Notes from a Byzantine-Rite Calvinist

27 May 2006

Australia's new role and just interventions

Australia's new role in East Timor raises more than one question. Does international public justice permit a regional power with a stable constitutional government to assist a neighbouring state in maintaining the order that the latter's de jure government is unable to secure on its own? Might justice even require such intervention? The Westphalian principle of state sovereignty calls for each state to mind its own business. Yet in an increasingly interdependent world it is difficult to argue that the chaos unleashed by a failed state will have no repercussions for its neighbours, especially since at the very least the latter will likely be called upon to receive its refugees. Similar issues are raised for Australia by the troubles in the Indonesian province of West Papua, and perhaps even in Iraq, where Australian troops serve along side American and British forces. I myself have few answers here, but it might be helpful to formulate some general questions to spur reflection and discussion:

1. Who has the authority to decide when a state has failed? What criteria should be brought to bear? Should it be a single regional power making such decisions or should other states be brought into the process as well? Does the mere possession of power by countries such as the United States and Australia automatically carry with it authority? Or might their domestic stability confer such authority?

2. When does the perpetration of domestic injustice in a failed state become so egregious as to warrant outside intervention? Who should be authorized to decide on the propriety of such intervention?

3. If much of the earth's surface is covered by moderately to severely dysfunctional states — which would appear to be the case — how would such an authorized agent go about determining which require intervention and which do not?

4. What role should existing international institutions, such as the United Nations or, more locally, the European Union or the Commonwealth of Nations, play in initiating such corrective action in the interest of doing international public justice?

5. Is it possible to establish a global régime of justice in which such cases might be addressed in a more regularized fashion?

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Needed constitutional reform initiated

Good for Stephen Harper: Canadian government looks to fixed election dates. It's about time.

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26 May 2006

Long lost relatives?

Why is it that, if you do a Google image search for "Koyzis," the 10th picture to come up is this and the 8th to come up is this? Does Google know something that I don't?

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25 May 2006

More ancient music to perform?

Here are two sides of a page from a 503-year-old Venetian antiphonal. I purchased this in Toronto some 20 years ago. Unfortunately, the original volume was sliced into more easily saleable pages, so the complete collection is no longer intact.

  Gloria tibi Domine


ANTIPHONARIU hmnorem sancte
Romane ecclesie copletu. . . .
Impressum Venetijs cu
priuilegio. . . .M.d.iij
(Venice 1503)

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24 May 2006

Chaplin returning to UK

This is an announcement I link to with some ambivalence: Jonathan Chaplin Appointed Director of the Institute for Christian Ethics at Tyndale House in Cambridge, England. Of course, I extend to Dr. Chaplin my heartiest congratulations at his new appointment, but his leave-taking will be a definite loss for the Institute for Christian Studies and for Canada. We will miss him on this side of the pond.

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Barricades are down

This is good news indeed: Aboriginal protesters remove Caledonia blockade. We should be happy, of course, that this was settled mostly — but not entirely — without violence. All the same, one questions whether this is a victory for the rule of law. I am not competent to judge the validity of the Six Nations land claim. Yet even if it is valid, the fact that this disruptive act was tolerated by the authorities for so long, to the detriment of the common weal, and that a court order against the protesters was ignored with impunity makes a travesty of the law. If the land claim is legitimate, it should be heard and negotiated in good faith by both sides. But taking matters into one's own hands is an obvious violation of public justice and inconsistent with the respect for the law from which we all benefit.

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22 May 2006

Another acquisition

Congratulate me. I am now the proud owner of a nearly complete set of Encyclopædia Britannica's Great Books of the Western World, first edition.

Britannica Great Books

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Cyprus unity defeated . . . as usual

This is not a good omen for efforts to reunify the troubled island state: Cyprus voters back hardline Papadopoulos.

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Independence for Montenegro?

The last shreds of what was once Yugoslavia look set to be torn asunder: Balkan state votes for independence.

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21 May 2006

Rehearing the past

What would it be like to be the first person in half a millennium to perform a piece of music? Chant from rare manuscript to be heard after 500 years. I would love to be present at the choral performance of this work. Let's hope a recording will be made.

Salzinnes Antiphonal
CBC

Salzinnes Antiphonal

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19 May 2006

Hitler in Teheran?

