity of false religion, and enabling a more harmonious life together in civil society.  For all these reasons, Hooker can argue for the Christian magistrate’s overarching concern for the spiritual well-being of his subjects, which is found only in their redemption by Christ; for in this rests their ultimate good, to which they are naturally oriented, and from it flows all subsidiary goods which will ensure a peaceful and virtuous life for the commonwealth.  On Hooker’s definition, then, the Church, considered as an external, visible society, is a commonwealth ordered toward the true religion: 

the care of religion being common unto all societies politic, such Societies as doe embrace the true religion, have the name of the Church given them for distinction from the rest; so that every body politic hath some religion, but the Church that religion which is only true.  Truth of religion is that proper difference whereby a church is distinguished from other politic societies of men.

He concludes, therefore, attacking what he perceives as the disastrous implications of the Presbyterian separation of church and commonwealth, 

A grosse errour it is to think that regall power ought to serve for the good of the bodie and not of the soule, for mens temporall peace and not their eternall safetie; as if God had ordained Kings for no other ende and purpose but only to fatt up men like hogges and to see that they have their mash? Indeed to leade men unto salvation by the hand of secret, invisible and ghostly regiment or by the externall administration of thinges belonging unto priestly order (such as the worde and Sacramentes are) this is denied unto Christian Kings, no cause in the world to think them uncapable of supreme authoritie in the outward goverment which disposeth the affayres of religion so farr forth as the same are disposable by humane authoritie and to think them uncapable thereof only for that, the said religion is everlastingly beneficiall to them that faythfullie continue in it.  

This passage highlights at the same time to Hooker’s haste to qualify what he envisions by the magisterial care for religion.  After all, if the prince is responsible for the good of his subjects, and their highest good is to be found in union with God, then does this not make the prince the pontifex maximus, both priest and king, arbiter of his subjects’ eternal destiny as much as their temporal?  Certainly, in some of the ambitiously caesaropapist declarations of the Henrician era, these implications would not have been far from the surface.  Hooker protects himself against these excesses by two sets of distinctions.  The first, of which we have already seen a good deal, is his two-kingdoms doctrine, which we see on display here in his qualification about “secret, invisible and ghostly regiment.”  The salvation of believers lay entirely within the hands of Christ alone, working invisibly by his Spirit in the hearts of men.  External means he may use to ready the soil and water the sapling, but only he could plant the seed of spiritual life.  No human servant could usurp his kingship here; they could only point to it.  

The second distinction, mentioned here in Hooker’s reference to “the externall administration of thinges belonging to priestly order,” designates a distinction of roles or orders, within the one civil kingdom.  While insisting that church and commonwealth are one society, he is careful to preserve a diversity of duties within this society, so that those activities in which the activity of the spiritual kingdom is outwardly manifested—the preaching of the Word, leading of worship, and administration of sacraments—are entrusted to priests, not kings.  He resists, however, the implication that “they that are of the one can neither appointe, nor execute in part the dueties which belong unto them which are of the other.”  On the contrary, throughout his argument for the royal supremacy, he maintains that the monarch, by virtue of his office as highest guardian of the common good, ought in England to have final (though not sole) authority for directing the various offices within the Church toward the good of the whole.  In other words, while the magistrate’s arena of direct concern is temporal affairs, and he can by no means lay claim to the power of order—which is the priestly authority over word and sacrament—he nonetheless exercises dominion over all matters in his realm, as the repository of sovereignty and the deputy of Christ in the civil kingdom. 

By virtue of these distinctions, Hooker tries to resolve the ambiguity inherent in the Puritans’ constant insistence that the affairs of the visible Church are “spiritual” and hence belong to Christ’s “spiritual kingdom”; he is willing to accede to this language, so long as it be qualified rightly:

To make thinges therfore so plaine that henceforth a Childes capacitie may serve rightly to conceive our meaning, we make the Spiritual regiment of Christ to be generally that wherby his Church is ruled and governed in things spirituall.  Of this generall wee make two distinct kindes, the one invisibly exercised by Christ himself in his own person, the other outwardly administred by them whom Christ doth allow to be the Rulers and guiders of his Church. 

