Notes from a Byzantine-Rite Calvinist

31 July 2007

Guest appearance announced

One of Redeemer's alumni, Derek Miedema (1995), will appear on 100 Huntley Street on Thursday, 2 August, along with his mother and handicapped twin brother. Derek was a political science student and is now a researcher at the Centre for Faith and Public Life for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. His family has had to battle a number of medical adversities over the years. I expect their appearance on television will be a powerful testimony to Godʼs grace in hardship. The programme airs at 9 am and 9 pm EDT on CTS. (Check local listings outside of southern Ontario/western New York.) I assume it will be posted on the CTS website shortly thereafter for online viewing.

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30 July 2007

Surnames

Here is a list of the most common surnames in Canada as a whole and in the country's five largest cities. According to this CBC report, University of Toronto Prof. Jack Chambers argues that

Over time, the number of surnames has actually not increased with the population, which has made many of them even more common. Says Chambers: "We've got just exactly the same resources now as we had a thousand years ago in Europe, and 3,000 years ago in China when surnaming began."

Well, not exactly. I don't think he's taken into account cultures where surnames are a quite new phenomenon. When I was growing up I had a lot of relatives whose surnames I didn't even know, and it never occurred to any of us in my immediate family to ask. Surnames were simply not all that important on that side of the family. Many had been taken on only with immigration to the US and elsewhere.

My father was born with a patronymic only. When he went to school the authorities wanted every student to have a first, middle and last name, so he took on his grandfather's surname, which may have had French or Turkish origins, and grecianized it to Κοϊζής, later anglicizing it to Koyzis. This means that my own surname is only about ten years older than I am.

In the Dutch-Canadian community with whom I work, I have long heard that Dutch surnames were chosen only about two centuries ago when Napoleon forced them to take them on. The Dutch often chose humorous or tongue-in-cheek names, assuming this was a passing fad and would never stick. Two-hundred years later their descendants are still saddled with them.

As for the Koyzis name, due to the paucity of married males to pass it on to future generations, it may end up dying out altogether. So perhaps Chambers is right after all.

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28 July 2007

The eros of teaching

Drawing on personal experience and on Plato's portrayal of Socrates in the Symposium, William Deresiewicz writes about Love on campus in The American Scholar, the quarterly journal of the ΦΒΚ Society. The love of which he speaks is not precisely erotic love or familial affection, but the "eros of souls" that draws students and professors to each other in the joy of shared intellectual pursuits. This is something I have experienced for myself over the past two decades of teaching. There is a poignancy to the author's observations here:

Socrates says in the Symposium that the hardest thing about being ignorant is that you’re content with yourself, but for many kids when they get to college, this is not yet true. They recognize themselves as incomplete, and they recognize, if only intuitively, that completion comes through eros. So they seek out professors with whom to have relationships, and we seek them out in turn. Teaching, finally, is about relationships. It is mentorship, not instruction. Socrates also says that the bond between teacher and student lasts a lifetime, even when the two are no longer together. And so it is. Student succeeds student, and I know that even the ones I’m closest to now will soon become names in my address book and then just distant memories. But the feelings we have for the teachers or students who have meant the most to us, like those we have for long-lost friends, never go away. They are part of us, and the briefest thought revives them, and we know that in some heaven we will all meet again.

I discovered all this early in my career, and it is one of the things that makes what I do more than just another job. I expect that many of my colleagues will agree with me that loving students and then letting them go is a source at once of great satisfaction and, to be quite honest, of at least some heartache as well.

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26 July 2007

ECP Centre

Although he's not far down the QEW from us, I somehow managed to overlook this man, who has begun to write a regular column for WorldNetDaily. Tristan Emmanuel established and leads the Equipping Christians for the Public-square Centre, located in nearby Jordan Station on the Niagara Peninsula. He obviously bears watching.

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25 July 2007

To be Anglican means. . . what?

The Archbishop of Canterbury insists that to be Anglican means to be in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. However, my good friend William G. Witt argues that there is little historical support for such a purely formal and institutional definition: Is it Necessary to be in Communion With Canterbury to be Anglican? Witt instead argues for a biblical, confessional identity for the Anglican Communion, a position he obviously shares with Archbishop Orombi and many others:

If one actually reads [Thomas] Cranmer or [John] Jewel or [Richard] Hooker et al, it becomes quite clear that, as they broke with Rome, they would have had no hesitation to break with Canterbury should Canterbury break with the doctrines and practices which encapsulate the gospel--because the identity of Anglicanism does not lie in communion with an historic see, but in doctrines and practices that adhere to the gospel. . . . If Canterbury's dallying leads to the split of the Communion, and Canterbury aligns itself with those who have abandoned historic Anglican doctrines and practices (and Christian faith), then necessarily, but paradoxically, in order to remain Christian, Anglicanism will mean being in communion with those provinces that continue historic Anglican doctrines and practices and not with Canterbury.

