21 May 2020

All the Areas of Life (Todas As Áreas Da Vida)

I just have to post this marvellous performance of a song written by Marcello Oliveira Ferreira. He sang this after the conclusion of an online course on Abraham Kuyper's thought in Brazil, and it is worth passing along.

Here is my rough translation from Portuguese:

28 April 2020

Earlier in the month, I was interviewed by Dr. Bruce Ashford, provost at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, on the subjects of socialism and Marxism. The interview has now been posted and can be seen immediately below:

More such videos are forthcoming, as part of the series, "The Public Square and Everything In It."

27 April 2020

Clash of Idols

Today Mere Orthodoxy published this brief essay of mine: Clash of Idols.

An excerpt:

Some people believe that idolatry affects us only in those matters concerning liturgy, prayer, sacraments, and preaching. But idols refuse to remain within the walls of a formal worship space. After all, worship can be said to describe the way we live our entire lives seven days a week, as individuals and as communities. If we are obsessed with making as much money as we can, subordinating every other consideration to that goal, we effectively serve an idol of our own making. This idol is a jealous god, refusing to share space with other ordinary activities, such as raising children, being faithful to our spouses, nurturing friendships, and helping the poor. We need not literally burn incense, sing praises and offer prayers to this god, but because it so dominates our lives, we in effect worship it.
As we look more closely at public life in North America, we can see at least three principal ideological groupings battling for political power. Each of these in its own way is intermeshed with the idols that shape—and distort—our efforts at securing just governance. These idols are nation, market, and the expansive self. Of course, there is nothing intrinsically evil about nation, market, and personal freedom. Each of these has developed over time and come into its own, enriching our lives as those created in God’s image. Yet each of these goods, separated from God and from the larger normative framework of his creation, becomes an idol that enslaves.
Read more.

23 April 2020

Government vs. virus

Over the past two centuries, the pace at which we have succeeded in taming our environment has accelerated, tempting us to assume that we are in nearly absolute control over our own lives and futures. Although my grandparents lived through the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, many millions did not. The last flu pandemic took place when I was 13, killing one million people worldwide and 100,000 in the United States. As a boy I was afflicted, like virtually all of my peers, with the “normal” childhood diseases such as measles, rubella and the mumps. But we were inoculated against more serious maladies such as smallpox, diphtheria and polio. As an increasing number of diseases have been conquered by medical researchers, we were lulled into thinking that good health is a right to which we are entitled.

Now, quite unexpectedly, we are faced with another pandemic, the COVID-19 coronavirus. And we are freshly reminded that we are not in control; we are still subject to the vicissitudes of life beyond our powers.

22 April 2020

Online church shopping

During the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, our church has of necessity made the move to an online presence. We have had a YouTube channel for a few years now, so the technical infrastructure was already in place to permit this. For the past several weeks, we have worshipped from home, tuning in from our televisions while seated on our living room sofas, whose cushions are more comfortable than the 112-year-old wooden pews in our sanctuary. We even celebrated the Lord’s Supper on Palm Sunday, each of us providing bread and wine and having it consecrated from 2 kilometres away by our minister. It’s not the same, of course, but it will have to do for now. We can be thankful to God that our technical means have come so far that we can worship in this way, which we would not have been able to do even twenty years ago.

27 November 2019

God’s Divided People: Biblical Lessons for the Church

The recent observance of the 502nd anniversary of the Protestant Reformation should once again prompt us to reflect on the unity of God’s church amidst so many divisions. Christians everywhere can point to Jesus’ high priestly prayer recorded in John’s gospel: “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you” (John 17:21), yet wonder why this cannot be a present reality. It’s not just that churches are organizationally distinct but that they do not enjoy full communion with each other, erecting barriers preventing their members from recognizing outsiders as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Of course, some church bodies deny that God’s church is divided at all. The Roman Catholic Church claims to be the one holy catholic and apostolic church founded by Jesus nearly 2,000 years ago. Other communions are officially in schism from this one true church, and their members constitute at most separated brethren in imperfect communion with Rome. The Orthodox Churches, while organizationally more pluriform, return the favour, claiming that Rome, along with every other ecclesiastical body, is outside the one true church, embodied in global Orthodoxy.

