Archives For Relationships

joshua-hanks-682729-unsplashWhen you come into a marriage with poverty and a broken heritage:

How do you move from the economic class of renter to “Home Owner”, without selling your own soul, selling out your own goals or killing that marriage?

When your support pillars are war ruins, broken hearts, lives and relationships:

How do you bring a shattered past to support the present?

When no gifts are left to you:

How do you say thank you for good gifts when they come?

When a parent abdicates responsibility, antagonizes the wounds, and  then a sibling speaks in half-truths, and falsely accuses, in order to hide the embarrassment of wrong doing:

How do you forgive?

How do you defend?

When the hand-downs  and opinions are always accusations, cruel measurements, and covert put downs:

How do you understand yourself and your own worth?

How do you breathe?

When the hands that were designated to be helpers don’t help:

How do you ask for help?

When people are moulded by manipulation and won by charm and false appearances:

How do you bless and not fall to the temptation to impress?

When you forgive and are not forgiven:

How do you engage or disengage properly when others refuse to do the same?

Perhaps a good place to begin is here:

                1. Talk with the Lord, humbly.
                2. Learn carefully & honestly.
                3. Care carefully & courageously.
                4. Put into service the paradoxes of thanksgiving and of forgiveness.
                5. Be brave; Hold on to God, and never let go. 

Don’t let that shattered heritage take root. Don’t bring the echoes of resentment into your marriage. Reject the cycle of abuse. Reuse the useful things you have. I.e.: take stock, then do what you can with what you’ve got.

Aim to bless rather than impress[i].

Talk with the Lord. He is a working God, active caring and in pursuit of the broken.

Listen carefully because the ‘insight into divine matters is like a seed that needs to grow into a mature plant…Mature knowledge does not come quickly or easy…it takes time to penetrate profound matters and make them our own’[ii]

As Pinnock states,

Trust and ‘humility must be the order of the day’[iii]

Learn carefully because ‘God’s leading is experienced as His Spirit fosters movement towards the truth, despite our mistakes and errors…we must be both hopeful and sober about the possibilities’[iv]

Care carefully because you are carefully cared for far beyond the extreme void, that makes you torn and breathless. Look at the blessings that do exist and count them, no matter how small, each one has significance.

There is no emptiness to His care. Give him permission to move you from an intensive care unit to a tender care one.

Put into service the paradoxes of thanksgiving and of forgiveness; losing in order to win[v], where the world measures success by appearance. Your success is measured by God in the victory and bravery of His Son, who is and was and is to come. Maintain boundaries and remember that forgiveness does not mean returning to a place of ignorance.

Be brave because beauty and light is found beyond the seemingly unbreakable walls of fear and dark loathing.

Weeping may tarry for the night,  but joy comes with the morning. – Psalm 30:5

Extreme anxiety has no future home in a broken heart[vi] touched by God. For the humble and broken are closer to the heart of God than they realise (Psalm 34:18).


References:
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[i] Mt.5:38, ESV “Forgive and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you”
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[ii] Pinnock, C. 1996, Flame of Love InterVarsity Press p.219
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[iii] Ibid, p.219
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[iv] Ibid, p.219
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[v] Matthew 16:25, ESV
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[vi] Matthew 6:25, ESV
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.Photo by Joshua Hanks on Unsplash
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©Rod Lampard, 2014

I am in agreement with Karl Barth when he aBarthsserts that we need to maintain a distinction between male and female.

He is right to state that this imperative is because there is a structural and functional order to the ‘I & thou encounter’ (1951:131 & 150; see also Buber).

Barth writes: ‘man in himself was a question without an answer and the woman only the answer to his question’ (1951:168); ‘the root of togetherness is man with woman, woman with man.

This encounter reflects our humanity i.e.: ‘Humanity which is not fellow-humanity is inhumanity; for ‘the root of this inhumanity is the ideal of masculinity free from woman and femininity free from man’ (1951:117 & 166).

In other words man is man in his relationship to woman, as woman is woman in her relationship to man (1951:163). The two cannot exist in total isolation of the other[i]. Barth is right to argue that humanity is, ‘in light of the command of God’ (1951:130) female and male; fully male or fully female (1951:140 & 149).

Outside medically rare and exceptional cases, never both at the same time. The alternative conclusions lead to the non-Biblical notion that God is bisexual and all humans that transcend their sex become gods (1951:156-157).

Barth raises a potentially liberating challenge to the ideology behind conclusions that presuppose a ‘’feminine side’’ to men and a masculine side to women. What must be made clear is that the impetus for the latter is rooted in a higher plane of individualism. One that holds up the idea that each person needs to “get in touch with” themselves to be more complete as humans, hence the ‘’born this way – stay this way” absolutism, advocated implicitly within certain ‘’lifestyle’’ paradigms.

Whilst this has been the trend in most Western Societies, we can still avoid the politics of displacement and resentment that develops through a confusion of roles, and the victim politics that follows. Yes, we should be who God created us to be, but that is either fully male or fully female, which is properly grounded on God’s ‘commanded orientation’ (Barth 1951:167), not a rejection of it.

Along with Barth (1951:161), Indian author Vishal Mangalwadi points out that the idea of the feminine in the masculine has its origin in Hinduism. For instance he writes:

‘Historically Hindu philosophy has promoted homosexuality and become foundational to the contemporary interest in Tantric or ‘’sacred sex’’ because it teaches that each one of us is god, infinite and complete. Consequently, the assumption is that I don’t need a wife because the feminine is already within me (Shakti) it just needs help to be awakened.’ (Mangalwadi 2011, p.295)[iii]

Barth rejects this, labelling homosexuality and its ideological elements a ‘malady on society’ (1951:166). Even though there may be conflict (polarity 1951:163[ii]) between male and female there is no crisis between what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. Therefore, as a man, I can let go of any notion and social expectation that might demand I ‘’get in touch with’’ the feminine within myself.

