Richard Hooker's doctrine of the Holy Spirit

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Stafford, John K.
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This thesis discusses the contribution of Richard Hooker to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in his magisterial work, Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. Hooker’s discussion of the Holy Spirit is unsystematic although his dependence on the Holy Spirit for his theology is extensive. The aim of the thesis is to assess the contribution of the Holy Spirit to Hooker’s theology as under-represented in current research. Hooker’s attitude to reform is explored in relation to contemporary and later Puritan writers, such as William Perkins, William Ames, Richard Baxter, and John Owen, and forms part of the overall evaluation of the importance of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit for his theology. Four areas are investigated concerning the role Hooker assigned to the Holy Spirit in Christian theology. 1. The role of the Holy Spirit in the interpretation of Scripture. 2. The nature and purpose of the sacraments in light of the Holy Spirit. 3. The place of the Holy Spirit in understanding Hooker’s view of the orders of ministry. 4. The centre of Hooker’s theology as the claim to "participation" in the life of God. The thesis concludes that Hooker remained generally consistent with Calvin’s understanding of the Holy Spirit, though he refined Calvin’s scriptural hermeneutic with special reference to the relationship between reason and the Holy Spirit. It is also contends that later Puritans such as Richard Baxter and John Owen, offered a perspective on the relationship between reason and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that was consistent with Calvin but also anticipated by Hooker. This suggests a strong measure of continuity between Hooker and Puritan thought that did not become apparent until after his death in 1600, and which contemporary scholarship has continued to debate. Hooker was an advocate of reform but with a characteristically independent grasp of what that entailed in the convergence of Thomistic and Calvinist thought. Hooker’s doctrine of the Holy Spirit was a consistent theme that was essential to his central motif of the believer’s participation in God. The final chapter shows that Hooker, in defending the Elizabethan Settlement, was able to avoid the entrapment of the Puritan charge of Pelagianism and sympathy towards Rome on the one hand, and the Roman charge of Scriptural insufficiency on the other, by positing a third pole in the debate. This required acceptance of the idea of foundational Christian truth whose goal was theosis, the union of the soul with God, whose agent was the secret operation of the Holy Spirit and instrumentality, the Scriptures and sacraments. As such, Hooker called for mature commitment to theological investigation that stood above partisan rancour.
Richard Hooker, Holy Spirit, Reformation, Anglicanism, Puritanism