 This outward administration of the “spiritual regiment” belongs within the orbit of what will elsewhere be called the “civil regiment,” which contains also matters of strictly temporal concern.

The Reign of the Son of Man

This post, again, contains much material from last year, but considerably reorganized, and much more developed (particularly in the latter section)

For Hooker, the royal supremacy, and indeed, the whole identity of a Christian commonwealth, cannot be explained without reference to Christology.  In this, he responds directly to Cartwright, but also, as we shall see, to VanDrunen, for both have advanced the same argument.   

In Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms, VanDrunen lays great weight on what he calls the Reformed doctrine of the “two mediatorships,” which he summarizes, 

“As mediator, the divine Logos is not limited to his incarnate form even after the incarnation.  He was mediator of creation prior to his incarnation and as mediator continues to sustain creation independent of his mediatorial work as reconciler of creation in the incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth.” 

The function of this doctrine is to emphasize two distinct offices of the Son of God, that of creator and governor over the order creation, on the one hand, and that of redeemer and governor over the order of redemption on the other.  These are not to be characterized as a temporal sequence, for, by virtue of the doctrine of the extra Calvinisticum, VanDrunen sees both offices being executed simultaneously and separately—while Christ was on earth, and indeed, after his ascension as well.  We need not look far to find the function of this doctrine for VanDrunen, for if Christ exercises two separate kingships, this authorizes the two kingdoms distinction.  VanDrunen, we will recall, correlates the civil kingdom to creation, encompassing phenomena such as politics, economics, and culture, and the spiritual kingdom to redemption, encompassing the Church and its work.  

Thus far, the distinction is fairly unobjectionable.  Having once made such a distinction, however, we must be careful not to allow it to become a dichotomy.  The personal unity of the Incarnate Word ensures that, as Hooker emphasized, creation and redemption hold together as two works of the same agent; moreover, these are not two unrelated works, but the latter, as we have seen repeatedly in Hooker’s exposition, renews the former and brings it to perfection.  A mere distinction of this sort, therefore, will not necessarily underwrite the strict separation of Church and state, of the norms of redemption from the norms of creation, that VanDrunen seeks to offer.  VanDrunen must therefore seek to resist the communicatio idiomatum whereby the human acts of the work of redemption can be predicated of the eternal Word and the divine acts of creation and governing creation can be predicated of the Son of man.  VanDrunen thus asks us to separate out these two “capacities”: “The Son of God rules the temporal kingdom as an eternal member of the Divine Trinity but does not rule it in his capacity as the incarnate mediator/redeemer.”  VanDrunen will even go so far as to say that this means we cannot rightly speak of “Christ” as creator:  “To distinguish between the Son as creator and the Son as redeemer entails that the title of ‘Christ’ belongs only to the latter . . . in his special mission of becoming incarnate for the particular work of saving his people.  The Son redeemed the world, but did not create the world, as the Messiah, the Christ.”  On this basis, VanDrunen argues, it is wrong to try to make the creation order (and thus the state) “Christian.”    

Distant as these Christological concerns may seem from politics, a glance at the 16th-century reveals that VanDrunen is not barking up the wrong tree.  In his debate with Whitgift over the relationship of the two kingdoms, Cartwright developed a similar line of argument, which he pursues at some length in his Second Replie.  In attacking Whitgift’s account of the civil and spiritual kingdoms, Cartwright argues that  

“yt confoundeth and shuffleth together the autoritie of our Saviour Christ as he is the sonne off God onely before all worldes coequall with his father: with that which he hath gyven off his father and which he exerciseth in respecte he is mediator betwene God and us.  For in the governement off the church and superiorytie over the officers off it, our Saviour Christ himselfe hath a superior, which is his father: but in the governement off kingdomes, and other commonwealthes, and in the superiority which he hath over kinges and judges, he hath no superior, but immediate autoritie with his father.”  

