The Peril and Promise of Christian Liberty: Richard Hooker, the Puritans, and Protestant Political Theology

The Peril and Promise of Christian Liberty: Richard Hooker, the Puritans, and Protestant Political Theology➬ [Ebook] ➧ The Peril and Promise of Christian Liberty: Richard Hooker, the Puritans, and Protestant Political Theology By W. Bradford Littlejohn ➸ – Oaklandjobs.co.uk How do Christians determine when to obey God even if that means disobeying other people In this book W Bradford Littlejohn addresses that question as he unpacks the magisterial political theological w How do Christians determine when to obey and Promise PDF/EPUB é God even if that means disobeying other people In this book W Bradford Littlejohn addresses that question as he unpacks the magisterial political theological work of Richard Hooker, a leading figure in the sixteenth century English Reformation Littlejohn shows how Martin Luther and other Reformers considered Christian liberty to be compatible with considerable civil authority over the church, but he also analyzes the ambiguities and tensions of that relationship and how it helped provoke the Puritan movement The heart of the book examines how, The Peril Kindle - according to Richard Hooker, certain forms of Puritan legalism posed a much greater threat to Christian liberty than did meddling monarchs In expounding Hooker s remarkable attempt to offer a balanced synthesis of liberty and authority in church, state, and conscience, Littlejohn draws out pertinent implications for Christian liberty and politics today. Wow Just wow I got to proof and index this book, but upon a re read I have to say this is THE best academic book, even better than Planet Narnia Since it is very academic and most of my friends won t read it, consider this review to be the two minute version Okay, it s the fifteen minute version Okay, the half hour version I didn t have time to write a shorter review.The book begins with Luther s famous here I stand speech, and shows how many eminent historians have pointed to this momen Wow Just wow I got to proof and index this book, but upon a re read I have to say this is THE best academic book, even better than Planet Narnia Since it is very academic and most of my friends won t read it, consider this review to be the two minute version Okay, it s the fifteen minute version Okay, the half hour version I didn t have time to write a shorter review.The book begins with Luther s famous here I stand speech, and shows how many eminent historians have pointed to this moment and, indeed, to the Reformation as planting the seeds of liberal societies i.e societies which tolerated people of minority religions, different beliefs, and so on Freedom of conscience, according to many, translated from Luther down into freedom of belief, action, and values Hence, Luther and the Reformers father, however inconsistently, of liberalism However, contrary to this Littlejohn highlights how the reformers were very wary of this transfer from spiritual liberty to political liberty and some Protestants, namely the Puritans, took Luther s liberty of conscience in a very different direction and wanted the freedom, not only to do what they wanted, but to obey the Bible, whatever the cost Naturally such Biblicism is not very popular but occasionally a Paul Hill decides to kill an abortion doctor or John Brown decides to slaughter slave owners because their conscience forbids inaction.We have an activist and a quietist narrative One in which liberty is the freedom to obey God, no matter the authorities or if it hurts someone else, and the other a freedom to be allowed immunity of action as long is it never imposes itself on anybody else The problem with both of course is that political freedom is a zero sum game if I am free to get the role in the play, all sorts of other people are not free, and though this is petty, other examples abound even when cakebakers protested that they were not impinging upon somebody else by not baking for gay weddings, they were seen as impinging on other people s freedom.Further, with secularism, the problem is evenpointed how can we tolerate people holding to false beliefs, without any values which make such tolerance intelligible What goods can we point to that allow people to differ with such goods Littlejohn points out that we have largely forgot the importance of institutional liberty, which may in fact necessarily override the individual s freedom for the sake of the common good I m sure that last sentence may sound ominous, especially to American ears, and certainly a lot of wrong has been done in the name of the common good However, as Littlejohn points out, when choosing which side of the road to drive on and which hymns to sing in worship are laissez faire, then soon liberty will be lost in other important ways Ultimately, if everybody is allowed to do what they want in somewhat small, even indifferent matters, then the institution will be chained And so will most individuals.However, even this is not the key problem in the book Once one admits that the Reformers were talking about spiritual freedom to obey God s law and to be bound by the state in areas where Scripture had not clearly forbidden it, we still have to talk about where to draw the lines The problem of what things are commanded and forbidden by Scripture remains as explosive as ever, perhaps even over the smallest of disputes And when individuals take a different view than most