Richard Hooker, theologian
Richard Hooker (March 1554 – 3 November 1600) was an Anglican priest and an influential theologian. Hooker's emphases on reason, tolerance and the value of tradition considerably influenced the development of Anglicanism. He was the co-founder (with Thomas Cranmer and Matthew Parker) of Anglican theological thought.
Details of Hooker's life come chiefly from Izaak Walton’s biography of him. Hooker was born in the village of Heavitree in Exeter, Devon sometime around Easter Sunday. He attended Exeter Grammar School until 1569. Richard came from a good family, but one that was neither noble nor wealthy. His uncle John Hooker was a success and served as the chamberlain of Exeter.
Hooker's uncle was able to obtain for Richard the help of another Devon native, John Jewel, bishop of Salisbury. The bishop saw to it that Richard was accepted to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he became a fellow of the society in 1577. On 14 August 1579 Hooker was ordained a priest by Edwin Sandys, then bishop of London. Sandys made Hooker tutor his son Edwin, and Richard also taught George Cranmer, the great nephew of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer.
In 1581, Hooker was appointed to preach at Paul’s Cross. It was at this time, according to his biographer Walton, that Hooker made the "fatal mistake" of marrying his landlady’s daughter, Jean Churchman. As Walton put it:
“There is a wheel within a wheel; a secret sacred wheel of Providence (most visible in marriages), guided by His hand that allows not the race to the swift nor bread to the wise, nor good wives to good men: and He that can bring good out of evil (for mortals are blind to this reason) only knows why this blessing was denied to patient Job, to meek Moses, and to our as meek and patient Mr Hooker.”
In truth, the Churchman family belonged to the puritan wing of the Church of England and they must have been extremely obnoxious to the high church associates of Hooker. Nevertheless, Richard seems to have been a good husband who seems to have always treated his wife with respect. The couple would have six children together, only two of whom survived beyond the age of 21. Hooker named Jean executrix in his will.
Hooker became rector of St. Mary's Drayton Beauchamp in Buckinghamshire in 1584. The following year, Archbishop Edwin Sandys brought Hooker to the attention of Queen Elizabeth I, who appointed him Master (i.e. rector) of the Temple Church in London. There, Hooker soon came into public conflict with Walter Travers, a leading Puritan and Assistant at the Temple.
Hooker later served as Subdean of Salisbury Cathedral and Rector of St. Andrew's Boscomb in Wiltshire. The influential character of Hooker's writings, particularly Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, cannot be overestimated. Published in 1593, and subsequently, Hooker's eight volume work is primarily a treatise on Church-state relations, but it also deals comprehensively with issues of biblical interpretation, soteriology, ethics, and sanctification. Throughout the work, Hooker makes clear that theology involves prayer and is concerned with ultimate issues, and that theology is relevant to the social mission of the church.
In 1595, Hooker became Rector of the parish of St. Mary's in Bishopsbourne in Kent. He died 3 November 1600 at Bishopsbourne. He was buried in St. Mary's Churchyard.