Archives For Timothy Gorringe

RadarIf the facts cannot be squeezed into a meme the level of attention those facts receive is reduced. Attention to detail is overlooked for what will best attract a view, a like, a follow or a share. Information is seen purely as a commodity.

The problem is that when information is seen purely as a commodity, truth is easily compromised.

We don’t need to look any further than the internet. It’s now common place to log on and find someone accusing someone else of being a Nazi or a racist. This may have reached the status of cliché, and as such is easily dismissed, nevertheless real concern should be given to it. Especially, when we’re bombarded with accusations from celebrities, and articles written by professionals, equating their opponents with the National Socialists of the 1930’s, without qualification.

For example: in August 2016, a lecturer from Sydney University,  compared fair-minded conservative opposition to same-sex marriage, with the Nazi treatment of homosexuals. In addition, a student was reported to have been disallowed from presenting a case,  linking examples of how anti-Israel sentiment, is linked to antisemitism. [source]

Historical comparisons made between present and past, should be measured for accuracy. Responsible self-criticism leads us to ask ourselves whether or not our opponent has a point. However, measuring the accuracy of our opponents claim shouldn’t stop with us. For it to be completely fair, the enquiry must also include the consideration of whether or not our opponents, are themselves guilty of doing the very things they’re accusing others of doing.

One good practice, when being likened to the Nazis, is reading material from those who’ve studied the historical context; the history of and the history associated with Nazism. Those who’ve engaged with the primary sources, and who understand not just what the Nazis did, but how, and why, they did it.

It’s here that books like Thomas Doherty’s insightful and well researched 2013 book, ‘Hollywood & Hitler‘ shines:

Page 9, citing a PCA[i] report on the prohibition of the movie ‘All Quiet on The Western Front‘, Dec, 18, 1930:
“There is no doubt that this wave of intense national prejudice, which is for now going on, will continue and that any pictures, particularly foreign pictures, which offend the sensibilities of the National Socialists will be a signal for riots and demonstrations.’ [i]
Page 21: ‘Even before Goebbels laid down the law, the Nazi rhetoric on race was being implemented by pumped-up S.A. thugs and zealous party bureaucrats. From Berlin radiating outward, the iron grip tightened over all aspects of film-related culture – artists and technicians, film content and style, trade periodicals and reviewer bylines, theatre ownership and ticket buyers.’ [ii]
Page 97: ‘The Nazis, said Prince Hubertus Lowenstein [an early critic of Nazism], had annihilated all that was good in German culture.”Everything that had made for the glory of Germany has been destroyed in the past three years. The best actors and artists have been expelled. Approximately 1100 scholars and scientists have had to leave, only because they believed in freedom of art, of thought, and of religion.” Jews were forbidden to buy milk for their children, and Catholics were jailed for keeping the faith. The jackboot crushing Jews and Catholics, he predicted, was but a preview of oppressions to come. All those speaking that night urged a united front against Hitler. “We must organise to fight the Nazi invasion before Americans lose their constitutional liberties”‘[iii]

Doherty’s descriptions of Nazis behaviour and policy helps to shine a light on where Nazism or fascists are active today. When matched against current events descriptions such as, “intense prejudice, the iron grip, that which offends the sensibilities is a signal for riots and demonstrations; rhetoric on race by pumped-up thugs and zealous party bureaucrats”, all show that those pointing their finger and crying wolf about Nazism and fascism, reflect it the most.

We have to ask: is there any real difference between what we know as the radical Left and what we know as the extreme Right?

The radical Left is already suspect, when the adherents use its political platforms to denounce all opposition as Nazism, without any real qualification. It’s already suspect when those same adherents ignore questions, make false claims and turn all fair criticism into “hate speech”. It’s already suspect when this very same ideology backs policies that undermine the humanity of the unborn, democratic debate, diversity of thought, reasoned opinion, expression and faith.

It’s already suspect when some of its most fervent adherents remain silent about the current events in Turkey, or Islamism in general, and yet continue to promote the BDS academic boycott movement against Israel. [source] The radical Left is more than worthy of our suspicions when we only hear the sound of crickets chirping to the tune of double standards, hypocrisy, selective outrage, suppression of faith and reason, political evasion, and propaganda.