people, how are there views and dissents treated Littlejohn asks How can the liberty of humanauthorities to seek the common good be reconciled with the liberty of individual consciences to serve God How can the freedom of a Christian person coexist with the freedom of a Christian commonwealth In the next chapters, Littlejohn departs from the generalizing questions about all these issues and turns to a historical sketch Luther introduced Christian liberty as primarily a spiritual liberty, the liberty to act in the knowledge that God has already accepted our works, and that we are to do everything in a spirit of love for our neighbor However, this remained a perennial problem for Protestants, particularly the concept of adiaphora things indifferent to salvation This concept could morph from indifferent to salvation all works, even good ones and indifferent to Scripture not specifically commanded or forbidden in Scripture Beyond this definitional ambiguity, there was the ambiguity of whether this left the individual or the magistrate at liberty Were indifferent things things that needed to be left to the individual or to the institution This became an urgent question when English Protestants felt obliged to not wear Popish vestments still a hot button issue in my very own denomination The protesters tended to insist on liberty of the individual, for the sake of avoiding superstition, and the authorities and bishops on the liberty of the institution, namely, the state to enforce uniformity, often for the sake of decorum and order Where was authority with Scripture and the private interpretation of individuals or with the priest or even the magistrate or the king Under Queen Elizabeth, the controversy grewpoignant and three poor souls died for refusing to admit anything but a Presbyterian church government Worse, some of the non conformists started to blur the lines between justification and sanctification by seeking for assurance in their works and they made anything but a Presbyterian Church a true church, which if pressed to its logical conclusion, re asserted papist Anabaptist ecclesiologies, making membership in a visible Church a part of salvation.This is especially apparent in the Puritan Thomas Cartwright who went so far as to say that all actions of moral weight needed to be founded in Scripture, and that Scripture had been written to leave as little ambiguity as possible for believers As long as Scripture is unambiguous and undisputed, a Christian can get good assurance so long as he did not disobey the works but once ambiguity entered the picture, such assurance about one s standing before God melted away They also had to change the definitions of the two kingdoms from the inner outer kingdoms of the spiritual realm and the political realm to the two kingdoms of church and state, with both institutions having almost equal rule and ministers sometimes having a greater place than the Magistrate And in fact, Christians had very little liberty in the realm of the Church, because Cartwright and other Puritans insisted that Scripture was so comprehensive, leaving little room for difference.Even so, the Puritans did hit the conformists in one place where it really hurt they pointed out that the prince was not absolute and that conformist responses dodged the question of whether what the magistrate demanded of them was reasonable or, indeed, had any accountability to the word of God Enter Richard Hooker.He pointed out the key difference between the conformists and the Puritans was an attitude to the adiaphora or things indifferent While the Puritans thought that the state could not regulate anything spiritual beyond Scripture, Hooker affirmed that the only place the state could legislate was where Scripture was silent This is for two reasons first, if Scripture really did command something in perpetuity, then that would not be something the state could legislate at all and so the only thing that the state could legislate would be things indifferent, if there was to be any legislation at all Second, the laws of the church were not radically different than the laws of the commonwealth The two kingdoms of the reformers were not, as we have noted, the church and state, but man before God and man before man In the former category, all rule by man is bondage However, for the church to be in charge of the state, far from being a violation of sphere sovereignty, is in fact the only way to avoid some sort of church tyranny, like the papacy.Of course what is forbidden in Scripture needs to be carefully parsed, since the Puritans based their entire argument on the idea that certain things the state was demanding were in fact forbidden by Scripture Richard Hooker needed to explain how somebody s private judgment about what was and was not required in Scripture was not absolute, without making the will of the state absolute as Whitgift tended to do To do so, Hooker famously began his polity by detailing the different categories of laws carefully distinguishing laws made in Scripture for good order which might be changed and the natural law which might not be changed Thus prudence and discretion come into play quite a bitthan in Cartwright s account, which strictly limited the state to whatever was commanded in Scripture I might add, like the theonomists and insisted on a Bible verse for every commanded policy.Hooker argued that visible rights are in fact very helpful for creatures of sense, merely as reminders, not