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Cite a specific reason why you agree with your classmate’s choice of preferred theologian. Your reply must add an original point to advance the discussion. Each reply must be at least 50 words.
Part 1: Who Best Explains Biblical Christianity Relating to Government?
I believe Richard Hooker’s theological viewpoint is more closely akin to biblical scripture as it relates to government because he addresses the minute ambiguities of Martin Luther and John Calvin’s sanguine position that man’s sinful nature and his ability to reason are not mutually exclusive to justify the civil mandate in Scripture. More importantly, he addresses the fallacious positions wrought by Thomas Cartwright and other radical Calvinist Puritans who polluted the sociological and political thought with a new bibliolatry quite incongruent with true Calvinism and biblical Scripture.
Luther and Calvin understood Romans 13 was biblical Truth allowing man authority to hold dominion over all His creation by natural and divine law, but it is Hooker that points out that every end is itself a means toward some further end, except the summa bonum, God, who is the Highest good, and cannot be a means to any further good. Both Luther and Calvin considered the unique roles between the spiritual authority and civil authority without total abdication of the visible and invisible church to the magistrate, but appealed for mutual deference and cooperation in certain instances, but Hooker makes the distinction that human law is a “Second Law Eternal” enacted by men bound by the divine law with God’s unchanging purpose:
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but too bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore, one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. Romans 13:1-7 (ESV).
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Richard Hooker, like Luther and Calvin, understood that man’s reason has its proper place to work in tandem with Holy scriptural mandate. Moreover, Hooker rejects the idea that all answers to man’s problems in modern life could be found in scripture because they could never have been anticipated at the time. In Hooker’s writing, The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, he fervently addresses the theological misappropriation of biblical scripture by Cartwright, John Knox, and Puritan followers as contrary to God’s purpose. This fallacious Calvinism preaches man’s “reason” is irretrievably corrupted on all moral matters with no legitimate moral or political authority as well as expressed disdain for any role of women. These are all un-Calvinist notions to be sure, and Hooker soundly rejects them, but does not explicitly forsake Luther and Calvin in the process. Thusly, Hooker’s theological position on the biblical Christianity of government are the most lucid melding of true biblical theology as it relates to our modern idea of government.
Part 2: Why I Did Not Chose Martin Luther
Martin Luther and John Calvin were like-minded Reformers much like that of a teacher and a student. Luther’s 95 Theses was groundbreaking for the invisible church to recognize the Truth that by faith and God’s grace alone, salvation can be obtained, but not earned. Ephesians 2:3-9 (ESV). With respect to Luther’s position regarding original sin of both “ruler and ruled,” his favor and deference to monarchial governmental power over a representative government as a means by which the visible church can more effectively influence the state, he was not the best choice for me. Luther took great pains to dispel the medieval papal teachings, traditions, and dogma of the Roman Catholic Church to expose pagan idolatry and meritorious salvation by good works. However, his doctrine in favor of nonviolent civil disobedience without any engagement in violent resistance did not include what redress would be available to “the ruled” in the event a tyrannical monarch wielded such power. In this regard, Luther’s biblical theology did not go far enough to anticipate the consequences of his position.
Part 3: Why I Did Not Choose John Calvin
Luther and Calvin held views so similar and intertwined that any distinctions between the theology of the two is that of varying degrees to be sure. Calvin gives us a more thorough consideration to cooperation between civil authority whereas Luther was quite comfortable deferring to the state monarchy. Calvin speaks for the more modern need of church autonomy against overreaching state control as directed in Scripture, and builds on the foundation of Luther’s work by calling a balance with separation and cooperation: to avoid bad but not impose its idea of “good” for that must be left to God’s authority alone to the invisible church. Calvin was more cautious to consider power abuses of secular government and the visible church in the spirit of Thomas Aquinas’ admonition that “man’s will be fallen, but his reason is not.” Admittedly, Calvin entertained a more classical perspective akin to Plato and Aristotle in which man could be trusted to his reason in matters of politics and economics, but not in matters of individual morality and salvation which arguably created the vacuum and the new bibliolatry by the Puritan Calvinists Richard Hooker felt compelled to address. For this reason, Calvin was not my most ideal choice for this assignment.
Strauss & Cropsey, History of Political Philosophy (1987)
Forrester, Duncan, Richard Hooker 1553-1600