Notes from a Byzantine-Rite Calvinist

30 October 2005

Time for a snack

We know that our Theresa's blood sugar levels are too low when, while listening to Gustav Holst's The Planets, she becomes overly upset at the fact that the composer didn't put the corresponding movements in the same order in which the namesake planets actually occur in the solar system and, as if that weren't enough, had the temerity to leave out earth.

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Iran contra mundum. . . again

Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." In response, New Zealand's foreign minister has helpfully called these remarks "unhelpful." Strong words, but the circumstances call for them.

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28 October 2005

Religious staffing, reforming the tax code

Is the Salvation Army engaging in a "most reprehensible form of discrimination" by employing only those who agree with its mission? The ACLU has joined one member of Congress in saying yes, but a federal district judge in the United States has ruled otherwise. Writing for the Center for Public Justice's Capital Commentary series, Stanley Carlson-Thies analyzes the controversy in Religious Staffing-2, Opponents-0. (Check out the pious-looking box on "Freedom, Belief and Religious Liberty" on the ACLU's front page!)

In the most recent Capital Commentary, Center president James W. Skillen looks at A Good Tax-Reform Proposal for the US. A presidential advisory panel is urging that the mortgage-interest deduction on federal income tax be limited to $312,000 and be eliminated entirely for second homes and home equity loans. Skillen agrees. Of course, this issue means little to Canadians, who receive no such tax break at all. However, it may be that both countries' governments need a more radical reconfiguration of public policy to recognize that homeownership is not merely about purchasing a consumer good but about having a stake in one's local community.

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27 October 2005

Sox are tops

Sporting fans, especially those with Windy City roots, will appreciate this: SOX SWEEP AWAY PAST: Chicago wins 1st title since 1917, erases scandal of 1919 team. At this rate, White Sox fans can look forward to celebrating another victory in 2093.

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26 October 2005

A peeping Thomist?

Ryan Miller, a disciple of Bernard Lonergan, has made the wonderful discovery that one of my colleagues is now a Thomist: A Reply to Al Wolters: What is Christian Philosophy? I'm certain Wolters himself will be thrilled to hear the news.

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25 October 2005

Rosa Parks (1913-2005)

For those of us who grew up during the civil rights struggle in the US nearly half a century ago, this report recalls to mind a time when malicious racial discrimination was an ugly fact of life: US Civil Rights Icon Dies at Age 92.

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Scandal in the Antipodes

Have the recent troubles surrounding New Zealand's Maxim Institute effectively rendered the organization unable to exercise a positive influence on its own country? Time will tell.

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Naming the tenth planet

Although my childhood fascination for astronomy has waned over the decades, I have a moderate interest in proposals for naming the tenth planet, 2003 UB313, which is larger than the ninth planet, Pluto. My own suggestion is that asteroid 399 be renamed and Persephone be given to this "new" body in the solar system. Think of what this will do for the field of pop psychology: "Men are from Pluto, women are from Persephone." It has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

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24 October 2005

Russia in decline

What can the future hold for a country that loses half a million people in the short space of 12 months? Господи Помилуй!

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The nanocar

Researcher Develops World's Smallest Car. Given the rise in gas prices, this may be all we can afford next time around.

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Priestly celibacy

From Rome: Vatican synod rules out married priests. This admittedly comes from an outsider, but it is not at all clear to me why the Roman Catholic Church could not extend the precedent of the Eastern-Rite churches, which allow marriage before ordination, to the Latin Church.

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22 October 2005

Slogans supplant virtue

This looks like a book worth reading: Decadence: The Passing of Personal Virtue and Its Replacement by Political and Psychological Slogans, edited by Digby Anderson. The book is a collection of essays pointing to the loss of a traditional virtue-based ethic and its replacement by a new morality centred on the self. Here is Zenit's account of the Rev. Peter Mullen's argument in one of the essays:

The old religious idea of acting virtuously for its own sake, or for God's sake, has been replaced by the psychotherapeutic notion of virtue for our own well-being. Self-respect has been replaced by self-esteem. Self-respect used to come from the peace of trying to live a virtuous life and having a clear conscience. Now it means just feeling good about ourselves and lacks any moral content.