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From Rome to Constantinople

Earlier this year Francis Beckwith left evangelicalism to return to Rome, thus adding to the number of recent medium-to-high-profile converts, such as Sheldon Vanauken, Thomas Howard, Luis Logo and Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. Others, such as Peter Gillquist, have left protestantism to become Orthodox.

There are, however, people who have converted from Orthodoxy to Catholicism and vice versa. One of the latter is "Crunchy Con" Rod Dreher, who tells the sad tale of his own pilgrimage — one that he never intended to make and would prefer not to have had to make. It's strong stuff and a reminder that many converts, far from joyfully following the truth as they see it into a new home, feel driven out of their former communions and suffer accordingly.

Later: Could another conversion be in the works for Dreher? He now appears to be bolstering the presbyterian argument against episcopacy: Faraway, so close.

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22 July 2007

The desecularization of Holland

Here is one more indication that the notoriously secularized Kingdom of the Netherlands may have turned the corner: Changing Patterns in Social Fabric Test Netherlands' Liberal Identity. Note the mention of the Christen Unie, which the author describes as an "orthodox Christian political party."

Incidentally, when The Hamilton Spectator carried this article in yesterday's edition, it capitalized every occurrence of "orthodox." Thus the Netherlands ostensibly has an Orthodox Christian political party, something that might surprise immigrants from Greece and the Balkans. Someone needs to set straight The Spec's editors.

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20 July 2007

Fair trade clothing

While on the plane a few weeks ago I was intrigued by this article by Margaret Littman in the airline magazine, American Way: Fair Deal. It's the story of Bill Bass's effort to expand the notion of fair trade beyond the coffee market and into the apparel industry. His company, Fair Indigo, has a laudable aim:

We create fashionable, high-quality clothing and accessories while paying a fair wage to the people who produce them. It's a concept known as fair trade and it means we put people first.

How does it work?

Fair Indigo now works with 25 factories across the globe; some specialize in skirts, others in sweaters. Bass says Fair Indigo’s business model of selling directly to customers, through catalogs, the Internet, and its own boutiques, as opposed to selling through national retailers, keeps overhead low enough that it can afford to pay workers at its factories more. Because Fair Indigo is a private firm, Bass will not release sales figures, but he says the company is on track to turn a profit within four years, a time frame analysts say is in line for new apparel companies, fair trade or not.

Fair trade is apparently not an easy concept to implement within the fashion industry, as Littman indicates:

Defining fair trade has been one of the challenges for companies like Fair Indigo that want to go mainstream with a concept many still see as existing only in the margins. At its most basic, the term indicates that the people who create the product are paid a living wage and have decent working conditions. Some expand that definition to include having the right to unionize and access to health care. Others, including the Fair Trade Federation in Washington, D.C., limit it to apply only to workers in developing nations. Often those who support fair trade also support the use of organics and other green initiatives, concerns that are tangential to fair trade, which is all about the labor practices.

Does fair trade represent a trend that could make its way into the production and sale of other goods? Time will tell.

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Thanks, Joe

I am honoured that überblogger Joe Carter at the evangelical outpost has seen fit to include this blog as one of "The EO 100," along with such others as On the Square, Mere Comments, Crunchy Con and that of my friend and sometime co-conspirator Gideon Strauss. Now should I be expecting to receive a framed certificate or something in the mail?

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17 July 2007

Patriarch no longer ecumenical?

The Turkish press are now labelling Bartholomeos the "Fener Patriarch," after the neighbourhood where he resides in Istanbul — a rather drastic demotion from his claimed position as Ecumenical Patriarch. Someone needs to tell them that a government acts beyond its competence in pretending to determine the validity of ecclesiastical titles. Unfortunately the Orthodox themselves have too often helped to exacerbate this confusion.

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Washington, DC: Taxation with representation?

In a previous post I pointed out that Washington, DC, licence plates carry the words, TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION. There have long been efforts to do something about the anomalous status of the District of Columbia, including a failed 20-year-old attempt to make it the 51st state. Now there is a bill before the United States Senate to add two representatives to the House of Representatives, including one for DC. TIME Magazine reports: Will D.C. Finally Get a Vote? The original District of Columbia was established in 1790 on land ceded by Maryland and Virginia. (The region south of the Potomac River was returned to Virginia in 1847.) The reason for establishing a federal capital on "neutral" territory was to avoid favouring or empowering one state over the others, an idea borrowed for other planned federal capitals, such as Canberra and Brasilia. The difficulty with the American version of this is that it effectively disenfranchised the residents of Washington, who could not even vote for the president until the 23rd Amendment was ratified in 1961. Obviously something must be done to regularize the status of US citizens who pay taxes but are not fully represented in the centres of decision-making power.

