Notes from a Byzantine-Rite Calvinist

31 August 2005

The future of Russia

Because I am about to teach a course in Russian politics, I am following the news out of that country a little more closely than usual. I have already pointed to stories like this which are nothing less than tragic: Russians, Dying Younger, Have More Abortions Than Children. But there is perhaps a glimmer of hope in the following report: Russia leads in GDP growth - figures. Mere economic growth is hardly an answer to the ongoing social and demographic crisis of postcommunist Russia. Yet if couples are less worried about the birth of a child pushing them into abject poverty, they may opt for more children.

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Hurricane Katrina

CTV reports: Weakened Katrina could hit Ontario Wednesday. In fact, we're already getting lots of rain, along with gusts of wind.

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30 August 2005

Benedict XVI and religious freedom

The new Pope has chosen September as a month to pray "That the right to religious freedom may be respected by the government of all peoples." May God see fit to answer this prayer.

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Fetal pain study: conflict of interest

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has published the results of a study purporting to show that unborn babies younger than 29 weeks do not feel pain. Now a conflict of interest has been uncovered: one of the authors had worked for an abortion advocacy group and the other is the medical director of an abortion centre at a major hospital in the US. JAMA's editor claims to have been unaware of these connections before the article was published.

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29 August 2005

Pinker's 'calling'

In that TIME issue on evolution, there is a revealing comment by Harvard's Steven Pinker:

It's natural to think that living things must be the handiwork of a designer. But it was also natural to think that the sun went around the earth. Overcoming naive impressions to figure out how things really work is one of humanity's highest callings.

Am I the only one to think it incongruous that someone so vociferously opposed to intelligent design (and who, not incidentally, also justifies infanticide) nevertheless manages to invoke the language of calling, which, of course, would seem to presuppose the existence of a caller. Or is the notion that humanity is under a "highest calling" another of those naive impressions we are "called" to dispel through scientific investigation? If so, then Pinker is needlessly creating more work for himself.

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Iraq and the limits of the US presidency

For someone who grew up in the US during the Vietnam War, the following reports bring back painful memories of a turbulent era: Bush warns of more sacrifice in Iraq, protesters rally; and Sunnis pledge to fight Iraq's constitution. True, that earlier conflict cost the US some 58,000 lives, while current war-related deaths have not yet reached 2,000. Vietnam was also part of a larger global superpower standoff, while the current war is not. Yet the open-ended conflict, coupled with declining presidential approval ratings, seems distressingly familiar.

The following stands out because it underscores a serious flaw in the Bush administration's approach:

In an effort to shift public perceptions, Mr Bush last week gave three speeches in as many days, vowing that America would not be pulling out of Iraq. "As long as I'm the President, we will stay, we will fight and we will win the war on terror," he said.

"As long as I'm the President. . . ." Even if we assume the justice of the current US cause in Iraq, the fact is, and always has been, that Bush will be president only until January 2009. From the outset, a prudent Iraq policy would have had to take into account, not only the Iraqi political culture, but also the temporal limits of the Bush presidency and the possibility that his successor might see fit to change course. If invading and securing Iraq — not to mention something as nebulous as winning a war on terror — could not be done within this time limit, then an alternative policy ought to have been considered. Good defence policy does not occur in a political vacuum and must inevitably account for such variables. Not to do so is a mistake that Bush's father, who undoubtedly had the best grasp of foreign policy of any 20th-century US president, would not have made. The younger Bush's principal failing is that he seems not to have relied on his own father's better judgement in this area.

So, George, please swallow your pride and give Dad a call.

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NAFTA troubles

Fewer Americans than Canadians are aware of this story: PM ponders recalling MPs over trade tiff. Here's the crux of the matter: "The United States has said it will continue to impose duties on Canadian softwood lumber despite a North America free-trade agreement appeals panel ruling that the duties violate the NAFTA." One wonders what the point is of having a tribunal to settle international disputes if one of the parties repeatedly refuses to abide by its rulings.

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Health benefits of coffee

Here's good news for some people: 'Java Jive' beneficial in moderation, study says. All the same, I've been off the stuff since 1993 and I have no intention of going back.

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28 August 2005

Mars nonevent

Many people have received an email about this and believed it: 'Spectacular' view of Mars turns out to be hoax. So put away your telescope and go to bed early instead.

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A 'disaster of biblical proportions'

Please pray for the people of New Orleans, especially the poor who have no means of their own by which to evacuate.

