Social Darwinism

August 28, 2008 in Eugenics, Evolution, Francis Galton, Social Darwinism, St. Anne's

“We civilized men . . . build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment . . . . Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. . . . [Nevertheless, our instinct of sympathy moves us to provide such care.] Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.” Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man.

Rarely in the consideration of Darwinism today do we reckon with the societal implications of the theory. Endeavoring to restrict the theory to mere science, we overlook the larger philosophical questions that are raised by it. If, for instance, we have all evolved from some lesser developed creature into a more sophisticated one, why not apply this within the human race? Could it not be that some portions of humanity have evolved more than others and that, for the good of the race, those weaker members should be eliminated? Darwin himself didn’t shrink from such questions, as the above quotation makes clear. He felt it imperative to address these issues because he was advocating, not just a scientific theory, but an entire worldview–a way to view politics, social relationships, and science. He was convinced that evolutionary theory was the key which would unlock the full potential of the human race.

The vision for societal transformation which emerged from Darwin’s theory was coined Social Darwinism. In light of its abuses in this century, it has been abandoned by those who otherwise praise Darwin’s work. Social Darwinism is the skeleton in the evolutionary closet–and evolutionists are careful to bar the door with a nervous smile whenever Christians try to get a peek inside. But their smiles don’t fool us here at St. Anne’s. Let us shove the evolutionists aside and take an honest look at Social Darwinism in the life of one of its most zealous advocates–Sir Francis Galton, cousin of the famous Charles Darwin. I am Stuart Bryan and this is Ancient Biography.

Sir Francis Galton was a highly regarded pioneer of evolutionary research in the late 1800s. Knighted in 1909 for his achievements, he openly acknowledged the way in which his theories depended upon Darwin’s book The Origin of Species and was praised by Darwin himself for his work. Not surprisingly Galton’s “science” turned out to be more personal prejudice than scientific inquiry.

The blue ribbon for Galton’s most absurd theories goes to his“Beauty map” of England. Convinced that heredity had drastically affected the physical appearances of ladies in different counties, Galton studied the women in the streets and inns of all England. As he traveled, he rated the women he saw according to their level of beauty, “attractive, indifferent, or repellent.” Galton remarked that he “found London to rank highest for beauty; Aberdeen lowest.” Such pontificating seems absurd today. Yet this is an example of the “scientific” observations common in Social Darwinism. Unfortunately the men in Aberdeen didn’t find Galton ogling at the lasses and give him a reward for his impudence.

Predictably Galton’s prejudices pressed themselves into more serious realms than Miss Universe pageants. The most serious of these was Galton’s application of evolution to what he called the “science” of Eugenics.

What is Eugenics you ask? Well, eugenics is a sophisticated name for the selective breeding of the human race. The “science” of Eugenics purported to study human breeding to determine which elements of the race should be permitted to reproduce just like a breeder of poodles selects the best stock to continue the poodle family tree. In his Autobiography Galton wrote:

“I cannot doubt that our democracy will ultimately refuse consent to that liberty of propagating children which is now allowed to the undesirable classes, . . . . A democracy cannot endure unless it be composed of able citizens; therefore it must in self-defence withstand the free introduction of degenerate stock.”

This degenerate stock included such “weaker” races as the negroes and the aborigines and such “weaker” elements of society as the poor, the lame, criminals, and the mentally ill.

Galton shied away, somewhat inconsistently, from the use of force in the accomplishment of this goal.; however, the early part of the 20th century witnessed the consistent application of his philosophy in Nazi Germany, a self-professed Darwinist state. Applying the views of Galton in a logically consistent manner, the Nazi’s argued that they were doing the human race a favor by eliminating the weaker stock–Jews especially–from the gene pool. Dr. John Hunt remarks that

“within a year of coming to power, the Nazis had started some 250 eugenic courts whose function was to decide who was worthy to procreate. These eugenic courts took applications from social workers and physicians urging sterilizations, taking decision-making from tens of thousands of individuals. The purpose of Nazi use of eugenics courts and forced or pressured sterilizations was to keep the “unfit” from reproducing.”