Further on, he explains, 

“let yt be consydered fyrst that our Saviour Christ ys in one respecte creator, and preserver of mankinde, in another redeemer, and upholder of his church.  For he created once and preserveth daily as God coequal with his Father, and holy spirite, but he both redemed once, and daily gathereth his church, as mediatour of god and man, in which respect even yet in his infynite glory he enjoyeth, he is, and shall be under his father, and holy ghost, untill having put downe all rule and power, he shall render the kingdom to his father.  Secondly yt ys to be donsidered, that as our Saviour Christe doth these in dyvers respectes: so he doth them by divers meanss.  To wyt that as God symply he hath ordeined certein means to serve his providence in the prservation of mankynde; so as God and man, he hath ordeined other certein, for the gathering, and keping off his church.  Thes groundes laied, yt is to be considered, whether the exercise off the sworde by the magistrate, come from our Saviour Christe preserver off mankinde, wherein he is coequal to his father, or as mediatour off his church, wherin he is inferiour.”

In these passages, Cartwright is attempting to assert a Christological basis for a separate government of church and state.  These institutions, says Cartwright, serve to provide for the ongoing work of redemption, and the ongoing government of creation, respectively.  Accordingly, they are not simply under the government of Jesus Christ in the same way, and cannot be mixed together.  In particular, Cartwright’s point here is to insist that we cannot speak of a human head of the Church, because the Church already has a human head, Christ Jesus, who answers to God.  As governor of the Church, “our Saviour Christ himselfe hath a superior, which is his father.”  However, Cartwright does want to allow for human heads of state, and thus argues that these are subordinated to Christ only as he is God: “in the governement off kingdomes . . . he hath no superior, but immediate autoritie with his father.”  Torrance Kirby explains: “According to Cartwright’s position, then, Christ has a double role or function as the ‘God-man’.  On the one hand, he is the source of all authority in the secular political order by virtue of his being the Son of God; on the other hand, he exercises ultimate power as head of his body, the Church, through his Manhood.”  With two distinct heads, then, the civil and spiritual kingdoms function in Cartwright’s account as two distinct, personally separated bodies.  

VanDrunen approvingly cites Samuel Rutherford advancing a similar, though perhaps even more starkly stated account: 

“Rutherford put the temporal kingdom under ‘God the creator’ and spiritual kingdom under ‘Christ the Redeemer and Head of the Church.’  In speaking further about the former, he writes that it is ‘not a part’ of Christ’s spiritual kingdom and thus states bluntly that the civil magistrate ‘is not subordinate to Christ as mediator and head of the Church.’  Along similar lines, he says later that ‘magistrates as magistrates’ are not ‘the ambassadors of Christ’ but ‘the deputy of God as the God of order, and as the creator.”


Behind this sort of account lurks the spectre of Nestorianism, the implication that we must treat the Incarnate God-Man as a separate agent from the eternal Word, and must strictly avoid predicating of the one functions carried out by the other.  Hooker is alive to this danger, and also to its larger consequences, recognizing that “such a separation within the source of authority, and its consequent ‘personal’ separation of the civil from the ecclesiastical community implies an inevitable de-Christianising of the secular political order.”  Accordingly, he responds to Cartwright’s claims from the Second Replie in a masterful stretch of argument in VIII.4.6, drawing on the Christological principles laid down already in Book V.

He begins, “As Christ being Lord or Head over all doth by vertue of that Soveraigntie rule all, so he hath no more a superiour in governing his Church then in exercising soveraigne Dominion upon the rest of the world besides.”  On this basis, he will argue “that all authoritie as well civill as Ecclesiasticall is subordinate unto his.”  One cannot, as Cartwright does, separate Christ’s kingship over the Church as man his divine kingship.  Hooker constructs his argument carefully, beginning with the eternal Son’s sharing in the rule of God the Father:

“That which the Father doth work as Lord and King over all he worketh not without but by the sonne who through coeternall generation receiveth of the Father that power which the Father hath of himself.  And for that cause our Savioures wordes concerning his own Dominion are, To me all power both in heaven and earth is given.  The Father by the sonne both did create and doth guide all.”