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27 August 2005

From our recent travels



With "Sue" at the Field Museum, Chicago

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26 August 2005

'What is to be done?'

A pamphlet by this title was written just over a century ago by one Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known to the world as Lenin. Now Comment has re-posed the question as it begins a new series of weekly articles. Editor Gideon Strauss opens with his introductory remarks, unsurprisingly titled, What is to be done?, announcing a new neocalvinist manifesto, arriving, like one of the great 19th-century Russian novels, in weekly instalments.

I will let you guess the author of the first contribution in the series: What is to be done … in political theory? This article notes that the two most influential political theorists of the modern era, John Locke and Karl Marx, were antipolitical yet contributed to the general drift towards statism in contemporary political practice. It goes on to survey four recent efforts to renew political theory, concluding with six signposts towards a better alternative.

While we're on the subject, I might also draw your attention to a piece by Michael C. Hogeterp, Broadbent’s Lament … and a politics of hopeful citizenship? Mr. Hogeterp works for the Christian Reformed Church in government relations and is a 1992 graduate in political science from Redeemer University College. The alert reader will take note of the reference to Bernard Crick's writings in this article and the political theory article. Coincidence? Um, not exactly.

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Course materials online

Our new academic year begins in a week and a half. Accordingly, I have posted the syllabuses for the courses I will be teaching, along with supportive material. These include Introduction to Political Science, Russian Government and Politics and Ancient & Mediaeval Political Theory. For the second course I have considerably revised and updated the following documents: The Commonwealth of Independent States and other former Soviet republics and A Capsule History of Russia. I may still make some incremental changes in these, but by late next week they will be finalized.

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25 August 2005

The 'timing' of creation

Having read the lead article in this issue of TIME Magazine on the evolution controversy in the States, a possible alternative comes to mind. Could it be that God created, simultaneously and ex nihilo, everything in the cosmos fully complete and complex and, rather than giving it the mere appearance of age, gave it a genuine history, capable of being investigated scientifically? If so, then the timing of creation, from a human perspective at least, would not be a relevant consideration. Just a thought.

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24 August 2005

Decline of faith in Europe

Readers of this blog know of my ongoing interest in the phenomenon of secularization, which has decimated the churches and societies of Europe, Québec and elsewhere in the western world. Here is James M. Kushiner writing on Faith in Britain 50-50:

The fact is that many Europeans just gave up believing quite some time ago, even if they didn't completely discard the ritual of baptizing their children and getting married in the church. Why? Secularism, yes, but that's just a circular argument. I have wondered to what extent two World Wars on the continent of Europe, mostly involving "Christian" nations, have contributed to the decline of faith. No wonder drug usage in the British Isles is so high. I suppose it numbs the pain of living in a meaningless culture.

I too have wondered about the role of the world wars. For those who lived during the "bourgeois century" between 1815 and 1914, it would have seemed inconceivable that Europe, which had recovered surprisingly well from the Napoleonic debacle, could once again be plunged into another continental war, much less two such wars, in so short a time.

I recently reread Michael P. Fogarty's classic Christian Democracy in Western Europe: 1820-1953, which was published by the University of Notre Dame Press in 1957. Fogarty reported that, at the time he wrote, there was a belt of high religious observance extending from Flanders to Venice, which was bounded by relative spiritual wastelands on either side. (Even then the Scandinavian countries were devoutly secularist, it seems.) This European "bible belt" was the heartland of the christian democratic parties, over whose uncertain prospects Fogarty nevertheless managed to summon up some optimism.

Of course, half a century later we now know that France's Mouvement républicain populaire (MRP) did not survive the end of the Fourth Republic in 1958. The Netherlands' three christian democratic parties, including Abraham Kuyper's Anti-Revolutionary Party, would eventually merge in an effort to cut their losses. Even the once orthodox Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland, the sister church of the CRCNA, would largely succumb to the same trends affecting the rest of Europe and disappear altogether into a generic protestant body. Italy's Democrazia Cristiana all but vanished slightly more than a decade ago, along with much of the post-war Italian political status quo.

Fogarty wrote only a decade after the Second World War. European Christendom was already pretty shaky, but it was holding its own, at least in certain regions. If the world wars were a major precipitating cause of its decline, then they didn't have this effect immediately. It took the turmoil of the 1960s to do that.

