The doctrine of the royal supremacy in the thought of Richard Hooker
The subject of this dissertation is Richard Hooker's defence of the royal headship of the church in the final book of his treatise Of the Lawes of Ecclesiasticall Politie. His treatment of this political question is remarkable for its depth of theological analysis. Hooker approaches the issue of the royal headship from three main theological angles: first, from the standpoint of the crucial distinction of Reformation soteriology between the so-called 'Two Realms' or 'Two Kingdoms'; secondly, according to the categories and distinctions of basic systematic doctrine, notably Chalcedonian Christology and Trinitarian dogma; and thirdly, he applies the magisterial reformers' test of ecclesiological orthodoxy. Modern students of Hooker's political thought have been very reluctant to bridge the gulf between the theological and political realms of his discourse. As a result, the theological matrix of Hooker's doctrine of the Royal Supremacy has been quite neglected. The erection of such a bridge is indispensable to our understanding of the alien mentalite which underlies this important Elizabethan controversy. We shall attempt to demonstrate that Hooker's employment of theological argument in defence of the Royal Supremacy was central to his ultimate apologetic purpose. He wrote the Lawes with a view to 'resolving the consciences' of the Disciplinarian-Puritan critics of the Elizabethan Settlement. He sought to convince these opponents by the most compelling mode of argument they knew - theological argument - that the royal headship was wholly consistent with the cardinal principles of the ecclesiology and political theory of the magisterial Reformation. In the first chapter there is a consideration of the methodological difficulties of modern Hooker scholarship. This is followed by an examination of Hooker's apologetic intention and a division of the chief theological elements of the controversy over the Royal Supremacy. Chapter two explores the soteriological foundations of Hooker's doctrine of the Two Realms and Two Regiments as well as his relation to the authority of the magisterial reformation. Chapter three examines Hooker's ecclesiology as the pivotal link between his soteriological 'first principles' and his political theory. Finally, in chapter four, the considerations of the previous chapters will be applied directly to the interpretation of Hooker's theology of the royal headship as presented by him in Book VIII of the Lawes.