29 August 2020

The True Nature of Freedom

Last evening I was privileged to speak at the 1ª JORNADA DE DIREITO E FÉ CRISTÃ on the subject of "The True Nature of Freedom" ("A Verdadeira Natureza da Liberdade"), based on my second book, We Answer to Another: Authority, Office, and the Image of God

 

23 August 2020

Turkey administers a second blow to Christian minority

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has done it again. This time it's the much smaller Chora Church in Istanbul, dating back to the 4th century: Turkey Turns Another Historic Church into a Mosque.

A decision by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, published in the country’s Official Gazette, said Istanbul’s Church of St. Saviour in Chora, known as Kariye in Turkish, was handed to Turkey’s religious authority, which would open up the structure for Muslim prayers.

Like the Hagia Sophia, which was a church for centuries and then a mosque for centuries more, the historic Chora church had operated as a museum for decades before Erdogan ordered it restored as a mosque.

The church, situated near the ancient city walls, is famed for its elaborate mosaics and frescoes. It dates to the fourth century, although the edifice took on its current form in the 11th–12th centuries.

19 August 2020

Hazony on Marxism and liberalism

Yoram Hazony
Last year I wrote a review of Yoram Hazony's book, The Virtue of Nationalism, which I appreciated more than I thought I would. Now Hazony has contributed an article to the online journal Quillette, titled, The Challenge of Marxism. I hope to write about it soon, but for now an excerpt will suffice:

My liberal friends tend to believe that oppression and exploitation exist only in traditional or authoritarian societies, whereas liberal society is free (or almost free) from all that. But this isn’t true. Marx is right to see that every society consists of cohesive classes or groups, and that political life everywhere is primarily about the power relations among different groups. He is also right that at any given time, one group (or a coalition of groups) dominates the state, and that the laws and policies of the state tend to reflect the interests and ideals of this dominant group. Moreover, Marx is right when he says that the dominant group tends to see its own preferred laws and policies as reflecting “reason” or “nature,” and works to disseminate its way of looking at things throughout society, so that various kinds of injustice and oppression tend to be obscured from view.

For example, despite decades of experimentation with vouchers and charter schools, the dominant form of American liberalism remains strongly committed to the public school system. In most places, this is a monopolistic system that requires children of all backgrounds to receive what is, in effect, an atheistic education stripped clean of references to God or the Bible. Although liberals sincerely believe that this policy is justified by the theory of “separation of church and state,” or by the argument that society needs schools that are “for everyone,” the fact is that these theories justify what really is a system aimed at inculcating their own Enlightenment liberalism. Seen from a conservative perspective, this amounts to a quiet persecution of religious families. Similarly, the pornography industry is nothing but a horrific instrument for exploiting poor women, although it is justified by liberal elites on grounds of “free speech” and other freedoms reserved to “consenting adults.” And in the same way, indiscriminate offshoring of manufacturing capacity is considered to be an expression of property rights by liberal elites, who benefit from cheap Chinese labor at the expense of their own working-class neighbors.

No, Marxist political theory is not simply a great lie. By analyzing society in terms of power relations among classes or groups, we can bring to light important political phenomena to which Enlightenment liberal theories—theories that tend to reduce politics to the individual and his or her private liberties—are systematically blind.
Stay tune for my own thoughts on Hazony's analysis.

18 August 2020

Philadelphia Statement

 I am not generally in the habit of signing statements or manifestos, but I think the new Philadelphia Statement is worthy of support. Although it is tailored to the American context, it has relevance also for Canada and other western countries. Here is an excerpt:

Humanity has repeatedly tried expunging undesirable beliefs and ideas. What self-appointed speech arbiters, whether in the majority or in the minority, fail to grasp is that they will likely eventually become the targets. The winds inevitably shift, sometimes rapidly. The question is whether civility norms and free-speech safeguards will remain in place to protect them, or whether they will become victims of the dangerous precedents they themselves have established and advanced.

