Letter to the English Churchman on Hooker


Sir:

     Allan Clifford’s ‘objections’ to Dr Beckwith’s evaluation of Hooker are invalid. Beckwith defended Hooker against the London Temple attacks of Travers and Cartwright. Dr. Clifford ignores the entire debate, exchanging Beckwith’s real-life Hooker/Travers/Cartwright history for a Church of England/Calvin fairy-story.

     Cartwright zigzagged on the Church of England-Separatist border but maintained his Church of England status and ordination. Unlike Hooker, he viewed church reform as material for the courts and Parliament rather than church-centred discussion and Convocation. Cartwright imagined that bishops should merely preach, pray and ordain those chosen by a presbyter. He termed such novel ideas ‘laws’. Cartwright’s neo-legalism sprang from his Heidelberg days plotting with those who felt Luther, Bullinger and Calvin were too forbearing. This theology-less sect created a religion of order, discipline and case-law which shattered the German churches. Cartwright planted this splitter-bomb in England.

     Hooker was preferred to Travers as Master of the Temple, so Travers condemned Hooker and the Church of England in his lectures. Though not a Church of England minister, he pressed ambitiously for Parliament to replace the Reformed Book of Common Prayer by his Book of Discipline. Travers’ ‘puritan’ colleagues refused to follow him, never mind Parliament and the Church of England. Hooker wrote his mammoth Ecclesiastical Polity to show Travers and Cartwright how a Reformed Church actually worked.

     Clifford’s Titus argument misses the point. Paul authorised Titus as a bishop to ‘set in order the things that are appointed’ and to ‘ordained elders’. Hooker accepted this dual function, Cartwright/Travers did not. Clifford, misusing Calvin, argues from silence that what Paul said to Titus, he said to every presbyter. However, Calvin speaks of different long-term and short-term offices. He ranks Titus above ‘ordinary’ elders as Moderator.

     Calvin viewed his Presidential (not Presbyterian) church system as tailor-made for himself and not for duplication. Beza, a Bullinger convert, reorganised the church. Geneva paid little heed to Calvin until the mid 1550s following the German-speaking Reformers or no one. Calvin often changed his system in an anti-Reformed direction. He was falsely informed about the Church of England by her ‘puritan’ faction. On learning the truth, Geneva banned British ‘puritan’ works and begged Bullinger to re-mediate. Calvin coveted Church of England Reforms but lacked support from his congregation.

     Britain’s Reformers believed that the complicated French discipline which Clifford prefers was neither Biblical nor practical. Clifford’s fear that the English Church swam against the Continental stream with her episcopacy is groundless. The reformation in England was more thorough than in any other Continental realm except Scandinavia. All Continental Reformed churches apart from the Gnesio-Lutherans looked to England for leadership. The German-Swiss bishop/antistes-ruled churches supported England’s efforts to prevent a papist takeover of Geneva and campaigned intensively for church union with England. Episcopal Protestant Sweden with her vast Empire rejected the Lutheran Book of Concord and sought union with England’s Church. Those countries from which bishops were banned by their rulers and oppressors, as testified at Dort, found strength in the preaching visits and writings of the English Episcopalian Reformers. Jewel’s Apologia pro ecclesia Anglicana, the forerunner of Hooker’s work, was a major force in the Continental Reformation.