04 December 2020

God as Judge: Do we still pray the imprecatory Psalms?

Although I generally do not cross-post between my two blogs, I think that a recent post from my Genevan Psalter blog might interest readers of this blog as well.

Last week I posed these questions on this blog after posting a video of Psalm 3, which speaks of God smashing the teeth of the wicked: "What do you think? Do you have difficulty singing psalms with such language? How ought Christians to sing them and in what spirit?" Thank you to those who took the time to respond in the comments section.

Many Christians believe that there is such a gulf between the Old and New Testaments that the latter has entirely superseded the former with its preaching of forgiveness and love. Here are some historical examples that I mention in my Introduction to the Genevan Psalter:

At least since the Enlightenment many Christians have claimed to find the psalms something of an embarrassment. Even so indefatigable an apologist for the Christian faith as C. S. Lewis refers to some expressions therein as uncharitable and even “devilish.” The great Isaac Watts once wrote: “Some of them are almost opposite to the Spirit of the Gospel: Many of them foreign to the State of the New Testament, and widely different from the present circumstances of Christians.” In Dostoyevsky’s celebrated novel, The Brothers Karamazov, there is a scene in which the protagonist Alyosha’s recently deceased mentor, Father Zosima, is being memorialized prior to burial. Because Father Zosima was a “priest and monk of the strictest rule, the Gospel, not the Psalter, had to be read over his body by monks in holy orders” [thus implying the Psalter's inferiority to the Gospels].

01 December 2020

Global Scholars announcement

Just over two weeks ago, I launched my Global Scholars Canada fundraising campaign to support my global educational work. The GSC announcement can be found here: David Koyis Launches Fundraising Campaign. Please consider making a year-end donation by clicking on this link. Canadians and Americans will receive CRA and IRS tax receipts respectively.

28 November 2020

J. I. Packer

This past July the distinguished theologian J. I. Packer died just short of his 94th birthday. Read about him here: J.I. Packer: The impact and gift of J.I. Packer's legacy. An excerpt:

What we should most remember Packer for was his love of the Bible, which he confessed to be the Word of God. In fact, it was a youthful reading of his grandmother’s old King James Bible that moved him to a mature confession of faith and eventually to the priesthood.

May he rest in peace until the resurrection, and may our Lord continue to use his legacy to advance his kingdom.

26 November 2020

T. S. Eliot on Christianity in a nonchristian society

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) wrote prophetically more than eight decades ago on a matter of great import for us now, as we attempt to navigate the choppy waters of a society increasingly shaped (and misshapen) by secular redemptive narratives:

The Liberal notion that religion was a matter of private belief and of conduct in private life, and that there is no reason why Christians should not be able to accommodate themselves to any world which treats them good-naturedly, is becoming less and less tenable . . . .
 
We have less excuse than our ancestors for un-Christian conduct, because the growth of an un-Christian society about us, its more obvious intrusion upon our lives, has been breaking down the comfortable distinction between public and private morality. The problem of leading a Christian life in a non-Christian society is now very present to us . . . . It is not merely the problem of a minority in a society, of individuals holding an alien belief. It is the problem constituted by our implication in a network of institutions from which we cannot dissociate ourselves: institutions the operation of which appears no longer neutral, but non-Christian.
 
And as for the Christian who is not conscious of his dilemma—and he is in the majority—he is becoming more and more de-Christianised by all sorts of unconscious pressure: paganism holds all the most valuable advertising space. Anything like Christian traditions transmitted from generation to generation within the family must disappear, and the small body of Christians will consist entirely of adult recruits . . . .
 
I am not concerned with the problem of Christians as a persecuted minority. When the Christian is treated as an enemy of the State, his course is very much harder, but it is simpler. I am concerned with the dangers to the tolerated minority; and in the modern world, it may turn out that the most tolerable thing for Christians is to be tolerated.
Eliot wrote this in Christianity and Culture (1939).

25 November 2020

The Kuyper Prize: David Brooks

New York Times columnist David Brooks was awarded this year's Kuyper Prize, sponsored by Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary. Like most such events this year, this was a virtual event, which we can watch below.