To be sure, our free speech tradition is not absolutist. It does not embrace certain, limited categories of speech, such as defamation, obscenity, intimidation and threats, and incitement to violence. Yet the idea of “hate speech” exceptions to free speech principles is foreign to our free speech ideals, impossible to define, and often used by those wielding political, economic, or cultural power to silence dissenting voices. That is why we must favor openness, to allow ideas and beliefs the chance to be assessed on their own merits; and we must be willing to trust that bad ideas will be corrected not through censorship but through better arguments.

I agree and have thus signed the statement.

14 August 2020

Global Scholar's page

Since November of last year I have been a member of Global Scholar's Canada, an organization set up to aid scholars in academic outreach around the world, whether locally or at a distance. I have now set up my own page as a Global Scholar, and it can be accessed here. I will be updating the page regularly from now on, including such items as links to writings, online lectures, interviews, &c. Here is my GSC mission statement:

My mission is to disseminate to the larger world the riches of a Reformed Christian worldview, especially as it impinges on social and political life. More specifically, I aim:

  1.     to expose the idolatrous religious nature of political ideologies and their implications for our shared public life;
  2.     to affirm the role of authority in human flourishing; and
  3.     to connect our political cultures with the institutions they nurture.


To facilitate these aims I anticipate using my two published books, Political Visions and Illusions (InterVarsity Press, 2019) and We Answer to Another (Pickwick Publications, 2014), and thirty years of teaching experience to reach interested readers in Canada, the United States, Brazil, and elsewhere; to teach seminar courses, both in person and online; to continue to publish in my field; and to travel when necessary.

If anyone is interested in supporting me in this mission financially, please contact me privately at dtkoyzis at gmail dot com. Thank you.

13 August 2020

Hagia Sophia becomes a mosque

Last month it was reported that a Turkish court has cleared the way for the historic Hagia Sophia, an ancient Roman church built by the Emperor Justinian in the 6th century, to return to its former use as a mosque. Known as Ayasofya to the Turks, it functioned as a Muslim place of worship between 1453, when the Ottoman armies of Mehmed II, the Conqueror, conquered Constantinople, and 1934, when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk turned it into a museum.

Since then this architectural wonder has seen millions of tourists file through its interior, which once echoed with the sounds of Byzantine chant and Muslim prayers but now houses the ancient artefacts of two civilizations and two religions. Because Islam prohibits the presence of images in worship, the status of the building’s Byzantine mosaics, uncovered in recent times, remains uncertain.

This development is consistent with the efforts of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to move his country away from the secularizing Kemalist legacy towards a more Islamic identity.

Read the full column in the latest issue of Christian Courier.

12 August 2020

A new book about Kuyper

Brazilian publisher, Editora Monergismo, has just published this new book, Abraham Kuyper e as Bases Para uma Teologia Pública, by Thiago Moreira. The title in English is Abraham Kuyper and the Bases for a Public Theology. Perhaps it will be translated into English at some point. In the meantime, here is my translation of the table of contents:

Acknowledgements

Introduction: Brazil and its Encounter with Abraham Kuyper: brief critical hermeneutical considerations

Chapter 1: Religion and Modernity: historical notes

    Religion and Worldview

    Religious Worldview, Narrative and History

Chapter 2: Abraham Kuyper and Calvinism as a Coherent and Integral System of Life

    Relevant biographical points

    Abraham Kuyper and his Conversion to Orthodox Calvinism

Chapter 3: The Kuyperian Antirevolutionary Vision

Chapter 4: Calvinism as Worldview in Kuyper

    Kuyperian Social Thought and the Political Sphere

    Creation Order and the Spheres of Human Existence

Chapter 5: The question of Pillarization and Apartheid in South Africa

Chapter 6: Common Grace in Kuyper's Vision

    Cosmogony, the Doctrine of Creation and the Manifestation of Common Grace in Humanity

Chapter 7: Culture, Engagement, and Antithesis

Chapter 8: Kuyper and the Relation Between Church, State, and Society

     The 1891 Christian Social Congress and the Question of Social Justice

    The Relation between Church, Society, and State in the Kuyperian Corpus

    Religious Worldview and Political Participation in Social Life: A Kuyperian Proposal