Yet, as I've observed before, when people cease to believe in the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ (or, in the case of Jews, in the Torah), they do not stop believing in general. Something inevitably comes in to fill the vaccuum. Will Europeans be able to maintain the richness of their civilization and the stability of their institutions on the basis of an unprecedented faith in a deracinated humanism? Probably not. It remains to be seen, then, what will come next.

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Robertson's fatwa

Pat Robertson is too often made the whipping boy of the media. All the same, one suspects that his most recent comments represent at the very least a significant public relations failure: U.S. evangelist calls for assassination of Chavez. I wonder what the good people at Regent University, where I spoke in February, think of their founder's remarks?

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23 August 2005

New party redundant?

One wonders whether this country really needs another party that claims to stand for what the Cosmopolitan Party of Canada stands for. Read in particular about its cosmopolitan spirituality, which eclectically and selectively draws on the supposed universal principles common to all religions. Judging from past experience, I think it is fair to observe that professed cosmopolitans are the most parochial of all spiritual communities, primarily because they cannot bring themselves to recognize the particular and exclusive character of their own commitments. Funny, but I thought we already had people like that running our country.

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Francis Schaeffer's legacy

I have just finished reading Nancy Pearcey's Total Truth, probably the thickest in the recent series of worldview books which have been produced by thinking Christians. I may comment on this book at some point, but what immediately stands out for me is her debt to Francis Schaeffer, who, along with his wife Edith, founded the l'Abri Fellowship 50 years ago. I have known any number of people over the years who were impacted by the Schaeffers' ministry in that unlikely corner of Switzerland. Pearcey was one of these, and she speaks in fond terms of her reconversion to christian faith through the Schaeffers' leading.

My own youthful contact with Schaeffer was through some of his writings, and I will admit to being somewhat less than favourably impressed at the time, for reasons I may come back to later. After three decades, I cannot recall which of his earlier books I read, but I'm fairly certain one of these was Escape from Reason. Of his later books the one I definitely recall reading was How Should We Then Live, whose subtitle, The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture, seemed to me to be a particularly egregious example of a publisher overselling a book.


PCA

Francis A. Schaeffer


I recently found three Witherspoon lectures on Schaeffer's thought, one by Darryl Hart, who incongruously compares him with Russell Kirk; a second by Greg Jesson; and a third by Kenneth Myers. Of the three, I found Myers' reflections the most thought-provoking, especially his discussion of Schaeffer's apparent "bohemianism," as it translated into an excessive mistrust of legalism and tradition. Here is Myers:

Consider this passage in one of the appendices to The God Who Is There (1968), titled "The Problem of the Middle-Class Church in the Latter Half of the Twentieth Century": "Mature Christians must summon the courage to distinguish, under the Holy Spirit, between unchangeable biblical truth and the things which have only become comfortable for us." Surely there are aspects of the Church's life which are neither unchangeable biblical truth nor merely comfy habits, but deliberate and wise practices accepted and sustained in an effort to embody unchangeable biblical truth and confirm its living significance in our lives and in those of our children. Schaeffer does not seem to recognize this essential middle phenomenon.

This is characteristic of a reluctance--if not a refusal--in Schaeffer to recognize the salutary (indeed necessary) place of tradition within the Church, tradition not as a means of revelation but as a set of practices adopted to continue in the task of discipleship. Schaeffer seems more aware of the way in which the presuppositions of modern thought find their way into art, music, literature, and shared life than he does of the necessity for the Church's presuppositions to become incarnate in its life. He was certainly concerned throughout his life that visible and costly love be made evident in the life of local churches, and (in places like Art and the Bible) he repeatedly addresses the question of the responsibility of the individual artist to produce works that were consistent with a Christian worldview. But I am not aware of any sustained effort on his part to reflect on how local churches can become countercultural communities and not simply lifestyle enclaves. The bohemian side of Schaeffer seemed to resist reflection about how the Church's commitments to its truths become institutionalized. His writings pay much more attention to the institutions of the state than to those of the Church. Indeed, there are passages in Schaeffer's work where, in a hyper-Protestant manner, he pits the authority of the Church against the authority of the Bible.

I am insufficiently conversant with Schaeffer's life and thought to judge whether Myers' assessment is accurate. However, confirmation may lie in the fact that Schaeffer's son, Frank, left behind his Reformed upbringing and converted to the Orthodox Church, something of which his father would have heartily disapproved if he had lived long enough to see it.