23 November 2020

The cultural influence of missionaries

Andrew Spencer writes about Robert Woodberry and the Benefits of Protestant Missions. Although missionaries have had a bad reputation in recent decades due to their supposed connection with European colonialism, it turns out that their influence has been almost wholly positive. This was the finding of political scientist Robert Woodberry in his path-breaking article in the American Political Science Review eight years ago. Here is an excerpt from Spencer:

Christianity is a religion of the book, therefore Christians tended to teach people to read and write. They often brought in printing presses so they could publish religious literature. In some cases they invented alphabets for previously unwritten languages. This led to societal advances that enabled more people to prosper.

Not only did they educate people, but missionaries brought in the concept of private property so traders wouldn’t take advantage of them. They taught new skills, like carpentry and advanced agricultural techniques. Missionaries introduced new crops to countries, which gave indigenous people opportunities to engage in trade with products that were desirable in Europe.

Woodberry outlines multiple ways in which the presence of missionaries indirectly led to improved conditions in colonies.

In many cases, the impact of Protestant missionaries went beyond their direct actions. In order to compete with the missionaries, indigenous religions began to print religious texts and educate people to resist Christianity. Competition improved conditions for everyone.

The case Woodberry makes is convincing. When people selflessly live out the gospel, both through evangelization and through practical application, it changes cultures for the better. Though there are clearly cases of abuse and sin by missionaries, there is a strong correlation between the advance of gospel people and the common good.

 This article is posted on the website of the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics.

22 November 2020

Political illusions in Brazil

Na noite de sábado tive o privilégio de falar neste evento, Ilusões Políticas no Brasil. Vocês podem ouvir a conversa clicando no link abaixo. Meus comentários estão em inglês e traduzidos para o português.

On saturday evening I was privileged to speak at this event, Ilusões Políticas no Brasil. You can hear the conversation by clicking on the link below. My comments are in English and translated into Portuguese.

20 November 2020

Providence review

Matthew Ng reviews the second edition of my first book in Providence Magazine: The Political Idols of Our Age: A Review of David Koyzis’ Political Visions and Illusions. An excerpt:

The arrival of the second edition of David Koyzis’ Political Visions and Illusions: A Survey and Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies is incredibly timely. So much of the divisiveness of our current political debates can be traced to differences over first principles, and Koyzis’ neo-Calvinist approach to political theory is helpful in digging to the fundamental issues that lay beneath the surface of our political rhetoric. To loosely quote John Maynard Keynes, so-called practical men who believe themselves exempt from intellectual influences are usually the slaves to some defunct economist or political philosopher. In this respect, Koyzis’ work is indispensable in preventing the church from becoming unwitting captives to defunct thinkers whom the average reader may only have faint knowledge of. . . .

I remember coming across the first edition of Political Visions and Illusions almost two decades ago. Rereading Koyzis’ book not only reminded me of how helpful his work was in clarifying issues of faith and politics, but it also provided me the joy of discovering fresh insights from a book that, like all great books, continues to teach new lessons with each reading. Unfortunately, except within the small confines of the Reformed world, Koyzis’ neo-Calvinist approach to political philosophy is not widely known. Hopefully, with the latest edition of Political Visions and Illusions, Koyzis’ work will no longer be hidden underneath a bushel, but instead, its brilliance will reach a wider audience.

It's always gratifying to receive a positive review of one's work, and I'm pleased that Ng continues to find the book helpful.

18 November 2020

Meu amado Brasil (em português)

Muitas das minhas palestras e aulas recentes foram ligadas ao Brasil, o que levou alguns espectadores a se perguntarem como me tornei tão profundamente envolvido com seu povo, especialmente com a crescente população evangélica. Aqui está, então, o relato do meu atual romance – essa palavra é muito forte? – com um país notável que abrange uma parte enorme do continente sul-americano.