With this quote in mind, meditate upon Galton’s remarks on Eugenics in his Autobiography:

“I take Eugenics very seriously, feeling that its principles ought to become one of the dominant motives in a civilised nation, much as if they were one of its religious tenets. . . Individuals appear to me as partial detachments from the infinite ocean of Being, and this world as a stage on which Evolution takes place, principally hitherto by means of Natural Selection, which achieves the good of the whole with scant regard to that of the individual. Man is gifted with pity and other kindly feelings; he has also the power of preventing many kinds of suffering. I conceive it to fall well within his province to replace Natural Selection by other processes that are more merciful and not less effective. This is precisely the aim of Eugenics. Its first object is to check the birth-rate of the Unfit, instead of allowing them to come into being. . . . The second object is the improvement of the race by furthering the productivity of the Fit by early marriages and healthful rearing of their children. Natural Selection rests upon excessive production and wholesale destruction; Eugenics on bringing no more individuals into the world than can be properly cared for, and those only of the best stock.”

Note then Galton’s assertion: Eugenics is the merciful replacement of Natural Selection. Truly the Nazi’s did mankind a favor and we should be grateful for their endeavors. They purified the race; made the world safer for the rest of us. That is, if we are part of the strong stock. But who gets to define the strong? Ah, that is the nagging question.

Augustine’s Handbook

August 28, 2008 in Augustine, Book Reviews, Church History, St. Anne's, Trinity

“. . . the ideas of [Augustine] furnished the themes for the piety and theology of more than a thousand years. No one possessed the ‘whole’ Augustine, but all lived upon the fragments of his spirit . . .” Reinhold Seeberg

Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo from 396 to 430 AD, towers above his predecessors, contemporaries, and pupils. Few match his keen spiritual insight; few achieve his profound self-understanding; few approach the breadth of his theological vision. Phillip Schaff, the great 19th century church historian, remarked that Augustine “is a philosophical and theological genius of the first order, towering like a pyramid above his age, and looking down commandingly upon succeeding centuries. He had a mind uncommonly fertile and deep, bold and soaring; and with it, what is better, a heart full of Christian love and humility.”

A man of such merit deserves to be well known, and his writings to be well studied, within the Christian community. Unfortunatly, few have cracked any of his numerous works; and, worse still, some of those who have attempted to explore his writings have chosen the wrong place to begin. I remember as an undergraduate picking up a copy of Augustine’s On the Trinity, one of his most difficult treatises, and feeling at once confused, overwhelmed, and ignorant. I didn’t get far and gave up reading Augustine for several years–convinced that he was too abstruse and complex for my simple mind to comprehend. It is to encourage others to avoid such a mistake, and to prod others even to try to make such mistakes, that we have reviewed Augustine’s Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Love.

Enchiridion is a Greek word meaning “handbook.” Augustine’s Enchiridion, then, is somewhat of an ancient Mere Christianity, an exposition of that which Augustine deemed most essential in the Christian faith. He himself claims that the book is neither so burdensome so as to load down one’s shelves nor so brief as to leave important questions unanswered. It is a tribute to Augustine’s genius that in the relatively short compass of 140 pages he is able to express his most mature theological convictions.

The immediate purpose for which Augustine wrote was the instruction of an educated Roman layman named Laurentius. Laurentius posed a number of questions to Augustine, desiring that Augustine might compose a short handbook for future reference. To make the book readily accessible, Augustine organized it around the three virtues of faith, hope, and love. Augustine reasoned that since these three virtues constitute the essence of the fear of the Lord, or true worship, one can discover the essence of the Christian faith by discussing each in turn. What are we to believe? What are we to hope for? What are we to love? These are the three questions Augustine sets out to answer.

The lion’s share of the Enchiridion, 105 of its 122 chapters, is devoted to the question, “What are we to believe?” To answer, Augustine works his way through the Apostle’s Creed beginning with our knowledge of God the Creator and ending with the nature of heaven and hell. Clearly and affirmatively, yet without mentioning any of them by name, Augustine refutes the heresies of Arianism, Apollonarianism, Manichaeism, and Pelagianism by demonstrating the necessity of the Trinity, the goodness of the creation, the sinfulness of humanity, and the priority of divine grace in redemption.

Augustine repeatedly urges the necessity of the Trinity upon his readers. “It is enough,” Augustine says when explaining the opening confession of the Apostle’s Creed, “for the Christian to believe that the only cause of all created things, whether heavenly or earthly, whether visible or invisible, is the goodness of the Creator, the one true God; and that nothing exists but Himself that does not derive its existence from Him; and that He is the Trinity–to wit, the Father, and the Son begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeding from the same Father, but one and the same Spirit of Father and Son.”