Another of the contributors to this anthology will be familiar to some neocalvinists. Theodore Malloch was last year's Bernard Zylstra Lecturer at Redeemer University College. He writes with typical calvinist enthusiasm on – what else? – the virtue of thrift.

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Christians assailed in Egypt

Alexandria once housed substantial numbers of Jews and Christians prior to half a century ago. Those Christians remaining undoubtedly fear this sort of thing on a regular basis: Muslims riot outside church in Egypt. Fortunately the police intervened to protect against the rioters. In Egypt as a whole Coptic Christians are thought to make up between 5 and 10 percent of the total population of 70 million. We should not only keep them in our prayers, but do what we can to draw the western public's attention to their plight.

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Songs of Syon

One of my all-time favourite hymnals is Songs of Syon, subtitled “A Collection of Psalms, Hymns, & Spiritual Songs set, for the most part, to their ANCIENT PROPER TUNES,” edited by the Rev. George Ratcliffe Woodward, M.A. My copy, purchased in 1989 (probably in Toronto), is the 4th edition, published in London in 1923, the original edition having come out in 1904. It is an exceedingly comprehensive collection, containing plainsong melodies, metrical melodies of the 13th to 16th centuries, Lutheran chorales, “Old English and Scotch psalm-tunes” and old French psalms and canticles. It is based on the earlier work of Robert Bridges' Yattendon Hymnal.



The plainsong texts are generally John Mason Neale’s famous 19th-century translations of the ancient Greek and Latin hymns. These are often rendered in mediaeval musical notation, which, with a little practice, is fairly easily sight-read. The titles of the German hymns are set in blackletter font, perhaps making them appear exotic to an early 20th-century English readership – or should I say “singership”? In his preface to the 4th edition, the Rev. Mr. Woodward felt it necessary to say the following:

If objection be taken to the number of foreign tunes which appear in this Edition, be it remembered that many of our favourite Hymn-tunes. E.g., The Old Hundredth, Luther’s Hymn, Adeste fideles, O Sacred Head surrounded, Now thank we all our God, Sing praise to God who reigns above, are not of English origin. It is confidently believed that many other exotics need only to be transplanted, and they will take equally deep root in the hearts of English-speaking people.

The material is organized at the outset in fairly typical manner, i.e., according to the church calendar. Hence Advent hymns come first, followed by Christmas-even, Christmas-tide, &c. Then come Holy Eucharist, Sundays and Week-days, Evensong, Mattins, Common of Our Lady, Common of Saints, Proper of Saints, &c. Then come sections devoted respectively to Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs.

The Psalms section is of particular interest to me, because the editor put some effort into recovering for the English-speaking church the tunes of the Genevan Psalter, which, apart from a very few, are generally unknown to Anglo-Saxon Christians. Some of the translated texts are by Woodward himself. Here is the first stanza of his rendition of Psalm 150:

Alleluya. Praise the Lord;
Be his holy Name ador’d:
Praise him in the firmament,
Mighty, great and excellent:
In his noble acts revere him:
Praise him on the harp and lute,
Praise him with the trump and flute;
Love, adore, and greatly fear him.

Eight decades later, Woodward’s effort to recover the Genevan tradition appears largely to have fallen short. But his Songs of Syon stands as a monument to the rich liturgical heritage of both eastern and western Christendom. It deserves to be better known than it is.

Unfortunately I myself do not use this volume as often as I would like. My copy is redolent of mildew to which I am, sadly, allergic. Should I attempt to sing directly out of this book, I would have to stop every few bars to blow my nose. I would love to find a much newer reprint with which to replace this.

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21 October 2005

'Inciting hatred'

If Mark Morford were living in Canada and published this detestable article in one of our periodicals, would he be charged under section 319 of the Criminal Code for wilfully inciting hatred against an identifiable group?

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20 October 2005

On this date in history

The Free University of Amsterdam opened its doors 125 years ago today. Its founder, Dr. Abraham Kuyper, marked the occasion with an address on "Souvereiniteit in eigen kring", or Sphere sovereignty.

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Aleksandr Yakovlev (1923-2005)

The mastermind of perestroika is dead.

