Enlisting Kuyper into the contemporary North American culture war has a certain plausibility, because there really are battles to be waged in the larger culture. . . . However, and this ought not to be forgotten, the antithesis between belief and unbelief does not run quite so tidily between different groups of people. Any effort to assess in a spiritually discerning way the true character of the various ideological visions and illusions on offer cannot be content to point fingers. On the contrary, we must begin within ourselves. True knowledge begins with self-knowledge, and without the latter, our efforts to remove the speck from our neighbour’s eye will be unpersuasive.
26 January 2021
21 January 2021
19 January 2021
|Sir Bernard Crick|
Yet he was often mistaken for a Burkean conservative, due primarily to his expressed conviction that politics is a distinctive enterprise that ought to be valued, not only for its ability to deliver desired goods, but for providing a framework in which potential opponents can work out their differences in peaceful fashion. Crick defined politics as
the activity by which differing interests within a given unit of rule are conciliated by giving them a share in power in proportion to their importance to the welfare and the survival of the whole community. And, to complete the formal definition, a political system is that type of government where politics proves successful in ensuring reasonable stability and order (21).
For Crick politics serves an important purpose, but one that cannot be reduced to the provision of, say, economic benefits to the greatest number of people, as many of his fellow socialists would assume. After defining politics, Crick goes on in his book to defend politics against a variety of potential threats, including ideology, democracy, nationalism, technology, and false friends such as “the anti-political socialist.”
18 January 2021
|James Madison & John Adams|
The Founding Fathers argued that democracy could avoid becoming mobocracy only if it was hedged with a series of restraints to control the power of the people. Power was divided between the branches of government to make sure that nobody wielded too much. Citizens were given extensive constitutional rights. Senators were given six-year terms to insulate them from fads. They were also initially appointed by state legislatures rather than directly elected. Supreme Court judges were appointed for life, ensuring they cannot be removed by people from other branches.Alexis de Tocqueville added his own worries about mob rule in ‘Democracy in America’. For him the constitution alone is not strong enough to save democracy from the mob. A vigorous civic culture rooted in self-governing communities (he was particularly keen on New England’s townships) and a self-reliant and educated population are also necessary. So too is a responsible elite that recognises that its first duty is to ‘educate democracy’.
15 January 2021
Christian Courier has published a slightly modified version of my blog post from last week: Capitol Hill Insurrection. An excerpt:
Until recently I had assumed that a political culture of respect for the rule of law was securely established in the United States, due largely to its debt to the English constitution and to the long experience of representative government extending back to colonial times. While we might expect to hear of an attempted coup d’état in Pakistan or Bolivia, we knew that it couldn’t happen here. Not in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or the U.S. We’re too politically stable and our constitutional traditions too resilient for that to happen. Yet what we must learn from January 6’s events is that we can never afford take our political culture for granted.
13 January 2021
The Emperor's name comes up in this story: O imperador Dom Pedro II e seu amor pela Bíblia (Emperor Dom Pedro II and his Love for the Bible). The Emperor attended one of D. L. Moody's revival meetings in New York in 1876, responding affirmatively, but silently, to his message. This quotation has been attributed to the Emperor:
I love the Bible, I read it every day and the more I read it the more I love it. There are some who don't like the Bible. I don't understand them. I can't comprehend such people, but I love it. I love its simplicity and I love its repetitions and reiterations of the truth. As I said, I read it daily and each time I do so I like it more.
12 January 2021
Hours before the failed insurrection of 6 January, I had finished reading J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, the young author’s absorbing autobiography of growing up in an extended Appalachian family in a failing industrial town in Ohio. Reading it prompted me to consider the unique features of specific cultures and subcultures, deeply rooted factors that make for flourishing and those that obstruct it over the long term. In recent decades we have come to assume that all cultures are equal and that the different ways of doing things that separate distinctive groups of people are equally valid. If one group suffers disproportionately from poverty and social instability, we are generally loathe to examine internal contributing factors for fear of being accused of blaming the victim. Nevertheless, if we take seriously the status of our fellow human beings as responsible agents, we cannot afford to overlook these factors. This has profound public policy implications.