Could the radical islamist régime in Iran really be on the verge of mimicking nazi Germany's treatment of the Jews? Yes, according to Amir Taheri, but today's National Post indicates that it may not be so.

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Atomic bombing just?

Ernest W. Lefever reviews A. C. Grayling's Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan. Noting that traditional just war principles protect civilians from deliberate attack, Lefever asks whether the carpet-bombing of German and Japanese cities in the closing months of the Second World War violated these principles. Grayling says yes, and for the most part Lefever agrees. But he disagrees on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima:
Hiroshima was a tragedy, but it was also a necessary and prudent act in an eminently just cause. We Americans can regret the wrenching necessity for the atomic bombing, but we should not feel guilty about it.

Since Lefever stops short of saying the attack was just, is he then implicitly arguing that it may be prudent to commit unjust acts in the interest of pursuing a just cause? Can it ever be right to target defenceless women and children in order to conclude a war effort? And if so, how does this differ from contemporary islamist terrorists who see the 9/11 attacks as legitimate warfare against the dar al-Harb?

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'Hobbit' a mere dwarf?

Remember Homo floresiensis, the diminutive human being whose remains were discovered in the Indonesian island of Flores? Now primatologists at Chicago's Field Museum have concluded that it is not a new hominid species after all, but a Homo sapiens suffering from a genetic illness causing dwarfism.

In a related story, researchers have concluded that "[e]arly human ancestors interbred with chimpanzees after the two species split." If nothing else, it would certainly put a different spin on those proverbially fraught in-law relationships.

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17 May 2006

Hamilton Hoax

The international wire services are picking up this local story: Anthrax hoax letters sent to Ontario banks. My own theory is that these letters were actually sent out in late 2001, during the last anthrax scare, but Canada Post has only now got round to delivering them.

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'Severe doctrinal oversights'?

Mr. Joustra defends himself against his would-be detractors.

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May flowers

Lilacs in bloom in our back garden

Lilacs in bloom in our back garden

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16 May 2006

Storing the fedora

With so few men wearing hats anymore, most public facilities lack places to put them when not in use. A solution for my campus office:

Lenin with fedora

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Marshall on Wallis

I have just received via conventional mail the spring 2006 issue of The Review of Faith & International Affairs, formerly known as The Brandywine Review. Although its full contents are not yet on-line, I will nevertheless call attention to an excellent and hard-hitting review by Paul Marshall of Jim Wallis' best-selling God's Politics: "God's Politics — Or Lack Thereof." Marshall's review is paired with a more positive one by Richard Pierard. One point Marshall makes is worthy of note. Citing Wallis' contention that the place to start is with the biblical prophets, Marshall correctly notes that, historically, christian attempts to understand the place of politics in God's world have begun with Genesis and the Law:
[Wallis] never carefully relates what the prophets say to the Torah, hence acknowledging that they challenge their rulers on the basis of God's law, not on their own feelings of injustice.

It is telling that those Christians and church institutions that speak most readily of being prophetic almost never call those to whom they presume to prophesy back to a normative order distinct from their own preferences. In fact, they frequently appear to eschew normativity altogether, championing what might be called a quasi-Kantian notion of personal autonomy — quasi, because it is shorn of Kant's countervailing sense of duty. Ironically, doing "justice" thus becomes a matter of refraining from judging and instead simply affirming people's autonomous choices inclusively. Yet as a recipe for genuine justice this amounts to pretty thin gruel.

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Dan Brown and Mary Magdalene

Many books and articles have been written skewering the pretensions of Dan Brown's best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code. Now a well-known (at least to some of us) biblical scholar takes on Brown's treatment of Mary Magdalene: Re-sexualizing the Magdalene: Dan Brown’s Misuse of Early Christian Documents in The Da Vinci Code, in the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture.

While you're at it, look at the last-but-one article on the left sidebar. The author, Greg Linnell, is a graduate of Redeemer. In fact, he took my Introduction to Political Science way back in 1987, during my first semester of teaching.

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15 May 2006

Jaroslav Pelikan: 1923-2006

The prolific church historian is dead at age 82. Oddly enough, a blog search brings up tonnes, while a Google news search brings up nothing as yet.