I notice that the original l'Abri in Huémoz, Switzerland, is now being run by the Schaeffers' granddaughter and her husband. Other l'Abri locations are to be found in England, the Netherlands, South Korea, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Sweden and British Columbia. Whether they are still attracting the same sorts of searching young people who went to l'Abri in its heyday in the 1960s and '70s I don't know. I hope so. I wish them God's blessing in their efforts.

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Coming soon. . .

. . . to a library shelf near you: "Persuaded, Not Commanded: Neo-Calvinism, Dignitatis Humanae, and Religious Liberty," by yours truly, in a collection of essays on this Vatican II document shortly to be published by Sheed & Ward, and edited by Kenneth Grasso and Robert P. Hunt. I'll let everyone know when it's out.

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20 August 2005

I hear the dinosaurs singing

This is old news which I missed back in 1998, before I had a daughter who would find it so fascinating: Scientists Use Digital Paleontology to Produce Voice of Parasaurolophus Dinosaur. Hear for yourself what they came up with.


Pavel Ríha

One artist's rendering of two
parasaurolophus

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Tornadoes in southern Ontario

We don't often get storms like this in our part of the world, where we tend to think of severe weather coming in frozen form.

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Chicago and back again

Earlier in the week we returned from a visit to the Chicago area and Michigan where we visited family on both sides. Here are some highlights and observations:

  • The Chicago area contains some 9 million people as compared to the 12 million living in Ontario, Canada’s largest province. Consequently, the 10-county metropolitan area is a huge sprawling mass of urban-suburban settlement, with not enough open spaces in between. One of these spaces is the Morton Arboretum, which is not dissimilar to Hamilton’s Royal Botanical Gardens. We didn’t get there this time, but perhaps we will during our next visit.

  • The Chicago area is crisscrossed with wide thoroughfares with sometimes as many as 20 lanes pouring into a single intersection. Now imagine a power outage in which an absence of traffic lights turns such an intersection into an impromptu four-way stop. Yes, we did find ourselves at one of these.

  • Everything in the Chicago area seems to have two-tier pricing, with lower prices for locals and higher for outsiders. This includes the supermarkets and the toll roads.

  • A highlight of our trip was a visit to the Field Museum of Natural History, downtown Chicago. With Theresa’s recent interest in dinosaurs, we decided to indulge this with a tour through its special exhibit, Dinosaur Dynasty: Discoveries from China. A permanent part of the museum’s collection is a complete tyrannosaurus rex (or perhaps tyrannosaura regina) skeleton called Sue.

  • Michigan’s unofficial motto is “Great lakes, bad roads.” Detroit, in particular, appears to be exceedingly poorly run in this respect. For those attempting to cross the Ambassador Bridge into Canada, Interstate 94 is currently closed for construction at the exit to Interstate 96, with “helpful” signs vaguely advising drivers to “Use alternate route.” Strangers are left to figure out for themselves what such a route might be. (How many returning Canadians have met a cruel fate wandering through the side streets of this dangerous city?) We decided to get off at Livernois Avenue (also in poor shape) and head north to 96. Yet the entrance to 96 is not clearly marked either, so we nearly missed it. Then there was the driver who kept running red lights in front of us. And the car which cut us off in full sight of one of Detroit’s finest, who did absolutely nothing. And. . . well, you get the picture.

  • Next time maybe we’ll try the Blue Water Bridge at Sarnia-Port Huron.

  • In the US a pocket full of change is likely to add up to a dollar or two and includes lots and lots of pennies. In Canada a pocket full of change could total ten dollars or more, but with fewer pennies. American bills are harder to tell apart. You need to keep alert to be sure you’re receiving the correct denominations.

  • If you’re ever in Hillsdale, Michigan, a quite pleasant place to stay is the Dow Center on the Hillsdale College campus. Very impressive. Nicely run with friendly staff. The walls are covered with pictures of eagles, to which people there seem to have a curious devotion.

  • Hillsdale, Michigan’s motto: “It’s the people.” To which one is tempted to respond: What’s the people?

  • Two more weeks before classes start. Back to work.
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    19 August 2005

    Unexplained crash

    The mystery deepens surrounding that downed Cypriot airliner.

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    More on institution-building

    Here are two more recent contributions to Comment: The first is by the remarkable Mr. Rob Joustra, an historian and political scientist with an interest in the arts: Building Institutions: Makoto Fujimura and the International Arts Movement. The second is by Wheaton College's answer to Abraham Kuyper, Dr. Vincent Bacote: The Spirit and institution-building. Coming soon: "What is to be done . . . in political theory?"