09 January 2021
Several weeks ago I had a conversation with these two very fine gentlemen, Darnell Samuels and Joel Nicoloff, on the Six Cents Report. The link to our talk has now been posted here: Unmasking America’s Political Idolatry with Global Scholar: David Koyzis - 6CR #103. My apologies for the sound quality on my end, which I suspect is due to my beard rubbing against the microphone of my headphone. According to the website, "The Six Cents Report is a weekly podcast that reports on events related to Canadians from an economic and theological perspective."
08 January 2021
|Polybios (c 200-c 118 BC)|
The need for democracy is satisfied by giving citizens a choice between two or more candidates thoroughly vetted by their respective party organizations and presented to the people as the best persons for the job. The aristocratic principle—necessary in all political systems—should come into play within the parties themselves as would-be candidates are screened in accordance with established criteria to insure a high level of competence and personal integrity. Only then would they be brought before the public for their verdict.
Yes, it's time for another conversation with Ian Simkins and Brian From at WYLL, AM 1160, Chicago. Who knew men of the cloth could be so much fun to talk to? Guest: David Koyzis, Political Scientist and Author - Response to the Siege on the US Capitol - January 7, 2021.
07 January 2021
I thought of this historical event as our family watched on television the events unfolding in Washington, D.C., on 6 January. We were, of course, horrified. It hardly seemed possible that a band of hooligans, egged on by the President of the United States, could invade Capitol Hill, breaching what we had assumed to be an effective security perimeter, and vandalize the offices of members of Congress. This is the sort of thing one associates with the Russian Federation in 1993, or a nonwestern country unschooled in the customs and constitutional procedures of democratic governance. In English-speaking democracies we have come to expect that all political actors of whatever partisan sympathies will play by the rules, acquiescing in the smooth transition of power once the electorate has made its decision at the polls. No one pretends that it's a perfect system, but, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, it is almost certainly the least worst of the political systems on offer in today's world.
She later worked at Macy’s and as a secretary for Pfizer in Manhattan where she met Roy L. Calvert (1925-2019). They were married on February 12, 1956. No matter where she lived, she always proudly said she was from Brooklyn when asked. Most recently, she resided in Downers Grove, IL, and Hillsdale, MI.
Barbara’s brother, Ronald G. Finstrom, survives her, as do her children Nancy Lynn Calvert-Koyzis (David), Kenneth Roy Calvert (Beth) and Emily Calvert Moran (Bill), as well as seven grandchildren.
Barbara’s parents, Borghild Alvilda Finstrom and Axel George Finstrom, who served as a Captain in the Merchant Marine in World War II, preceded her in death, as did her older brother George Finstrom.
She will be remembered for her hard work and determination, her love of family, her stellar homemaking, and her eye for detail, particularly during the many years she spent as Editorial Coordinator for Today’s Christian Woman at Christianity Today Publications. She found great comfort in her faith and was involved in many church congregations over the years.
06 January 2021
Could too expansive a nondiscrimination regime produce a climate in which faith-based communities, with their distinctive standards for membership, will be suppressed? Could a therapeutic focus on the expressive individual create an inhospitable climate for churches which by their very nature call members to subordinate their own wills to God’s word? We would be unwise to deny such possibilities.
Having studied and written about political ideologies for decades, I believe that all ideologies have totalitarian potential. They may not lead to forced labour camps or mass murders, but they do make claims which compete on a basic level with the traditional religious faiths, and they do require sacrificial victims, if only in damaged reputations and fewer career opportunities. This is why we need above all to be spiritually discerning in our assessment of them.
Yet, political ideologies do not operate in a contextual vacuum. All of us, whatever our ultimate convictions, live and work within the larger panorama of God’s creation. Even if a Supreme Court justice proclaims that “[a]t the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” (Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 1992), the cosmos itself remains stubbornly unpersuaded, impervious to our subjective notions of its meaning or lack thereof.
If political theology begins with Scripture, political science as an empirical discipline begins with the raw data of political life. To be sure, political science is not religiously neutral, and the practitioner does not and cannot park her ultimate beliefs on the sidelines before plunging into the subject matter. Nevertheless, the empirical nature of the discipline means that one must attend to the ways governments actually function in the real world. Every government balances the various interests within its jurisdiction. Even the political realist preferring to banish justice to the separate realms of morality and religion will speak of a balance of powers—language by which justice sneaks in the back door. Weighing interests in the balance is quite simply what governments do. They may get the balance wrong in small or large ways, yet the jural task of government—of rendering to each his or her due—is always present, if sometimes in distorted form.
