22 June 2010

June snippets

  • The BBC reports this fascinating discovery: Ancient Egyptian city located in Nile Delta by radar.
    An ancient Egyptian city believed to be Avaris, the capital of the Hyksos people who ruled 3,500 years ago, has been located by radar, Egypt’s culture ministry says. . . . A team of Austrian archaeologists used radar imaging to find the underground outlines of the city in the Nile Delta, a now densely populated area. The Hyksos were foreign occupiers from Asia who ruled Egypt for a century. Avaris was their summer capital, near what is now the town of Tal al-Dabaa.

    Might this Hyksos period in Egyptian history correspond in the biblical narrative (Genesis 41-50) to the time when Joseph and his Hebrew family had gained a privileged position in that country?

  • Has Québec Premier Maurice Duplessis, who dominated his province for a generation, been given a bum rap? Conrad Black, languishing in a minimum security facility near Orlando, Florida, thinks so: Re-examining the roots of Quebec's 'Quiet Revolution.' While many people tend to think of Duplessis as an old-fashioned autocrat keeping the province in the dark ages, Black disagrees:
    With a little research, I discovered that Quebec had made the greatest economic and social progress in its history under Duplessis and that his era was the only one in which the average per capita income of Quebec actually gained on Ontario's. He had the most advanced pension regime and daycare system in Canada, and built most of Quebec's universities, 3,000 schools, and the autoroute system, while reducing taxes and provincial debt. He extended electricity to rural Quebec, and, of course, took back from Ottawa, Quebec's rights over direct taxes.

  • At Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, the inaugural meeting of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) is taking place this week. This organization brings together two predecessor ecumenical organizations, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) and the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC). The Presbyterian Church in Canada has been a member of the former, while the Christian Reformed Church has been part of both and a founding member of the latter, once known as the Reformed Ecumenical Synod. The Acton Institute's Jordan Ballor expresses his view on the new body's social vision, as articulated in the Accra Confession: Unity or Unanimity at Reformed Council? Jeffrey Japinga responds to Ballor: Intersection of economics and faith is valid subject for church council, to which Ballor replies: Confessing the Wrong Side. This is an exchange worth following.

  • With the Uniting General Council of the new WCRC still in progress, I will not speculate as to the status of statements and documents previously adopted by the predecessor organizations. That said, if the Accra Confession does indeed represent the social witness of the converging bodies, it is worth commenting on, because it is not dissimilar to other statements approved by denominational and ecumenical bodies alike. At some point I will write more fully about the Accra Confession. For the moment I will simply indicate two areas of agreement and two reservations I have with the statement, beginning with the former. First, I applaud the document for recognizing that the Christian faith has social, economic and political implications. Second, it is correct to note that God is a God of justice. Now the down side. First, I agree with Ballor that engaging in policy debates in the public square is not the primary task of the institutional church. Second, it's not clear to me that this document should be labelled a confession at all. More to come.

  • For those believing, after 9/11, that Islam is on the march, the following American Thinker report may come as a surprise: Six million African Muslims leave Islam per year. Could the militancy of radical islamists be due to their sense of a beleaguered dar al Islam?

  • World Cup hoopla continues around the world. Here in Hamilton the flags I see most are those of Italy and the Netherlands, with an occasional flag from Spain or South Africa. Given my affection for the Genevan Psalms, I have been ever so quietly rooting for Switzerland, the land of brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and the cuckoo clock.
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