That well-read old political philosophy tutor (among other things), C.S. Lewis, writes, of the controversy into which Hooker enters, respecting 'both' sides, "Puritan" and Settlement "Anglican" (and for that matter their "Papist" ancestors and contemporary controversial opponents), "Their picture of Christianity always includes that disastrous figure 'the Christian magistrate' or 'godly prince.'" (OHEL, p. 443). And (pp. 444-45), "Whatever they say, even whatever they wish, the puritans are driven to put the Church above the State, and the Anglicans to put the State above the Church. [...] Prince and priest in the sixteenth century both desire to ride the pale horse theocracy: and when two men ride a horse we know where one must sit."
Further (p. 458), "It will, of course, be obvious that Hooker's system does not extricate us from theocracy." He points out (p. 459) how "Hooker answers his own age: it is perhaps absurd to ask how he would answer ours. Usually, in past controversies, the premiss which neither side questioned, now seems the shakiest of all."
He does note specific exceptions, regarding Erasmus, Bellus, Acontius, Atkinson, Aglionby, and "best of all, [...] the words of Robert Browne" (pp. 40-41) - concluding, however, "Throughout the sixteenth century the great mass of those who seemed at the time to be sane, normal, practical men, ignored the few who spoke for liberty."
The United States really does seem the next step, even though, e.g., some New England states were protected in their making it difficult for Anglicans, with some such things extending well into the 19th century. Has there, indeed, ever been a further step? And now over a century of "progressives" in ever increasing numbers at a maniacally increasing rate, have been chipping away at that.
Can this be a Chestertonian "White Horse" moment? Is there anything else, in earthly terms, to hope for?
Indeed, when Hooker penned his theological defense of Church of England polity, he did so in an era of state churches. As Leslie Poles Hartley said, "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."
Hooker's writing on Church of England polity is valuable to us today largely because he defended the self-understanding of Anglicans as fully catholic and as reformed. He defended the ongoing practice of Apostolic Succession and episcopal order, including in Book Seven (Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity) a thorough defense of the episcopate as of Divine Institution, having already defended episcopacy as the only practice known to the Church until the innovation of the Geneva Discipline. All of this is standard Anglican belief and practice.
What is not standard Anglican belief and practice is what Hooker went on to say about the Church and the State. Yes, there is still some image of that in the established State Church, the Church of England. But, in Hooker's day, every church was a state church; and this is simply all that people had known for centuries (I need not argue that again. You may simply review the original post). But, the essence of Anglicanism, while retaining every other vital feature defended by Hooker, has proved itself bigger and deeper than anything our critics can cover by their careless and reckless tossing about of the word "Erastianism."
That fact is especially important, because our very existence is constantly under attack. That we remain who we are is an affront to them, retaining an Anglican identity in the face of unrelenting efforts by polemicists of the Two One True Churches to make our people feel illegitimate, uncertain about the validity and efficacy of our sacraments, or embarrassed by a factually wrong allegation of doctrinal confusion in our foundation. We do not mean to insult them, but our Continued existence is taken as an offense. In a sense, by daring to exist at all, we are like the Jewish people, always faced with some ideological menace hell bent on removing our identity from the earth.
When they accuse Anglicanism of being Erastian, not only do they ignore the historical context of the 16th and 17th centuries with the politico-religious paradigm that pervaded all of Europe; they also ignore the subsequent facts of history and overlook what the Continuing Anglican Church proves today by its very existence.
The existence of the Anglican churches that sprang up apart from England, especially the Episcopal Church in the United States, had nothing of the State Church in their structure at all, nor could they have had. The constitutional impossibility of a National Church in the United States, and the complete absence of a crown, did not prevent the spread of our own brand of Christianity. It did not prevent the prosperity of mission efforts across the American continent, especially by such apostolic giants as Bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple (1822-1901), whose heroic work among the Dakota and Chippewa, as well as other aboriginal peoples of North America, certainly had no trace of Erastianism about it.
Of course, the birth and survival of Continuing Anglicanism, which retained all of our spiritual assets when invaders took away our material assets, also has nothing of Erastianism about it. Even in England itself the Anglicanism we Continue has no need of a State establishment to support it. Faithfulness to the catholic and evangelical faith, the doctrine and practice--indeed the ongoing life-- of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, practiced with such spiritual aids as our Book of Common Prayer, does not depend on any state establishment. The reason is simple. Anglicanism, by its nature, was endowed by the English Reformers, Church of England Divines, and its numerous Doctors in succeeding ages, with something more valuable than real estate and money, and something more permanent than an earthly crown. It was endowed with that remarkably flexible, inherently endurable, and living reality of the Faith of the Apostles.
The charge of Erastianism simply fades away against reality. We depend on the Holy Ghost, and the grace He imparts through the word of God, and the sacraments. We do not depend on earthly governments to be of that Church we confess in the Creeds. What we possess as our inheritance, and the mission with which are charged by our Lord, have proved to be bigger, wider, and deeper.