So far, VanDrunen and Cartwright would probably concur—the second person of the Trinity, by virtue of his divinity derived from the Father, is creator and ruler of all things.  However, Hooker insists at this point on the communicatio idiomatum: “there is no necessitie that all things spoken of Christ should agree unto him either as God or else as man, but some things as he is the consubstantiall word of God, some thinges as he is that word incarnate.  The workes of supreme Dominion which have been since the first begining wrought by the power of the Sonne of God are now most truly and properly the workes of the Sonne of man.  The word made flesh doth sitt for ever and raigne as Soveraigne Lord over all.”  Indeed, at stake here is not merely the doctrine of the incarnation—by virtue of which divine agency can be predicated of Jesus of Nazareth—but the doctrine of the ascension, by virtue of which the man Jesus Christ has been elevated, in his human nature, to kingship at the right hand of God over all his works.  Whereas VanDrunen asserts, and Cartwright implies, a version of the extra Calvinisticum which permanently sunders the human being Jesus Christ from the lordship exercised by the divine Son, Hooker insists that all that the Son worked as God he works now also as man, and what the Son works as man, he now does by divine power: “And yet the dominion wherunto he was in his humane nature lifted up is not without divine power exercised.  It is by divine power that the Sonne of man, who sitteth in heaven doth work as King and Lord upon us which are on earth.”  The two natures, in short, are united in one agency, one dominion, a dominion over not only the Church, but all creation.  

It is thus as both God and man that Christ rules over his Church, and as both God and man that he rules over the kingdoms of this world.  The foundation for all earthly government, then, is not merely from God the Creator, but now also through the God-man, the redeemer, who as man sits on the throne at the right hand of God, as redeemer of the world exercises his rule over creation.  All that the Son has and does by virtue of divinity, his humanity is made sharer in, and all that Jesus Christ has and does by virtue of his humanity, the divinity is made sharer in.  This, Hooker has argued, is simply the orthodox doctrine of the incarnation.  One cannot say then that as divine Son, the Word exercises a dominion in which the man Christ Jesus has no part, or that as redeeming man, Christ exercises an office in which the divine Son has no part.  Rather, all things on heaven and earth are made subject to the Word made flesh.  For that reason, there is no part of the natural order that has not been united to, and perfected in, the order of grace.


Just as the implications of Cartwright’s semi-Nestorian move for political theology are profound, so the implications of Hooker’s response supply him with a strong foundation not merely for his defence of the royal supremacy, but more generally, for his account of the Christian commonwealth.  Civil magistrates hold their authority derivatively from God through Christ, and thus are accountable to Christ for the outward protection of his kingdom.  Because we cannot sever Christ’s redemptive work from his work of creating and governing, it follows that magistrates are responsible not merely for preserving the created order of human society, and witnessing to God’s rule over it, but also for encouraging the redemption of society, and witnessing to the kingship of Christ the redeemer.  For Hooker, this is not a denial of his clear insistence on the integrity of the natural order, and of natural law as a means for governing this order.  Rather, as we have seen, he has maintained throughout that human nature seeks its proper fulfillment in union with God.  Now that this natural end has been achieved by virtue of supernatural grace in the Incarnation of Christ, one cannot speak of the natural order without reference to its rightful king, Christ the Redeemer.  In him, human nature has not been destroyed, nor transformed into something else; rather, it has been restored from its fallen condition, and advanced to a higher perfection, a perfection not beyond nature but proper to it.  Accordingly, the political order, while falling within the realm of nature, is not unaffected by the work of Christ; it cannot carry on as though it existed only under the banner of a generic deity.  By the same token, nor does natural law have no need of the revelation of Christ and his Word, despite having its roots in creation rather than redemption.

