Lament for a Nation (Grant)

Grant, George.  Lament for a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism. Montreal, Canada: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1965 [reprint] 2007.

I can’t vouch for how accurate Grant’s summary of Canadian nationalism (more on that term later) is.  As Americans, we don’t know much about Canada.  Before we should begin we should clear up what we mean by “nationalism.”  Nationalism doesn’t mean “my country is great and everyone else is stupid,” nor does it mean use the American military to invade (and then invite) the world.  That is Neo-Conservatism, and it is the enemy of nationalism.  Nationalism means that linguistic, geo-political entities are real and have a real right to exist.  If we reject this view, then the nation will then be subject to other forces, such as the United Nations, international corporations, or Communist China (or all three, as controlled by Communist China). 

Grant’s argument is that Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker formally and culturally lost Canada around 1963, as non-liberals in Canada couldn’t give a good reason to deny Kennedy’s demand to place nuclear warheads on Canadian soil (the implication, among other things, is that if you can’t make your own military decisions, you really aren’t a sovereign country).

Moreover, Canada found itself involved in the Michigan-Ohio manufacturing economy.  This meant that Canada had to agree to economic decisions made that would primarily benefit those states.  That is another implication:  if you can’t make your own economic decisions, are you really a sovereign country?

The bottom line is that by the end of the decade, corporations, and not the average citizen, were in charge of the country.  (This is basically America today.) Of course, someone could counter: 1) wasn’t it necessary to oppose Soviet threats?  That’s a good point and one not easily brushed aside.  We should all fight to the death against Communism.  I’m not sure exactly how Canadian nationalists can answer that question.  

2) Doesn’t increased integration into the American economy lead to a higher standard of living for Canadians?  Maybe.  I really can’t answer that question, except to defer it to a later discussion of virtue and liberalism.

3) Isn’t this inevitable?  Probably.  Grant hints as much, hence the “Lament” in his title.

The book pivots at Chapter Five. Grant shifts from discussing Diefenbaker to the nature of techno-liberalism, and here is where he shines.  His thesis is “This state will be achieved by means of modern science–a science that leads to the conquest of nature” (Grant 52).  Marx, unlike Democratic Socialists today, knew that scarcity was a real phenomenon.  He simply believed that technology would end it.  That, of course, didn’t turn out.  Liberals, also, believe in technology, but more along the lines of mastering nature.  That might not seem to follow, but consider: the essence of liberalism is to reject any conception of the Good that imposes limits on human freedom” (55).  Technology will help man overcome the built-in limits that threaten his freedom.  In other words, it is “the faith that can understand progress as an extension into the unlimited possibility of the future” (56).

Does this mean society will be socialist or capitalist?  The larger point is not that the elites think one system is better than the other.  Rather, they have seen that capitalism better facilitates technological expansion.  And by capitalism, we mean late capitalism.  As Grant notes, early capitalism was full of moral and Puritan restraints.  Later capitalism as manifested by the Playboy culture, is not

All of this, of course, is a far cry from earlier conceptions of the good and serves to illustrate Grant’s contrast between post-Lockean liberalism and older Toryism.  Earlier liberals, such as the American founders, did believe in a “Good” of sorts, but it was a good for all practical purposes to safeguard the individual, not the individual safeguarding the Common Good. This means that American conservatives, no matter how well-intentioned, in wanting to get back to the Founding, can never rise above the limitations of John Locke.

The alternative to Locke, as Grant notes, is the organic, hierarchical society of Richard Hooker.  I say Grant “notes” this point; he never really develops it.  The various writers of the forewords to this book, however, do develop it.  I say “various writers.”  This book has close to 80 pages of introduction.  I kid you not.  

Andrew Potter notes that liberalism, whether that of Madison or Roe v. Wade, lets “Freedom” close off “any public conception of the Good” (Potter xxv).  Goods are not values, and values are private.  Remember, I as the individual am ultimately committed to my freedom.  External focus on the Good might hinder might freedom.

By contrast, those following in the line of Hooker see society as an organic unity, “in which each part is responsible for the welfare of the whole” (xxxi).  To use a modern application: the anti-masker during Covid is legitimately expressing his freedom.  Liberals have attacked the idea of a transcendent Good for decades, and now they want to arbitrarily apply it.  Of course, the student of Hooker should wear the mask, but he only has a good argument if he subsumes it to the common good.