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Return of the Latin-rite Calvinist

A warm welcome is extended to Mr. Rob Joustra, political science graduate and winner of last year's Faculty Award at Redeemer, after a lengthy east Asian sojourn. Good to have him back in the Steel City.

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'Big Daddy' Harper

Is Stephen Harper a "control freak"? So argues The Globe and Mail's Ian Brown: In Harper's regime, Big Daddy knows best.

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14 May 2006

Anniversary

As of today, my darling Nancy and I have been married for a full decade — ten years of wedded bliss to the most wonderful woman in the world. Ask me again sometime, and I'll tell you about our two weddings. It's a long story.

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Academy needs principal

I have just been contacted by Mr. Adamos Mastris of Larnaca, Cyprus, who has asked me to circulate the following urgent announcement. Anyone who is interested in this opportunity or knows of a good candidate for the position is welcome to contact the party below.

American Academy, Nicosia
CYPRUS

Required for August 15th, 2006 (or nearest time after this date)


PRINCIPAL



The American Academy (established 1922) is a private, selective co-educational 6-18 school of over 300 students, with English as the medium of instruction. Courses offered lead to a recognized High School Diploma, IGCSE, O, AS and A levels.

The Principal is responsible for the curricular and administrative organization of the whole school, strategic planning and implementation and the maintenance of the Evangelical Christian philosophy of the school.

We are looking for a well-qualified professional educator, conversant with and committed to Christian Education, with proven management experience at secondary level, good interpersonal and communication skills and the vision to further develop and strengthen the school as a Christian witness.

The initial contract is for 3 years, renewable. Benefits include salary and allowances, some of which are taxable (including subsidized pension/medical scheme, accommodation, transport, return annual flight to country of origin), equivalent to Cy£40000 which is, approximately, £47,000 sterling (or US$85,000) at current exchange rates plus relocation expenses at commencement and termination of the contract.

Further details from:

The Chairman
Governing Council
The American Academy (Nicosia) Ltd
3A Michael Parides Street,
Nicosia
CYPRUS
Tel.: +357 22 66 42 66, Fax.: +357 22 66 92 90
Email: aacademy[at]spidernet[dot]com[dot]cy
Web.: www.aacademynicosia.ac.cy

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13 May 2006

A new political party?

Is this a genuine political party with an organization and membership, or is it little more than a website: Christian Democratic Union? On the surface at least, it sounds like my kind of party.

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Movers and shakers




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ROCOR to return to fold

The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), which broke with the Moscow Patriarchate after the Bolshevik Revolution, has provisionally agreed to reunite with the patriarchal see. ROCOR has millions of dollars of assets, including the Toronto church building used in the film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

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Lords kill assisted death bill

In a rare move by the House of Lords, the British Parliament's upper chamber has effectively killed a private member's bill that would have legalized assisted suicide for the terminally ill. Here is Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, on the bill:

Opposition to the principle of this Bill is not confined to people of religious conviction. It would be a lazy counter-argument to suggest that such opposition can be written off because it comes only from those committed to a world view not universally shared.

It remains true that to specify even in the fairly broad terms of this Bill conditions under which it would be both reasonable and legal to end your life, is to say that certain kinds of life are not worth living. We would jeopardise the security of the vulnerable in another way by radically changing the relationship between patient and physician.

Williams is correct, but there's one thing no one seems to mention in such debates: only in a society that has lost sight of sin and salvation can it be assumed that death ends suffering.

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12 May 2006

Now, where to put him. . .

Congratulate me. As of today I am the proud owner of this relic of a moribund political illusion:

Lenin

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10 May 2006

Civitas 2006

The Peace Tower
Two months ago I received an unexpected invitation from Lorne Gunter, a columnist for the National Post and the Edmonton Journal, to speak at the 10th annual conference of the Civitas Society, which styles itself "A society where ideas meet." This was based on his reading of an article I wrote for Comment last year, titled, The city and its renewal, which recently came out in the periodical's print edition. I hadn't known much about Civitas other than in the pages of Lloyd Mackey's The Pilgrimage of Stephen Harper, which I had read not too long before. From this I knew that Civitas was a small-c conservative think tank bringing together a number of prominent politicians, political staffers, academics and journalists of a generally "right-wing" persuasion. The invitation came as something of a surprise, because my cities article did not seem obviously to fit into a right-wing mould, as that is usually understood nowadays. Yet I was pleased to accept.