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    18 August 2005

    Τζυπριώτικα

    One of these days I'll have to blog about the Cypriot dialect of Greek, known in standard demotic Greek as Κυπριακά (Keep-ree-a-KAH) and in Cypriot as Τζυπριώτικα (Cheep-ree-O-ti-ka). In standard demotic Greek one would say: Εγώ κ'εσύ θα πάμε στην Κύπρο ("I and you will go to Cyprus.") In the Cypriot dialect one would say: Εγιώνι τζι'εσούνι έννα πάμεν στην Τζύπρον. Why the difference? It's a long story.

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    17 August 2005

    Brother Roger murdered

    To call this news sad is an understatement: Taizé Religious Community Founder Slain.

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    The meaning of 'Varosha'

    Varosha is a roman transliteration of the Greek Βαρώσια. Βαρώσια in turn comes from the Turkish word merash, meaning "swamp." This, at least, is what I hear from someone on the Return to Varosha list.

    Later: Someone else on the list claims it comes from the Turkish word varosh, meaning suburb. My own considerably abbreviated Turkish-English dictionary cannot confirm either of these meanings, but I suppose they're plausible.

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    Mystery solved

    Several months ago I asked whether there really might be a hymn titled, Gladly the Cross I'd Bear, which generations of children had mistaken for Gladly the Cross-Eyed Bear. Well, there isn't. But a certain Angharad has cleared up the mystery. It seems that in 1894 the great Fanny Crosby wrote a hymn, Keep Thou My Way, whose third stanza contains the line, "Gladly the cross I'll bear." Now I can sleep at night again.

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    15 August 2005

    Cyprus crash

    So soon after the Anorthosis football victory, Cyprus is in mourning.

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    14 August 2005

    Famagusta and the future of Cyprus

    In recent months I have been on an email list called Return to Varosha, Famagusta, Cyprus. I joined this list at the invitation of the moderator, who, I assume, must have come across my own Cyprus page. Participants include those who have had some connection with the Varosha section of Famagusta south of the old walled city, whose inhabitants were almost wholly Greek prior to the troubles of 1974. It is now an uninhabited ghost city, surrounded by a fence guarded (lightly, in some places) by the Turkish military.


    David Koyzis

    The abandoned city of Varosha
    from south of the Green Line


    Varosha was the centre of the tourist industry in Cyprus after independence in 1960 and for the next 14 years. I myself never had the opportunity to go there, but my father was raised there and my relatives were exiled from there in '74. Many people on this list have indeed lived there, and this includes some British families as well. I have been moved by their expressions of love for a place to which they cannot return. They tell of favourite restaurants, ice cream shops, beaches, hotels, schools, streets and other once familiar landmarks.

    Although I can feel no nostalgia for a city where I've never been, I am getting a pretty good sense of the politics surrounding the issue of Famagusta, which is apparently being held as a sort of pawn by the Turks, to be used at some future negotation to settle the Cyprus issue.

    Last year, in the runup to Cyprus' entry into the European Union, the people of both sides of the island voted in a referendum on the Kofi Annan Plan to unify the island. Turkish Cypriots in the north voted in favour, while Greek Cypriots in the south voted against, at the urging of their fairly new president, Tassos Papadopoulos.

    To be sure, the plan was inequitable in many respects, although the list members have mentioned another reason for its rejection which had not occurred to me before. Since 1974, much of the tourist industry has moved south to such cities as Paphos, Limassol and Ayia Napa, the last of which was once a sleepy village now turned into a garish resort city. If the north is opened up and the barriers removed, much of the tourism on which the south is dependent could move to the less expensive north. If the Varosha section of Famagusta is reopened, these southern cities could end up suffering economically as a consequence. Since no one wishes to see his restaurant or hotel lose business, he would quite naturally vote to maintain the status quo — which means no to the Annan Plan.

    Former residents of Famagusta look at this differently, of course. They just want to go home. Their houses are deteriorating physically and badly need to be restored. All they want is to reclaim something of their former lives in a city cruelly taken from them. If this means accepting an imperfect settlement to a three-decade-old stalemate, so be it.


    Return to Varosha

    The fence around Varosha


    My prayer is that they will indeed go home again before too long. To paraphrase the Jewish Passover liturgy: Next year in Varosha. . . .

