07 June 2023

‘Letters from Moscow’: The Opening and Closing of Russia

On saturday, 10 June, I will be participating in an event taking place at Faith Baptist Church in Oakville, Ontario, Canada: ‘Letters from Moscow’: The Opening and Closing of Russia. It is sponsored by Global Scholars Canada, the organization with which I am affiliated. Here's the description:

Global Scholars Canada’s original scholars, Drs. Wendy and Adrian Helleman lead the Symposium with their now available ‘Letters from Moscow’ (Moscow Messages); an account of their time teaching at Moscow State University (pictured) in the mid-1990s. The letters are rich and inquisitive, poignant in their capture of a brief period where new freedoms and openness post-perestroika, seemed possible.

05 June 2023

Israel's precarious democracy, 2: institutional factors

In part 1, we covered the historical and demographic elements forming the unique context of Israel's politics. Here I want to discuss some of the institutional factors that play a role in Israel today.

First, Israel has no constitution. Well, not exactly. Like every country, Israel has a constitution in the sense of an empirical arrangement of political institutions relating to each other in customary and predictable ways. In this respect its constitution is similar to those of the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and nine of Canada's provinces. But Israel has no written constitution, that is, a document that establishes in normative fashion the institutions and offices that govern Israel. There is no equivalent to the Constitution of the United States, which describes itself as "the supreme law of the land," taking priority over ordinary statutory laws. This has complicated Israel's domestic politics, including Prime Minister Netanyahu's recent efforts to rein in what he sees as an overreaching judiciary.

01 June 2023

Israel's precarious democracy, 1: historical and demographic background

This year Israel celebrates 75 years as an independent state. It was born in the wake of the Holocaust, as large numbers of Jewish refugees from nazi-occupied Europe fled to what was then the British League of Nations Mandate of Palestine. Britain had acquired Palestine in December 1917, when Lieutenant General Sir Edmund Allenby captured Jerusalem from the Ottoman Turks during the Great War. By then the nascent Zionist movement was already bringing Jewish immigrants from Europe into the territory. The previous month, the British government had issued the Balfour Declaration, named for Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour, which stated:

His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

During the three decades in which Great Britain controlled Palestine, the government in London discovered that the influx of Jewish settlers from Europe was not popular with its Arab inhabitants and attempted, rather too late, to curtail immigration. However, Jewish immigrants found ways to evade British efforts to stem the tide. After the end of the Second World War, survivors of the Holocaust streamed into Palestine, as Britain was preparing to vacate the territory.

23 May 2023

Jane Koyzis (1931-2023)

Jane Marie Korpinen Koyzis has died at age 91 in North Andover, Massachusetts. A deeply compassionate and self-giving wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, she will be sorely missed by those she has left behind. She was born in Jackson, Michigan, the second daughter of Frances Marie Hyder and Eino Justus Korpinen, and had colonial American, German, and Finnish roots.

As an adolescent, she came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ through the influence of a childhood friend and her family's local church congregation. Soon thereafter, she attended the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago where she met her husband of 66 years, Theodore Koyzis (1928-2020) of Cyprus. Together they raised six children, pouring their heart and soul into them during their long residence in Wheaton, Illinois, bringing them to church on Sundays and supporting them in their school-related and extracurricular activities. She had a sharp intellect, was an avid reader, and was an invaluable partner to her husband in their market research business. During her long life, Jane developed considerable wisdom in her understanding of human relationships and was always her children's go-to person when they needed advice or just a listening ear. She prayed with her children when putting them to bed and read to them from the Bible. She had a beautiful singing voice and often sang while working around the house, bequeathing her musical talents to many of her descendants.

15 May 2023

May newsletter posted

I have now posted my Global Scholars newsletter for May, containing two items of good news, one relating to my book and another to my work with the Genevan Psalter, along with an interview on the church in China, and a forthcoming remote course for Brazil. Thank you for your financial and prayer support for my work.

25 April 2023

Raskolnikov and Resurrection

Christian Courier has just posted my April column: Raskolnikov and Resurrection, with this subtitle: "The greatest of literature points us to the One who was raised from the dead that we too might live eternally." Here is an excerpt:

Many years ago, when I was still a graduate student, I decided to read some of the major Russian novels of the 19th and 20th centuries. It’s taken me decades, but I finally got to Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (1866). The story is set in the imperial capital of St. Petersburg. Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov has recently abandoned his university studies and is living hand to mouth in a rented room. Intellectually gifted, he is subject to frequent bouts of fever and depression.