In addition to defending the Trinity, Augustine safeguards his readers from a distorted view of the created world. Because God is the Creator, the created world is in itself good. Evil, for Augustine, has no separate being but, like a parasite, is dependent upon goodness for its existence. Augustine explains:

“Accordingly, there is nothing of what we call evil, if there be nothing good. But a good which is wholly without evil is a perfect good. A good, on the other hand, which contains evil is a faulty or imperfect good; and there can be no evil where there is no good. . . . Therefore every being, even if it be a defective one, in so far as it is a being is good, and in so far as it is defective is evil.”

While Augustine’s defenses of the Trinity and the goodness of creation are exhilarating, nothing equals his vigorous attack upon the notion of free will and his robust vindication of the priority of divine grace in redemption. Augustine demonstrates that while Adam possessed free-will when first created, he lost it for himself and all his descendants by rebelling against God. “For,” he explains, “ it was by the evil use of his free-will that man destroyed both it and himself. For, as a man who kills himself must, of course, be alive when he kills himself, but after he has killed himself ceases to live, and cannot restore himself to life; so, when man by his own free-will sinned, then sin being victorious over him, the freedom of his will was lost.”

Because of this bondage, Augustine argues that we are unable to rescue ourselves from our fate of death and damnation. And it is this dismal picture which highlights, both in Scripture and in Augustine’s theology, the wonder of divine grace. Our entire salvation, he maintains, is an outgrowth of God’s mercy. God chooses us, gives us life, enables our wills, prompts us to holiness. Augustine’s summary is well worth quoting:

“After the fall a more abundant exercise of God’s mercy was required, because the will itself had to be freed from the bondage in which it was held by sin and death. And the will owes its freedom in no degree to itself, but solely to the grace of God which comes by faith in Jesus Christ; so that the very will, through which we accept all the other gifts of God which lead us on to His eternal gift, is itself prepared of the Lord, as the Scripture says.”

Expanding on the same theme later, Augustine demonstrates the way in which this renewal of will inevitably leads to a godly life.

“This is our first alms,” he declares, “which we give to ourselves when, through the mercy of a pitying God, we find that we are ourselves wretched, and confess the justice of His judgment by which we are made wretched, . . . and praise the greatness of His love, of which [Paul] says, ‘God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us:’ and thus, judging truly of our own misery, and loving God with the love which He has Himself bestowed, we lead a holy and virtuous life.”

The Trinity, the goodness of creation, the destructiveness of the Fall, and the beauty of divine grace are only a smattering of the topics Augustine addresses under the head, “What are we to believe?” In the remainder of the book, Augustine briefly addresses the two questions, “What are we to hope for?” and “What are we to love?” The answers? Hope in God not in man who is ever fickle and changeable. Love the Lord and love your neighbor as yourself, for this is the law and the prophets.

The Enchiridion, then, lives up to its name: it is truly a handbook of essential Christianity summarizing as it does the profoundly biblical theology of Augustine, that man who “furnished the themes for the piety and theology of more than a thousand years.” So curl up in your favorite chair, grab a glass of Chablis, crack The Enchiridion, and enter into one of the great classics of Christian literature.

Educating Our Children

February 22, 2008 in Biography, Plutarch, Rome, St. Anne's

For those of us who homeschool our children, it is imperative to remember the goals toward which we are striving. What is it we are endeavoring to achieve as we educate and train our children?

As we answer this question, it is helpful to consider the answers of others who have gone before us, Christian and non-Christian. Among the latter group was the ancient Roman senator and statesman Cato the Elder, who lived during and after Hannibal’s attacks on Italy.

Cato is perhaps best known for his unflinching commitment to economy and industry both in private and in public life. He was a great politician – serving in various public offices throughout his life. But Plutarch tells us that Cato himself reckoned a man’s handling of his family more important than his management of public affairs. After all, a man’s treatment of his family was reflective of the way he would treat the state. And so he considered a good husband worthy of more praise than a great senator and maintained that he who laid violent hands on his wife or child, violated that which was most sacred.

In keeping with these sentiments, Cato took his responsibility toward his son very seriously, considering it his highest calling to train his son personally. Unlike many Roman fathers who preferred to observe their sons from a distance, Cato often joined his wife as she bathed and changed him as an infant. When his son was old enough to learn, Plutarch tells us that “Cato himself would teach him to read, although he had a servant, a very good grammarian, called Chilo, who taught many others . . .; [Cato] himself . . . taught him his grammar, law, and his gymnastic exercises.” And when Cato found himself in need of curriculum to teach his son the history of Rome, he himself wrote it out: “he wrote histories, in large characters, with his own hand, so that his son, without stirring out of the house, might know about his countrymen and forefathers.”