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    10 August 2005

    Concert notice

    Given my longstanding interest in the Genevan Psalms, I would love to attend this event: Concert of Psalms at Concord church.

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    09 August 2005

    The diaeresis

    English is nearly unique among European languages in having so few diacritical marks. I've recently received a new computer, and one of the things I have done is to enable the language functions so that I can type in French, German and Greek. If I have need of other languages, it is fairly simple to add them by clicking on START, then SETTINGS, then CONTROL PANEL, and then REGIONAL AND LANGUAGE OPTIONS.

    One of the diacritical marks that appears occasionally in English is the diaeresis, which is placed on the second of two adjacent vowels, thereby indicating that they are pronounced separately. One word containing this mark is naïve, which is, of course, a loan word from French. In some older books one also sees coöperate spelt with a diaeresis, though this seems to be less common nowadays. Following this logic, one might conceivably come across preëminent, although, to be honest, I've never seen this spelling in use anywhere.

    Our surname in Greek contains a diaeresis (also called a dialytika) over the letter ι, as in Κοϊζής, pronounced Koi-ZEES. The presence of this diacritical mark is an indication that the o and i sounds are pronounced separately, an unusual pronunciation in modern spoken Greek, wherein ι, η, υ, ει and οι are now pronounced identically. Without the diaeresis, our surname would sound like Kee-ZEES. Its presence is evidence that the name was not originally Greek but was transliterated from another language, probably French, where it may originally have been Coizy.

    My father was not born with this surname. In fact, he was born without a surname at all, only a patronymic. Not until later did he adopt our current surname, with which his grandfather and, apparently, father were born. Since the diaeresis is scarcely used in English, he made the Κοϊ into Koy, with a y replacing the ϊ. Some of my relatives in the US and elsewhere spell our name Koizis, but no one has retained the diaeresis.

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    07 August 2005

    Political reverberations from a football victory

    Cyprus is a much smaller country than Turkey. Thus the victory of Anorthosis Famagusta over Trabzonspor continues to stir up emotions in both countries, as reported in this Cyprus Mail article: How a football club came to symbolise Cyprus. Incidentally, although I have not personally met sociologist Nicos Peristianis of Intercollege, who is quoted at length in this article, I did know his sister when we were both living in Toronto 25 years ago. Small world? Perhaps. Then again Cyprus is a small island.

    Later: I found the websites of the two clubs, Trabzonspor and Anorthosis. Note that the latter flies the flag of Greece prominently in the upper left corner. This would appear to indicate a rightwing nationalist political orientation. The flag of the Cyprus Republic is nowhere in sight. That dampens my enthusiasm somewhat. Yet Anorthosis did win the match and thus deserves to be congratulated.

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    06 August 2005

    A Sinai treasure

    Here is one place that would be well worth a visit: St. Catherine's Monastery, the oldest such monastery in continuous use.

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    Orthodox group leaves ecumenical body

    Could this be the beginning of a trend: Antiochian archdiocese votes to leave church council? The National Council of Churches sees itself as the principal ecumenical body in the United States, but, if enough Orthodox jurisdictions withdraw membership, it will be increasingly sidelined, especially given that the Roman Catholic Church and most evangelical protestant bodies remain outside. Here is another report on this development from the Institute for Religion and Democracy, an organization explicitly targeted for opposition by the NCC. Oddly enough, the NCC website is not yet carrying the news.

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    New Comment articles

    This week’s edition of Comment boasts three new articles. The first, North America and the New Christendom, is by Gideon Strauss. Drawing on Philip Jenkins’ observation that the global centre of Christianity is moving south, Strauss argues that North American neocalvinists have resources from which the new African and Asian Christians might well benefit.

    The second, Heidi Metcalf’s The destructive power of good, offers a disturbing look at the practice of human trafficking around the globe, along with biblical hope for a way out.

    The third, Pantagruelian paradoxes and post-Modern cop-outs, sees author Brian Dijkema revisit the recent Koyzis/Jape debate, with a persuasive response to Fr. Jape’s spirited, if not altogether convincing, broadside.

    By the way, I have just received a copy of the WRF’s Best of Comment, an impressive-looking publication which deserves a wide reading.

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    04 August 2005

    And now for today's sporting news. . .