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McKendree Langley (1945-2005)

The Westminster Theological Seminary website carries an obituary of McKendree Langley, who died last week of a heart attack at age 60:

Langley taught history for 35 years at the high school, college, and seminary levels. He was associate professor of history at Dordt College (Sioux Center, Iowa); history teacher at Phil-Mont Christian Academy (Erdenheim, Pa.); and chair of the history department at City Center Academy (Philadelphia, Pa.). Since 1989, he was an adjunct faculty member at Westminster, and throughout his career lectured at Barrington College (R.I.); Free University (Amsterdam); Gordon College (Wenham, Mass.); Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson, Miss.); Delaware County Community College (Media, Pa.); and Eastern University (St. Davids, Pa.). For five years, he worked as a journalist for Eternity magazine, New England Church Life, and The News (Southbridge, Mass.).

He was considered an expert in Christian democracy and the theology of Dutch statesman Abraham Kuyper. A graduate of Gordon College (B.A.), Northeastern University (M.A.), and Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div., Ph.D.), his P.D. dissertation was entitled “Emancipation and Apologetics: The Formation of Abraham Kuyper’s Anti-Revolutionary Party in the Netherlands, 1872-1880.” In 1984, he published the book The Practice of Political Spirituality. He also wrote numerous articles on U.S. and Eastern European worldview politics.

I first came to know of Langley through his 1984 book, as I was researching my dissertation. I met him only once, in 1998 at an international conference on Abraham Kuyper at Princeton Seminary.

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19 October 2005

Corruption

What is the least corrupt country in the world? Iceland, according to Transparency International's newly released Corruption Perceptions Index survey, closely followed by Finland and New Zealand, which tie for second place. Which is the most corrupt? Chad and Bangladesh tie for this coveted spot at number 158. Canada comes in at number 14 and the United States at 17. It's no surprise to me that Cyprus comes ahead of Greece at 37 and 47 respectively. What I would not have expected to see is the Kingdom of Jordan tie Cyprus for 37th place. Nor would I have anticipated Singapore's rank at number 5, ahead of Australia and the Netherlands.



Canada's record is better than that of most countries. Nevertheless, the report has the following to say:

Wealth is not a prerequisite for successful control of corruption. New long-term analysis of the CPI carried out by Prof. Dr. Johann Graf Lambsdorff shows that the perception of corruption has decreased significantly in lower-income countries such as Estonia, Colombia and Bulgaria over the past decade.

In the case of higher-income countries such as Canada and Ireland, however, there has been a marked increase in the perception of corruption over the past ten years, showing that even wealthy, high-scoring countries must work to maintain a climate of integrity.

One assumes Adscam has played a role in depressing Canada's rating. Yet if so, it appears not to have adversely affected the popularity of the governing Liberal Party, if recent opinion polls are any indication. What does this say about Canadians? I hope it doesn't mean we are becoming more accustomed, and thus more numbed, to corruption in high places.

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18 October 2005

Genovese reviews Noll

Here is something I missed two years ago. I found it while looking for that Niebuhr quote I mentioned yesterday. Eugene Genovese reviews Mark Noll's America's God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln in, of all places, this New Republic article: God of Thunder. There is something intriguing in seeing an ex-Marxist, Catholic convert with an affinity for the southern agrarians take on a Reformed Christian for not being confessionally Reformed enough, as well as for mischaracterizing the southern Presbyterian tradition. I can't imagine what the stereotypical TNR reader would make of this.

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Paying the price

A member of parliament from northern Manitoba is now being made to pay the price for defying her own party and voting to uphold justice. When the election call comes, may her constituents do the honourable thing and return her as an independent.

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17 October 2005

Neuhaus joins the blogosphere

This month I received the new issue of First Things somewhat later than usual. (Canada Post is a tempting scapegoat.) Turning to the FT website, we see that Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, who has long had the print equivalent of a blog in his monthly Public Square columns, is now doing the real thing.

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An apt and much quoted description

Here is H. Richard Niebuhr on liberal protestantism, as it developed in the United States a century ago: "A God without wrath brought people without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross." It comes from his book, The Kingdom of God in America. A quick Google search reveals that some people ascribe this to the author's better known brother, Reinhold.

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Iraqi democracy?

As Iraqi citizens go to the polls to vote on a new constitution, it is worth taking a look at James L. Payne's survey of cases in which an American or British military occupation led to the establishment of democracy in the occupied country. In general the results have not been good. Let's hope and pray that Iraq will be an exception to this historical record.

