‘The Edification of the Church’: Richard Hooker’s Theology of Worship and the Protestant Inward / Outward Disjunction

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ABSTRACT

Sixteenth-century English Protestants struggled with the legacy left them by the Lutheran reformation: a strict disjunction between inward and outward that hindered the development of a robust theology of worship. For Luther, outward forms of worship had more to do with the edification of the neighbour than they did with pleasing God. But what exactly did ‘edification’ mean? On the one hand, English Protestants sought to avoid the Roman Catholic view that certain elements of worship held an intrinsic spiritual value; on the other hand, many did not want to imply that forms of worship were spiritually arbitrary and had a merely civil value. Richard Hooker developed his theology of worship in response to this challenge, seeking to maintain a clear distinction between the inward worship of the heart and the outward forms of public worship, while refusing to disassociate the two. The result was a concept of edification which sought to do justice to both civil and spiritual concerns, without, pace Peter Lake and other scholars, conceding an inch to a Catholic theology of worship

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