Epilogue: The Roots of Shalom

About the Author

11 August 2020

Differentiated authority in a pandemic

The second part of John Sikkema's interview with me is posted here: State and church authority in a pandemic – An interview with Professor Koyzis. An excerpt:

The church in no way derives its authority from the state. However, the state, as a community of citizens led by a government, properly cares for the public welfare in ways that other communities are not easily able to do. The institutional church, for example, is not equipped to handle public health crises affecting huge numbers of people, nor do we expect it to. An emergency necessitates someone assuming a temporary coordinating function in ways that might otherwise seem intrusive. In wartime young men are conscripted into the military, food is rationed, curfews are imposed, bank accounts are frozen—all of these impinge on marriages, families, churches, businesses, and many other communities, at least temporarily.

The intensity of such state-coordinated solidarity would be inappropriate during most circumstances. And there are risks that the state will abuse its authority even during emergencies, as when Canadian and American governments interned their own citizens of Japanese descent during the Second World War. We need to be vigilant to be sure that, once the emergency has ended, the state will not inappropriately try to hold on to emergency powers. This is why democratic and constitutional checks are important.

10 August 2020

Authority and office: an interview

 I was recently interviewed by John Sikkema of the Association for Reformed Political Action on the subject of my second book, We Answer to Another. The first part of the interview can be found here: The Key to Authority is the Office of Image Bearer – An Interview with Professor David Koyzis. An excerpt follows:

If we have a high view of office, then rather than simply railing or rebelling against it, we recognize that we can call the office holder to use their authority in a non-abusive way. It’s not helpful simply to be cynical about authority per se. Rather, we should recognize authority’s legitimacy and on that basis, call the office bearer to exercise their authority in a way that fits the office, its norms and limits. Deny the legitimacy of authority, and you are simply left with a competition for power. But that view does not line up with our daily experience and intuitive recognition of authority.

08 August 2020

Interview posted

Mark Tooley, of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, recently interviewed me on the subject of my book, Political Visions and Illusions, now in a revised second edition. 

 

Theodore Anthony Koyzis (1928-2020)

Theodore Anthony “Ted” Koyzis has died at age 92 in Andover, Massachusetts. An extraordinary man, he lived an extraordinary life, giving of himself to so many people over the decades, especially his beloved family. He was born in Koma tou Yialou, Cyprus, in the Greek Orthodox Christian community, during the British colonial era. When the Second World War began, his father and mother moved him, his four brothers and two sisters to the old walled city of Famagusta. Theodore graduated from the American Academy in Larnaca. 

In 1948 he left Cyprus and served briefly as a war correspondent for a British newspaper during the first Arab-Israeli war. He then moved to Kano, Nigeria, where he worked for a Greek entrepreneur. He traveled widely during these years. After meeting American missionaries in Africa, he moved to Chicago in 1951 to study at the Moody Bible Institute, where he met his wife Jane Korpinen, both of whom graduated in June 1954. They were married that year and had six children. Theodore was an independent businessman throughout most of his adult life, working from their long-time home in Wheaton, Illinois.

He was an amateur poet in two languages and was regularly published in Cypriot newspapers in his youth. He continued to write poetry into his 90’s. He and Jane were married for 66 years. He leaves her behind, along with a brother Eustace (Dora); sister Anna (Gus); his six children, David (Nancy), Cynthea (John), Pamela, Dawn, Thomas (Rodney), and Yvonne (Guy); seven grandchildren, Janine (Anthony), Robyn (Rick), Claire (Chad), Bethany (Brian), Theodora (Jereme), Cecily, and Theresa; and ten great-grandchildren, Aurélie, Elodie, Charles, Ingrid, Benjamin, John, Rose, Aaron, Jane, and Béatrice. Theodore's family was his greatest joy in life, and he was unfailingly generous to his many descendants. After living in Aurora, IL for 16 years, Ted and Jane recently relocated to MA where they were living with family. 

He loved God and served him faithfully, his prayers echoing the cadences of both the Orthodoxy liturgy and the King James Bible, especially Psalm 107: “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” We whom he has left for a time hold him in our hearts and look to the hope of the resurrection.

The obituary can be found here.

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