“Richard Hooker’s Sapiential Theology: The Authority of Scripture and Reason"
Torrance Kirby, Professor of Ecclesiastical History, McGill University
This lecture will address the definition of, and limits of, the authority of scripture in early modern England, focusing on Richard Hooker’s influential treatise, Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie (1594). Pursing what Hooker calls the ‘sundrie kindes of Wisdom’, this lecture will consider the question of how the Bible stood in relation to natural reason, the concessions and amplifications Hooker brought to the reformers’ doctrine of sola scriptura, that the Bible contains all things ‘necessary to salvation’, and the political and philosophical correlates of such debate. Whereas scripture alone was to be followed in the formulation of the ‘rule of faith’, at the same time, reason, custom, and human authority were necessary in the external ordering of religion. Hooker makes a distinctive contribution to the Reformation treatment of the boundaries between the authority of scripture and that of reason, uniting of these two ‘waies of wisdom’ in the context of a sapiential theology.