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.

28 November 2020

J. I. Packer

This past July the distinguished theologian J. I. Packer died just short of his 94th birthday. Read about him here: J.I. Packer: The impact and gift of J.I. Packer's legacy. An excerpt:

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

T. S. Eliot on Christianity in a nonchristian society

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) wrote prophetically more than eight decades ago on a matter of great import for us now, as we attempt to navigate the choppy waters of a society increasingly shaped (and misshapen) by secular redemptive narratives:

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.
Eliot wrote this in Christianity and Culture (1939).

25 November 2020

The Kuyper Prize: David Brooks

New York Times columnist David Brooks was awarded this year's Kuyper Prize, sponsored by Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary. Like most such events this year, this was a virtual event, which we can watch below.

23 November 2020

The cultural influence of missionaries

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

Political illusions in Brazil

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

Providence review

Matthew Ng reviews the second edition of my first book in Providence Magazine: The Political Idols of Our Age: A Review of David Koyzis’ Political Visions and Illusions. An excerpt:

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

Meu amado Brasil (em português)

Muitas das minhas palestras e aulas recentes foram ligadas ao Brasil, o que levou alguns espectadores a se perguntarem como me tornei tão profundamente envolvido com seu povo, especialmente com a crescente população evangélica. Aqui está, então, o relato do meu atual romance – essa palavra é muito forte? – com um país notável que abrange uma parte enorme do continente sul-americano.

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.

Por favor, leia a postagem inteira aqui.


16 November 2020

Today is the day!

Friends and alumni:

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

Trinity Western Chapel: Job 11

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.

11 November 2020

For love of Brazil

Next week I will be launching my Global Scholars Canada fundraising campaign to support my educational and research activities, which are increasingly taking on global dimensions. Here is the story of my relationship with Brazil which has deepened in recent years: Meu amado Brasil. The story can also be found under the PAGES title in the column to the right. From the introductory paragraph:

Many of my recent speaking and teaching engagements have been connected with Brazil, which has prompted some observers to wonder how I became so deeply involved with its people, especially the burgeoning evangelical population. Here then is my account of my ongoing romance (is that too strong a word?) with a remarkable country that spans a huge swath of the South American continent.

Please consider making a regular or one-time contribution to my ongoing work as a Global Scholar by clicking here. Thank you for your support.

10 November 2020

Ilusões Políticas no Brasil

No dia 21 de novembro estarei participando do evento "Ilusões Políticas no Brasil", promovido pela Associação Reformada de Cultura e Ação Política.

On 21 November I will be participating in this event, "Political Illusions in Brazil," sponsored by the Reformed Association of Culture and Political Action.

05 November 2020

Oak Centre conversation

Yesterday afternoon I was privileged to talk with a group right here in Hamilton sponsored by the Oak Centre for Studies in Faith and Culture, organized by my friend Don McNally. The invitation was originally for me to join the group in person at their downtown venue, but due to my 14-day mandatory quarantine, I had to settle for speaking with them remotely. By the way, I will be out of quarantine tomorrow at last. 

04 November 2020

Common Good conversation, version 3.0

Today I had another great conversation with the exceedingly affable Ian Simkins and Brian From on "the Common Good" over Chicago radio station WYLL, AM 1160. Here is the link: Guest: David Koyzis Author and Political Scientist - Post Election - November 4, 2020.

03 November 2020

Colonial Nigeria

Theodore in Kano, Nigeria
Last month I travelled to the United States to sort through my late father's office. While there I found a fascinating account of his years in British-ruled Nigeria some seven decades ago. I thought it worth posting here. He wrote this in 2010.

When I was 18 years old, I left Cyprus, my birthplace, for Benin City, NIGERIA, then a British colony, to take over a company owned by a family friend who was old and ready to retire. There were only forty families of white Europeans in Benin then, and they all lived a lonely, miserable and separate existence from the Nigerian natives.

From the first day of my arrival there, I noticed that the Europeans did not treat the natives fairly and humanly. They paid them very low wages, exploited them in every way possible and kept a social and cultural separation from them, something which I, the youngest of all the businessmen there, considered both cruel and ignorant. Understandably, I embarked on an endless campaign of heated and deliberate discussions whenever and wherever the occasion arrived.

Although privately several of the men and most of the women would agree with me, openly nobody would join or even support me during open discussions at dinners or other social gatherings restricted to Whites only. After six months in Benin City, I accepted an offer from a leading Greek businessman to join his organization and soon moved first to Lagos where I stayed for six months, then went North to Kano, Nigeria, where I spent two more years before I came to the United States.

Nigeria became independent in 1960, nearly a decade after my father left the territory to study in the States.

02 November 2020

Genevan Psalter pages

Although I do not generally mention my other blog, The Genevan Psalter, here, I will nevertheless advise readers that I have restored several pages from my former Genevan Psalter website including the following:

Those wishing to be informed of further updates are welcome to click the follow button in the right hand column. You may also wish to join the Lovers of Metrical Psalmody Facebook group. When requesting admission, please be sure to answer the questions posed. Thanks.