By the way, am I the only one to have noticed possible tensions within article 2 of the proposed constitutional document?

First: Islam is the official religion of the State and it is a fundamental source of legislation:

A. No law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established.

B. No law that contradicts the principles of democracy may be established.

C. No law that contradicts the rights and basic freedoms stipulated in this constitution may be established.

Second: This Constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people and guarantees the full religious rights of all individuals to freedom of religious belief and practice such as Christians, Yazedis, and Mandi Sabeans.

Which of the above provisions will be held to take priority when they come into conflict, as they inevitably will?

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16 October 2005

An anniversary

On this day 450 years ago Bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley were martyred for the cause of the Reformation in England.

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More from Comment

The Work Research Foundation continues to publish thoughtful Comment articles on a weekly basis. Three recent ones are especially noteworthy. First, Ray Pennings writes on What is to be done… in the public square? For many years I have known Pennings to be an activist, both in his several political campaigns and in his work for the CLAC. Thus he is well situated to be writing on this topic. Pennings argues that "the battle for public square influence is not dependent on any one policy initiative, election, or campaign. Results will only be measured over decades, and we need to develop the persistence and perseverance to keep at it." This suggests that a future Comment article might appropriately deal with the virtue of patience.

Then we return to the longrunning debate on agrarianism, which sees Richard Greydanus replying to Wilma Van der Leek's take on Wendell Berry's thought. While admitting the historical priority of the agrarian way of life, Greydanus believes that God's cultural mandate requires "the care and cultivation of both localizing and globalizing potentialities."

Finally, my revered friend and colleague, Dr. Al Wolters, has written a thoughtful — and I'm tempted to say moving — analysis of the neocalvinist/reformational movement, identifying its promise and dangers alike: What is to be done... toward a neocalvinist agenda? Wolters frankly discusses the cleavages within the movement, as some adherents have embraced one emphasis at the expense of others, thus making for an imbalanced appropriation of the true fulness of the life in Christ. Among other things, Wolters asserts that neocalvinists need (1) to recover a "robust and straightforward notion of Scriptural authority," which can hardly be argued with; (2) to immerse themselves in a genuine piety conversant with the spiritual disciplines of other christian traditions, such as Ignatian spirituality and the pentecostal/charismatic movements, as well as with Reformed Christianity; (3) to cultivate an ecumenicity rooted, not in a lowest common denominator, but in the particularities of the calvinist tradition; and (4) to recognize that the only way to the restored creation is by way of the cross of Jesus Christ. There is much more to grapple with here. I hope Wolters' brief, but rich, article provokes a larger conversation about the issues he raises.

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14 October 2005

A tragic loss

I have just received word of the sudden death yesterday of Dr. McKendree Langley, author, teacher, and expert on the life and career of Abraham Kuyper. Here is an announcement of his death. When I learn more, I will post it. May God grant comfort to those he left behind.

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13 October 2005

Vanished bloggers

Where did Rob Joustra and Dan Postma go? Perhaps it's time for them to switch to a non-German server.

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Aussies and Kiwis going separate ways?

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Mike Moore has written an article that is making waves in the Antipodes: A tale of two countries. His comparison to Canada's relationship with the United States is especially instructive.

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12 October 2005

New PJR issue

The fourth quarter issue of The Public Justice Report, published by the Center for Public Justice, is now out. In the lead article, Center President James W. Skillen undertakes to assess the United States' policy in Iraq according to traditional just war criteria and finds it wanting on several counts. Professor Prabhu Guptara writes on Facing the Challenge of Globalization, acknowledging the dangers of this phenomenon while setting out steps towards a healthy globalization. Skillen reviews Judith M. Dean, & al., Attacking Poverty in the Developing World. My friend and colleague John Hiemstra questions efforts in his own province of Alberta to develop oil sands while ignoring the need to conserve energy use and adopt a more stewardly economic practice. This issue also carries highlights of Dr. Stanley Carlson-Thies' testimony before a congressional subcommittee on Making the Faith-Based Initiative Permanent, a review of the second edition of Roy Clouser's Myth of Religious Neutrality, and a final commentary to mark the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

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11 October 2005

PR for Canada?

Here is an event I would love to attend if I lived in Ottawa: Carleton University to host debate on political hot potato — Would Proportional Representation be Good for Canada?