The Senate Chamber
I arrived in Ottawa thursday afternoon after a 6-hour drive from Hamilton. I had a wonderful dinner with my friends Eric and Bertina Hogeterp and their two boys. We were joined by another Redeemer political science graduate, Derek Miedema, who works for the EFC. The following morning Eric and I attended Question Period in the House of Commons, which occurs at 11.15 on fridays. Afterwards I was honoured to have David Sweet, the new Member of Parliament for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, come down to greet me in the hallway near the Peace Tower. I myself do not live in his riding, but Redeemer is located there. During Members' Statements at 11, Sweet mentioned Hamilton's "two universities, McMaster and Redeemer." Of course, cameras and other electronic devices are not allowed in the Commons chamber, but because the Senate was not in session, I was able to photograph the impressive interior of the Red Chamber (above left), as well as the gallery of portraits of Canada's monarchs just outside.

After this I made the 20-minute drive to the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata, where the Civitas conference was taking place. During the reception that evening, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made an unscheduled appearance. I cannot recall how long he stayed, but it took some time for everyone who wished to meet him to do so. I myself was privileged to talk with him briefly and shake his hand. (If Harper had been aware of my track record, he might have declined the honour. After all, like his ill-fated predecessor, he is a Conservative with a precarious minority government!) After Harper and his entourage left, John Baird, the President of the Treasury Board, made an exceedingly partisan speech, filled with barbed humour at the expense of the various Liberal leadership hopefuls.

Saturday morning saw the first of the sessions, devoted to "Property Rights: the most fundamental freedom," followed by a session on a topic that at first blush might not seem to be related to the previous one: "Euthanasia: the next battle in the culture wars." In fact, however, both sessions brought out the barely latent tensions between two principal factions in the conservative coalition, the libertarians and what might be called the social or traditional conservatives. The former are individualists to the core, preferring to minimize government control to the greatest extent possible. As such, they enthusiastically champion the free market and are usually willing to tolerate abortion, euthanasia and other activities on which the social conservatives deem it necessary to legislate. After all, if we have property rights over our own bodies, then why not allow euthanasia? As one participant put it, if our bodies are not ours to do with as we see fit, then they belong to the state. Yet I heard no one make a case for allowing individuals to sell themselves into slavery, which indicates that even libertarians are not willing to follow all of their own ideas to their logical conclusion.

Koyzis and Harper
The luncheon remarks by Frank Luntz, a Republican Party strategist from south of the border, were certainly the most controversial. This was the part of the weekend picked up by the domestic media, and Harper's meeting with Luntz a day earlier was the subject of opposition criticism during monday's Question Period. The title of Luntz' talk, "Massaging the Conservative Message for Voters," carried all the flavour of a proposal for an ad campaign. Subtleties and nuances may be the mark of academic discourse, but they can only cloud an election campaign. Luntz' basic message? Keep it simple, hammer the opposition, and hire me next time. Incidentally, Luntz' appearance was arranged by the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, a partisan think tank associated with the Conservative Party of Canada.

The other four sessions dealt with the role of the courts in democracies, foreign and defence policies, electoral reform, and the future of Canadian cities. The schedule was tightly packed, leaving little time to catch one's breath. I missed George Jonas' speech saturday evening, due to fatigue. I would also like to have heard more on electoral reform the following morning, since I myself have written popular pieces on the subject. But I thought it best to cut out a little early to prepare for the final session on cities, in which I myself was participating. In fact, I was the very last speaker at the conference. Knowing this in advance, I feared I would be addressing a vastly reduced assembly, as some were present only for saturday. Yet this was not the case: even the final session drew a fairly large turnout.

I shall resist the temptation to engage in name-dropping, though it would be easy to do for such an event. Suffice it to say that there were a large number of well-known people — scarcely less well known than the Prime Minister himself. Representatives of a number of vaguely kindred organizations were also present, including one from the Association of Women Shooters of Canada! I myself spent much of the time with WRF people. Perhaps not surprisingly, I felt most comfortable with the traditional conservatives, even if I myself am loath to wear that label. I found myself least in agreement with the positions of the libertarians, though I found a number of these to be quite likable as persons.

