22 August 2019

Loving the church: lessons from Bonhoeffer

It is not always easy to love our fellow Christians. After all, they sometimes say things that we find embarrassing and embrace causes that we find repugnant. Their political opinions are hopelessly atavistic or thoughtlessly progressive. They believe the world will end tomorrow and think they can hasten the coming apocalypse. They think they will save their country and bring godliness to everyone. They make all Christians look foolish by their missteps, and we–their betters surely?–are reluctant to associate with them for fear of losing respectability.

How many of us have experienced this for ourselves? I freely admit that I have, and it’s a side of me that I quite dislike. In my youth I developed a burning passion for social justice, for helping the poor and oppressed and for ending the economic structures that hold them in their grip. This produced in me an anger towards anyone else in the church who was less aware of these issues than I. Of course, this included most of my fellow Christians who were busy making a living, raising families and giving time and financial resources to their church and other communities. At least temporarily, my attitude made it difficult for me to sit in church and to listen to sermons that failed to touch on what I had come to believe was so important to a genuine faith. Had someone attempted openly to correct me and thereby coax even a little humility into me, I doubt I would have listened.

19 August 2019

Visions & Illusions: another go at it

When I first began teaching undergraduate political science some three decades ago, I was expected to teach a course in modern political ideologies for introductory-level students. As this was before the dawn of the internet, I had to page by hand through several orange volumes of books in print to find possible texts for the course. Then I had to write to the publishers to request copies of their books for consideration. Even after this time-consuming process, I still failed to find something I thought was needed for such a course.

Because I was teaching at a Christian university in Canada, I wanted a book that would bring a Christian perspective to the subject matter. Being unable to find this, I resigned myself to ordering whatever was least expensive for the students and then proceeding to do something rather different in my lectures. Some years later I began shaping these lectures into a book-length manuscript which eventually became Political Visions and Illusions, published in 2003 by InterVarsity Press near Chicago.

I was gratified when Christianity Today chose the book as its Editor’s Bookshelf selection in July 2003. The following year the book won an award from the Word Guild in the category of nonfiction/culture against stiff competition. It went through twelve printings before I decided to propose a second edition. Preparing this occupied much of my time until it finally appeared in May of this year.

12 August 2019

God's seventh-day rest: Skillen's achievement

James W. Skillen, God’s Sabbath with Creation: Vocations Fulfilled, the Glory Unveiled. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2019.

If you are reading anything else at the moment, put it aside and read this book! Yes, it’s that good. James Skillen, who has written several works on the implications of Christian faith for political life, has now turned his attention to a foundational eschatological theme. In so doing, he has managed to produce an intriguing argument that is fresh yet remains faithful to God’s revelation in Scripture and in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God. This is not a book to be rushed through. It is not difficult reading, but it should be read and considered carefully and, I’m tempted to say, savoured like a fine wine. Do I exaggerate? I don’t think so, but do read it yourself and make your own judgement.

For more than a millennium and a half Christians have confessed in the words of the Creed: “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.” Because Jesus was raised from the dead, the Scriptures promise that we too will be raised bodily to new life in the next age. But what will this look like? What will our life be like in the new heaven and new earth spoken of in Isaiah 65:17-25 and Revelation 21:1-5? Theologians, preachers and even hymn-writers have been grappling with the relationship between this world and the next, generally affirming both continuity and discontinuity, differing on how to balance the two. Some commentators think that we will be swept up out of the world into an ethereal realm above, while others appear to think that the world to come will simply see us picking up where we left off at death. Skillen does not accept either of these extremes, opting instead to focus on the sabbath rest mentioned throughout the scriptures in such passages as Genesis 2:2-3, Psalm 95:11, and Hebrews 3-4.

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can be contacted at: dtkoyzis@gmail.com