19 May 2018

Humour vs mockery

Political life has always had its humorous side. Policy-making is, of course, serious business, and it has a huge impact on large numbers of people. But in the midst of so many grave matters of war and peace, crime and punishment, we have always found ways to make light of difficult circumstances. After all, laughter is an all too human means of coping with our troubles. Some of this humour amounts to gentle ribbing of otherwise hard-working people whose offices we respect. But some humour is destructive, effectively coarsening the larger conversation and contributing to a culture contemptuous of duly constituted authority.

The German-born Thomas Nast (1840-1902) was the first of a long line of political cartoonists in the United States, famously originating the Republican Party’s elephant and popularizing the Democratic Party’s donkey. An ardent abolitionist and supporter of the Union during the American Civil War, Nast’s cartoons mercilessly lampooned the racism of the secessionists. He hated white supremacy and turned his pen against those who sought to exclude Chinese immigration into the U.S. Nast was succeeded by other political cartoonists, whose caricatures of prominent political leaders simultaneously amused the public and irritated the powerful.

15 May 2018

European integration and political ideologies

Bad Liebenzell
Last month I was privileged to spend time in Germany at the Internationale Hochschule Liebenzell (IHL) in Bad Liebenzell, a beautiful village nestled in the Black Forest. The IHL is a ministry of the Liebenzell Mission, which was founded in 1899 and has its roots in a late nineteenth-century revival in Germany. It has branches in Canada, the Northern Mariana Islands, and six other countries around the world. The Mission is active in church-planting, Bible translation, education, evangelism, children and youth ministry, medical care, air service, substance addiction therapies, ministry to immigrants and community development in twenty-five countries. Remarkably, it also has monastic-like brotherhoods and sisterhoods, a fellowship of deaconesses, a retreat centre and a literature distribution ministry. It appears to be independent of any denomination, yet it does plant church congregations.

08 May 2018

Political Visions and Illusions, second edition

The second edition of Political Visions and Illusions is due out early next year. In the meantime, the new cover can be seen at right.

The new edition will include a reworking of the chapters in the first, with the addition of discussion questions after each chapter. A key difference from the first edition is that the redemptive narratives underpinning the ideological visions will be brought more explicitly into the foreground. This theme was present in the first, but it will be more visible in the second, enhanced by a series of illustrations highlighting these stories.

Finally, recognizing that this book has been used profitably in theological seminaries, I have added "A Concluding Ecclesiological Postscript," in which I take up the question of the role of the institutional church—as opposed to the larger corpus Christi, or body of Christ—in addressing political life, with references to the Barmen Declaration (1934), Mit Brennender Sorge (1937) and the Belhar Confession (1986). A new foreword will be written by Richard J. Mouw, former president of Fuller Theological Seminary and author of many books, including He Shines in All That's Fair and Abraham Kuyper: A Short and Personal Introduction.

I will let everyone know when the book is published. Stay tuned.

30 April 2018

Check the box and take the cash: Trudeau and Canada's summer jobs program

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is well over halfway through its statutory four-year mandate, and the prime minister continues to cause controversy by imposing his contestable interpretation of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The provocations began with his parliamentary caucus before the 2015 federal election, when he proclaimed that he would no longer permit pro-life candidates to stand for a seat under the Liberal label. This action produced a dilemma for pro-life Liberals, such as the Honourable John McKay, who had previously served under the convention that controversial moral issues, if raised in the House of Commons, would be settled by a free vote so as not to coerce members into violating their consciences. Trudeau, in effect, unilaterally changed this convention, making “reproductive freedom” for the first time a nonnegotiable element of the federal Liberal program.

In January of this year, the government announced that federal funding for the Canada Summer Jobs program—which subsidizes wages for small business, government entities, and nonprofits that employ young people who are full-time students—would be available only to groups that accept its reading of the Charter. At issue was the expectation that organizations applying for funding sign the attestation at the end of the application form, including these sentences:

Both the job and my organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability or sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.

13 April 2018

Overlords and underdogs

Bishop Lesslie Newbigin
No one can read the Bible without recognizing that God is concerned for the plight of the oppressed. The first five books of the Bible tell the story of God delivering his people from oppression in Egypt. So central is this story for both Judaism and Christianity that it has been cited as prototype for God’s deliverance of his people at several stages in the biblical narrative. Nevertheless, we need to be cautious in our use of oppression and liberation as political categories, because they can lead us astray.

Reformed theologians in particular have emphasized that the Bible is not simply a collection of pious ancient writings but a unified story of God’s redemptive acts in history, culminating in our salvation in Jesus Christ.

As we read the Bible through this redemptive-historical lens, we will recognize that, yes, God hates people oppressing others but that the primary form of oppression from which he liberates us is that of our own sinful nature. Indeed, it is sin against God and neighbour that fuels every other form of oppression.

29 January 2018

Come & ƿatch ðis video pleaſe

I þink ꝥ ðis is a great video & definitely ƿorþ ƿatchiŋ, þank you very much! Its æſthetic qualities are ſimilar to ðoſe of a Baȝ cantata. I truſt ðe creator ƿill keep up ðe good ƿork.