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Should sovereignty be downgraded?

If Amitai Etzioni has his way, the traditional understanding of state sovereignty would be modified from a right to a responsibility.

Thus a government that does not protect its people from ethnic cleansing, of the kind that occurred in Kosovo and Rwanda, or from mass starvation as found in Niger, would be considered a government that has forfeited its right to independence. The UN would be fully entitled to authorize an intervention in the internal affairs of that nation, a major departure from the Charter of the UN, which declares, “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the jurisdiction of any state.”

Would this be practicable? More to the point, is the UN up to taking on this responsibility? Perhaps this is where Russ Kuykendall's proposed Community of Democracies has a role to play.

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09 October 2005

Music of the spheres

Our Theresa has been combining her interest in the sciences with her inherited interest in music. Two famous compositions lend themselves especially well to this: Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and Gustav Holst’s The Planets. The two of us have been arguing over whose interpretation of the former is the better. She prefers Hermann Scherchen and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra’s rendition (1973), while I much prefer that of Stanislav Gorkovenko and the St. Petersburg RSO (1997). (At least we're not arguing over hip-hop!) As for Holst’s piece, it was composed in 1916, 14 years before Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto. If Holst had known of Pluto — as well as “Xena” and all of the other quasi-planetary objects in the Kuyper Kuiper Belt — might he have composed additional movements for these as well? Perhaps I’ll address this in a possible second blog devoted to music appreciation, to be titled Notes from a Coloratura Accordionist.

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05 October 2005

Catholic bishops' change of heart

Could this be true: Catholic Church no longer swears by truth of the Bible?

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04 October 2005

Capitalism, civil society and the Calgary School

In response to my Comment article, “The Calgary School and the Future of Canada,” Jonathan Weverink writes:

i balk at your suggestion about limiting the public sector, and putting more into the hands of private enterprise.

even so, i am in total agreement of your point about the diversity that the private sector could bring to many aspects of what typically resides in the public sector. especially in the face of cold secularism.

i think my original "gut" reaction stems from my deep, deep suspicion of capitalism -- and the glowing endorsement of rampant greed we see coming from our elected officials, in regard to corporate entities.

i wonder if you have anything to say about the very real danger of capitalism, and the corporate tyranny that is slowly growing in the face of disappearing public goods? do you have a solution to offer, where private interests are not necessarily equated with plunder?

These are good questions worthy of thoughtful response. Let’s start with capitalism, a term I use in my book as little as I possibly can. Over the decades I’ve come to think that it’s not a particularly useful term — in the hands of either its detractors or its proponents. When I do use it, I tend to identify it with the economic side of individualistic liberalism, with its tendency to reduce the variety of social formations to voluntary associations. One might speak here of the commodification of life, in which every cultural artefact, institution, custom, tradition, way of life and livelihood becomes an economic product to be purchased on the open market. My colleague Craig Bartholomew has written on consumerism, a term which may be somewhat more descriptive and less freighted with obvious ideological baggage. To be sure, there is nothing intrinsically evil about the market, which must be seen as a structural component of human life in community, as created by God. But in our society there is a tendency in some circles to advance so-called “market solutions” to this, that and everything, including environmental degradation and a plethora of social ills. This is naïve. The market is the market. Nothing more, nothing less.

Furthermore, capitalism’s Marxian connotations make it a less than helpful term. For Marx, capitalism is not so much the economic counterpart of liberalism as a concrete system characterizing a particular stage in the historical process – a process determined and moved by class struggle. It’s not clear to me that one can so easily detach a notion of capitalism from this Marxian context, with its defective anthropology and reductive understanding of history. Then, of course, there is Catholic theologian Michael Novak, who writes favourably, and entirely too glibly, of “democratic capitalism,” which is a hopelessly reductionist way of understanding our complex society. (On this point I am closer to the late Russell Kirk than to Novak.)

To my mind, the issue of the respective sizes of public and private sectors (themselves problematic terms, but we’ll let that go for now) must be treated as something distinct from the important issues Weverink raises above. He claims to balk at my proposal to limit the public sector and to place more resources in the hands of the private sector. Yet he also professes to dislike the “glowing endorsement of rampant greed we see coming from our elected officials.” One could add to this problem the corruption and other forms of malfeasance within the ranks of government itself. Clearly, greed is not peculiar to private entrepreneurs. Placing too much of our wealth in the hands of government officials is a recipe for abuse, especially if there are insufficient checks on political power itself — a situation characterizing Canada at the moment, I'm sorry to say. Adscam is the predictable outcome of this.

