Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Divine Law and Participation in God

Beginning with chapter eleven, in the rest of Book One Hooker moves from a consideration of law as it operates within human nature to the revelation of divine law. Hooker directs the reader to this topic by reiterating the view that highest good for humanity is participation in God: “If then in him we be blessed, it is by force of participation and conjunction with him. . . [A]lthough we be men, yet by being unto God united we live as it were the life of God” [I.11.2; 13-15, 19-20].

Despite being made to participate in God, humans cannot perfectly do so in this life. “
For while we are in the world, subject we are unto sundry imperfections” (I.11.3, 24-26) so that humans are unable to keep themselves focused on God alone. That the fullness of participation cannot yet be attained does not diminish human desire for it. Hooker maintains that even now humans are “capable . . . of God both by understanding and will.” Humans can understand God as the ultimate truth at the foundation of all wisdom and they can attain God by the will since God is “that sea of goodness, whereof who so tasteth shall thirst no more” [I.11.2, 9-12].

This desire for perfection is not limited to Christians but is found in all people, meaning that this is a natural desire. Because God accomplishes all that God intends, this desire for participation in God can be fulfilled because it was placed in humans by God. Humans seek a triple perfection: a sensual perfection relating to acquiring that which humans need to physically sustain them, an intellectual perfection relating to the pursuit of knowledge that lower orders of creation cannot attain, and a spiritual and divine perfection “
consisting in those things whereunto we tend by supernatural meanes here, but cannot here attaine unto them” [I.11.4, 23-25). While humans can be satisfied in regard to matters of the body or the intellect, when humans encounter the depths of the spiritual they are impelled to seek this perfection further and deeper so that “all other knowne deightes and pleasures are layde aside, they geve place to the search of this but onelye suspected desire”[I.11.4, 13-14).

For Hooker, salvation is the attainment of spiritual perfection, but it is something that can only be provided by God and made accessible in the form of revealed laws. “
God him self is the teacher of the truth, whereby is made knowen the supernatuall way of salvation and law for them to live in that shalbe saved” [I.11.5, 117.9-12]. This law of salvation is revealed in the redemption of humanity from sin “by the pretious death and merit of a mightie Saviour” [I.11.6, 118.20-21). All that God requires from humans to arrive at spiritual perfection through Christ (and hence participation in God) is the response of the supernatural virtues of faith, hope and charity (1 Cor. 13:13). The knowledge of both the possibility of salvation in Christ and the required human response fall within the category of supernatural or divine law for Hooker “both in respect of the manner delivering them which is divine, and also in regard of the thinges delivered which are such as have not in nature any cause from which they flow, but were by the voluntarie appointment of God ordained besides the course of nature to rectifie natures obiliquitie withal” [I.11.5, 119.18-23].

1 comment:

  1. Layman's question: I understand the pantheistic conception of God, and it seems to me Descartes identified God with perfection and infinity. I have only an extraordinarily vague concept of God in your usage - this is "personal God"? How am I to understand this usage?

    "Humans can understand God as the ultimate truth at the foundation of all wisdom"?