Yet it's not clear that the current legislation is constitutional, which is animating the opposition. Not so incidentally, Republicans oppose the measure, as enfranchising heavily Democratic DC residents would almost certainly strengthen the latter party's presence in Congress. Accordingly President Bush may veto the bill.


The Civitas group before the White House

Here in Canada we have a National Capital Region, but it does not have a distinct political status like federal capital districts elsewhere. Encompassing the cities of Ottawa, Ontario, and Gatineau, Québec, residents vote in the elections of their respective provinces, in addition to casting ballots in federal elections for a member of parliament. I cannot honestly say that this arrangement has avoided antagonizing the other provinces, mostly because the capital's location only underscores further the reality of central Canada's dominance over the country's political life.

I personally favour granting DC residents congressional representation. Nevertheless, it might be wise for American policy-makers to look into how other federal systems, such as Australia, Germany and Brazil, have addressed the need for representation in their own capital cities. Americans can rightly be said to have invented modern constitutional federalism, but it may be that others have solved dilemmas that the founding fathers did not anticipate more than two centuries ago.

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16 July 2007

Shedding pounds . . . the hard way

My body weight appears to have stabilized at two pounds less than it was before my recent surgery. Which leads me to conclude that my appendix must have weighed two pounds.

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Miss Potter

Our daughter Theresa was raised on two fat collections of the fanciful stories of Beatrix Potter, whose Peter Rabbit catapulted her to fame in 1902. Although the new Harry Potter film is getting huge publicity, I would enthusiastically recommend a similarly-surnamed film, Miss Potter, released late last year and now out on DVD. It's a charming cinematic treatment of Beatrix Potter's life, with all its joys and heartaches, that can be enjoyed by the entire family. The fact that Theresa rarely puts down pencil and paper may explain why I am drawn to the portrayal of a little girl constantly painting and developing her gifts for the benefit of the world. Here is the trailer:



Among the high points of the film is the cinematography, especially of the Lake District in the north of England. Renée Zellweger plays the title role beautifully, though she is made to look a little too frumpy. Ewan McGregor (no relation to Farmer McGregor!) winsomely plays Potter's publisher and early love interest, Norman Warne. Miss Potter is definitely worth seeing.

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13 July 2007

Christ transforming Uganda

Christians in a number of traditions pay lip service to an expression borrowed from H. Richard Niebuhr more than half a century ago: Christ transforming culture. But what does this mean in practice for specific contexts, e.g., subsaharan Africa? Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi of Uganda gives us some concrete examples in this inspiring piece appearing in the upcoming issue of First Things: What Is Anglicanism? Orombi affirms that it is the Bible itself that has transformed his country and its people, and he highlights the treatment of women, clan revenge, and the worship of nature and ancestral spirits as examples.

The gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed to us through the Word of God enables warring tribes to begin to coexist and to embrace neighborliness. Indeed, the Word of God opened the way for the nation of Uganda to be forged. When evangelists from Buganda (in central Uganda) traveled to tribes in the east, west, and north, a new day dawned in our country. Instead of being armed with spears, they came armed only with the Word of God. Instead of a message of war and destruction, they delivered a message of Good News from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As the Bible came with the authority of Christ, it revealed a God that is greater than the evil spirits and the kingdom of darkness that controlled so many people’s lives. In Uganda, the Bible has grown into a cherished source of authority that is central to Christian faith, practice, and mission. For all God’s people, obedience to this Bible is the source of confidence, abundant life, and joy. It is an absolute treasure that no one can take away. Isaiah, later quoted by Peter, wrote, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isa. 40:8; 1 Pet. 1:24-25). The grass on which our cattle feed, the grass from which our roofs are thatched—all this withers. But the Word of God has withstood the test of time. The Bible is at the heart of our Anglican identity, and we Ugandan Anglicans joyfully submit to its life-giving and transforming authority.

