Althusius on the Clan

It struck me as a I read Chapter Three in Althusius’ Politca that I’ve never seen an explicit teaching on the extended family. When a society is as mobile as ours is, you end up functionally without a family. The result of this is to replace the natural support system with a civil support system; I’m not convinced that has worked out well. An upshot of what Althusius is saying here is that we have a duty to stay close to our family geographically, unless extraordinary circumstances arise.

The kinship association is one in which relatives and in-laws are united for the purpose of communicating advantages and responsibilities.

This association arises from at least three persons, but it can be conserved by fewer. Frequently it consists of a much larger number.

He is called the leader (princeps) of the family or of any clan of people, who is placed over such a family or clan, and who has the right to coerce (jus coercendi) the persons of his family individually and collectively.

The rights communicated among the persons who are united in this natural association are called rights of blood (jura sanguinis). They consist partly in advantages, partly in responsibilities, and in the bringing together and sustaining these advantages mutually among the kinsmen.

Such advantages are, first, the affection, love, and goodwill of the blood relative and kinsman.

From this affection arises the solicitude by which the individual
is concerned for the welfare and advantages of his kinsman, and
labors for them no less than for his own.

Second among the advantages of the family and kinsmen I refer
to the communion in all the rights and privileges belonging to the
family and relationship. And to this point I refer the enjoyment of the clan or family
name, and of its insignia.

Third among the common rights of the family and relationship I refer to the provision for support in case of necessity or want.

Fourth, a privilege granted to one of the kinsmen is extended by right of relationship to his family, wife, children, and even brother.

The responsibilities of the family and relationship are services and works that the member owes to his kinsman, such as forethought, care, and defense of the family and of the members of the household.

The leadership in meeting these responsibilities rests upon the paterfamilias as master and head of his family.

Upon the older members of the family rests the duty of correcting and reprehending their younger kinsmen for mistakes of youthful indiscretion and hotheadedness.

These advantages and responsibilities are intensified as the degree of relationship among the kinsmen increases. Therefore they are greater between parents and children. For parents should educate their children, instruct them in the true knowledge of God, govern and defend them, even lay up treasures for them, make them participants in everything they themselves have, including their family and station in life, provide suitable marriages for them at the right time, and upon departing born life make them their heirs and provide optimally for them.

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Johannes Althusius on Husband and Wife

Althusius was a Reformed political philosopher writing at the dawn of the 17th century. He drew deeply from Aristotle and the Western natural law tradition. One of his most important emphases was on the family as the base of society, and subsequently federalism and subsidiarity.

The following represents the virtually unanimous voice of the Christian, and specifically Reformed, tradition’s understanding of the family. From his Politics:

“…The conjugal association and symbiosis is one in which the husband and wife, who are bound each to the other, communicate the advantages and responsibilities of married life. The director and governor of the common affairs pertaining to this association is the husband. The wife and family are obedient, and do what is commanded.

The advantages and responsibilities are either proper to one of the spouses, or common to both. Proper advantages and responsibilities are either those the husband communicates to his wife, or those the wife communicates to her husband. The husband communicates to his wife his name, family, reputation, station in life, and economic condition. He also provides her with guidance, legal protection, and defense against violence and injury. Finally, he supplies her with all other necessities, such as management, solicitude, food, and clothing.

The wife extends to her husband obedience, subjection, trust, compliance, services, support, aid, honor, reverence, modesty, and respect. She brings forth children for him, and nurses and trains them. She joins and consoles him in misery and calamity. She accommodates herself to his customs, and without his counsel and consent she does nothing. And thus she renders to her husband an agreeable and peaceful life.

There are also common advantages and responsibilities that are provided and communicated by both spouses, such as kindness, use of the body for avoiding harlotry and for procreating children, mutual habitation except when absence may be necessary, intimate and familiar companionship, mutual love, fidelity, patience, mutual service, communication of all goods and right (jus), management of the family, administration of household duties, education of children in the true religion, protection against and liberation from perils, and mourning of the dead.”