Read the entire article here.

17 April 2023

Nationalism: the need to belong

My series with the Politics Network of UCCF: The Christian Unions in the United Kingdom continues with this piece: Nationalism: the need to belong. An excerpt:

In principle we can recognize the legitimacy of national communities, however we define them. However, it is possible to make too much of our nation. And when we do so, we run the risk of idolizing it, thereby embracing nationalism as an ideology. In Cyprus, the partisans of enosis, or union with Greece, were so persuaded of their cause that they were willing to sacrifice the lives of those who stood in their way, including Turkish Cypriots and the less persuaded Greek Cypriots. Because their efforts led eventually to my paternal relatives losing their homes and becoming refugees in their own country, I have long been exceedingly wary of even a hint of nationalism, especially the ethnic variety. I dislike seeing the flag of Greece flying outside Orthodox church buildings in Cyprus because it represents a cause that disturbed the peace of the island and uprooted its people.

The series continues with a piece on democratism in June and concludes with one on post-liberalism in July.

13 April 2023

April newsletter posted

I have just posted my April newsletter, with links to a wonderful Lutheran resurrection hymn, a revised table of contents for my next book, the 20th anniversary of this blog, and a new way for Canadians to contribute financially to my work.

03 April 2023

The office of citizen

I have written a monthly column for Christian Courier since 1990. The latest instalment has been posted: The office of citizen. Here is a brief excerpt:

As God has created us in his image, he calls us to a variety of authoritative offices related to the various differentiated communities of which we are part. One of these is citizenship in our respective political communities. I myself was born an American citizen, although in adulthood I took an oath to our late Queen, her heirs, and successors and became a Canadian citizen.

Because citizenship is such an important office, with implications for us and our neighbours, we Christians ought to reflect on the obligations it imposes on us.

Read the entire article here.

27 March 2023

'Citizenship Without Illusions': update

It's been two months since I reported on my contract with IVP Academic to write a third book, provisionally titled, "Citizenship Without Illusions." It's time for an update. By the start of this calendar year I had already written three chapters but in a different format than the one I am working with now. Since signing the contract, I have written most of seven chapters, with two more to go. The table of contents will look something like this:

Asbury em português

A Brazilian online resource called Gospel+ has reported on my recent commentary on the Asbury University revival: Renomado teólogo diz que frutos de Asbury só serão provados com “o tempo”. Translated into English, the title reads: Renowned theologian says Asbury's fruits will only be proven with "time". Of course, while I must protest that I am neither renowned nor a theologian, I appreciate that the writers have taken the time to read my original post on the subject.

15 March 2023

March newsletter posted

I have now posted my Global Scholars Canada newsletter for March, including news about the progress of my book, a new online article on conservatism, and a review of a new metrical psalter.

27 February 2023

Asbury's aftermath: weighing revival

Asbury Collegian
The New York Post is covering the revival that recently broke out at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky: How an ‘itchy sweater’ sparked a new Christian revival at a Kentucky university. Not having experienced this event first-hand, I am reluctant to comment on it. I will indicate that, by temperament and conviction, I am not a partisan of revivalism, a phenomenon often associated with emotional manipulation and a pelagian conception of salvation based less on God's redeeming work through Jesus Christ and more on my decision for Christ. I wrote in some detail about this last year: The altar call: good or bad? I am persuaded that it is better to emphasize, not the intensity of my response to God's call, but to focus instead on the ordinary means of grace that come to us through word and sacrament through regular church attendance.

That said, I would not wish prematurely to dismiss what has been happening amongst the young people at Asbury. Anything that moves the current generation to greater fervour and dedication to the kingdom of God must be seen as a manifestation of the work of the Holy Spirit, and for that we should give thanks. Youthful energy and enthusiasm can be infectious, and having taught and grown to love this age group for thirty years, I can testify that I am not immune to this. However, the test will come with time as we see how all this plays out in their lives over the long term. At present we are at the stage of the sower sowing the seeds (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23). Inevitably, some will fall away after the enthusiasms ebb, but others will persevere throughout the course of their lives, trusting in God's saving grace and living in gratitude and obedience to his will. May God multiply the numbers of those in the latter category.