There are indeed absolutes and these need to be acknowledged for true freedom to be understood.

Barth rightly points out that ‘men should rejoice in being male, likewise women in being female, rather than be ashamed of it; or promote an idolatry of self-satisfaction and self-sufficiency ’ (Barth, 1951:149 & 166).

At this point it is helpful to introduce John Howard Yoder’s concept of ‘subordinate reciprocity’, understood as ‘haustafeln’ (house-tables Yoder, 1972:163).

Subordinate reciprocity asserts that the ‘subordinate person becomes a free agent when that person voluntarily accedes to their role in the power of Christ instead of doing it either fatalistically or resentfully’ (Yoder, 1973:191).It is therefore right to suggest, as Yoder does, that ‘subordinate reciprocity’ (Yoder, 1972) aligns with the axiom ‘to be a teacher is to be a learner’ (Kierkegaard XIII: 461). (I believe Barth would agree based on his comments about the ‘reciprocity of the sexes’ 1951:164)

Subordinate reciprocity is a New Testament ethic that empowers men to ‘confirm the order in which woman in her place is not simply subordinate to him, but stands at his side’ (1951:181). As Barth writes

‘…there is no simple equality… Man does not enjoy any privilege or advantage over woman…Man cannot become her Lord…Man is not the Christ of woman. This would be misunderstanding the Divine order, creating disorder and abuse. Woman is right to protest this if the context so demands it…The man is strong as he is vigilant for the interests of both sexes. This is what is intended and tenable in the otherwise rather doubtful idea of chivalry. To the man who is strong in this sense there corresponds, when woman is obedient, the woman who is mature…the tyrannical man is always disobedient in relation to this order’ (1951:170-180)

In his essay, Perichoretic Possibilities in Barth’s Doctrine of Male and Female, Alexander McKelway provides an analogy of perichoresis (participation with God). McKelway imagines it as a ballet between a man and woman (the “grand pas de deux” McKelway, 1986:242).

While I take issue with some of McKelway’s conclusions about Barth, his analogy is helpful. The perichoresis that humanity is invited into is similar to the reciprocity in a waltz where the male ‘takes the lead, initiates and inspires their common being and action’ (Barth, 1954).

We do well to hold this in critique of the increasing influence of “cultural and ideological straightjackets” that are bound by an excessive egalitarianism, blurring gender distinctions (gender neutrality[1]) in the name of equality. The dangers appear very real as lobbyists appeal to a vile post-modern inverted idea of tolerance and its inevitable by-product ‘unchecked individualism’ (Le Buryns 2009:72).

The conclusion for a man who acknowledges and rejoices in his being as man, is that when he loves a woman and woman loves in return, despite the polar opposites, he doesn’t just say to her, “I need you”, but can confidently and more importantly ask her:

“Will you share your life with me, as in Christ, I am willing to share mine?”.

Final thoughts:

When attempting to provide sharp relief of Karl Barth’s theology of fellowship between God, man and woman, there is always a risk of oversimplifying his intended meaning. I am in agreement with Timothy Gorringe on this; therefore I have attempted to briefly unpack Barth’s thought in full awareness of that caveat. I realise the length of this article will also limit its readership.

However, my intention here was to at the very least introduce the relevance, if not communicate the balance, clarity and insight Barth was developing in his theology regarding such important matters. They are words with poignancy and precision. Calm words of warning for an age going full throttle in opposite directions with little concern for the consequences, or those who try to raise awareness about them.

Finally, perhaps a good, albeit simple example of subordinate reciprocity lies hidden within the narrative presented by Miranda Divine here:

‘Prince Philip managed to remain his own man, respectful but not emasculated, as he accompanied Queen Elizabeth on every royal tour’ (M.Divine, 2012)
Queen and Prince Phillip3 collage

Source: The Daily Telegraph. Miranda Divine, 2012. The marriage that made the monarchy.


Bibliography

Buber, M 1970 I and Thou (trans. Kaufmann) Kindle for PC ed. Charles Scribner’s and Sons

Barth, K. 1951 Church Dogmatics III.IV The doctrine of creation Hendrickson Publishers

Kierkegaard, S. 1997 the Essential Kierkegaard Princeton University Press U.S.A

Le Buryns, C. 2009, Re-placing stewardship? Towards an ethics of responsible care Source:

Religion & Theology, 16 no 1-2 2009, p 67-76. Publication Type: Article Peer reviewed.

Database: ATLA Religion Database sourced 27th May 2012

Mangalwadi, V 2011 The Book that made your world: How the Bible created the soul of western civilization

McKelway, Alexander J. 1986 Perichoretic Possibilities in Barth’s Doctrine of Male and Female The Princeton Seminary Bulletin sourced from http://journals.ptsem.edu/id/PSB1986073/dmd008

Selvaggio, A. 2011, 7 Toxic ideas polluting your mind P & R Publishing Company Phillipsburg, N.J, U.S.A

Yoder, J.H 1974 the Politics of Jesus Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids M.I, U.S.A

Related Reading:

Gender and Theology series: Karl Barth on man and woman – Kevin Davis


[i] Contrary to what radical feminist Mary Daly might argue; see Elshtain’s Public Man, Private Woman, 1981

[ii] ‘Man is unsettled by woman and woman by man’ (1951:167)

[iii] Or as Barth puts it ‘Self-glorification’ (1951:167)

©RL2013