Potter offers another way to look at it.  Aristotle’s ethics looked for a positive theory of human excellence.  Locke only sought a negative view of what was evil (xl).  If the state of nature is one of inevitable death, then the government has only one goal: securing my life, liberty, and property. It might be nice if I wanted to help someone, but that is utterly irrelevant.  Grant doesn’t fully develop the point, but this might be one of the reasons American conservatism has always been anemic.

As a whole, the book is well-written.  I can’t attest to the historical conclusions, but his analysis of modern liberalism is on point.

The Word of God and the Word of Man (Richard Hooker)

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Richard Hooker’s aim in these two books can be seen as a pair of concentric circles.  In the outer circle he refutes the claim that we have to have a Scriptural proof for every action. On one level this claim is absurd and it is hard to imagine that his opponents took it seriously.  Perhaps, though, his opponents mean something like, “You must have a Scriptural justification for every ethical and doctrinal stance.”  Having refuted the first position, his inner circle is an attack upon the Regulative Principle of Worship.

The larger context, though, is Hooker’s defense and presentation of natural law.  While Scripture is sufficient unto salvation, Hooker warns us not to epistemologically push Scripture “beyond what the truth will bear” (Hooker 4).  To mix metaphors, you can’t force Scripture to be a Platonic database from which you can download a response to every issue in life.

Book II mainly deals with sectarian claims that you have to have a Scriptural command for each individual action, not simply in the church, but for all of life.  This is extreme and, quite frankly, absurd.  I won’t spend much time on Hooker’s rebuttals.  He draws an example from David’s life.  David had no divine command to build the temple.  True, Nathan told him he couldn’t’ do it, but he commended his intent.

Technical terminology:

Perfect: a perfect action is one that lacks nothing necessary to the end for which it was instituted (42).

Book III

The Church of Christ is his spiritual body, which cannot be perceived by the senses (III.1.1).  The visible church is one.  Wickedness in the church does not cancel the church.  This is what we tell to critics when they ask “Where was your church before Luther?”  It was in the same place the Israelites were in when they were worshiping idols.  The only change in our church was when it went from being idolatrous to more godly.

The visible church is more of a society than an assembly.  Assemblies only last for the duration to which men are called to it.

Hooker rebuts the RPW along the following lines: Either Scripture puts down a church polity in part or in whole. The latter is simply false, for there is no NT equivalent for the book of Leviticus. If they say “taken from Scripture” from its parts, then they are no different from Anglicans.

Furthermore, a “general command” necessarily excludes particular cases.  If we chose any particular, we would be violating the general command (78).

Hooker then examines the grammar of the argument: a thing ‘commanded’ in the word is not the same as ‘grounded’ in the word.  The former is positive, the latter negative.

 

Littlejohn on Vermigli on the Eucharist

Brad Littlejohn, the leading proponent of Richard Hooker today, gave a good paper defending the Protestant view of the Eucharist.  I highlight the key points here.

Click to access Hillsdale-sacraments-paper-2.2.pdf

Key argument 1:  We are so accustomed to hearing that the Reformation debate was over whether or not Christ’s body and blood were present in the Eucharist that we really need to pause to wrap our heads around this: the central debate, the issue for which many were to pay with their lives, was whether bread and wine were present in the Eucharist.

1.1.  If the Eucharist is parallel with the Incarnation, then the bread and wine need to be really present, otherwise we have docetism.

1.2.1. If Christ’s present, per transubstantiation, replaces the bread and wine, then the modern advocates of “Incarnationalism” are actually guilty of the very thing they accuse Reformed when they say we don’t have an “enchanted” view of creation.

2. How can a body, Christ’s, which is a quantum, be present yet not by way of quantity?  If they say he is present by quantity, then given multiple masses, he has multiple bodies.

3. The mode of Christ’s presence is the Holy Spirit. Christ is really present.

 

 

Radicalism: When Reform Becomes Revolution (Hooker)

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Hooker, Richard. Radicalism: When Reform Becomes Revolution. The Preface to Hooker’s Laws: A Modernization. Eds. Littlejohn, Brad. Marr, Brian. Belschner, Bradley. Lincoln, NE: Davenant Institute, 2017.

Hooker’s argument is that when you “want to reform the church according to the word of God:” given the lack of some clear precepts and patterns, you are going to have people who a) believe any deviation from the RPW is sin, b) some who believe a) will nonetheless have different practices, which leads to c) they, too, are necessarily in sin.  