05 January 2021
Global Scholars Canada informs me that prospective American donors should contribute through the website of its American counterpart by clicking here: Global Scholars. I have added a link in the right sidebar to reflect this change. Thank you for your understanding. May you enjoy God's blessings in the new year.
02 January 2021
I am pleased to see Political Visions and Illusions make the list of Matt Crummy's 6 Insightful Reads To Help Make Sense of Our Culture and Historical Moment. About the blogger: "Matt is a multidisciplinary creative director, designer, musician, & writer. Husband & father. Drake U grad. Walk aficionado. Jesus follower."
28 December 2020
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
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
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
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].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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
28 November 2020
What we should most remember Packer for was his love of the Bible, which he confessed to be the Word of God. In fact, it was a youthful reading of his grandmother’s old King James Bible that moved him to a mature confession of faith and eventually to the priesthood.
May he rest in peace until the resurrection, and may our Lord continue to use his legacy to advance his kingdom.
26 November 2020
The Liberal notion that religion was a matter of private belief and of conduct in private life, and that there is no reason why Christians should not be able to accommodate themselves to any world which treats them good-naturedly, is becoming less and less tenable . . . .We have less excuse than our ancestors for un-Christian conduct, because the growth of an un-Christian society about us, its more obvious intrusion upon our lives, has been breaking down the comfortable distinction between public and private morality. The problem of leading a Christian life in a non-Christian society is now very present to us . . . . It is not merely the problem of a minority in a society, of individuals holding an alien belief. It is the problem constituted by our implication in a network of institutions from which we cannot dissociate ourselves: institutions the operation of which appears no longer neutral, but non-Christian.And as for the Christian who is not conscious of his dilemma—and he is in the majority—he is becoming more and more de-Christianised by all sorts of unconscious pressure: paganism holds all the most valuable advertising space. Anything like Christian traditions transmitted from generation to generation within the family must disappear, and the small body of Christians will consist entirely of adult recruits . . . .I am not concerned with the problem of Christians as a persecuted minority. When the Christian is treated as an enemy of the State, his course is very much harder, but it is simpler. I am concerned with the dangers to the tolerated minority; and in the modern world, it may turn out that the most tolerable thing for Christians is to be tolerated.
25 November 2020
23 November 2020
Andrew Spencer writes about Robert Woodberry and the Benefits of Protestant Missions. Although missionaries have had a bad reputation in recent decades due to their supposed connection with European colonialism, it turns out that their influence has been almost wholly positive. This was the finding of political scientist Robert Woodberry in his path-breaking article in the American Political Science Review eight years ago. Here is an excerpt from Spencer:
Christianity is a religion of the book, therefore Christians tended to teach people to read and write. They often brought in printing presses so they could publish religious literature. In some cases they invented alphabets for previously unwritten languages. This led to societal advances that enabled more people to prosper.
Not only did they educate people, but missionaries brought in the concept of private property so traders wouldn’t take advantage of them. They taught new skills, like carpentry and advanced agricultural techniques. Missionaries introduced new crops to countries, which gave indigenous people opportunities to engage in trade with products that were desirable in Europe.
Woodberry outlines multiple ways in which the presence of missionaries indirectly led to improved conditions in colonies.
In many cases, the impact of Protestant missionaries went beyond their direct actions. In order to compete with the missionaries, indigenous religions began to print religious texts and educate people to resist Christianity. Competition improved conditions for everyone.
The case Woodberry makes is convincing. When people selflessly live out the gospel, both through evangelization and through practical application, it changes cultures for the better. Though there are clearly cases of abuse and sin by missionaries, there is a strong correlation between the advance of gospel people and the common good.
This article is posted on the website of the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics.
22 November 2020
Na noite de sábado tive o privilégio de falar neste evento, Ilusões Políticas no Brasil. Vocês podem ouvir a conversa clicando no link abaixo. Meus comentários estão em inglês e traduzidos para o português.
On saturday evening I was privileged to speak at this event, Ilusões Políticas no Brasil. You can hear the conversation by clicking on the link below. My comments are in English and translated into Portuguese.