O Brasil é o quinto maior país do mundo, tanto em população quanto em área. De acordo com o WorldoMeter, o Brasil tinha uma população de 213 milhões em 2020. Isso o coloca atrás da China, Índia, Estados Unidos, Indonésia e Paquistão e à frente de todos os outros. Quando palestrei lá em 2016, percebi o quão extenso é o país. Meu avião pousou em Brasília e fiquei com uma jovem família lá. Mas então, fomos de carro até Goiânia para o evento no qual eu faria minhas palestras. Demorou quase três horas para percorrer a distância, mas no mapa isso cobre uma proporção muito pequena da área do país. Pessoas que eu já conhecia de antemão e esperava ver no evento me disseram que era muito longe de suas casas, o que eu dificilmente poderia ter imaginado antes. Mas seria o equivalente a falar em Toronto e esperar ver pessoas de Calgary ou Vancouver aparecerem.

Por favor, leia a postagem inteira aqui.

 

16 November 2020

Today is the day!

Friends and alumni:

Today I am launching my Global Scholars Canada fundraising campaign.

As many of you know, I have been a member of Global Scholars Canada for one year, and under this organization I have been working at several projects drawing on my years of teaching, researching, and writing experience. Last year the second edition of the award-winning Political Visions and Illusions was published, and since then it has already gone into three printings, having sold out last summer after the Rev. Tim Keller endorsed it over Facebook and Twitter. I now have another completed manuscript, which I hope to submit to a publisher in the near future with the support of two high-profile endorsements.

Ironically, the COVID-19 pandemic, while restricting so many of us to our homes for months, has opened for me an amazing number of opportunities for online lectures and interaction with people around the globe. Prior to March of this year, I had travelled to Brazil, Germany, and various places in the United States to speak to specific audiences about my work and writings. I was set to go to North Carolina in late March, but this was cancelled the week before as quarantines descended upon the world. But quite suddenly, as knowledge of such platforms as Zoom took off, I was bombarded with invitations from all over, as people were coming to recognize that they needn't pay to bring me to them physically but could have what might be the next best thing—a virtual presence along with online interaction.

12 November 2020

Trinity Western Chapel: Job 11

I was recently privileged to deliver a prerecorded chapel address to the faculty, staff, and students of Trinity Western University, Langley, British Columbia, Canada, on Job 11. This was posted just three days ago. I have set the video to begin where my talk begins, but feel free to go back and watch the full chapel service. A precis of my talk: The book of Job is, as it were, a "little Bible," encapsulating the biblical redemptive story in the life of a single person.

Unfortunately I cannot post the video directly here, but you can watch it on YouTube.



11 November 2020

For love of Brazil

Next week I will be launching my Global Scholars Canada fundraising campaign to support my educational and research activities, which are increasingly taking on global dimensions. Here is the story of my relationship with Brazil which has deepened in recent years: Meu amado Brasil. The story can also be found under the PAGES title in the column to the right. From the introductory paragraph:

Many of my recent speaking and teaching engagements have been connected with Brazil, which has prompted some observers to wonder how I became so deeply involved with its people, especially the burgeoning evangelical population. Here then is my account of my ongoing romance (is that too strong a word?) with a remarkable country that spans a huge swath of the South American continent.

Please consider making a regular or one-time contribution to my ongoing work as a Global Scholar by clicking here. Thank you for your support.

10 November 2020

Ilusões Políticas no Brasil

No dia 21 de novembro estarei participando do evento "Ilusões Políticas no Brasil", promovido pela Associação Reformada de Cultura e Ação Política.

On 21 November I will be participating in this event, "Political Illusions in Brazil," sponsored by the Reformed Association of Culture and Political Action.


05 November 2020

Oak Centre conversation

Yesterday afternoon I was privileged to talk with a group right here in Hamilton sponsored by the Oak Centre for Studies in Faith and Culture, organized by my friend Don McNally. The invitation was originally for me to join the group in person at their downtown venue, but due to my 14-day mandatory quarantine, I had to settle for speaking with them remotely. By the way, I will be out of quarantine tomorrow at last. 