On one hand he is correct.  This is exactly what happened in history.  On the other hand he completely misses his target.  He labels those who think like this as “Presbyterians,” since they are following Knox and Calvin.  Historically, however, at least in England, the true radicals were the Independents. Presbyterians in England (and Scotland!) never really had the political competence to hold on to power.

Here is a survey and structure of Hooker’s argument:

(1) The “Radicals” have nowhere shown that the Established are breaking God’s law in their liturgy.

(2) The radicals sought to get as far away from popery as possible.  This ultimately lead to getting rid of the Lord’s Prayer et al in the service.  Anyone who disagreed was “disobeying the will of Christ” (2.2).

(3) Instead of civil authorities having authority in the church, we have lay leaders who have close to the same amount of authority.  Further compounding the problem, and Hooker doesn’t specifically make this argument, what if leaders in the community, yet not actually holding office, are also church leaders? This isn’t all that different in the end.

(4) Hooker asks where Scripture teaches the entire “Presbyterian package” (2.7). You can’t point to verses that teach “rule by elders.”  That’s not the issue. The problem is where are the elders’ session to report to a presbytery which reports to the Assembly?  

(5) This next argument isn’t a knock-down argument, but the radical types need to consider it: how come no church body in history (over the long term and in the mainstream) ever held to Calvin’s type of government?  While Rome, EO, and Canterbury view bishops differently, they at least hold to episcopalian government as a given–and this was a given since the earliest days.

(6) Related to (4), we can’t say we are following Scripture simply because Scripture doesn’t give us an outline of First Presbyterian Church, Colossae.  Nor does it give us an order of worship.

Hooker’s arguments simply show the difficulties in some hyper-Reformed views.  He doesn’t in the preface give an argument for his own position, nor does he offer any knock-down logical arguments.  

Richard Hooker (W. Bradford Littlejohn)

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Littlejohn, W. Bradford. Richard Hooker. Wipf & Stock.

I wish I had something like this in 2008 when I was wrestling with claims of “what is the true church?” The conservative Protestant publishing world had lost giants like Hooker and Chemnitz. Turretin had been recently translated and published, but he still stayed on the periphery.

Richard Hooker gives us a cosmopolitan vision that is Protestant, yet unashamedly Anglican. I cannot go with him on some points (as I am Presbyterian), yet to interact with his thoughts improves the architecture of the mind. We thank Brad Littlejohn for this little text and for streamlining Richard Hooker for a new generation.

The Mythical Hooker

Myth 1: he was a serene philosopher who floated above controversy.
Myth 2: He is anti-Calvinist.
Myth 3: He retrieved Thomas Aquinas who had been rejected by the Reformation.

Richard Hooker: The Book

In terms of skill and strategy, Littlejohn notes that “the Puritan position had been rendered desperate by the great flanking movements in Books I and II” (Littlejohn). Hooker was unique in that he renounced the standard process of polemics. Earlier polemicists, much like discernment bloggers today, stated the opponent’s position paragraph by paragraph and then refuted each line. This turned small pamphlets into unmanageable tomes. Hooker blessedly repudiated this method. By contrast he offered a text that logically flowed from its prior structural argument.

I do wish Littlejohn had developed exactly how Hooker outflanked his opponents. He asserted it and pointed to relevant passages (which the reader may or may not have). A fuller discussion would have been appreciated. I do plan, however, to read through the Davenant Series on Hooker.

The Challenges to Be Answered

Do the sign of the cross and the wearing of vestments constitute an erasure of the Reformation? To what degree does our appeal to Scripture determine worship? The next question is related to the first one: does anything beyond this jeopardize Christian liberty?

The presbyterians’ argument was thus: no bishop (or elder) is to have spiritual authority over the others; and royal supremacy was to be challenged. This meant that Good Queen Bess would actually be under clerics’ authority in some spheres.

Hooker, therefore, had to respond to a (a) strict biblicism, (b) presbyterian government, and (c) the challenge to civil unity.

A Tour of the Laws

Preface: people are quick to impute all the problems of a society to the established order, with the result that whatever then claims the strongest sanction receives the victor. Elsewhere Hooker makes a very perceptive point on subordinate, yet legitimate human laws. Human laws can teach (albeit, limited) wisdom. Or rather, these human laws are grounded in Wisdom, which participates in the Eternal Law of God. Therefore, we should honor these “manifold forms” in which Wisdom is revealed.