20 November 2020
The arrival of the second edition of David Koyzis’ Political Visions and Illusions: A Survey and Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies is incredibly timely. So much of the divisiveness of our current political debates can be traced to differences over first principles, and Koyzis’ neo-Calvinist approach to political theory is helpful in digging to the fundamental issues that lay beneath the surface of our political rhetoric. To loosely quote John Maynard Keynes, so-called practical men who believe themselves exempt from intellectual influences are usually the slaves to some defunct economist or political philosopher. In this respect, Koyzis’ work is indispensable in preventing the church from becoming unwitting captives to defunct thinkers whom the average reader may only have faint knowledge of. . . .
I remember coming across the first edition of Political Visions and Illusions almost two decades ago. Rereading Koyzis’ book not only reminded me of how helpful his work was in clarifying issues of faith and politics, but it also provided me the joy of discovering fresh insights from a book that, like all great books, continues to teach new lessons with each reading. Unfortunately, except within the small confines of the Reformed world, Koyzis’ neo-Calvinist approach to political philosophy is not widely known. Hopefully, with the latest edition of Political Visions and Illusions, Koyzis’ work will no longer be hidden underneath a bushel, but instead, its brilliance will reach a wider audience.
It's always gratifying to receive a positive review of one's work, and I'm pleased that Ng continues to find the book helpful.
18 November 2020
O Brasil é o quinto maior país do mundo, tanto em população quanto em área. De acordo com o WorldoMeter, o Brasil tinha uma população de 213 milhões em 2020. Isso o coloca atrás da China, Índia, Estados Unidos, Indonésia e Paquistão e à frente de todos os outros. Quando palestrei lá em 2016, percebi o quão extenso é o país. Meu avião pousou em Brasília e fiquei com uma jovem família lá. Mas então, fomos de carro até Goiânia para o evento no qual eu faria minhas palestras. Demorou quase três horas para percorrer a distância, mas no mapa isso cobre uma proporção muito pequena da área do país. Pessoas que eu já conhecia de antemão e esperava ver no evento me disseram que era muito longe de suas casas, o que eu dificilmente poderia ter imaginado antes. Mas seria o equivalente a falar em Toronto e esperar ver pessoas de Calgary ou Vancouver aparecerem.
16 November 2020
Today I am launching my Global Scholars Canada fundraising campaign.
As many of you know, I have been a member of Global Scholars Canada for one year, and under this organization I have been working at several projects drawing on my years of teaching, researching, and writing experience. Last year the second edition of the award-winning Political Visions and Illusions was published, and since then it has already gone into three printings, having sold out last summer after the Rev. Tim Keller endorsed it over Facebook and Twitter. I now have another completed manuscript, which I hope to submit to a publisher in the near future with the support of two high-profile endorsements.
Ironically, the COVID-19 pandemic, while restricting so many of us to our homes for months, has opened for me an amazing number of opportunities for online lectures and interaction with people around the globe. Prior to March of this year, I had travelled to Brazil, Germany, and various places in the United States to speak to specific audiences about my work and writings. I was set to go to North Carolina in late March, but this was cancelled the week before as quarantines descended upon the world. But quite suddenly, as knowledge of such platforms as Zoom took off, I was bombarded with invitations from all over, as people were coming to recognize that they needn't pay to bring me to them physically but could have what might be the next best thing—a virtual presence along with online interaction.
12 November 2020
I was recently privileged to deliver a prerecorded chapel address to the faculty, staff, and students of Trinity Western University, Langley, British Columbia, Canada, on Job 11. This was posted just three days ago. I have set the video to begin where my talk begins, but feel free to go back and watch the full chapel service. A precis of my talk: The book of Job is, as it were, a "little Bible," encapsulating the biblical redemptive story in the life of a single person.
Unfortunately I cannot post the video directly here, but you can watch it on YouTube.
- Misreading Kuyper? Stewart, Hawley, and The New Yo...
- Context appearance
- Defending ordinary politics: video commentary
- Defending ordinary politics: Crick's contribution
- Madison's nightmare
- Capitol Hill Insurrection
- The Emperor and the Bible
- Cultural dysfunction and public policy
- Mauldin's grieving Lincoln
- Six Cents Report
- The Tempering of Democracy
- Common Good conversation: uprising aftermath
- Capitol Hill insurrection: the day after
- Barbara Martha Calvert (1935-2020)
- Rod Dreher's jeremiad
- Innes: Christ and the Kingdoms of Men, a review
- Link for American donors
- Matt Crummy's 'Six Insightful Reads'
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