As Theodore Kupfer asked, ‘Where are the Academic Boycotts of Turkey?”. It’s tragically ironic that anti-Israel protesters are loud and proud, yet they remain silent about Turkey:

“The response of Western academia has thus far been limited to expressions of grave concern for the fate of individual academics who have been subject to the purge [in Turkey].
No organized boycott effort has surfaced on any level. Mere proclamations of solidarity are supposed to suffice in the case of Turkey, while the same organizations agitate for nothing short of a blanket institutional boycott in the case of Israel.
Mind you, academic conditions in Israel are far superior to those in Turkey. Even attempts to portray Israel as hostile to academic freedom are evidence for this.” [iv]

The irony feeds suspicion of the radical Left. All that’s missing from the trajectory of this ideological radicalism is a figure-head with the power to influence enough people to fanatically fall in line behind them. With the upcoming election in the United States, such considerations should be weighed carefully.

Whether we like it or not, we’re being forced into categories by those who want to define us, determine what we think, and turn our freedoms into a carrot on a stick. The agenda isn’t about equality, it’s about dominance. The agenda isn’t about rights, it’s about power. The agenda isn’t about progress, it’s about pride.

It’s ironic that a people’s court stands ready to condemn those who don’t align, agree or pledge allegiance to the Left. Victims who are, as a result branded as Nazis, without trial or just cause.

I’m not big on the Right/Left political metaphors in politics because throughout history, they’ve shifted. The metaphor is inadequate. We cannot rely on it entirely. I’m even more suspicious of this metaphor when its applied to theology.

Theology, if it is to remain authentic theology, as Timothy Gorringe states, ‘stands as a critique of ideology.’ [v] To confess that Jesus Christ is Lord necessarily means to admit that Jesus Christ is no human pawn. Christian theology is and always will stand as a critique of all human centred strongholds that claim godlikeness; a challenge to all towers of Babylon. Whether they be, modern, futuristic, ancient, primitive, progressive, conservative, material or spiritual.

‘Christianity is the protest against all the high places which human beings build for themselves’ (Karl Barth C.D IV/II p.524).

Just as bandwagon support for hashtag movements or one’s Facebook activity isn’t the ultimate determiner of the legitimacy of one’s Christianity. Allegiance to an ideology cannot justify or earn a place before the throne of God’s grace.

While it may be too early to say for certain that history is being repeated. Given the growing list of facts, it’s not an overstatement to suggest that history is being repeated, but not according to the story we’re being sold. In this case, those in the West who claim to be victims of fascism, who are chasing “Nazis”, and pushing for safe spaces, have more in common with the Nazis, than they do the victims of Nazism.

May we be free, and well informed enough to differentiate between the real and the wrongly labelled.


References:

[i]  Doherty,T. 2013 Hollywood & Hitler: 1933-1939 Columbia University Press

[ii] ibid, 2013

[iii] ibid, 2013

[iv] Kupfer, T. 2016 Where Are the Academic Boycotts of Turkey? sourced 24th August 2016 from nationalreview.com

[v] Gorringe, T.J 1999 Karl Barth: Against Hegemony Christian theology in context Oxford University Press New York

Image: Courtesy of Pixabay.com, Creative Commons

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

In the previous post, I introduced my topic and briefly outlined the context from which I write. Part two will conclude with a format that follows along IMG_20130506_165144similar lines.

‘The Naked Christian’ presents itself as a critical incident report that follows the protocols of theological reflection. What could be rightly termed as ”Borlase’s lament”, presents a convincing case for dropping self-serving prefixes such as ‘on-fire, post-evangelical, born-again and instead be content to simply be a Christian’ (pp.26-27). Therefore, ‘The Naked Christian’ is NOT a rant about the church. Alternatively, Borlase takes to task those expressions of church which are dangerously close to being, ‘too heavenly minded to do any earthly good’ (p.166). He cautiously walks between the polarising extremes of ‘the small-minded paranoia associated with the selfishly negative, and the free flowing DIY spirituality connected with the mindlessly positive’ (pp.137, 166 & 173).

Now, before you begin to think that I am recruiting you for membership in the Craig Borlase fan club, allow me to delicately lay out before you two significant limitations to his conclusions.

Firstly, although Borlase rightly identifies the churches’ problems with overreaction and indifference, some of the relevant-at-the-time material within ‘The Naked Christian’ is now not as relevant.  Take for example, the positive impact social media has had on the churches ability to connect with people both publically and privately, in their homes and work et.al. This answers part of the problems identified by Borlase, surrounding the churches tendency to place ritual-over-relationship. (The caveat here is of course that there is also a case, for how this makes ‘The Naked Christian’ even more relevant. I just think that in this particular area the positive, by far, out-ways the negative).