Not only did Cato train his son intellectually, he also mentored him physically. As it came time for his son to train for war, Cato took the task upon himself. “Not only did he show him how to throw a dart, to fight in armor, and to ride, but to box also and to endure both heat and cold, and to swim over the most rapid and rough rivers.”

Nor did Cato overlook the importance of moral education and example. He was extremely careful “to abstain from speaking anything obscene before his son, even as if he had been in the presence of the sacred virgins, called vestals.” And he took the time to write a series of precepts for his son to guide him on the path of life.

As we examine the training that Cato offered his son, we see that it was full orbed – hitting all aspects of his son’s life – mentally, physically, morally. But the training was simply that – training. It was not the end, but a means to the end. Cato hoped to see cultivated within his son a desire for virtue that would establish him as a man worthy of praise in his own right. And indeed, “though delicate in health, his son proved a stout man in the field, and behaved himself valiantly . . . when his sword was struck from him by a blow, he so keenly resented it, that he turned to some of his friends about him, and taking them along with him again fell upon the enemy; and having by long fight and much force cleared the place, at length found it among great heaps of arms, and the dead bodies of friends as well as enemies piled one upon another.” Thus, Cato had the satisfaction of seeing his labors come to fruition when his son became an admirable soldier and later a fine jurist.

The Apostle John sets before us the same basic expectation for the training we offer to our children. “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.”

Genevan Missions

February 18, 2008 in Church History, John Calvin, Missions, St. Anne's

While Jimmy Swaggart has long since been discredited as a minister of the Gospel, his sentiments continue to be embraced by a surprisingly large number of evangelicals. Among the maxims issued by the infamous evangelist was the following: “Calvin has caused untold millions of souls to be damned.”

Swaggart’s quote captures the standpoint of millions of evangelicals on the character of John Calvin–cold, hard-hearted, irrecoverably devoted to logical precision, determined to keep as many folks out of the kingdom of heaven as possible–this is the vision of Calvin which fills many evangelicals’ nightmares.

But here at St. Anne’s Pub, we’re in the business of relieving your distress, changing your nightmares into peaceful visions of elysium. I have it on good authority that the very best way to accomplish this is to envision the person about whom you are dreaming in pink poke-a-dot pajamas; but the next best way is to dispel the ignorance of Swaggartisms from your mind with a good dose of historical data. And since we can’t supply the pajamas, we will supply the data. I am Stuart Bryan and this is Ancient Biography.

When folks think of Calvin today, “mission-minded” is not the first adjective that springs into their minds. Perhaps “astute”, “logical”, or even “precise.” But not “mission-minded.” However, as Frank James explains in his recent article “Calvin the Evangelist,” Calvin was remarkably driven by a desire to foster missions throughout the world.

The majority of Calvin’s missionary work was devoted to France, his former home. From the years 1555 to 1562, the number of underground Protestant churches in France mushroomed from 5 to over two thousand. These churches were planted largely through the efforts of missionaries sent out by the Genevan Consistory–the group of pastors in Geneva. And, as James says, these weren’t no sissy churches either–they were mega-churches. In Bergerac and Montpelier the churches included around five thousand people each and in Toulouse the Reformed church grew “to the astonishing number of eight to nine thousand souls.” Wow!

But Calvin’s missionary drive could not confine itself to continental Europe. His vision was too expansive. He dreamt of Protestant missionaries visiting the remotest parts of the earth. And so, when the Huguenot Admiral Gaspard de Coligny proposed sending a group of Protestants to a colony in Brazil, Calvin jumped at the opportunity.

Two Genevan trained missionaries, Pierre Richier and William Chartier, were to serve as pastors for the eleven other colonists and as missionaries to the Brazilian natives. The expedition set out in 1556 and arrived in Rio de Janeiro in March, 1557, the first Protestant mission to the New World. Let me repeat that. Calvin sent the first Protestant missionaries to the New World. I’ll bet you haven’t heard that before.

Unfortunately, the leader of the colony, Nicolas Durand, was a turn coat and began persecuting the Protestants shortly after their arrival. After eight months they were forced to flee into the jungle and seek refuge with the Tupi Indians, a tribe of cannibals! However, rather than despair in the midst of their trials, the Protestants sought to win the cannibals to the Gospel! Ultimately unsuccesful, they found their way onto a ship heading back to Europe and, after a harrowing journey, most of them arrived home.