as means of endearing us to God as they tended to be to Catholics Thus, unlike Luther, Melanchthon, and Calvin who emphasized Romans 13 and were not afraid of threatening civil disturbers with the flames of hell, Hooker appeals to a notion of corporate solidarity, and here let the libertarians howl.Contrary to the royalists, Hooker does not believe that, once the king is in, you cannot disobey him Hooker believed that the Elizabethan parliament and king were representatives of the people, who exercised a collective reason on their behalf Thus did Hooker checkmate the Puritans by pointing out that they were not protesting against a refusal to submit to Scripture, but against a curtailment of freedom in an adiaphorous matter with a plausible appeal to reason and custom and authority Though civil disobedience is allowed as in the case of worshiping idols or even in the case of praying to Mary or some other superstition , if every individual is allowed to disregard the law on the basis of a merely probable difference on something not necessary to salvation, there is no such thing as a political society.As Littlejohn says There will be times when the Christian must say with Luther, Here I stand, I can do no other, but in the absence of an utterly compelling reason to disobey the laws, a certainty with which we are rarely privileged in civil affairs, the Puritans must be willing to suspend the judgments of their conscience in deference to the superior weight of probability that public consensus holds Charity itself demands this, for whatever their concerns about the harm to be done by bad laws, they must surely recognize the greater harm that will be done by contentiousness and disobedience In the last chapter, Littlejohn argues that, in fact, Hooker, not his opponents, holds the keys to a truly Christian government that can truly outperform the secularist state Cartwright, like David VanDrunen, had conflated the spiritual kingdom with the visible church, making it God s kingdom on earth Hooker asserts, by contrary, that Christ rules over both the spiritual and temporal kingdoms as a Redeemer He does so by showing that nature and grace are not in opposition to one another Man naturally, before the fall, was supposed to pursue both natural and divine beatitude, and even after the fall, grace does not destroy nature but perfects it In other words, even if Adam had not sinned, he would still have desired greater union with God, the kind of union we will have through Jesus Christ With the fall, our natural reason and abilities and natural law are insufficient to achieve this salvation, though sufficient to other natural ends e.g survival, reasonable happiness, etc Supernatural grace and laws are necessary for salvation, but this does not replace the natural law and Scripture repeats and re affirms natural law all over the place In other words, the natural and supernatural are, in the words of one of Littlejohn s teachers, shot through with each other Interestingly, this harmony between nature and grace, without conflation, is mirrored in Hooker s Christology According to the creeds, Christ s person is both divine and human but the divine and human attributes do not mix Jesus as a man is finite, confined in space and time, limited in knowledge he does not know the hour of His return Matt 24 26 , and subject to suffering and death As God, Jesus is infinite, eternal, omniscient, and omnipotent In Jesus, nature is not swallowed up by grace, but neither is nature sharply separated from grace Grace exalts Jesus human nature to what human nature was always supposed to be.Further, in the same way, humanity is exalted through Jesus exaltation, yet we are not fused into God in a way that violates or abolishes the creator creature distinction And,importantly for the questions of secularism and theocracy, a similar thing happens to human governments The Puritans and Scottish covenanters posited that Christ was ruler over the Church as redeemer and over the state as Creator, keeping the two realms radically separate and relegating the former to special revelation and the latter to an unusually secular and independent realm though of course with an activist church, such separation was actually meaningless Hooker of course differs and argues that Christ is Lord as redeemer of both nature and grace, making him sound a note oddly similar to Doug Wilson salvation redeems nature and human society and does not merely get a few souls to heaven or create a holy space for the faithful to play in while the world goes on its bloody way The church is not a separate spiritual zone independent of the state, but is in fact a part of the temporal order, meant to unite it around worship and a reminder of union with God The state in turn is supposed to make sure that the church does not disturb civil order, but he does so only so that men may pursue the Christian faith better the magistrate is God s deacon and does so for the sake of his people s souls The true spiritual realm is ruled by Christ alone with no mediators of any sort, and thus neither priest, nor presbyter, nor parliament, nor king has any rule over it and may not demand absolute allegiance In fact, this potentially gives room for atheists and heretics to live in peace and to be persuaded rather than coerced.So in the end, Littlejohn returns to the issues raised at the beginning of the book The activist conscience which seeks to remake the world is our current bogey man, because