With this knowledge of the centrality of the authority of Scripture in Anglicanism, therefore, we understand ourselves to be in the mainstream of Anglicanism—from Thomas Cranmer to John Stott. The evangelical tradition in the Church of England produced William Wilberforce, whose lifelong mission to eradicate slavery and the slave trade liberated our people. It produced Charles Simeon, who inspired the beginning of mission societies that shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with us and many others. It produced Bishop Tucker and other missionaries, who risked their lives to come to Uganda. These and many more Anglican evangelicals brought us the legacy of the Protestant Reformation in England. Their commitment to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture has continued among us to this day.

I am struck by the role martyrdom has played in the revival and growth of the Church of Uganda. Many of us remember the death of Archbishop Janani Luwum at the hands of Idi Amin in 1977. Ten years ago my friend Paul Marshall brought the plight of persecuted believers before a complacent west. At one time the heirs of the English Reformation read Foxe's Book of Martyrs, a collection that has fallen out of favour in an ecumenical age but that served for generations to confirm Tertullian's ancient maxim that “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” I can testify from experience that martyrdom is not much mentioned today in the Anglican Church of Canada, which may go some way in explaining its current state.

Orombi's piece should be required reading for every Anglican and Episcopal bishop in North America. Imagine how the ACC and TEC would grow and flourish if they could manage to catch Orombi's vision. Pray God that by his grace this might happen.

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12 July 2007

Irene Keesmaat

This is rather short notice, I recognize, but I have just learnt that area artist Irene Keesmaat, a former colleague of mine at Redeemer, will be exhibiting her works at the Edinburgh Square Heritage and Cultural Centre in Caledonia, Ontario, beginning this evening with an opening reception from 7 to 9. I have linked to Irene's website in my sidebar.

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A working holiday

Our family just returned from travels to the US, where I managed to visit 5 states, one territory and three airports in the space of slightly more than a week. Two weekends ago we drove from Hamilton to Chicago, passing through Michigan and Indiana on the way. We visited family on both sides. On monday, 2 July, we visited the Brookfield Zoo with my sister-in-law and her young family. I had not been there since 1983. It's definitely worth a visit if you are ever in the Windy City.

On tuesday through thursday I was in Washington, DC, to speak to the annual Civitas Summer Leadership Seminar, sponsored by the Center for Public Justice. The title of my talk was "Beyond Ideological Thinking," in which I spoke about liberalism and its alternatives. It was an enjoyable and stimulating event.

Speaking to Civitas Leadership Seminar

The following day our group was privileged to tour the White House, which I found to be far smaller and less impressive than I had long envisioned it in my mind. Nevertheless, it's a fascinating place, with portraits of various presidents and first ladies covering the 2-century-old walls. There were portraits of both Bill and Hillary Clinton, prompting me to wonder whether these would have to trade places if the latter becomes president.

The White House

I did not visit the Capitol building, home of the United States Congress, but I was able to photograph it from a distance. This was taken from the roof of the building housing the CCCU's American Studies Program.

The Capitol

Wednesday was, of course, the Independence Day holiday, so in the evening our group walked down to a spot where we were able to view the fireworks on the National Mall, which had been temporarily evacuated earlier in the evening due to a tornado warning.

Licence plates typically carry a state motto, such as New Hampshire's notorious LIVE FREE OR DIE. The District of Columbia is not a state, and as such it has no voting representatives in Congress. Thus the DC plates carry this slogan in protest:

Taxation without representation

When I first told Theresa I would be going to Washington, DC, she heard Washington, BC, assuming I was travelling once again to Canada's westernmost province. When I corrected her and she asked what the DC stands for, I responded: "the District of Columbia," to which she retorted knowingly: "I thought the C must stand for Columbia!"

Thursday afternoon I returned to Chicago and family. While in the air, my plane grazed the top of a terrific storm, which we saw from above. The thunder clouds were impressive, but the turbulence was a bit unnerving.

Thunderstorm seen from above

At the weekend we drove to Hillsdale, Michigan, home of Hillsdale College, a small undergraduate university well known in politically conservative circles in the US.

Hillsdale College

Hillsdale sells bricks to alumni, parents and supporters for $150 each to be placed in its Alumni Walk, which extends through the centre of the campus. Here are some typical examples:

Stopping Socialism

A Pox on Big Government

Outside the Dow Center on the Hillsdale campus is a plaque containing a selection from Thomas Paine's Dissertation on First Principles of Government. Paine was anything but a conservative, but he somehow managed to slip by Hillsdale's gatekeepers with an extremely unBurkean sentiment:

Thomas Paine's political ideas

We arrived home to Hamilton on monday. As usual, it's good to be back.

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11 July 2007

Redeeming time

Chuck Colson writes about time here: A New Perspective on Time, and here: How Big is Your God? Reading these so soon after the "untimely" death of one of my students prompts me to publish my own reflections on the subject.