16 October 2019

We Praise Thee, O God: a literary analysis of the Te Deum

A few weeks ago I began volunteering at a local food bank. In between conversing with clients and manning a literature table for the chaplain, I discovered there is time for other things. As I had neglected to bring anything to read, I decided to undertake a literary analysis of the ancient Te Deum, a 4th-century Latin hymn traditionally sung on great occasions of thanksgiving. As I typically pray this during my daily prayer regimen, I mostly know it by heart. Variously ascribed to Sts. Ambrose and Augustine and to Nicetas of Remesiana, its authorship is otherwise unknown.

Now I freely admit that, as an academic political scientist, I am by no means an expert in literary analysis beyond the basics. However, I have noticed a few things about the Te Deum that I thought worth passing along.

30 September 2019

Thoughts on Thunberg and ordinary politics

Greta Thunberg
Last week, shortly after adolescent Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg angrily addressed the United Nations, I posted the following on my facebook timeline:

The world is in crisis; there is no denying that. It has always been in crisis and always will be in the present age. There are so many injustices to be angry over, and I went through such a period of grieving and anger in my youth.

But watching this performance prompts me to wonder whether this still very young woman is assuming too much responsibility for the entire globe, more than is emotionally healthy for her. It suggests to me that her parents need to offer her better guidance, perhaps encouraging her towards engineering or some profession that will give her hope that she can make a difference in some fashion.

No one person can cure the ills of the world, and Greta should not be encouraged to shoulder this burden, especially not in so public a fashion. Take time for family, hobbies, friends and, yes, political causes, but don’t be consumed by them.

I knew that some people would likely take issue with my assessment, but I was not expecting to have more than one-hundred comments, in response to which I thought it appropriate to make some clarifications.

22 August 2019

Loving the church: lessons from Bonhoeffer

It is not always easy to love our fellow Christians. After all, they sometimes say things that we find embarrassing and embrace causes that we find repugnant. Their political opinions are hopelessly atavistic or thoughtlessly progressive. They believe the world will end tomorrow and think they can hasten the coming apocalypse. They think they will save their country and bring godliness to everyone. They make all Christians look foolish by their missteps, and we–their betters surely?–are reluctant to associate with them for fear of losing respectability.

How many of us have experienced this for ourselves? I freely admit that I have, and it’s a side of me that I quite dislike. In my youth I developed a burning passion for social justice, for helping the poor and oppressed and for ending the economic structures that hold them in their grip. This produced in me an anger towards anyone else in the church who was less aware of these issues than I. Of course, this included most of my fellow Christians who were busy making a living, raising families and giving time and financial resources to their church and other communities. At least temporarily, my attitude made it difficult for me to sit in church and to listen to sermons that failed to touch on what I had come to believe was so important to a genuine faith. Had someone attempted openly to correct me and thereby coax even a little humility into me, I doubt I would have listened.

19 August 2019

Visions & Illusions: another go at it

When I first began teaching undergraduate political science some three decades ago, I was expected to teach a course in modern political ideologies for introductory-level students. As this was before the dawn of the internet, I had to page by hand through several orange volumes of books in print to find possible texts for the course. Then I had to write to the publishers to request copies of their books for consideration. Even after this time-consuming process, I still failed to find something I thought was needed for such a course.

Because I was teaching at a Christian university in Canada, I wanted a book that would bring a Christian perspective to the subject matter. Being unable to find this, I resigned myself to ordering whatever was least expensive for the students and then proceeding to do something rather different in my lectures. Some years later I began shaping these lectures into a book-length manuscript which eventually became Political Visions and Illusions, published in 2003 by InterVarsity Press near Chicago.

I was gratified when Christianity Today chose the book as its Editor’s Bookshelf selection in July 2003. The following year the book won an award from the Word Guild in the category of nonfiction/culture against stiff competition. It went through twelve printings before I decided to propose a second edition. Preparing this occupied much of my time until it finally appeared in May of this year.


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can be contacted at: dtkoyzis@gmail.com