Book II: Considering Scripture as the only law. Scriptural warrant is good, but we must be honest, so Hooker argues, in how it is (and perhaps can be) applied.

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Hooker as Polemicist

His famous Preface begins with a subtle attack on the discipline in Calvin’s Geneva, and it is the way in which Hooker crafts his argument that makes him so formidable. He knows that his opponents, the “precisianists,” are acting out of conscience. His concern is that they identify their own probably inferences as infallible truth.

Hooker as Philosopher

Nature and Grace. All created things strive towards a comprehensive final good (Laws 1.11.1). And since God is the highest good, all things seek participation in him. Grace hath need of Nature. Even though faith is a gift from God, it takes root in our natural faculties.

Hooker as Pastor

Assurance

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Hooker drew upon a distinction made by Thomas Aquinas between the object of our knowledge and the nature of our knowledge.

Key Themes: Law

Hooker will criticize the hyper-Puritans for not understanding the different kinds of laws. These kinds of laws do not bind the conscience. Rather, they have an intrinsic rationality “that elicits the morally attuned heart’s free response.”

While this sounds like an open attack on the liberty of conscience (and it probably is), it is little different from Samuel Rutherford’s attack on the Antinomians. One can only act in liberty if the conscience is in conformity to right reason.

Key Themes: Church

Initial premise–the church is perfectly righteous by virtue of its union with Christ, yet it is often hidden in history.

The problem: how false did a church’s preaching have to be before it was no longer a true church? This was initially applied to Rome, then to the Church of England, and then the separatists applied it to each other.

Visible and Invisible. This isn’t just the pure body of the elect vs. you sinners. It is also two planes on which even believers experienced their union with Christ. On one hand we rest entirely on Christ alone, yet on the other we commune with the visible body of the saints. According to Littlejohn, Hooker’s goal is more on how the church participates in the life of heaven than what is and isn’t a true church.

Key Themes: Liturgy and Sacraments

Doctrine of participation: First, we avoid saying the church is an extension of the Incarnation because this blurs the Creator/creature distinction (see Hooker V.56.4-5).

Book 1 of Richard Hooker’s Laws

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Divine Law and Human Nature: Book I of Hooker’s Laws: A Modernization

by Richard Hooker, W. Bradford Littlejohn  (Editor)Brian Marr (Editor)Brad Belschner (Editor)

Purpose for writing: Hooker sought to vindicate “the Laws of the Church which have guided us for so many years….which are now being called into question” (Hooker 2).  In doing so Hooker gives us a brief defense of “natural law,” noting that even “The very being of God is a sort of law to His working, for the perfection that God is, gives perfection to what he does” (5).

Following Aristotle, Hooker notes that God “works towards a certain end and by a certain law which constrains the effects of his power” (7). Hooker understands that “natural law” can be a slippery term.  Does it mean “rational principles” or “Newton’s physics” or something else? Therefore, he distinguishes the various laws that guide God’s creation. His main focus is on the “rational being [who] with a free will [is a] voluntary agent” (11-12).

His section on angelic law is somewhat unique in natural law treatments.  He notes, correctly I think, that when we consider them “corporately, their law makes them an army, some in rank and degree above others” (19).  Demons, moreover, “were dispersed, some in the air, some on the earth, some under the water, some among the minerals, dens, and caves under the earth” (20).

Concerning rational agents, Hooker notes that “Choice, however, means that whatever we do, we also could have left undone” and that the “two fountains of human action are knowledge and will, and when the will tends toward a particular end, we call it choice” (29).  Hooker is clearly in line with the intellectualist tradition in that the mind guides the rest of the faculties (38).

Concerning human and divine laws, he makes the distinction between primary and secondary laws.  A primary law deals with our original nature, the latter with our depraved nature The former includes embassies, good trade, etc.  The latter concerns war (61).

A “good” is that which can make our nature more perfect (64).

Concerning Scripture, Hooker responds to the papist objection “Well how do you know from Scripture which books are Scripture?”   He begins by noting that every field of study requires the prior knowledge of some things outside the field of study and takes for granted many things” (81).   When Scripture says “all things necessary for salvation,” it cannot “be construed to mean all things absolutely, but all things of a certain kind, such as all things we could not know by our natural reason.  Scripture does indeed contain all these things. However, it also presupposes that we first know and are persuaded of certain rational first principles, and building on that, Scripture teaches us the rest” (80-81).  And that is the purpose of natural law.