It would appear, then, that the real Calvin was far different from modern perceptions of him. Far from the cold hearted, disinterested scholar that most Christians picture, Calvin was a man with a passionate heart for the spread of the Gospel. Visionary and enthusiastic, Calvin supported and prayed for numerous mission efforts throughout the world, not only in Europe but in the New World as well. We would do well to imitate him.

Oh, and by the way, if you are interested in reading more about Calvin’s missionary labors, here are a couple book suggestions. First, Robert Kingdon in his book Geneva and the Wars of Religion in France traces Calvin’s missionary activities in France. Second, the expedition to Brazil is described in Jean de Lery’s book History of a Voyage to Brazil, translated by Janet Whatley and published by the University of California Press. De Lery was one of the colonists on the journey and recorded their experiences in this book for the glory of God and the advancement of His Church.

Boniface of Crediton

February 15, 2008 in Biography, Church History, St. Anne's

Born in the latter half of the seventh century, he established schools, monasteries, and churches, some of which remain to this day. He labored tirelessly to see the Gospel embraced and applied among a pagan people. He instructed the ignorant, rebuked the immoral, empowered the righteous. His labors spanned a period of 40 years and, in the end, he crowned his life with martyrdom. Who is he? Winfrid is his name, though he is more popularly known as Boniface, the Apostle of Germany.

Boniface was born in England around 680, the son of noble parents. He is accounted one of those esteemed Anglo-Saxon missionaries who rescued continental Europe from the second darkness that descended upon it after Rome fell. Convinced that God had called him to missionary labor, Boniface took the Gospel to the Frisians, a tribe who lived in what is now the Netherlands. Rebuffed in his efforts, Boniface returned to England. However, he could not be content with a sedentary life in a monastery. And so he traveled to Rome. There he met the Bishop, Gregory. He was so encouraged by Gregory’s zeal and confidence, that he ventured into Germany with the Gospel.

Germany was a dark land–it reaked with the stench of paganism. Human sacrifice was common, immorality was rampant, and Christian missionaries not infrequently were murdered. Long attached to the pagan gods, most Germans refused to consent to Christianity. Boniface strove arduously for some time until finally, in a strategic move, he challenged the Germans to a duel. Imitating the faith of Elijah on Mt. Carmel, Boniface met the Germans while they were worshiping at the massive Oak Tree of Thor, god of Thunder. After challenging the Germans to renounce their false gods and embrace Christ, he pulled out an axe and began to chop down the tree. The startled Germans recoiled in horror, awaiting the dread judgment of Thor to fall upon Boniface. To their surprise, no doom fell–on Boniface, at least. Rather a great wind arose, seemingly miraculously, and the tree toppled and burst into four pieces. Thor died that day–and the German people converted to Christianity in droves over the succeeding years.

As his preaching and organizing ministries continued, Christianity became more solidified in Germany. Though encouraged by this turn of events, Boniface once again became restless. He recalled his abortive labors among the Frisians and resolved to return. He was convinced of the great need and impelled by missionary zeal. Accompanying him were numerous assistants ready to endure any hardship for the sake of the Gospel. And hardship came. Encamped by the river Borne where they were baptizing converts, the missionaries were set upon by armed men and slaughtered. Their labors in the land of Frisia ceased; yet their sacrifice was a fragrant offering unto the Lord and He considered it as He used the Gospel to crush the Frisians and bring them to faith in Christ.

What can we glean from the life of Boniface? First, boldness. Boniface was not content with quietude. He pushed himself again and again to advance the kingdom of God. His determination involved great sacrifice, even death, and yet it earned him the title of the Apostle of Germany. By God’s grace, his boldness was used to break the Germans’ bondage to paganism. Second, consistency. Rather than seek to coexist with the dominant paganism of the Germans, he demanded complete allegiance to the Triune God. Boniface understood that the Church has enemies with whom she cannot peacefully exist side by side. Christianity and paganism were mutually exclusive–one must win, the other lose. And, so far as Boniface was concerned, the victor was destined to be the Church. Finally, Boniface can teach us strategy. In his attack upon paganism, Boniface sought out the central symbolic pillar of the German religion and focused his attack there. With the fall of the symbol, German paganism disintegrated. Likewise in attacking our enemies we must make decisive blows against strategic objectives. We must look for the Oak of Thor in Mormonism, Islam, Planned Parenthood and political conservativism. Once found, we must take up the weapons of our warfare which are “divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” and lay them low. We must seize our axe and fell the tree.