23 February 2023

Conservatism: tradition as norm

The latest of my series of articles for the Politics Network of UCCF: The Christian Unions in the United Kingdom has now appeared. The title is Conservatism: tradition as norm. Here is an excerpt:

Despite attempts to define a “true conservatism,” the phenomenon is so slippery as to elude such efforts. While liberals and socialists boast guiding principles in their efforts to govern and improve their societies, conservatives lack something comparable. What unites conservatives is less a substantive set of principles than an attachment to tradition. Which tradition? Well, their own, whatever that might happen to be.

Obviously, every society has its traditions which it passes down to future generations through various means. Although we have experienced revolutions in technology and social mores over the centuries, we still for the most part live within a civilization shaped in countless ways by our forebears. We expect that people will live up to shared social norms when, say, eating in a restaurant, attending a concert, or meeting a new person. Churches, workplace communities, amateur football clubs, theatre troupes, and so forth all have standards to which members must conform. These are informed by traditions inherited from the past.

But what happens when our traditions conflict with each other?

Read the entire article to find out.

22 February 2023

CPJ international relations discussion

On 7 February, I participated in a discussion with James W. Skillen on the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine, moderated by Calvin University Professor Tracy Kuperus. This was part of a board meeting of the Center for Public Justice. You can view the discussion below:

21 February 2023

February newsletter posted

I have just posted my Global Scholars Canada newsletter for February, which this month includes news about my book contract and my recent travels to the Pittsburgh area to deliver three addresses at two educational institutions.

20 February 2023

Trinity and Geneva: travels in western PA

Much of last week I spent in the Pittsburgh area speaking at two educational institutions. The first was Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge. I had known of this institution for a long time, because my good friend William G. Witt teaches systematic theology and ethics there. I spoke on two subjects. The first took place at the Dean's Hour on wednesday morning, 15 February. It was about "Ideology and Idolatry," covering the basics of my first book, Political Visions and Illusions, with a preview of what is coming in my third book. My second talk was on metrical psalmody, which you can read about here. The second person responsible for my visit was the new Dean President, Bryan Hollon, who had heard me speak five years ago at Malone University in Canton, Ohio.

09 February 2023

'A United Canada'

Maintaining a unified Canada over such long distances and scattered populations has always been a difficult proposition. Our national unity narrative has now encountered one more plot twist with Alberta's passage of its Sovereignty Act: 'A United Canada': New Act in Alberta creates sovereignty without independence. An excerpt from the article in Christian Courier:

Since our own rebellions of 1837, Canada has been at peace, although national unity has always been a precarious enterprise. For most of our history, the major issue has been linguistic, with French-speaking Québec being the most obvious candidate for separating from the rest of the country.

But now the government of Alberta, led by United Conservative Party Premier Danielle Smith, has passed something that smacks of René Levesque’s paradoxical 43-year-old goal of sovereignty-association: Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act. According to the provincial government’s website, “The act allows Alberta to fight harmful federal laws and defend the constitutional federal-provincial division of powers.” Among other things, it allows Alberta’s legislature to debate and pass a motion to the effect that a particular federal policy violates the constitution or harms Alberta in some way. Once the legislature has approved such a motion, it will turn the matter over to the provincial cabinet to take appropriate action.

Read the entire article here.

08 February 2023

MAID and the meaning of suffering

Christian Courier has published my most recent column, titled, MAID and the meaning of suffering, MAID standing for "Medical Assistance in Dying." An excerpt:

We live in confused times. The Government of Canada hosts two websites standing in tension with each other. The first is titled, “Preventing suicide: Warning signs and how to help.” It lists the phone numbers of crisis centres and offers advice for helping those at risk. It then lists the websites of other agencies and of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. So far so good.

The second website is titled, “Medical assistance in dying,” otherwise known by its acronym MAID. It describes the amendments to the Criminal Code mandated by the Supreme Court’s Carter decision (2015) permitting assisted suicide. It then proceeds to tell us who can offer this service to those wishing to end their earthly journeys.

It is difficult to know what to make of such an obvious contradiction. On the one hand, Ottawa is reaching out to save lives. On the other, it appears to facilitate the taking of life. Which is it?

Read the entire article here.