04 November 2020

Common Good conversation, version 3.0

Today I had another great conversation with the exceedingly affable Ian Simkins and Brian From on "the Common Good" over Chicago radio station WYLL, AM 1160. Here is the link: Guest: David Koyzis Author and Political Scientist - Post Election - November 4, 2020.



03 November 2020

Colonial Nigeria

Theodore in Kano, Nigeria
Last month I travelled to the United States to sort through my late father's office. While there I found a fascinating account of his years in British-ruled Nigeria some seven decades ago. I thought it worth posting here. He wrote this in 2010.

When I was 18 years old, I left Cyprus, my birthplace, for Benin City, NIGERIA, then a British colony, to take over a company owned by a family friend who was old and ready to retire. There were only forty families of white Europeans in Benin then, and they all lived a lonely, miserable and separate existence from the Nigerian natives.

From the first day of my arrival there, I noticed that the Europeans did not treat the natives fairly and humanly. They paid them very low wages, exploited them in every way possible and kept a social and cultural separation from them, something which I, the youngest of all the businessmen there, considered both cruel and ignorant. Understandably, I embarked on an endless campaign of heated and deliberate discussions whenever and wherever the occasion arrived.

Although privately several of the men and most of the women would agree with me, openly nobody would join or even support me during open discussions at dinners or other social gatherings restricted to Whites only. After six months in Benin City, I accepted an offer from a leading Greek businessman to join his organization and soon moved first to Lagos where I stayed for six months, then went North to Kano, Nigeria, where I spent two more years before I came to the United States.

Nigeria became independent in 1960, nearly a decade after my father left the territory to study in the States.


02 November 2020

Genevan Psalter pages

Although I do not generally mention my other blog, The Genevan Psalter, here, I will nevertheless advise readers that I have restored several pages from my former Genevan Psalter website including the following:

Those wishing to be informed of further updates are welcome to click the follow button in the right hand column. You may also wish to join the Lovers of Metrical Psalmody Facebook group. When requesting admission, please be sure to answer the questions posed. Thanks.

29 October 2020

Why do white Christians vote Republican and black Christians vote Democrat?

Here's a fascinating historical analysis of the different voting patterns of two groups of American Christians. And, yes, this is the same Phil Vischer who created VeggieTales.



28 October 2020

Dooyeweerd on racial ideology in the churches

Here is a great quotation from philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977) chastising the German churches for allowing themselves to be co-opted by the racial ideology of the new National Socialist government:

The Church has already expunged its inviolable boundaries opposite the state, it has already accepted a violation in principle of its essential character by tying itself, albeit under the protest of a significant minority [perhaps a reference to those who would sign the Barmen Declaration the following year], to the racial foundation of the new German political order. . . . But the Christian church cannot accept being tied to a 'racial theory.' It cannot without committing spiritual suicide, depart from the teaching of the Gospel that in Christ there can be no distinction between the Greek and the Jew. Certainly this equality in Christ does not exclude any and every temporary inequality in social life. Yet the church is the congregation of Christ and not a state writ small. A fundamental principle of the new political order is that the Church may not participate in politics! Well then, let the Church not follow the 'racial politics' of the new political order. Let it maintain without compromise its 'sphere-sovereignty' in its own spiritual fundamental structure, a 'sphere-sovereignty' that it does not derive from the state but from the grace of God!
-- Herman Dooyeweerd, "De grondwet van de nieuwe Duitsche Evangelische Kerk en de positie der gereformeerden in de 'Landskerken'" (1933)

27 October 2020

All Things & Solid Rock: McMaster & Mohawk

At the invitation of Michael Fallon, the Christian Reformed Church in North America's chaplain at McMaster University and Mohawk College, I was privileged last week to speak and converse online with his two student groups, All Things and Solid Rock, on the subject of "Unmasking Our Political Illusions." One day, after the current pandemic has passed, it would be wonderful to spend time in person with this and similar groups. May God hasten the day!

