One of my theological intellectual goals has been to read through Richard Hooker's Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. As an Anglican priest I feel that I should be able to say that I have read Hooker from beginning to end. So far I am about halfway through volume 2 (book 5) of the edition edited by Keble. As anyone who has tried knows, Hooker is hard to read. In addition to being very prolix and polemical, he writes about controversies that can seem very far removed from anything relative to the life of the Church today. But the more I plod through this venerable old classic the more I find just how contemporary and relevant it really is. Because the reality is that many of the old controversies addressed by Hooker live on in the Church.
Case in point, the other day someone told me that Anglicans spend too much time and money worrying about decorating churches. Hooker addresses this question in Book V, making the argument form scripture and tradition that God's people have always seen fit to erect and embellish houses of worship. Another example, many Christians in Hooker's day decried the typical Anglican practice of preaching short (or no) homilies, assuming that God's word had to be communicated through long sermons. Hooker dismisses this notion again in several chapters of Book V, commenting especially on the power of simply reading the word of God to bring about repentance and conversion. The same controversy can still be observed in the church today.
There are many other examples that I have found from Hooker of the continued practical value and relevance of studying historical theology. Therefore I would not dismiss it as some people are quick to do. Because the voices of the 16th century and earlier can still speak to the needs of the Church today. Maybe if the Church had truly heeded the words of these authors in their own day she would not be in the mess she is in today!