06 February 2023

Rethinking NATO's role

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, known as NATO (OTAN in French), is arguably the most successful military alliance in history. Founded in 1949, it brought together Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States into a defence pact aimed primarily at containing the Soviet Union. At the end of the Second World War, Moscow had moved into the heart of Europe, occupying a large swathe of territory extending from the Baltic to the Black Seas, stopping short of the Mediterranean. In the countries it occupied, it set up communist governments and made them clients of the Soviet Union.

27 January 2023

'Citizenship Without Illusions': contract signed and book forthcoming

I am pleased to report that on 20 January I signed a contract with InterVarsity Press, publisher of my first book, Political Visions and Illusions, to write a new book under the provisional title, "Citizenship Without Illusions." In effect, this new work is a sequel to the earlier one, and I plan to draw out some of its practical implications for ordinary Christians wishing to live out their citizenship in a way that honours God and serves their neighbours. The idea for this book was suggested to me by my good friend Bruce Ashford in a phone conversation a few years ago, and I decided to take it up. Like my first two books, this too grows out of three decades of teaching political science to undergraduate students at a Christian university here in Canada.

An American virus infects Brazil: Christian Courier

Christian Courier has picked up my recent post on the copy-cat uprising in Brasília earlier this month: An American virus infects Brazil. An excerpt:

Brazil has now experienced six republics, one more than France’s post-1789 five. Because its current constitution is still young, its institutions remain vulnerable to occasional outbreaks of political instability. Under such conditions, loyalty to the constitution may take a back seat to partisan allegiances in the hearts of many Brazilians. If your favoured party or candidate pushes an ideological narrative which you support, you may come to look at the constitution and its mandated procedures as obstacles to its implementation.

Read the rest of the article here.

13 January 2023

January newsletter posted

I have now posted my newsletter for January 2023. Among other things, I have received good news from InterVarsity Press concerning my next book project. Read all about it here.

11 January 2023

An American virus infects Brazil

No, this is not about COVID or some other physical malady. It's about how excessive political polarization is negatively affecting two of the world's largest democracies in a way that threatens to erode their political institutions.

The United States has one of the oldest functioning constitutional documents in the world dating back to 1787, when its founders negotiated a political union of thirteen states based on a federal division of powers with sovereignty at each level divided among legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Americans in turn borrowed many of their institutions from the centuries-old English and later British constitution, in which a balanced power-sharing arrangement among King, Lords, and Commons developed, not by deliberate design, but out of the vicissitudes of history.

09 January 2023

Gorbachev, Putin, and the toxic cycle of Russian leadership

At the end of August of last year, I briefly noted the death of Mikhail Gorbachev and promised to comment further on his legacy. However, the death of the Queen days later delayed my fulfilment of that promise as the world's attention focussed on the legacy of Britain and Canada's longest reigning monarch. However, as we approach the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, I believe it is time to return to Russia, whose troubled history has negatively affected, not only its own people, but its neighbours as well.

For centuries Russian leadership has vacillated between seemingly good rulers bent on reform and tyrannical rulers bent on holding the line with, if necessary, methods ranging from the harsh to the cruel. We all remember Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584), the grand prince of Moscow who became Russia's first tsar. Putting an end to the last remnants of Mongol rule, Ivan expanded his country's territory into a vast Eurasian empire, but at the cost of many lives. He managed to murder his own son and heir, Ivan Ivanovich, and effectively killed off his own Ryurik dynasty, leading directly to the Time of Troubles between 1598 and 1613, when the first Romanov came to the throne. After this pivotal period in its history, Russia would see its leadership occupied by several more seemingly vicious rulers, during the tsarist, Soviet, and post-Soviet eras.

19 December 2022

Incarnation and renewal

My December column for Christian Courier has been posted here: Incarnation and renewal, with this subtitle: "Christ took on our perishable flesh to redeem us for an imperishable life with him in his coming kingdom." An excerpt:

As I approach age 68, I am increasingly aware of the fragility of our earthly existence and that our years on God’s earth are limited. My father has been gone for two years. His younger sister died in October at age 90 . . . . Since May I have suffered from severe shoulder pain that is limiting my activities . . . . Moreover, I find November and December depressing months, with darkness enveloping our northern hemispheric latitude for so many hours each day. In such circumstances, it is easy to become discouraged.

Nevertheless, as a cradle Christian, I, along with the rest of the church, have rehearsed the redemptive story embedded in the church calendar for nearly three score years and ten – so many times that by now its cyclical patterns have become a source of comfort and stability. 

