Hooker and Tertullian

In an act of sheer brilliance, Richard Hooker produces a quote from Tertullian’s de Resurrectione Carnis where Tertullian says:

We may (saith he), even in matters of God, be made wiser by reasons drawn from the public persuasions, which are grafted in men’s minds: so they be used to farther the truth, not to bolster error; so they make with, not against that which God hath determined. For there are some things even known by nature, as the immortality of the soul to many, our God unto all. I will therefore myself also, use the sentence of some such as Plato, pronouncing every soul immortal. I myself too will use the secret acknowledgment of the commonalty, bearing record of the God of gods: but when I hear men allege, that which is dead, is dead; and while thou art alive, be alive; and after death an end of all, even of death itself: then will I call to mind, both that the heart of the people with God is accounted dust, and that the very wisdom of the world is pronounced folly. If then an heretic fly also unto such vicious, popular, and secular conceits, my answer unto him shall be: Thou heretic, avoid the heathen; although in this ye be one; that ye both belie God; yet thou that dost this under the name of Christ, differeth from the heathen, in that thou seemest to thyself a Christian. Leave him therefore his conceits, seeing that neither will he learn thine. Why dost thou, having sight, trust to a blind guide ? thou which hast put on Christ, take raiment of him that is naked ? If the apostle have armed thee, why dost thou borrow a stranger’s shield ? Let him rather learn of thee to acknowledge, than thou of him to renounce the resurrection of the flesh.

~ Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity 3.8

So the orthodox are free to use the public persuasions, but the heretics are not.  Indeed, Tertullian says that “our God” is known to all.  There is a secret commonalty.


Richard Hooker’s Biblical Defense of Reason

Much of Hooker’s concern in the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity deals with the legitmacy of natural revelation and reason.  His opponents, in order to boost their views of church government, had advocated that we could rely upon nothing but positive Biblical revelation.  Hooker argues that this goes too far, rejecting what is necessary in order to properly receive positive Biblical revelation.  He even goes further and shows that the Bible itself requires the right use of reason:

“Judge you of that which I speak,” saith the apostle. In vain it were to speak any thing of God, but that by reason men are able somewhat to judge of that they hear, and by discourse to discern how consonant it is to truth. Scripture indeed teacheth things above nature, things which our reason by itself could not reach unto. Yet those things also we believe, knowing by reason, that the Scripture is the word of God. In the presence of Festus a Roman, and of King Agrippa a Jew, St. Paul omitting the one, who neither knew the Jew’s religion, nor the books whereby they were taught it, speaks unto the other of things foreshewed by Moses and the prophets, and performed in Jesus Christ, intending thereby to prove himself so unjustly accused, that unless his judges did condemn both Moses and the prophets, him they could not choose but acquit, who taught only that fulfilled, which they so long since had foretold. His cause was easy to be discerned; what was done, their eyes were witnesses ; what Moses and the prophets did speak, their books could quickly shew: it was no hard thing for him to compare them, which knew the one, and believed the other. ” King Agrippa, believest; thou the prophets ? I know thou dost.” Continue reading