    Our top story: Anorthosis of Cyprus triumph in grudge Turkey game. This was an unprecedented football (i.e., North American soccer) match pitting a Greek Cypriot team exiled from the occupied "ghost city" of Famagusta against a Turkish team from the ancient city of Trabzon. Ironically, prior to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, even the latter was once occupied by Pontic Greeks, who called it Τραπεζούντα (Trapezounda). This city was the seat of the last independent Byzantine outpost to be conquered by the Turks in 1461, eight years after the conquest of Constantinople.

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    Another priest 'disciplined'

    The ongoing drama of the Episcopal Church's implosion moves to Saginaw, Michigan, where Bishop Edwin Leidel of Eastern Michigan has deposed the Rev. Gene Geromel, an orthodox priest in his diocese. However, 13 of Leidel’s fellow bishops have declared Fr. Geromel a priest in good standing in their own dioceses. As one commentator put it, "The boundaries of inclusion grow ever narrower."

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    Our new governor general

    The Queen will have a new representative in Canada next month to replace the outgoing Adrienne Clarkson. She is Michaëlle Jean, a Haitian-born journalist familiar to Québec television viewers. She is being touted as the first black to fill the governor general's post, the third woman, and the second non-Canadian-born since 1952. Before that year governors general were always sent from Britain, appointed from the aristocracy or even the royal family. The one exception was Scottish novelist John Buchan, known during his tenure in Canada as Lord Tweedsmuir. In 1952 Vincent Massey became the first Canadian-born governor general. Since then the office has alternated between an anglophone and a francophone. However, with Mme. Jean's appointment, we will have had two CBC/SRC journalists in a row, which some might deem a minor breach of convention. At age 48 Mme. Jean will become one of the youngest persons to represent Her Majesty in the True North.


    RDI

    Michaëlle Jean

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    Christian heritage day

    The province of Ontario has come up with its own solution to the problem of religious diversity: Give Christians their own heritage day, along with Greeks, Poles and other cultural groups, thereby putting ultimate belief on a par with ethnicity. What would Bob Ferguson think of that?


    Sights and Culture

    Christians
    in typical costumes
    performing typical dances

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    03 August 2005

    Osama's new suzerain

    A smooth transfer of power for this oil-rich middle eastern kleptocracy: King Abdullah receives oaths of loyalty.

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    Darwin and ID

    Are male academics programmed by natural selection to defend Darwin over Intelligent Design as a means of protecting their status against rivals? David Klinghoffer thinks there's something to this.

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    02 August 2005

    Little on church-state separation

    The Rev. Kevin Little is a minister in the United Church of Canada and a one-time candidate for the House of Commons. One assumes from this op-ed piece in the Toronto Star that he would oppose Bob Ferguson's draconian proposal to regulate all religions but his own. Indeed Little recalls his own denomination's roots in Methodist social and political activism. Arguments for separating church and state did not stop his forebears from pushing for medicare, unemployment insurance and other social programmes which Canadians now take for granted.

    Now if only Little could manage to correct his faulty comprehension of the personalism of Emanuel Mounier and Jacques Maritain. Pierre Trudeau may indeed have believed that "faith was irrational and therefore did not belong in public discourse," but he would have received scant support for this from the likes of Mounier and Maritain.

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    Turkey's EU bid

    Must Turkey recognize the Republic of Cyprus before accession talks can begin with the European Union? Yes, says the French Prime Minister. Austria's Deputy Chancellor agrees. Ankara will not be pleased.

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    The ICR: a viable alternative?

    Someone responded to my request for biblically consistent resources on dinosaurs by referring me to the Institute for Creation Research, an organization of which I know little other than its name and less than positive reputation in most scientific circles. After perusing some of its materials on dinosaurs, I would judge that this group's approach seems to amount to: (1) denying the evidence for the great age of the earth and its fossilized creatures, (2) denying that there was ever a time when mostly dinosaurs inhabited the earth, (3) affirming, against considerable evidence to the contrary, that human beings and dinosaurs cohabited earth, (4) finding evidence for dinosaurs in the Bible (e.g., Job's leviathan and behemoth), (5) ascribing the various sedimentary layers in the earth's rock formations to the biblical flood, and (6) reading the Bible in a woodenly literal way as if it were a scientific treatise. While not wishing to impugn the sincerity of the good people at the ICR, I am inclined to think an approach is needed which better accounts for empirical evidence as well as for the different literary genres in scripture itself. At the same time, as I admitted earlier, I am hardly an expert in this field.

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    Prayers requested

    Please pray for my niece, Bethany Givens, who is spending the summer and autumn in Tanzania and has now contracted malaria.

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