Hooker’s Four Precepts

hooker More on the Prayer Book wars!

Regulativists (RPW) view Normativism (NPW) as  invitation to worship anarchy.  Drudged up are  nightmare scenarios of ‘french-fries’ served during  communion or ‘motorcycles’ run up on stage during  praise team jams. Perhaps such scandals have  occured, and if they have surely it’s deeper the RPW  but a compound matter where Protestants cast aside Confessional standards.

How NPW is played out also depends on ecclesial polity.  A church which whose government is conducted on a synodal basis would have .  Lutherans and Anglicans both subscribe to such polities, and historically NPW produced documents like the Book of Concord and Common Prayer. Compare this to the Directory of Worship produced by the Westminster Assembly which resembles more a guideline for worship than book of fixed prayer, homilies, and rubrics. Hardly worship anarchy! Regulativists very rarely bother to examine what they criticise, rejecting common prayer without recognizing it as belonging to the Reformation family of scriptural worship. More than eighty percent of the BCP is directly quoted from scripture. The BCP’s song book after all is the Psalter.

Besides this, Regulativists  are challenged to answer why their worship is more historically diverse than Prayer Book churches? Despite the plain authority of scripture, Regulativist have a broad range of practice with respect to stringed instruments, hymnody, use of sacramentals (e.g.,  crucifixes), order of worship, and devotions/rubrics during communion. Furthermore, the Regulativist camp includes Reformed Baptists as well as Presbyterians who essentially have taken RPW so far as to basically reject the Sacraments of the church. Perhaps much of this is due to a hastily conceived Directory that lent moe freedom than even the Geneva version? Perhaps it’s legacy of Westminster itself where Independents and Presbyterians remained silent on inherent harm of Congregationalism?

Anway, the charge of worship Anarchy does not hold against the foremost Magisterial churches (Lutheran and Anglican) which complimented NPW with a catholic church polity that required subscription to canon hammered out by either council or King (turning NPW into CPW). CPW owes itself to those “over-arching” biblical principles shaping worship that Regulativists conveniently miss.  Richard Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book 5 defends Common Prayer. In it are four precepts (over-arching rules) that Hooker distills for the governance of worship. Hooker demonstrates  how catholicity and biblical principles work together to preclude such ridiculuous innovations as  “monster trucks in the chancel”. It behooves all regulativists to read and consider  Hooker’s defense of Fixed Prayer against the “misguided zeal” and havoc of extreme biblicism. Indeed, Hooker calls the consequences of these four precepts “more precise” than RPW :

  • Worship is Dignified: The first postulate is, “That in the externals of religion, such things as are or seem most effectual to set forward godliness, — either from considerations of God’s greatness, or the dignity of religion, or heavenly impressions on men’s minds, — ought to be reverently esteemed.”
  • Worship is Traditional: Hence we lay down as a second postulate, “That in things whose fitness is not of itself apparent, nor may be easily proved, the concurrent judgment of antiquity ought to prevail with those who cannot allege any weighty impropriety against them”.
  • Worship is Canonical: Hence the third posulate is, “that where no law divine, nor invincible reasoning argument, nor notorious public injury, maketh against what the Church hath instituted, even though it be but recently, her authority ought to weigh more than any mere opinion to the contrary; and to claim deference, especially from her own children.”
  • Worship has Expediency: Hence the fourth postulate is, “That in cases of necessity, or for common utility’s sake, certain ordinances profitable in themselves, may occassionally be relaxed”.
  • –Hooker, EP, book V, sections V-IX

Hooker poses this question, “How is uniformity justified where rites indifferent?” This is where church polity is deterministic. The ecclesiology of  Baptist and contemporary fundamentalist churches only allow a ‘voluntarist’ uniformity.  However,  these are not ‘catholic churches’. Catholic churches are premised upon mutuality between bishops (the presbytery) who compose the Church, “the universal church exists within the local (and vice-versa)”. The Church of England, though a national church governed by Monarch, viewed herself conciliar, ruled by synod when not by commission or crown. It is by synods diverse opinion on fundamentals may be addressed, so this may likewise be viewed as a footnote to ‘economy’, i.e., protocol for reform. Hooker says,

“..since scripture does no prescribe all particular ceremonies; and so many modes in things indifferent might occur to the natural mind. The only practicable method of proving uniformity seems to be from deliberate consultation and decision of the Church in general council hereupon; and not from the utterly impractable suggestion of churches mutually adopting from each other, till all comees to similarity”

One response to “Hooker’s Four Precepts

  1. Pingback: Necessary Doctrine and Erudition « Anglican Rose

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