28 December 2020

A busy year

"Staying at home because of COVID resulted in global opportunities." See my latest column in Christian Courier: A Busy Year. An excerpt:

Occasionally I had travelled to speak at various places, including the United States, Brazil and Germany. I was all set to fly to Wake Forest, North Carolina, in March to lecture at Southeastern Baptist Seminary when COVID-19 compelled a cancellation amid a global quarantine. I should have travelled to Germany and Finland last month, but, once again, the pandemic changed our plans. Thus I have spent most of the past year at home, but a huge number of opportunities have come my way since the lockdown began.

What happened? Prior to March many of us had not heard of Zoom and similar platforms, although I was already using Facetime and Google Hangouts to talk with friends one-to-one. But suddenly everyone was using Zoom, which quickly became almost a generic word to describe the virtual meeting drawing people together online. Not surprisingly, many people apparently figured out that they could have me address public gatherings without having to take the trouble to fly me in and feed and billet me for several days. That’s when the invitations began pouring in. . . .

The message of the kingdom of God is one that covers the whole of life, as [Abraham] Kuyper understood and spent his life disseminating within the Netherlands. Now Christians around the world are inspired by this message and are hungry to see its implications lived out in their own countries. I have been privileged to be a part of this with my teaching and writing.

For just over a year I have been part of a wonderful organization called Global Scholars Canada. While GSC originally began as a means of placing Christian scholars at universities overseas with financial support coming from home, in my case I remain at home most of the time while connecting with interested people remotely and, eventually I hope, in their own countries on a short-term basis. With the proper backing, in terms of both financial and prayer support, I hope to continue to serve God with the gifts he has seen fit to give me.

There is still time to donate before year's end. Click here for options.

21 December 2020

Hebraic exceptionalism

A friend alerted me to this article written by Paul Krause in The Imaginative Conservative: Hebraic Exceptionalism and Western Exceptionalism. To those who believe that the Bible is simply a collection of ancient literature little different from other ancient writings, Krause responds:

The Hebrew Bible, however, is exceptional. It is exceptional in its Near Eastern context not for what it shared in similarity with other Mesopotamian and North African texts but what it radically differed in. It is also exceptional in the mere fact that it survived in its fullness for posterity, something that cannot be said for much of the literature of Sumer, Assyria, Babylon, and Egypt, however inspiring these antecedent texts are and were.

Regardless of how we wrestle with Scripture, the reality remains: The Bible is exceptional precisely because the Bible persevered into modernity while its many competitors did not. As a result of this, Western history and our intellectual traditions are tied to the Bible whether we like it or not, or whether we want to admit it or not . . . .

Students of philosophy will tend to recognize that much of Western sensibilities and values—the dignity of persons (made in the image of God); liberation against forces of oppression; social justice; compassion for the widow, orphan, resident alien, and sick; equality before judge, jury, and law; the true understanding of democracy as national self-determination to cultivate a national destiny—has its very roots in the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible.

17 December 2020

Kompassi book published

Kompassi is the think tank of the Finnish Christian Democratic Party, a member of the European People's Party group in the European Parliament. I had hoped to visit Finland last month, after a stay in Germany, but, like so many other events planned for this year, the COVID pandemic prevented it. The address I had planned to deliver has been published in full in a book produced by Kompassi this month, Kirkkojen Yhteiskunnallinen Opetus (Social Teaching of the Churches). Included in this volume are chapters on how the different Christian traditions address social and political matters. Given Finland's historic Lutheran roots, the Lutheran tradition is treated first, followed by the Orthodox, Pentecostal, and Catholic. I wrote the chapter on the Reformed tradition, which is all but unknown in that country. Here is a summary from this article about the event translated into English by Google translate:

In his video greeting, David T Koyzis, a Canadian professor who wrote a section on the Reformed Church, described how the first Christian Democratic Party was founded in the Netherlands in the late 19th century based on Reformed social education.

Although I was unable to attend the event, I did contribute a video summarizing the contents of my address, which I have set to start at the point where I come in.