At the end of the day, I found myself wondering whether everyone present really had all that much in common. Thomists, neocalvinists and traditionalists who speak the language of natural law, creation order and moral order respectively would not seem immediately to share much with those who view the state as little more than a constant threat to their own individual autonomy. In fact, there are professed socialists with whom at least this neocalvinst would have more in common. In my Political Visions and Illusions I point out the protean character of conservatism, especially the desire of different professed adherents to conserve a variety of perceived goods. This is particularly notable with respect to a view of the state. Unlike liberalism with its contractarian notion of the state, there is no single, philosophically coherent account of political order that can obviously claim the conservative label. If there was a common definition of conservatism at Civitas, it seemed to revolve around, not so much the respect for tradition and the accumulated wisdom of the ages, as smaller government and lower taxes — a somewhat deracinated agenda that would be largely incomprehensible to European conservatives of, say, the 19th and early 20th centuries, and even to Canadian conservatives of an earlier generation. In short, Civitas illustrates both the virtues and defects of the conservative movement(s) in this country. In this it is no different from the partisans of the rival political perspectives.

I was told that this particular Civitas conference was more evidently partisan than its predecessors. For the first time since Civitas was founded there is a large-C Conservative government in office. Even the taste of power can be a heady experience. How long will it all last? Luntz held out the possibility of keeping power for 20 years. My admittedly unprofessional advice? Don't put away your coat and hat too soon. After all, this is only a minority government.

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08 May 2006

Ankara protests

From a story in today's Globe and Mail:

Turkey has recalled its ambassadors to Canada and France for “a short time” to protest moves in both countries that recognize the mass killings of Armenians as genocide, the Foreign Ministry announced Monday. The announcement was Turkey's latest salvo against increasing international pressure on Ankara to recognize the killings of Armenians at the time of the First World War as genocide.

If Turkey continues to refuse to recognize its culpability in the genocide, could its membership in the European Union be blocked? Could the prospect of such membership persuade Turkey to own up to its past?

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Civitas conference

I have just returned from Ottawa, where I was a speaker at the annual Civitas conference. I will be writing more about this event and how I came to be involved in it. In the meantime here are two articles about some of the highlights of the conference. And, yes, I did meet the Prime Minister when he showed up unexpectedly friday evening.


Source: David T. Koyzis


Stephen Harper at Civitas

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05 May 2006

Unexpected origins

I have long suspected that Cyprus' ethnic Turkish community is descended, not so much from the invading Anatolian Turks after 1571, but from those who converted to Islam in the generations thereafter. My assumption was that the forebears of today's Turkish Cypriots spoke Greek and were Orthodox. However, Alkan Chaglar has uncovered evidence that his community is descended from Cyprus' formerly more numerous Latin and Maronite Christians, associated with the centuries of Frankish and Venetian rule between 1192 and 1571.

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03 May 2006

Egypt's beleaguered Christians

David Warren calls our attention to an anti-christian pogrom that occurred in Alexandria, Egypt, last month — an event reminiscent of something that occurred just over 50 years ago in Istanbul against the City's Greek population. Given that Egypt is a US ally, the UK Coptic Association and Freedom House are suggesting that the West might do more in behalf of that country's large christian community. Ordinarily one is tempted to assume that the mainstream media have been slow to cover the incident, but a Google search indicates otherwise. I myself visited Egypt in 1995 and heard first-hand of the difficulties Christians experience trying to live faithful lives in the midst of such hostility. They definitely need our prayers: Κύριε ελέησον!

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Neocalvinism, encore une fois

How might neocalvinism assist a geographer in her ongoing efforts to make sense of God's creation and humanity's place within it? Calvin College Professor Jan Curry gives us a glimpse of this in last week's Comment article: Neocalvinism . . . Yes, but . . . Incidentally, Jan and I knew each other back in the dark ages when we were both undergraduate students at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Good to hear from her again.

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02 May 2006

C'est tout, c'est fini

Exams are done, the students have spread to the four winds, and my marks are in. Thus endeth my 19th year of teaching at Redeemer.

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