In the recent essay I wrote for The Living Church, “Reviving the quadrilateral” (which interested readers can find here), I made the following remark without explaining it in detail: “Whether one looks to Jewel’s Apology, Hooker’s Laws, or the works of the Caroline Divines, there is clearly an Anglican identity, expressed more clearly in the manner and tenor of interpretation and in the particular sources of authority than through specific doctrines.” I did not really feel the need to defend the statement since I believe it is a widely held understanding, at least among some Anglicans. I know that I’ve read similar statements in the works of Rowan Williams and Michael Ramsey. This evening however, I read a very good summary of the idea from Henry R. McAdoo’s Spirit of Anglicanism: A Survey of Anglican Theological Method in the Seventeenth Century (not to be confused with the similarly titled book by Michael Ramsey, Anglican Spirit).
After reading the first chapter of McAdoo’s book, I thought I’d share some of it with you:
The term theological method needs some comment. There is a distinctively Anglican theological ethos, and the distinctiveness lies in method rather than in content, for Anglicanism, as Chillingworth put it, has declined to call any man master in theology. There is no specifically Anglican corpus of doctrine and no king-pin in Anglican theology such as Calvin, nor is there any tendency to stress specific doctrines such as predestination, or specific philosophies such as Thomism or nominalism or any other one of the several medieval brands of philosophy.
Richard Montague’s assertion that he was neither a Calvinist nor a Lutheran but a Christian, illustrate the point that Anglicanism is not committed to believing anything because it is Anglican but only because it is true. Perhaps the most important thing about Hooker is that he wrote no Summa and composed no Institutes, for what he did was to outline method. What is distinctively Anglican is then not a theology but a theological method. (p. 1)