25 October 2020

Sermon mention

This morning at Parkside Church near Cleveland, Ohio, Pastor Dan Schillero preached a sermon on James, chapter 1. Towards the end he mentioned my book, Political Visions and Illusions. I've set it so it begins at this point, but do go back and listen to the entire sermon, which is worthwhile.

 

24 October 2020

Introdução a Dooyeweerd

Acabo de postar uma tradução do meu ensaio introdutório ao pensamento político de Herman Dooyeweerd nas páginas do meu blog. Agradeço a Matheus Thiago C. Mendonça e Lucas Oliveira Vianna pelo empenho.

I have just posted a Portuguese translation of my Introductory Essay to Herman Dooyeweerd's Political Thought on my blog. Thanks are due to Matheus Thiago C. Mendonça and Lucas Oliveira Vianna for their efforts.


21 October 2020

Preparing for leadership

Recent correspondence with a colleague prompted me to revisit an article I wrote back in 2007: Making the Most of College: Preparing for Leadership. An excerpt:

So how should you, as an undergraduate student, go about preparing for focused political service or, more modestly, for responsible citizenship? First and foremost, take advantage of the academic resources available where you are. Attend classes, not merely to fulfil requirements, but to enter into an ongoing conversation transcending the course you are in at the moment. Plato's celebrated dialogue, The Republic, tells the story of what must have been an all-night exchange between Socrates and several friends over the nature of justice. Of course, the dialogue eventually comes to an end, but the larger conversation it sparked has continued in some fashion and in many settings for two-and-a-half millennia. We are still arguing and debating about justice, and we are unlikely to give it up this side of the Second Advent . . . .

No matter what sort of university you are enrolled in: Read! Read everything you can get your hands on, especially works addressing the larger questions of political life. Start with Plato and Aristotle. Read the Bible on justice and political authority. Grapple with Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. Wrestle with Machiavelli and Hobbes. Enter into the worlds of Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and Marx. And, although you may not find such writings in a "Great Books" programme, read Christian political thinkers like Abraham Kuyper, Herman Dooyeweerd, James W. Skillen, Paul Marshall, and Bob Goudzwaard to acquire a firm grounding in a biblical approach to politics.

Common Good conversation, version 2.0

Yesterday I was interviewed once again by Ian Simkins and Brian From on "the Common Good" over Chicago radio station WYLL, AM 1160. Here is the link to what I found to be a thoroughly enjoyable conversation: Guest: Dr. David Koyzis, Author and Political Scientist - Political Ideologies - October 20, 2020.



19 October 2020

The Perception Gap

Those concerned about political polarization in the United States will want to take a look at this study: The Perception Gap, sponsored by More in Common as the third of their Hidden Tribes of America studies. From the findings:

To learn how well Americans understand each other, we partnered with global research firm YouGov to survey 2,100 Americans. On issues including climate change, patriotism, sexual assault, police conduct and more, we asked Americans what they themselves believed and what they estimated people on the other side believed. We were then able to calculate the difference between the predictions and reality.

The conclusion? Americans have a deeply distorted understanding of each other. We call this America’s “Perception Gap”. Overall, Democrats and Republicans imagine almost twice as many of their political opponents as reality hold views they consider “extreme”. Even on the most controversial issues in our national debates, Americans are less divided than most of us think. This is good news for those worried about the character of this country. The majority of Americans hold views that may not be so different from your own.

16 October 2020

Americans to the Polls

My latest column appears this week in the new issue of Christian Courier: Americans to the Polls, subtitled, "A party system that is broken and a constitutional tradition whose edges are beginning to unravel." An excerpt:

Next month Americans return to the polls to elect a president and vice-president, members of Congress, and host of state- and county-level officials. They do so at a time of unprecedented crisis for the country. What happens on 3 November will have an impact on its future as we enter the third decade of this century. The issues range from the government’s inept handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, an economy crippled by months of quarantine, the consequent spike in unemployment rates, racial division, unrest in the streets of several major cities, and a vacuum in effective leadership at the top. But above all, the United States will have to deal with a party system that is broken and a constitutional tradition whose edges are beginning to unravel.