Fey Desire

I read the old fairy stories, and in them I find a world that stirs my heart. As I turn the pages of that book, a longing buried deep within my chest rushes to the forefront of my consciousness. My intellect, my will, my affections, they are all overcome by a conviction that *that* world, the one of the fairy stories, is the *real* one. The air in that land carries the scent of reality. The bells have the ring of truth. The waters pulse with life. I feel I know that realm better than my own, even though many places there are shrouded by dark clouds or illuminated by unapproachable light. I expect mystery there. One time, I turned down a path and discovered some well of blessed water. That was truly a delight. Often I’ve entered the hall of the King and eaten at his table while his bards tell stories of ancient and mighty deeds. Faery is a perilous place to sojourn: one goes there and comes back changed. Wounded, more often than not. I went, only to have an intoxicating desire aroused, and then I had to close the book. Now, I sit here in my room, returned from a land of light and enchantment, back in a world that, I am told, lacks the wonders of Faery.

And yet, what if there really are holy waters and enchanted bread and elixirs of life? What if ordinary things can be caught up in Mystery and used for purposes beyond what we’ve imagined? What if the things of Faery were actually the echoes, the shadows, hints of our reality?

I think they are.

Can I Just Get A Small, Please?

This is a conversation I just had with a waitress at a fast-food joint:

Me: … and a small Coke, please.
Fast-food waitress: We only have medium and large.
Me: Y’all must’ve sold a lot of smalls today.
FFW: No, we don’t sell a small size.
Me: <smiling> Then you can’t have a “medium” if you don’t sell a small.
FFW: <weird stare>
Me: “Medium” derives from the Latin word “medius,” which means “middle.” In order to have a “medium,” you have to have something both larger and smaller.
FFW: <weird stare continues>
FFW: <weird stare continues>
FFW: <weird stare continues>
FFW: So, you want a medium?
Me: <sigh> Yeah, I’ll take a medium.

As best as I can figure, this is about the sixth time I’ve participated in some version of this back and forth. Not once has my interlocutor understood what I was saying.

English and basic reasoning have been losing for so long. Sad!

Forgotten Protestant Teachings: The Eucharist

“Now, as it is certain and beyond all doubt, that, that Jesus Christ has not enjoined to us the use of his sacraments in vain, so he works in us all that he represents to us by these holy signs, though the manner surpasses our understanding, and cannot be comprehended by us, as the operations of the Holy Ghost are hidden and incomprehensible. In the meantime we err not, when we say, that what is eaten and drunk by us is the proper and natural body, and the proper blood of Christ.”

From whence in Christendom do you think the above comes? From Rome, maybe? Or Constantinople?

How surprised would you be to hear that it comes out of Geneva?

It’s the Reformed doctrine of the Lord’s Supper as summarized in chapter 35 of the Belgic Confession. Now, you should read the entire section on the Holy Supper to get the full picture of the teaching, but I’ve drawn out the above quote to highlight the fact that the Reformers didn’t jettison the doctrine of the Real Presence. They certainly corrected the error of transubstantiation taught by the papacy, but they didn’t swing into the opposite error of memorialism. I’ve included a video below of Dr. Michael Horton commenting on this:

It’s also worth checking out what the Westminster Confession and Heidelberg Catechism have to say about the Eucharist. In the Westminster Larger Catechism, the questions from about 150 to around 180 are pertinent.

UPDATE 10/29/16 10:45 PM
The catechism written by Calvin for the church in Geneva offers a nice summary, as well. (I love the title, which includes the phrase “being a form of instruction for children.” If only we taught our children as well as they!)

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Reformation Day is upon us. In that spirit, remember the words of this hymn from the pen of Martin Luther. (Here’s an English version being sung.) Pray for reformation in the Church, that the Word would call us back to true worship, that we would remember our spiritual fathers and mothers and the battles they fought for true doctrine. Be willing to work for a modern reformation.

Above all, remember that our God is a mighty fortress, and His Word abides above all earthly powers. He will win the battle.