Another limitation related to this is that Borlase highlights what he calls, Jesus’ ‘radical acceptance’ (p.118) and ‘inclusion of all’ (p.151). Borlase gives only small consideration to the fact that, quite often the events were accompanied by people motivated to reverse their lifestyle. The New Testament records that the people who came into contact with Jesus were literally, never the same again. For example: Peter, Mary Magdalene, Zacchaeus and Paul.

The problem this highlights for the church today is that Jesus confronted sin on a relational level. This lead to the admonishment ‘go and sin no more’. He provided and communicated an alternative way out. How can the Church do this effectively, when a large portion of Western society today views disagreement as disrespect? Which is closely associated with the tendency to ridicule the church into submission and silence it, through accusations of bigotry and hate speech. How does the church engage as Borlase describes, when it is deliberately being forced (now sometimes legally) to disengage?

Secondly, ‘The Naked Christian’ tends to downplay the importance of solitude and periods of isolation that are useful for nurturing faith. Ergo spiritual disciplines are not addressed. Having said this, it is important to note that Borlase does acknowledge the importance of order. For instance: ‘with no structure in place there would be a real threat of directionless wandering’ (p.164).However, he does not elaborate on how spiritual disciplines, such as solitude, fit within his critique of the church.Sometimes distancing ourselves from a particular context or relationship is necessary and beneficial.

The strength of Borlase’s work is that it is a theological quest ‘for balance’ (p.167). The definition of a ‘Naked Christian’ is an ‘authentic’ (p.64) Christ-follower who advocates a thinking faith, over against an ‘airhead Christianity…that preferences emotion over understanding’ (pp.154 & 159). Speaking from his own experience, Borlase seeks to raise awareness about the ‘good vs. bad logic that wrongfully underpins our ideas of Church vs. world’ (p.137, emphasis mine); or in other words the false dichotomy between secular and sacred (p.110).

Borlase is right to do this because it counters the dehumanizing, results-over-relationship culture that hinges on the buy and sell transactional nature of relationship. This is something which should rightly be an anathema to the church. For example: the church should ‘treat people as loved by God instead of targets (numbers) for Christian mission’ (p.85). In order to do this Borlase encourages the Church to bring ‘the world into focus’ (p.109)…stating that

Christianity is about relationship not ritual’ (pp.137 & 166)…‘If we run away at the first sign of bad feelings, if we have failed to equip ourselves with a knowledge of God and if we only value the big spiritual event, then we run the risk of missing out on some absolutely vital parts of our relationship with God’ (pp.163-165).

This is reflected in what Karl Barth means when he speaks of the ‘bourgeois’. What he meant was (predominantly white) middle class Christianity (Gorringe 1999, p.8)[2]. This works for a valid explanation of my own broad experience of the Australian Church. IMG_20130505_223258I attended a Catholic primary school, was baptised in a Pentecostal church, attended an ecumenical Christian secondary school and was married in the same Anglican Church I was christened in. As a teenager I was forced by my, loving but, recently divorced mother to attend every Sunday service, shifting between two wealthy charismatic Churches. I was a volunteer announcer at a Christian radio station that prided itself on only playing ‘Christian music’, along with managing a Christian bookstore, and now I’m studying a double degree at an ecumenical tertiary college.

All these paradigms of ecclesia have shown me that every ‘metaphor’ (Jensen & Wilhite 2010, Loc.276) of church has strengths and limitations[3]. Therefore I am sympathetic to the statement that ‘the church is yet to be defined’ (Jenson & Wilhite 2010, Loc.322) beyond being an ‘invisible (mystical) and visible reality (institutional, sacramental, herald and servant’ (2010, loc.722).

When serious thinkers like Karl Barth speak of a ‘bourgeois’ Christianity the subtext conceals a witty caveat. It is a warning against becoming a ‘narcissistic subculture…or so culturally relevant that we no longer have anything to say to the culture. Instead of having a transforming influence on it, we run the risk of fusing with it’ (Morgenthaler 1995, p.137).