It is probably true that the Calgary School is insufficiently attentive to the problems of consumerism — or capitalism, if you prefer — to which Weverink refers. This is why I emphasize at the end of my article the need to have the return of resources to the private sector coupled with a concerted effort to encourage their use for the public benefit. I might add here that the criteria for this ought to be flexible enough to accommodate a diversity of worldviews and agendas. This, of course, presupposes that our policy-makers are motivated by a genuine concern for the betterment of the larger society, including the most vulnerable, and not simply in shifting economic power from one self-aggrandizing sector to another. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that this will be the case. One hopes that enhanced democratic and constitutional mechanisms might serve to facilitate this.

I might point out something else. As I noted above, if economic resources are concentrated in the hands of government, their abuse is more likely than if they are widely distributed amongst a variety of governmental and nongovernmental agents. This argues against an excessively statist economy, at least on the domestic front. On the other hand, the economic power of some of the largest transnational corporations dwarfs that of many, if not most, of the smaller countries in especially the two-thirds world. In such a context, offering the free market as a solution is likely to ring hollow. Yet statism is not an obviously better solution either, as seen over the decades since decolonization in Africa and Asia, where corrupt governments have not been obviously virtuous counterweights to the transnationals. Here is where I run up against the limits of my own expertise, since I’m not an economist.

However, I do believe that any emphasis on the market needs to be balanced with (1) a counter-emphasis on strong labour unions to protect employees (here is where the CLAC and its overseas affiliates have a role to play), and (2) a strong legal and political framework that not only protects the diverse forms of property existing within a complex differentiated society, but is capable of upholding legitimate constraints on economic activity, including, above all, protecting the physical environment — perhaps the most basic manifestation of the commons there is. With respect to transnationals, these might well be regulated by multilateral treaty arrangements amongst the smaller, less developed countries — not to treat such corporations punitively in advance, as if they were evil by definition, but to ensure at least that, in their quest for profit, they do not run roughshod over the legitimate interests of these countries’ social fabrics. At most it might even persuade such corporate entities to view their own activities as manifestations of responsible economic stewardship.

None of this will necessarily be easy to bring about, but we certainly have good reason to work for it. For our purposes here, it need not entail a dirigiste economy, but ought to enhance the balanced development of a pluriform society, in which state and economic enterprise play their respective complementary roles in seeking shalom.

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02 October 2005

Wordiness in the liturgy

Over the decades it has struck me that there is a tendency in many protestant churches to try to turn as much of the liturgy as possible into a sermon. I've noticed this especially in the Christian Reformed Church, where many pastors simply talk too much, ostensibly on the pretext of guiding congregants through a liturgy with which they are surely already familiar. If Alvin Kimel's remarks are any indication, then it seems that Catholic priests are not exempt from this tendency. I reproduce below his advice, which, with the proper adjustments in vocabulary, might well be heeded by Reformed "priests" as well.

Stick to the script! I doubt that you have the authority to ad lib at the liturgy. . . but few priests have the gift to do it well anyway. Say the words that are given to you, exactly as they are given to you. Don’t add, don’t subtract. Please don’t start the liturgy by saying “Good morning.” Please don’t tell us in your own words why we have gathered together for Mass. Just start the Mass and get on with it. The liturgy has its own logic, its own rhythm and cadence. It is one musical composition in the Spirit. Every time you depart from the rite, you disrupt the flow of the liturgy and simply draw attention to yourself and away from the Lord. Preach away at the sermon, with as much enthusiasm and energy you can muster. That is your time. But for the rest of the liturgy, slip back into the role and hide behind your chasuble. The liturgy will carry itself, especially if it is conducted reverently, graciously, prayerfully, beautifully.

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Communion with Rome

Redeemer alumnus Michael Trolly left a Haloscan comment to my post, Another Catholic Rite?, that I found sufficiently intriguing to warrant reproducing immediately below, with responses:

Yurkus' description of variations within the Latin Church could have added that an Anglican Use within the Latin Rite has been approved in the US; this preserves elements of the Book of Common Prayer within the Latin-rite mass. (There is some hope in the future of an Anglican Rite as a self governing church in communion with the Vatican, on the same basis as the Eastern Catholic Churches.)