An “Ungodly” Match: The Marriage of Zeus & Hera

February 12, 2008 in Greek Gods, Marriage, St. Anne's

Scripture tells us that the pattern for all marriages is the covenantal union between Christ and the Church. In Ephesians 5, Paul grounds his exhortations to husbands and wives upon this covenantal union. The Christian approach to marriage is, therefore, theological in nature; it is based upon our understanding of Christ and His mercy toward His people.

Enter the gods of the Greeks as portrayed by Homer in The Iliad. Rarely respectable, often pitiable, the gods routinely offend us with their licentiousness, shock us with their callousness, disgust us with their fickleness, and sicken us with their childishness. And the more powerful the god, the more revolting the scene becomes. Nowhere is this more evident than in the “ungodly” marriage of Zeus and Hera, king and queen of the gods.

The marriage of Zeus and Hera is a case study of instability, unrighteousness, and adultery. It seems that, in Platonic irony, the marital problems among men are patterned after the “form” found in Zeus and Hera! After comparing their marriage to Paul’s admonitions to wives and husbands in Ephesians 5, it is evident that Zeus and Hera fail to measure up to the marital mandate given. They demonstrate in both their attitudes and behavior the paucity of their character and the repulsiveness of their hearts.

The headship of husbands is asserted and assumed in Paul’s admonitions. He recognizes that the husband is the head of the wife; hence, the husband is responsible for the wife. Scripture’s vision of this responsibility is driven by Jesus’ teaching on leadership. The true leader is the one who serves. Consequently, the husband is to give himself, in love, for the benefit of his wife. He is responsible to promote her growth in holiness; to nourish and cherish his wife as he does his own body. He is not to take advantage of his wife’s weakness, but is to respect this weakness and make allowance for it. Only in so doing will the marriage be blest.

In addition to being a servant, the husband is to manifest covenant loyalty. Just as Christ is faithful to his bride, the Church, so too Christian men are to be faithful to their wives. When a husband fails to keep covenant with his wife, he teaches that God is not a covenant keeping God, and this is blasphemy.

Zeus manifests none of these traits of a godly husband. First, Zeus never serves Hera. He lectures, he commands, he berates, he threatens; but never does he serve. Never does she receive a soft word from him; never does she receive from his hand acts of love and kindness. He treats her with contempt and her treatment of him is a fitting rejoinder to his pattern of leadership.

Second, Zeus takes advantage of Hera’s weaknesses, both emotionally and physically. Emotionally, Hera is understandably suspicious of Zeus and his dealings with other women, both of gods and men. Zeus recognizes this, but allows it only to embitter him the more firmly against her, rather than move him to repent and abandon his adulterous liaisons. In addition, Zeus takes advantage of his position to taunt Hera and goad her into some outburst. Physically, Zeus often threatens to beat Hera and thus drives her to “submission,” even boasting of the way in which he had cruelly tortured her on one occasion. Quite the loving husband!

Third, Zeus breaks covenant with his wife and even boasts of his immorality. When in the height of his lustful desire for his wife, Zeus proceeds to recount for us, and for her, numerous adulterous affairs he had engaged in. This must have warmed Hera’s heart! What we find is that Zeus’ marital infidelity manifests itself in his treatment of all relationships–he is not a covenant keeping god; he betrays those who most rely upon him. While himself the judge of deception, he openly deceives those who trust in him. Zeus’ failure to keep covenant with his wife is symptomatic of his treacherous character.

Zeus’ failure as a husband is well matched by Hera’s failure as a wife. Hera is anything but submissive and respectful. She is deeply suspicious of Zeus and questions him on his behavior. She finds it difficult to contain her anger and often answers back to Zeus. She uses her womanly charms to seduce and deceive Zeus, hardly the actions of a virtuous maid in whom the heart of her husband trusts. She despises Zeus, is frightened by him, and yet defies him in his weaker moments, rather than seeking to win his heart. Hera’s deviousness matches Zeus’ haughtiness; together they make a miserable couple.

Zeus and Hera epitomize a marriage gone bad. The seed of their hatred and contempt for one another having been sown, it produces destructive fruit in their relationship. Zeus’ infidelity breeds Hera’s suspiciousness which breeds Zeus’ bitterness which breeds Hera’s hatred, ad nauseum.

Thankfully, the pattern set before us in Scripture is much more beautiful, harmonious and alluring. It is one of joyful unity, complementary diversity, mutual serenity, unfathomable mystery. It is the relationship between Christ and the Church.