Read the entire column here.

15 October 2020

Dooyeweerd introduction

I have just posted my Introductory Essay to Herman Dooyeweerd's Thought on my blogger pages. An earlier version of this appeared in an edited volume of Dooyeweerd's political writings in 2004, as indicated at the bottom of the text. Here is an excerpt:

The difficulty with engaging one of these [modal] reductionisms in dialogue is due, not to the supposed irrationality of the reductionist, but to the fact that her enterprise accounts for all the evidence in a way that seems to be complete but is nevertheless missing something rather crucial. The convinced materialist can easily explain such complex phenomena as anger or even romantic affection by pointing to the movement of electrical impulses through the brain . . . . In this respect, the materialist is similar to G.K. Chesterton’s “madman,” who reasons in a way that combines logical completeness with spiritual contraction. If the madman argues that there is a universal conspiracy against him, and if you point out that everyone denies it, he is likely to reply that denial is exactly what one can expect from conspirators. “His explanation covers the facts as much as yours.” As Chesterton memorably concludes, the madman is not the one who has lost his reason, but the one “who has lost everything except his reason.” Dooyeweerd would put the matter less colourfully perhaps, but he would agree that the materialist, who sees the entire cosmos through the narrow lenses of only one or two modal aspects, has missed the fulness of human life, if not experientially, at least theoretically.

Dooyeweerd is best known for his account of the modal aspects of reality. Read this essay to find out what they are.

(Re)integrate podcast

I was recently interviewed by Bob Robinson and Brendan Romigh on the (re)integrate podcast. Click here to listen: Political Ideologies That Become Idolatries – with David Koyzis.

 


14 October 2020

Who's oppressing whom?

 

The Cateclesia Institute has published my article, Who's Oppressing Whom? Sin, Oppression, and Forgiveness. An excerpt:

In the real world, as we relate to each other on a daily basis, we will quickly discover that the title oppressor cannot be easily assigned to a particular group of people, primarily because this status will not hold still. As soon as we think we have identified and labelled the oppressors, something happens to upend our conclusions. Those victimized in the past turn right around and victimize others. Once the party claiming to represent the working class has overturned its capitalist overlords, it begins to persecute dissidents and those it deems to be obstructing the new order’s arrival, irrespective of what they have actually done. In their efforts to build a better world, revolutionaries typically end up turning on their own followers, creating a society more oppressive than the one they overturned.
Read the entire article here.

Note: the map above is of the routes taken by the aboriginal Americans westwards to their new homes in what is now Oklahoma.

Conversation with University of Ottawa students

Last evening I was the guest of Chaplain Sid Ypma at his online student group at the University of Ottawa.

13 October 2020

Veritas Forum interview

 

This afternoon I took part in a conversation with Erin Dienst of Veritas Forum on my Political Visions and Illusions. Click on this link to view it.

09 October 2020

Video review of Political Visions and Illusions

It's always good to get a positive review of one's books. Here's one by a certain Joel Wentz on the second edition of Political Visions and Illusions

 

08 October 2020

David Brooks on America's current plight

New York Times columnist David Brooks has written a remarkable article for The Atlantic: America Is Having a Moral Convulsion. Here is what the author does in this article, which I strongly recommend:

This essay is an account of the convulsion that brought us to this fateful moment. Its central focus is social trust. Social trust is a measure of the moral quality of a society—of whether the people and institutions in it are trustworthy, whether they keep their promises and work for the common good. When people in a church lose faith or trust in God, the church collapses. When people in a society lose faith or trust in their institutions and in each other, the nation collapses.

This is an account of how, over the past few decades, America became a more untrustworthy society. It is an account of how, under the stresses of 2020, American institutions and the American social order crumbled and were revealed as more untrustworthy still. We had a chance, in crisis, to pull together as a nation and build trust. We did not. That has left us a broken, alienated society caught in a distrust doom loop.
The Atlantic gives visitors three free articles per month. This should definitely be one of the three.

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Contact at: dtkoyzis at gmail dot com