One wonders whether the coming reconfiguration of Anglicanism may end up sending a much larger contingent of would-be "Anglican-rite" Christians to Rome or Constantinople than just the few who have been lapping at the banks of the Tiber in recent years. I am struck by how infinitessimally small the various eastern-rite churches are. An Anglican-rite church in communion with Rome could conceivably number in the millions after the coming crack-up.

Also, a group calling itself the "Nordic Catholic Church" has recently been established by Lutherans with help from the Polish National Catholic Church (they also have connections with some traditional Anglican churches.) They might potentially seek some sort of recognition from Rome; the PNCC has had an ongoing dialogue with Rome for a number of years now, and PNCC members are allowed to receive communion in Catholic (i.e. "Roman" Catholic) churches.

Here is an interview in Touchstone with Roald Flemestad about the formation of the Nordic Catholic Church: Out on a Limb in Norway. As institutions, the European Old Catholics are not in communion with Rome, so it's not clear that moving towards the PNCC will bring these dissident Norwegians there either, at least formally speaking. But if the "back door" route Trolly mentions really does exist, then that might provide an avenue for others as well. My understanding is that Orthodox Christians as individuals are also understood by Rome already to be in communion, even if their churches are not.

I mention all of this because it suggests that a "Genevan" rite or use (i.e. permitted variation from another rite) might be a realistic ecumenical hope, if a group of Reformed Christians wanted to go down that route.

I must admit to having made this suggestion mostly tongue in cheek. My sense of the matter is that the establishment of intercommunion between Rome and individual eastern-rite churches was not preceded by intersynodical study committees bent on sorting out myriad doctrinal issues that might stand in the way of reunion. It was effected simply by the eastern-rite churches recognizing the jurisdiction of the Pope, along with acceptance of the filioque clause in the Creed. Was there agreement in all details concerning, say, purgatory and the Marian doctrines? I frankly doubt it.

Yet the Reformed Churches — or at least the more confessional of these — have largely defined themselves over against Rome, for better or worse. Simply establishing intercommunion with the Pope would leave unanswered any number of issues, the least of which would be the extent of the Old Testament canon. (It is striking that some of the eastern-rite Catholic churches accept a larger OT canon than even that established by the Council of Trent. Is Trent normative only within the Latin rite?) It is difficult to imagine a Genevan-rite Catholic church which would not entail an outright repudiation of the very reason for the existence of the Reformed churches, namely, the Reformation itself! Any move towards Rome will be a matter of individual conversions to the Latin rite, and not a Genevan-rite church in communion with Rome.

Your (Dr. Koyzis') adaptation of the CRC eucharistic liturgy does strike a certain chord with me... since the first time I read the text for the "Service of Word and Sacrament" in the CRC hymnal, I've wanted to see a Reformed eucharist celebrated this way. To be "as close as possible" to the universal worship tradition of the church while properly expressing distinctives of a particular tradition or denomination is a tremendous way for protestants to contribute to ecumenical dialogue. I would love to see this idea put into practice.

The CRC used to use a liturgy with 16th-century origins that was excessively didactic and contained little that was recognizable in the larger liturgical tradition of the church catholic. This despite the claim in the fronticepiece of the Genevan church's La Forme des Prieres et chantz ecclesiastiques that its liturgy was "selon la coustume de l'Église ancienne." In 1968 the CRC moved to adopt what in other traditions would be called a eucharistic liturgy more in conformity with this catholic tradition, including the sursum corda, &c. My own adaptation is intended to follow in this path, but with the selected metrical psalms "plugged" into the liturgy in the appropriate places. As to how this looks in practice, it depends on the individual congregation.

Two decades ago I composed settings for part of the "ordinary of the mass", including a Sanctus and Memorial Acclamation. These were sung at South Bend (Indiana) Christian Reformed Church, as well as at two Presbyterian (USA) churches in Indiana and Michigan, for several years. By now I probably have settings for a complete mass, although they still need a lot of work to bring some coherence to the whole.

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01 October 2005

Googling the universe

Having taken over the world, Google now moves into outer space.

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