Grace Perfects Nature: Hooker on Nature’s Threefold Need for the Supernatural

(The following is a fragment of a thesis chapter draft I’ve been working up; it restates and repackages a number of matters that I’ve touched on here before, hopefully in a more satisfying and systematic way.)

Although Hooker lays great stress on the independent integrity and perspicacity of the order of nature, which has moral weight on its own, apart from the provision of special revelation, Hooker’s valorization of reason and nature is often overstated by his interpreters.  In fact, I would suggest, there are three crucial qualifications on the “autonomy” of nature and reason.  First, nature and reason cannot be autonomous in the sense of encompassing their own end; nature cannot be considered a self-enclosed compartment, nor can reason be satisfied merely with the task of investigating creation.  This much is clear already from Hooker’s inclusion of the first great commandment as one of the prescriptions of the law of reason, however, he will have much more to say in support of this claim in Book I, chapter 11, insisting that man’s final end is one beyond nature—God.  Second, nature and reason cannot be autonomous in the sense of being capable, on their own, of reaching their final, supernatural end.  On this point, Hooker is particularly nuanced, attributing most of this incapacity to the reality of sin, but acknowledging a dependence on divine grace even in the state of innocence.  Third, nature and reason cannot be autonomous in the sense that the gift of revelation serves solely to provide a path to the supernatural end, and leaves reason perfectly adequate on its own for all natural purposes.  Let us investigate each of these three points in turn.  

Hooker begins chapter 11 by returning to his statements early in chapter 5, where he introduced the law of reason, saying that it was the way in which man sought the unique goodness proper to his nature.  Everything created, he says, must have not merely particular goods, but a final good, “our Sovereign Good or Blessednessness, that wherein the highest degree of all our perfection consisteth, that which being once attained unto there can rest nothing further to be desired.”  Indeed, when we look at created goods, we see how they each serve not as goods in themselves, but as instruments unto some higher good: “we labour to eat, and we eat to live, and we live to do good, and the good which we do is as seed sown with reference to a future harvest.”  However, if this merely continued in an infinite regress, “whatsoever we do were in vain. . . . For as to take away the first efficient of our being were to annihilate utterly our persons, so we cannot remove the last final cause of our working.”  Therefore, he concludes, “something there must be desired for itself simply and for not other.”  For animals, mere continuance in being is an end in itself, but not for man.   For man, as the highest order of being, “doth seek a triple perfection: first, a sensuall, consisting in those things which very life it selfe requireth as necessary supplementes, or as beauties and ornaments therof; then an intellectuall, consisting in those things which none underneth man is either capable of or acquaineted with; lastly a spiritual and divine, consisting in those things wherunto we tend by supernatural meanes here, but cannot here attain unto them.”  This last, the  “spiritual and divine” good, must be infinite, for it is that final good “which is desired altogether for itself,” a desire that would be evil if bestowed on anything finite. 

So what is this final spiritual good, this supernatural end?  It is union with God.  For “No good is infinite but only God; therefore he is our felicity and bliss.  Moreover, desire tendeth unto union with that it desireth.  If then in Him we be blessed, it is by force of participation and conjunction with Him. . . . Then are we happy therefore when fully we enjoy God, as an object wherein the powers of our souls are satisfied even with everlasting delight: so that although we be men, yet by being unto God united we live as it were the life of God”.  (This description of man’s blessedness will be very important later on for our discussion of Christology.)  Hooker goes on to specify further this condition of blessedness: it must be “according unto every power and faculty of our minds apt to receive so glorious an object”—”both by understanding and will”; it must be perpetual, a perpetuity that cannot proceed from any natural necessity within us, but “from the will of God, which doth both freely perfect our nature in so high a degree, and continue it so perfected.”

Now this desire for supernatural happiness, Hooker is at pains to establish, is itself natural, for all men have it.  It is not in our power not to desire this, he says.  Therefore, being naturally desired, it must in some sense within natural capacity: “It is an axiom of Nature that natural desire cannot utterly be frustrate.  This desire of ours being natural should be frustrate, if that which may satisfy the same were a thing impossible for man to aspire unto.  So man’s reason is not enclosed within the bounds of creation, but naturally transcends these bounds, by desiring and striving unto the supernatural end of union with God.  If natural desire, then, is not “frustrate,” is natural reason capable on its own of achieving this end? 