When I was a child I developed a strong sense of the irreversibility of time's passage. Although one genre of science fiction is preoccupied with the notion of time travel, and though there seems to be something, if Einstein is to be believed, to the possibility of accelerating or slowing the passage of time, it remains impossible to reverse the process. This is perhaps why we are so fascinated by the likes of Back to the Future, the cinematic tale of an adolescent who returns to the days of his parents' youth and manages to rewrite the history of his own family.

When we regularly visited my grandmother's house in Milan, Michigan, nearly half a century ago, I recall seeing there a photographic portrait of my great-grandmother. She had died seven years before my birth, and I regretted that I had no memories of her, as did my mother and grandmother. I wished that I had known something of the world before I came along and would love to have experienced backwards time travel. My early fascination with the Chicago Aurora & Elgin Railroad — revived during my second year at Notre Dame — was also rooted in the desire to experience a defunct interurban railway that had come to an end before conscious memory. In short, backwards time travel, if it were possible, held out the tantalizing possibility of reversing death and recovering something long gone.

Those who are in Christ are promised eternal or everlasting life. We human beings cannot begin to comprehend what this will mean. Scripture speaks in metaphors and highly symbolic language, especially in the apocalyptic books. There are, however, many Christians who, following Augustine, assume that eternity is a state somehow outside of time. Remember the lyrics of the old gospel hymn:

When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound,
and time shall be no more. . . .

Will time really cease to exist? Is eternity a static, timeless condition, as popular theology would have us believe? I will not speculate as to God's relationship to and experience of time, since that falls outside of what he has revealed to us. Yet with respect to his image-bearers I believe this can be affirmed: if time is the good creation of God, then it makes more biblical sense to confess that in the new heaven and new earth being prepared for those who trust in Jesus Christ's salvation, time will be redeemed, not abolished. Eternity is thus not stasis on the ancient Greek model, but an everlasting age to which we will be summoned at Christ's return either from the grave or from our earthly, albeit mortal, lives.

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07 July 2007

Summorum Pontificum

It's finally happened: Pope approves wider use of Latin Mass. Here is the text of the Pope's letter.

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Republished article

My piece on Preparing for Leadership has been picked up by Christianity.ca.

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03 July 2007

Another 50th anniversary

CA&E car 431 (Illinois Railway Museum, 1983)
A half century ago today my favourite interurban railway abruptly ceased passenger service after 55 years of business. The Chicago Aurora & Elgin Railway began in 1902 when the original line was built between Chicago and Aurora, powered by electric third rail. In the next few years lines were extended to Elgin, Batavia, Geneva and St. Charles, all communities located along the Fox River. The lines branched out at my home town of Wheaton, the centre of operations and the location of the shops. Though most interurban railways were little more than trolley lines running alongside rural roads between towns, the CA&E was built to the standards of the steam lines and could thus attain higher speeds. While most interurbans flourished in the first two decades of the 20th century, only to founder after the Great War with the advent of the automobile, the CA&E, along with two other Chicago area interurbans, survived much longer, effectively becoming a suburban commuter line.


The CA&E was a precarious enterprise from the 1920s on, and it went through more than one receivership and reorganization over the decades. The Second World War years saw an increase in ridership, but ten years later it was struggling to remain afloat. In 1953 its entrance into Chicago over the Garfield Park elevated line was terminated to make way for the construction of the Congress (later Eisenhower) Expressway. Passengers from the Fox Valley suburbs had to get off at suburban Forest Park and transfer to the "L" for the remainder of the trip to Chicago. This was the final blow to the CA&E. Ridership plummeted and management petitioned to abandon passenger service. Permission finally came in the late morning of wednesday, 3 July 1957. Service was suspended a few minutes after noon, stranding passengers in the Loop, forcing them to find other ways home that evening. Freight service limped along for another two years. I recall seeing a CA&E freight train crossing Roosevelt Road in Wheaton when I was quite small. The railway was abandoned altogether in 1961.

A few CA&E cars are still operating at various railway museums around the United States, most notably the Fox River Trolley Museum and the Illinois Railway Museum (IRM). The CA&E right-of-way is now the Illinois Prairie Path, a recreational trail for jogging, hiking and bicycling. Here is a look at restored CA&E cars in action at the IRM:


Incidentally, the cessation of passenger service on the CA&E occurred only three days after my baptism.

Five years ago, to mark the occasion of the CA&E's centenary, I composed a song, titled The Great Third Rail Rag, after one of the railway's many nicknames. It is written in the style of Scott Joplin's rags, which were popular in the first years of the 20th century.

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