10 January 2018

THE LAST TELEGRAM –(STOP)–

It always marked a turning point in those old movies from the ’30s and ’40s. Someone would receive a telegram, indicating that all was forgiven / someone had died / a couple had married / a ship had been lost at sea. In Alfred Hitchcock’s 1941 classic, Shadow of a Doubt, Teresa Wright’s family receives a telegram indicating that her Uncle Charlie would be paying them a surprise visit, little knowing the havoc he would unleash in their home and community.

On the last day of 2017, Belgium finally ended telegraph service, which had begun more than a century and a half earlier and was a fixture of daily life for so many people around the world. In so doing, it followed the earlier moves of Great Britain (1982), the United States (2006) and India (2013).

29 December 2017

Remembering Expo 67

The past year’s celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday reminded me of another anniversary: that of my first visit to this country, which occurred 50 years ago. I was 12 years old, and my father had promised us that we would be seeing Expo 67, the world’s fair in Montréal. We had been expecting this all summer, but school rolled around and we hadn’t yet made the trip. We children knew that the fair would not last forever, and we feared missing it if we waited too long.

October rolled around and still no fair. As Expo would be wrapping up at the end of the month, we got more nervous. But then, on the fifth day of the month, I came home from school to learn that we would be getting in our family’s Buick Electra and leaving for the fair in only two hours! I can no longer recall whether my mother had already packed for all eight of us, but we soon headed off into the night, as prepared as we were ever going to be.

28 December 2017

What’s in a name? Fundamentalism, evangelicalism and the fickleness of labels

A good friend of mine in graduate school was an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). A confessionally Reformed Christian, he admitted to me that he sometimes liked to call himself a fundamentalist just to see how others would respond. Though we were on the same page in so many ways, I personally didn’t think I could go quite that far.

Nevertheless, I was raised in what might well be regarded as the first fundamentalist denomination, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Established in 1936 by John Gresham Machen and others, it grew out of the controversies of the 1920s and ’30s in the former Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Confessional liberals, who elevated personal experience and rationalism above both the Bible and the Westminster Standards, gradually moved into the ascendancy, with the more conservative elements increasingly on the defensive. These trends had already begun in the post-Civil War era, gaining speed around the turn of the 20th century and achieving dominance after the end of the Great War.

27 December 2017

The Queen's Christmas Message, 2017

Exactly sixty years after the Queen first aired her annual Christmas message on television, the Palace posted this fresh message:


We who have faithfully listened to her broadcasts year after year have noticed that their content is more explicitly christian than in the past, as pointed out in this article from The Guardian: How the Queen – the ‘last Christian monarch’ – has made faith her message. The turn of the millennium appears to have marked the start of this unmistakable trend.

To the royal household, it is known as the QXB – the Queen’s Christmas broadcast. To millions of people, it is still an essential feature of Christmas Day. To the Queen, her annual broadcast is the time when she speaks to the nation without the government scripting it. But in recent years, it has also become something else: a declaration of her Christian faith. As Britain has become more secular, the Queen’s messages have followed the opposite trajectory.

This is how she closed her message two days ago:

We remember the birth of Jesus Christ, whose only sanctuary was a stable in Bethlehem. He knew rejection, hardship and persecution. And, yet, it is Jesus Christ's generous love and example which has inspired me through good times and bad. Whatever your own experience is this year, wherever and however you are watching, I wish you a peaceful and very happy Christmas.

God save the Queen! Let us pray that, when the time arrives, her heirs and successors will see fit to continue this emphasis in their own Christmas messages.

Harry Blamires, 1916-2017

Harry Blamires (pronounced BLAMers) was not one of the best known of Christian apologists, overshadowed as he was by the likes of his mentor C. S. Lewis and, among Reformed Christians, Cornelius Van Til. Nevertheless, he was a scholar and theologian of the first rank, and he will be remembered for a single book he published in 1963, The Christian Mind. Because there have been so many books published in recent decades on the subject of a Christian worldview, we may forget that there was a time when the need to think in a distinctively christian way was unfamiliar even to regular church-goers, as it was to me when I was growing up. I acquired my copy back in June 1976 (so I wrote inside the front cover), and underscored those passages that leapt out at me. Blamires makes no mention of Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch polymath and statesman with whom I was becoming acquainted and increasingly sympathetic, but, with some exceptions, I saw them as co-belligerents in the effort to alert believers to the comprehensive sovereignty of God in Christ over the whole of life. Here is a wonderful sample of Blamires' writing:

It may be that the dominant evil of our time is neither the threat of nuclear warfare nor the mechanization of society, but the disintegration of human thought and experience into separate unrelated compartments. For a feature of the diseased condition of modern society is the parcelling out of human faculties—physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual—into distinct categories, separately exploited, separately catered for. Man is dismembered. In the high incidence of mental disease you can measure something of the cost of this dismemberment. In so far as the Church nurtures the schizophrenic Christian, the Church herself contributes to the very process of dismemberment which it is her specific business to check and counter. For the Church's function is properly to reconstitute the concept and the reality of the full man, faculties and forces blended and united in the service of God. The Church's mission as the continuing vehicle of divine incarnation is precisely that—to build and rebuild the unified Body made and remade in the image of the Father. The mind of man must be won for God (TCM, p. 81).
Christianity Today carries an obituary of Blamires here: Died: Harry Blamires, the C. S. Lewis Protégé Who Rediscovered ‘The Christian Mind’. May he rest in peace until the resurrection.

Followers

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
can be contacted at: dtkoyzis@gmail.com