Although I have deep Finnish roots on my mother's side, I can understand almost no Finnish whatsoever. Closely related to Estonian and distantly related to Hungarian, Finnish is a Finno-Ugric language. Google translate does a passable job of rendering these pages in English, although it does much better with Indo-European languages. Readers who do know Finnish are invited to set the video to the beginning to hear the entire conference.

14 December 2020

Tribute to Wolters

My friend and colleague Peter Schuurman has posted a brief biography of my good friend and mentor Al Wolters: The Lucky Son of a Barber-Philosopher: The Serendipity of Al Wolters’ Worldview. Here is an excerpt:

Wolters’ first position was as a history of philosophy professor at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto (ICS), starting in 1974, after being a student recruiter there for two years. It was his introductory lectures in the Philosophical Prolegomena course that would eventually become Creation Regained [his best-known work].

Wolters actually never determined to write or publish this book. In fact, it was the encouragement of his peers, and specifically the late Bob Vandervennen that pushed him to start bringing his notes together in the early 1980s. In fact, it was Vandervennen that sent the manuscript to Eerdmans for publication. They saw the value in the book—as a key that explicitly connected the Bible to the Reformational philosophy that culminated in Herman Dooyeweerd. Wolters’ long-standing interest in the Bible, coupled with his training in philosophy, supported by his reading of Herman Bavinck which stretched back to his days in Victoria—this all came together in one short, accessible account: a summary of one book (the Bible) in three movements (creation, fall, redemption). All of reality, wrote Wolters, could be adequately understood through those three themes, and this framework could give direction to Christian endeavours in any cultural sector. In a word, it was a Christian world-and-life-view for enthusiastic but also critical participation in the arts, humanities, social sciences, engineering, and the natural sciences.
I have counted Al Wolters as a dear friend for more than four decades. Although I took only one two-week course with him at the ICS, he became something of an unofficial mentor, and I owe him a debt of gratitude as one of the key inspirations behind my own Political Visions and Illusions, in which I apply his insights into the implications of a Christian worldview to my own field of political studies.

Incidentally I still have the handwritten notes I kept during Wolters' ICS "bootcamp," the substance of which would become Creation Regained several years later.

Photograph by Hank Rintjema

08 December 2020

UCCF Politics Network

Yesterday I was privileged to talk with a student group in the United Kingdom on the subject of my book, Political Visions and Illusions. Tom Kendall was my host, and we conversed for a little over an hour. The group is affiliated with Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship, or The Christian Unions. May God bless these young people and use them to advance his kingdom in Great Britain and elsewhere.


04 December 2020

God as Judge: Do we still pray the imprecatory Psalms?

Although I generally do not cross-post between my two blogs, I think that a recent post from my Genevan Psalter blog might interest readers of this blog as well.

Last week I posed these questions on this blog after posting a video of Psalm 3, which speaks of God smashing the teeth of the wicked: "What do you think? Do you have difficulty singing psalms with such language? How ought Christians to sing them and in what spirit?" Thank you to those who took the time to respond in the comments section.

Many Christians believe that there is such a gulf between the Old and New Testaments that the latter has entirely superseded the former with its preaching of forgiveness and love. Here are some historical examples that I mention in my Introduction to the Genevan Psalter:

At least since the Enlightenment many Christians have claimed to find the psalms something of an embarrassment. Even so indefatigable an apologist for the Christian faith as C. S. Lewis refers to some expressions therein as uncharitable and even “devilish.” The great Isaac Watts once wrote: “Some of them are almost opposite to the Spirit of the Gospel: Many of them foreign to the State of the New Testament, and widely different from the present circumstances of Christians.” In Dostoyevsky’s celebrated novel, The Brothers Karamazov, there is a scene in which the protagonist Alyosha’s recently deceased mentor, Father Zosima, is being memorialized prior to burial. Because Father Zosima was a “priest and monk of the strictest rule, the Gospel, not the Psalter, had to be read over his body by monks in holy orders” [thus implying the Psalter's inferiority to the Gospels].

01 December 2020

Global Scholars announcement

Just over two weeks ago, I launched my Global Scholars Canada fundraising campaign to support my global educational work. The GSC announcement can be found here: David Koyis Launches Fundraising Campaign. Please consider making a year-end donation by clicking on this link. Canadians and Americans will receive CRA and IRS tax receipts respectively.

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