Certainly not as man now finds himself.  For “this last and highest estate of perfection whereof we speak is received of men in the nature of a reward,” for works of obedience to the Creator.  This would have been Adam’s path to perfection and bliss had he not fallen.  However, Hooker is careful to qualify here, quoting “the wittiest of the school-divines” (Scotus) that we do not speak of this reward in terms of strict justice, as if God were “bound to requite man’s labours in so large and ample a manner as human felicity doth import; inasmuch as the dignity of this exceedeth so far the other’s value.”  Even in man’s natural state, then, the supernatural end of blessedness could only come “by the rule of that justice which best beseemeth him [God], namely, the justice of one that requireth nothing mincingly, but all with pressed and heaped and over-enlarged measure,” (ibid.) and the perpetual continuance of that blessedness infinitely transcends mere natural justice.  In any case, however, says Hooker, this is a moot point, for Adam failed, and what man now living can present his works, such as they are, before the throne of the Almighty and demand such a reward?  “There resteth therefore either no way unto salvation, or if any, then surely a way which is supernatural, a way which could never have entered into the heart of man as much as once to conceive or imagine, if God himself had not revealed it extraordinarily.” Thankfully for us, this latter is the case, and God has revealed a means, transcending any capacity of reason, whereby we might be granted this highest end of our desire.  

This supernatural duties thereby revealed are faith, hope, and charity, and are not merely beyond natural capacity to do, but even to know.  “Laws therefore concerning these things are supernatural, both in respect of the manner of delivering them, which is divine; and also in regard of the things delivered, which are such as have not in nautre any cause from which they flow, but were by the voluntary appointment of God ordained besides the course of nature, to rectify nature’s obliquity withal.” 

This last distinction leads us to a third point.  Thus far, we might be excused for understanding Hooker to say that nature falls short only of encompassing its naturally-desired supernatural end, but not of merely natural ends.  On this reading, the revelation of divine law would serve merely to establish supernatural duties, which would serve merely to lead us to God, while reason remained perfectly adequate to guide us in natural, civil duties toward our fellow man.  Certainly Hooker has already said a great deal in praise of reason’s ability to guide us in such endeavors, and will continue to say a great deal throughout the laws.  After all, God’s wisdom comes to us in many ways, all of which are to be respected and valued in their particular place: “Some things she openeth by the sacred bookes of Scripture; some things by the glorious works of nature; with some things she inspireth them from above by spirituall influence, in some thinges she leadeth and trayneth them onely by worldly experience and practise. We may not so in any one speciall kind admire her that we disgrace her in any other, but let all her wayes be according unto their place and degree adored.”  However, Hooker does not in fact think that the law of reason is so self-sufficient even within the realm of natural duties, or that Scripture has nothing to say about such duties (the conclusion that VanDrunen implies).  Nor does he think the converse (which proceeds from the same misunderstanding) that the supernatural law, being once delivered, can serve as a substitute for the law of reason (the conclusion that the Puritans implied).  

Rather, he declares at the outset of ch. 12, “When supernatural duties are necessarily exacted natural are not rejected as needless.  The law of God therefore is, though principally delivered for instruction in the one, yet fraught with precepts of the other also.  The Scripture is fraught even with laws of Nature.”  In re-directing us to our final end, Scripture cannot but re-direct us also with respect to our finite ends, since these are ultimately oriented toward that final end of union with God.  If we pursue finite goods with a view toward possession of God as highest good, then our dis-orientation from our final end, as a result of sin, cannot but distort our grasp of finite ends.  Consequently, the re-orientation provided by revelation will set us back on our natural path and illuminate that path again for us.  