it so often seeks to destroy the rights and freedoms of the individual conscience and the many utopian failures we have suffered in the last century However, a quietist view of liberty is simply untenable, because of course there must be some sort of conscience or principle that underlies tolerating other people s false beliefs or there is no reason to do anything moral at all Such a view, if it at all coherent, is existential and evolutionary we are free to remake ourselves however we choose and not subject to any nature The desire to be without external limits is simply the desire to be like God Secular liberalism in which all consciences are allowed to do what they like, provided it hurts nobody else, is a fantasy However, we cannot simply go the activist route and try to strictly tie ourselves to the Bible as a book of rules outside of which we are totally free this tends to lead us to veer back and forth between legalism and antinomianism, as history and experience both show Contrary to the ancients, man finds peace with God through recognizing that all his works are tainted by sin, and he learns obedience not by following an extensive legal code, but by using his common sense, judgment, reason, and even Scripture to weigh his circumstances and use one s freedom, as Luther and Paul both put it, not to check off rules, but to love one s neighbor.There s so muchthan this the desacralization of politics, freedom of submissive dissent, and the kingship of Christ all get a gesture in the last chapter and beg forattention but hopefully, it s clear that I am a big fan of its work and, in hindsight am eventhrilled that I got to proof it, help with oodles of footnotes, and got to index it As the author would say This is a book someone will have to remind me to re read, just because it s so good, so deep, and gets at so much good Reformed theology and evenpolitical theology My favorite quote is one that has massive implications for the Christian life and gets at the best of what Littlejohn blogs about if freedom consists in the cultivation of a mature agency, it should be clear that agency is unlikely to flourish in the absence of any possibility, any scope for action We noted that a situation of pure possibility would create moral paralysis, for there would never be any reason to choose one thing rather than another However, a situation with but one possibility, the course clearly dictated by reason, would hardly teach us the art of prudent decision making, which is essential to mature moral agency This may seem on the surface very uninspiring, but as C.S Lewis said, the heart sometimes sings when working through a tough argument and here I think the heart sings in tune Very helpful Littlejohn uses a 16th century church controversy over vestments to examine the difficulties of navigating individual v institutional liberty, especially pertaining to adiaphora He shows how two kingdoms theology and a strong doctrine of justification by faith help unravel the problem I would recommend it for anyone who has felt the tension between an overly prescriptive view of church government and an anything goes view of the church. An exposition of two kingdom theology that does not deny, but rather affirms the universal mediatorial rule of Christ as the redeemer and creator, over both the church and society Littlejohn employs Hooker as the exponent of a political philosophy that does justice both to Scriptural authority and natural law and reason. This book is very helpful and utterly relevant for our time It touches on political theology, law, hermeneutics and biblical interpretation, religious freedom, among other topics 16th Century England grappled with many of the same problems we have today, and in many ways laid the groundwork for our own ecclesial and civil structures in the US So this book helped me understand both past and present I m glad someone has done the work of reintroducing Richard Hooker, whose 8 volume mangum opus This book is very helpful and utterly relevant for our time It touches on political theology, law, hermeneutics and biblical interpretation, religious freedom, among other topics 16th Century England grappled with many of the same problems we have today, and in many ways laid the groundwork for our own ecclesial and civil structures in the US So this book helped me understand both past and present I m glad someone has done the work of reintroducing Richard Hooker, whose 8 volume mangum opus would otherwise remain inaccessible to the masses He s a luminous thinker and has much to say to us today He s also a Protestant Thomist of a sort huzzah The greatest strength of this book is its ability to pierce the theological controversies of late 16th century England The greatest weakness is that it leaves the reader s greatest question, how does this apply now , largely unresolved It points in some possible directions, but does not really attempt to answer the question. More to follow elsewhere, but I will say that this is a very fine piece of historical, theological, and ethical scholarship. Complex I don t know nearly enough about Reformation two kingdoms, the English reformation, Richard Hooker, or political philosophy to adequately engage.

The Peril and Promise of Christian Liberty: Richard
  • Paperback
  • 314 pages
  • The Peril and Promise of Christian Liberty: Richard Hooker, the Puritans, and Protestant Political Theology
  • W. Bradford Littlejohn
  • 12 January 2017
  • 0802872565