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Friday, March 31, 2006 

Of Jealousy and Ownership
Part 1
Topic: City of Man

Reading: O. Palmer Robertson's The Christ of the Covenants
Listening: Fair "Carelessness;" Breaking Benjamin's "So Cold" I really am enjoying the second.
Enjoying: some sort of oat-honey-almond generic cereal we always get. Its good though, don't misunderstand. I enjoy it. However, they always seem to pack the boxes so that you actually get the minimum amount of cereal possible. *sigh* One more reason to get excited for the eschaton...

Mr. Richard Chappell of Philosophy, et cetera has an interesting post on the nature and issue of jealousy in romantic relationships. After giving a helpful survey of possible reasons why we experience jealousy - and finding them all wanting - he begins to offer some of his own philosophical meanderings on the topic. His conclusion is basically that jealousy is intrinsically irrational, and that the wittier of the human race ought to be more understanding with their significant other, and attempt to suppress such feelings more often. We were thinking that thinking critically on this issue from a biblical Weltanschauung, a whole "world-and-life-view,"[1] might be of benefit and overturn some possibly overlooked issues.

The Problem
A good deal of thanks should go to Mr. Chappell for what he has done to begin the discussion. He notes, "Envy consists in wanting what someone else has. Though potentially unpleasant, it’s understandable enough, as it follows naturally from a positive appreciation of the object’s value. Jealousy, by contrast, is the purely negative emotion which involves wishing that the other lacked the object of value."

He begins to scan various ways of analyzing a phenomenon as sticky as relationships with any sort of objective criteria. He correctly notes that relationships find value and worth in their own deep uniqueness, and not in a comparative function. He also shows that, while we may be able to understand why and how jealousy may be a scientific and sociologic trait of evolution - e.g., a primitive hominid desires to further his line through a female who has the necessary characteristics to help ensure successful offspring (correct hip-bone structure, nurturing tendencies, etc.), but achieves a psychosomatic state which we think of as jealousy when another hominid attempts to secure the female for his own reproductive agenda - we may be able to comprehend such a situation evolving, but "that doesn’t suffice to justify it. One can also give scientific explanations of violent anger, but we should resist such pernicious emotions all the same." No, more thought is necessary on this score.

Possible Solutions
Mr. Chappel turns a corner and offers a hypothetical solution: "What of the concerns about ‘sharing’?" Only the most unreasonable among us would deny that everyone mush "share" their significant other to some extent - to their jobs, families, other responsiblities, and even other (same-sex?) relationships. Thus, Mr. Chappell reasons, if we can understand a certain levity in regards to these other duties/and relationships, why can we not come to view a second romantic relationship as one more area in which "sharing" becomes necessary? In this way, his philosophical category of "sharing" opens a lens in which the more enlightened among us could conceivably refrain from jealousy when our significant other begins relationships with potential competitors for their affection.

Another very helpful idea he brings to bear is the difference between familial and romantic relationships.
Consider parental love. Surely nobody would claim that children from large families are loved less by their parents than is an ‘only child’. But why should romantic love (or its precursors) be any different?... Again, the parental analogy is illustrative: a child wouldn’t want her parents to treat her no differently from all the other kids in the world. She should have a special place in her parents’ world. But she needn’t be the only person in this place; she can share it with her few siblings, without diminishing its value in any way at all. So again: why is the romantic case any different?
This notice, it is hoped, will be very helpful later.

Jealousy under a Reformed Weltanschauung
Before we can begin a response, a few important distinctions should be clarified with what we propose to Mr. Chappell as an aid in thinking through jealousy. First of all, any suggestions we can provide will only be helpful and useful in a modal world in which a Trinitarian God has created, sent revelation, and reigns. If our suggestions obtain at all, they will only do so in such a world where King Jesus is Lord of all, and Lord of all possible noetic categories. Secondly, our suggestions only obtain in a strict, narrower definition of relationality. Mr. Chappell allows for a variety of relationships to obtain - including homosexual ones - which would be mutually exclusive to the options being volunteered here. In what follows, relationships that can be considered are only those that happen within the context of marriage between a man and woman.[2]

That being affirmed, we can procede by noting that first and foremost, jealousy is a divine category.[3] Yahweh is jealous for His people, and to the extent that humanity participates in this emotion, it is derivative from this divine revelation. God feels jealousy for His people for two reasons: 1.) He is their creator, and 2.) He is their redeemer. Both of these two categories create what we have added as the second half of the title of this article - ownership. (It will hopefully be shown how these two matrices of jealousy and ownership interact below.) God owns them since He made them as the creator owns a patent or invention, and He owns them as redeemer as a merchant owns a pearl which he spent a large sum of money on in the market.

The first anomaly to note, however, is that both conditions of ownership must be enforced for true jealousy to be felt. In other words, we have no record of Yahweh being jealous for, say, the Philistines. While the New Covenant opens up the sphere of redemption to include members of every tongue and tribe, we receive no indication that Yahweh experiences any sort of jealousy - in Mr. Chappell's definition, that God wishes for no one else to possess them - for those whom He has not redeemed. This is helpful, in that it clarifies that Yahweh is not jealous for "us" ontologically, but rather is jealous for our affection as our only Husband.[4]

One of the clearest pictures we get of Yahweh's jealousy stems from Ezekiel 16. In this word picture, the Lord's people are painted as a new infant, abandoned and helpless - still lying in its birth blood and water - upon which the Lord happens upon. After caring for and raising her, the Lord not only confers on the rescued woman His riches, but also marries her, ensuring the deepest and strongest of bonds and security. To the shock of all and especially the reader, the bride is ungrateful, and whores herself to any lover she can find. The Lord mourns that, while prostitutes at least charge for their services, His bride gives away His wealth to entice her lovers into her adulteress bedchambers. Clearly, jealousy is going to be an issue here.

Continued in Part 2

[1]This Weltanschaaung is what Abraham Kuyper used to describe what is now chic to call a worldview. I do like Kuyper's better, though, because it incorporates "world and life view." Back

[2]Of course, ideally we could narrow our scope even further and relegate it to Christian marriages, but I think what follows can hold even for God-suppressing marriages. Back

[3]I used category here to differentiate from emotion. While later I do use the term emotion, I want to affirm what Wayne Grudem denies in his Systematic Theology, namely, the classical attribute of God's impassibility. This refer's to God's inability to suffer, and, by route, feel emotion. However, another post will require this thought in the future. Back

[4]While the Lord "owns" all flesh by right of Creator, He seemingly exerts no jealousy for all flesh. Instead, those He "ontologically" owns, He merely deals with them according to His nature, which is really the moral law.Back

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Transplanted from the artic blight of Minnesota to the sunny paradise of SoCal, I am attending school and learning to say "dude." I like to think of myself as equal parts surf rash, Batman, heavy metal, Levinas, poetic license, and reformational. Other than creating blund blogs, I enjoy reading, sporting, and socializing with serious and funny people.
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