We must distinguish, therefore, between “supernatural law” in the sense of origin and object.  Inasmuch as divine law reveals supernatural duties, it is, as Hooker has just said, supernatural both in respect of its origin (we could not know it but by special revelation) and in respect of its object (it concerns those duties which comprise our supernatural path to our final end).  However, divine law also reveals natural duties; in these it is supernatural in respect of origin, but not of object.  This distinction—between divine laws that are strictly soteriological, and divine laws that are also natural—is of course absolutely crucial for Hooker throughout the Lawes, and corresponds again to the two kingdoms distinction.  It is this which enables him to maintain sola Scriptura strictly within the arena of supernatural duties, while insisting that Scripture and the law of reason can be mutually interpreting in the arena of natural duties.

After delineating at some length the ways in which the law of reason can fail to adequately inform us of our natural duties, Hooker recapitulates with admirable concision and precision the triple dependence of the natural on the supernatural:

“We see, therefore, that our sovereign good is desired naturally; that God the author of that natural desire had appointed natural means whereby to fulfil it; that man having utterly disabled his nature unto those means hath had other revealed from God, and hath received from heaven a law to teach him how that which is desired naturally must now supernaturally be attained.  Finallie we see that because those later [the supernatural] exclude not the former [the natural] quite and cleane as unnecessarie, therefore together with such supernaturall duties as could not possiblie have been otherwise knowne to the world, the same lawe that teacheth them, teacheth also with them such naturall duties as could not by light of nature easilie have bene knowne.”

Drenched with Deity

In his English Literature in the Sixteenth-Century, C.S. Lewis offers perhaps what is the best summary of and introduction to Richard Hooker that I have yet found, far more lucid and on the mark than most “specialist” treatments.  Toward the end, he offers this luminous passage:

“Every system offers us a model of the universe; Hooker’s model has unsurpassed grace and majesty.  from much that I have already said it might be inferred that the unconscious tendency of his mind was to secularise.  There could be no deeper mistake.  Few model universes are more filled–one might say, more drenched–with Deity than his.  ‘All things that are of God’ (and only sin is not) ‘have God in them and he them in himself likewise’, yet ‘their substance and his wholly differeth’ (V.56.5).  God is unspeakably transcendent; but also unspeakably immanent.  It is this conviction which enables Hooker, with no anxiety, to resist any inaccurate claim that is made for revelation against reason, Grace against Nature, the spiritual against the secular.  We must not honour even heavenly things with compliments that are not quite true: ‘though it seem an honour, it is an injury’ (II.8.7).  All good things, reason as well as revelation, Nature as well as Grace, the commonwealth as well as the Church, are equally, though diversely, ‘of God’.  If nature hath need of grace’, yet also ‘grace hath use of nature’ (III.8.6).  Laws merely human, if they are good, have all been ‘copied out of the tables of that high everlasting law’ which God made, the Law of Nature (I.16.2).  ‘The general and perpetual voice of men is as the sentence of God himself’, for it is taught by Nature whose ‘voice is but his instrument’ (I.8.3).  ‘Divine testimony’ and ‘demonstrative reasoning’ are equally infallible (II.7.5).  Certainly, the Christian revelation is ‘that principal truth in comparison whereof all other knowledge is vile’; but only in comparison.  All kinds of knowledge, all good arts, sciences, and disciplines come from the Father of lights and are ‘as so many sparkles resembling the bright fountain from which they rise’ (III.8.9).  We must not think that we glorify God only in our specifically religious actions.  ‘We move, we sleep, we take the cup at the hand of our friend’ and glorify Him unconsciously, as inanimate objects do, for ‘every effect proceeding from the most concealed instincts of nature’ manifests His power (II.2.1). Not, of course, that our different modes of glorifying God are on a level. . . . But we must not so regard the highest in us as to forget that the lowest is still of God, nor so call some of our activities ‘religious’ as to make the rest profane. . . . We meet on all levels the divine wisdom shining through ‘the beautiful variety of all things’ in their ‘manifold and yet harmonious dissimilitude” (459-61).