This has largely been my experience of the church. For the most part it has been a negative one and resembles the song ‘I’ve been everywhere man’. For example: I was a Protestant in the Catholic paradigm, come from a welfare dependant family who were Anglican, yet were attending a wealthy charismatic Pentecostal Church. I was a deeply troubled teen constantly wrestling with trying to reconcile the Christianity I was seeing with the Christianity I was hearing about from within my ecumenical, secondary Christian school milieu.

In sum, I was an accidental prodigal who didn’t fit the criteria, and was part of the ‘odd and vulnerable, showing their scars and wounds to a watching church’ (Borlase 2001, p.131), who seemed unwilling to invite participation without demanding doctrinal assimilation. My fumbling attempts to live out of my confession that Jesus Christ is Lord of my life made me unwanted. This led to those Christians I was in contact with not taking my salvation seriously, simply because I wasn’t at the latest conference, wearing the latest slogan or showing off a ‘spiritual six-pack’ (p.132). Borlase is right to ask: what would happen if ‘the life of the church gathered, was brought into contact with the life of the church scattered’ (p.49 emphasis mine)?

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Available @ Amazon

Throughout 2002, God used this book to turn my anger and frustration with His church, into understanding and compassion. Throughout the many years since this has transformed my negative experiences into a love for authentic church as being, not just doing. We are called into the church by Jesus the Christ as being and doing. We are not called to play the role of church by seeming to be doing.

My intention here has been to share how this book has impacted my faith. It has done so by encouraging me to see that the church is much bigger than we can be trapped into think it is. What makes this book special is that Borlase challenged my embedded theology. It encouraged me to not only ‘test everything…but to hold fast to what is good’ (1 Thess.5:21).

In a similar way, Borlase’s message motivates the church by encouraging us to move beyond  ‘smug complacency’ (p.89 – the ”meh” culture), disappointment, offense and despair. He points us towards responsible action, devoid of Christianese and its dangerously decontextualized cousin, who appears briefly from behind closed doors[4] in order to safely evangelise, solely in the form of slogans, bumper stickers and memes. The good news is that Jesus is not bound by doors closed for fear of retribution, rejection and ridicule (Jn.20). Neither should we be.

The church cannot hide from the world and its temptations because ‘the Church…is the world conscious of its need’  (Karl Barth cited by Gorringe,1999 Karl Barth: Against Hegemony p.63)[5].


References:

Borlase, C. 2001 The Naked Christian, Hodder and Stoughton London

Cash, J, No earthly good Johnny Cash: Personal Files Available @ iTunes and Amazon

Gorringe, T.J. 1999 Karl Barth: Against Hegemony Oxford University Press Inc. New York NY, USA

Jenson, M & Wilhite, D 2010 the Church: A guide for the perplexed T & T Clark International London

Morganthaler, S. 1995 Worship Evangelism: inviting unbelievers into the presence of God, Zondervan Publishing house Grand Rapids, MI, USA

If you are interested in reading some other works from Craig Borlase, I  recommend ‘God’s gravity’ and highly recommend ‘William Seymour’.


[1] Quote is attributed to Brene Brown, 2010,  ‘the gifts of imperfection’ Hazelden
[2] Bourgeois is defined as self-reliance, religion for example: ‘Humanity itself is comfortably established, life was based upon a firm foundation, economically and politically solid and secured by reliable moral principles. This bourgeois character and its piety is strongly orientated ethically and hence is determined by human conduct. Humanity knows what is good and righteous and can achieve it by his own unaided efforts’ (Keller, 1933).
[3] Keller is right to say that ‘Barthianism is a picture of our religious situation inasmuch as it portrays the dissatisfaction of the church with itself, the self-contradiction which results as soon as it orientates itself by its God-given commission and not by its cultural requirements’ (Keller 1933, pp.37-38)
[4] Terry Crist, ‘Learning the language of Babylon’
[5] Jensen and Wilhite make the statement that ‘separation is foreign to the church’ (2010, loc.2433)… ‘It seems the acme of enmity to distinguish the church from the world…To call ourselves the church, then call everyone else the world suggests that `we’ are better than `they’. It is a subtle form of self-justification’ (2010, loc.2241)…’The church exists for the world’ (2010, loc.2253)…the world is not only `them’; it is also (and first) `us’. Nor can the church’s word of antagonism be a final one. The church is finally for the world not against it, because its King under whose reign it lives is finally for the world (2010, Loc.2268).(Rom.5:8)