Read the entire article here.

16 December 2022

Socialism and pluriformity

Two months ago I mentioned that I would be writing a series of short articles on political ideologies for the Politics Network of UCCF: The Christian Unions in the United Kingdom. The first was titled, Understanding Liberal Mythology, and was posted in October. Now the second piece in the series has appeared and is called, Socialism and Pluriformity. An excerpt:

What is socialism? It is a political ideology that aims to equalize the enjoyment of economic resources across a society, thereby eliminating the ancient cleavage between rich and poor. This would be done by everyone pooling their resources instead of each person claiming exclusive ownership over a portion. In other words, common property would replace private property. Under this arrangement, each person would work to produce the wealth that would go into a common pot, refraining from making a particular claim to the fruits of their labours. As the pot would be continually filled and refilled, any members of the community could draw from it to meet their own needs . . . .

However, the larger a community becomes, the more difficult it is to carry this out in the same way. Why?

Read the entire article to find out.

15 December 2022

December newsletter: World Cup edition

My latest Global Scholars newsletter is now posted: DECEMBER 2022 newsletter: World Cup edition. How is my work relevant to the World Cup? Read and see for yourself. And while you are at it, please consider making a year-end donation so I can continue my work. Thanks so much in advance!

Incidentally, I've been informed by people in the know that my position on the alternate Brazilian team is not goalie but striker, "perhaps an even more prestigious position considering that is who scores many of the goals." I suppose I do tend to underestimate myself!

09 December 2022

CARE UK event

As I did around this time last year, I had another great conversation today with the current group of young people in the CARE Leadership Programme in the United Kingdom. CARE stands for Christian Action, Research, and Education. The website describes the programme:

The Leadership Programme provides talented Christian graduates, who have a desire to serve the Lord in public life, the opportunity to experience a year in Parliament or a policy-shaping NGO.

For four days a week, graduates are placed with a Parliamentarian or in an NGO, helping with speech writing, research, advocacy and public relations. Most internships are London-based, but we also offer Parliamentary placements in Edinburgh at the Scottish Parliament and occasionally media and business placements. This eleven month educational programme provides a unique insight into Parliament and how it works . . . .

Additionally, for one day a week, graduates participate in an intensive study programme that includes theology, political theory and training in leadership skills.

Included in their studies is my book, Political Visions and Illusions, about which they posed some great questions for our discussion. I pray that God will bless these young people as they seek to serve him and their fellow citizens.

08 December 2022

ANAJURE lecture and discussion

Last evening I was privileged to address remotely a group of Brazilians at the invitation of Gabriel Dayan Stevão de Matos, executive director of Associação Nacional de Juristas Evangélicos (ANAJURE), or the National Association of Evangelical Jurists. My talk was on the relationship between ideology and idolatry, and it was followed by questions from the participants.

As always, I was overwhelmed by the expressions of appreciation for my work and for my participation in this event. I was particularly moved by a prayer for me at the end of the event. May God bless the people of Brazil, and may he continue to advance his kingdom in that beautiful country.

Aqui está uma descrição em português:

02 December 2022

A mystical faith

Christian Courier has published my recent column titled, A mystical faith, with this subtitle: "Our approach to God must always be accompanied by the humble recognition that he deserves our worship." An excerpt:

No one has ever accused me of being a mystic. For one thing, I don’t dress the part. No flowing robes or beard down to the belly. Corduroy trousers and tweed jackets are my style. But even apart from sartorial evidence, my writings show few signs of flirting with mysticism. I love the carefully constructed logical argument, whose symmetry I find deeply satisfying – even beautiful!

Nevertheless, I have always known that mystery accompanies faith in the God who created us and saved us through Jesus Christ. Part of this may flow from my paternal Orthodox roots, but even a Reformed Christian upbringing made me aware of God’s presence in a way that defies explanation.

Does that make me a mystic? Read the entire article here to find out.

01 December 2022

Byzantine Calvinist Commentary 1: nondenominational churches and the liberal narrative

Beginning this week, I will periodically be uploading video commentaries on various issues, some relevant to politics and others more generally relevant to the life in Christ, including the church. Here is the first in this series, on Nondenominational churches and the liberal narrative, which is a slight reworking of my recent blog post with this title.


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