29 October 2020

Why do white Christians vote Republican and black Christians vote Democrat?

Here's a fascinating historical analysis of the different voting patterns of two groups of American Christians. And, yes, this is the same Phil Vischer who created VeggieTales.

28 October 2020

Dooyeweerd on racial ideology in the churches

Here is a great quotation from philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977) chastising the German churches for allowing themselves to be co-opted by the racial ideology of the new National Socialist government:

The Church has already expunged its inviolable boundaries opposite the state, it has already accepted a violation in principle of its essential character by tying itself, albeit under the protest of a significant minority [perhaps a reference to those who would sign the Barmen Declaration the following year], to the racial foundation of the new German political order. . . . But the Christian church cannot accept being tied to a 'racial theory.' It cannot without committing spiritual suicide, depart from the teaching of the Gospel that in Christ there can be no distinction between the Greek and the Jew. Certainly this equality in Christ does not exclude any and every temporary inequality in social life. Yet the church is the congregation of Christ and not a state writ small. A fundamental principle of the new political order is that the Church may not participate in politics! Well then, let the Church not follow the 'racial politics' of the new political order. Let it maintain without compromise its 'sphere-sovereignty' in its own spiritual fundamental structure, a 'sphere-sovereignty' that it does not derive from the state but from the grace of God!
-- Herman Dooyeweerd, "De grondwet van de nieuwe Duitsche Evangelische Kerk en de positie der gereformeerden in de 'Landskerken'" (1933)

27 October 2020

All Things & Solid Rock: McMaster & Mohawk

At the invitation of Michael Fallon, the Christian Reformed Church in North America's chaplain at McMaster University and Mohawk College, I was privileged last week to speak and converse online with his two student groups, All Things and Solid Rock, on the subject of "Unmasking Our Political Illusions." One day, after the current pandemic has passed, it would be wonderful to spend time in person with this and similar groups. May God hasten the day!

25 October 2020

Sermon mention

This morning at Parkside Church near Cleveland, Ohio, Pastor Dan Schillero preached a sermon on James, chapter 1. Towards the end he mentioned my book, Political Visions and Illusions. I've set it so it begins at this point, but do go back and listen to the entire sermon, which is worthwhile.


24 October 2020

Introdução a Dooyeweerd

Acabo de postar uma tradução do meu ensaio introdutório ao pensamento político de Herman Dooyeweerd nas páginas do meu blog. Agradeço a Matheus Thiago C. Mendonça e Lucas Oliveira Vianna pelo empenho.

I have just posted a Portuguese translation of my Introductory Essay to Herman Dooyeweerd's Political Thought on my blog. Thanks are due to Matheus Thiago C. Mendonça and Lucas Oliveira Vianna for their efforts.

21 October 2020

Preparing for leadership

Recent correspondence with a colleague prompted me to revisit an article I wrote back in 2007: Making the Most of College: Preparing for Leadership. An excerpt:

So how should you, as an undergraduate student, go about preparing for focused political service or, more modestly, for responsible citizenship? First and foremost, take advantage of the academic resources available where you are. Attend classes, not merely to fulfil requirements, but to enter into an ongoing conversation transcending the course you are in at the moment. Plato's celebrated dialogue, The Republic, tells the story of what must have been an all-night exchange between Socrates and several friends over the nature of justice. Of course, the dialogue eventually comes to an end, but the larger conversation it sparked has continued in some fashion and in many settings for two-and-a-half millennia. We are still arguing and debating about justice, and we are unlikely to give it up this side of the Second Advent . . . .

No matter what sort of university you are enrolled in: Read! Read everything you can get your hands on, especially works addressing the larger questions of political life. Start with Plato and Aristotle. Read the Bible on justice and political authority. Grapple with Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. Wrestle with Machiavelli and Hobbes. Enter into the worlds of Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and Marx. And, although you may not find such writings in a "Great Books" programme, read Christian political thinkers like Abraham Kuyper, Herman Dooyeweerd, James W. Skillen, Paul Marshall, and Bob Goudzwaard to acquire a firm grounding in a biblical approach to politics.

Common Good conversation, version 2.0

Yesterday I was interviewed once again by Ian Simkins and Brian From on "the Common Good" over Chicago radio station WYLL, AM 1160. Here is the link to what I found to be a thoroughly enjoyable conversation: Guest: Dr. David Koyzis, Author and Political Scientist - Political Ideologies - October 20, 2020.

19 October 2020

The Perception Gap

Those concerned about political polarization in the United States will want to take a look at this study: The Perception Gap, sponsored by More in Common as the third of their Hidden Tribes of America studies. From the findings:

To learn how well Americans understand each other, we partnered with global research firm YouGov to survey 2,100 Americans. On issues including climate change, patriotism, sexual assault, police conduct and more, we asked Americans what they themselves believed and what they estimated people on the other side believed. We were then able to calculate the difference between the predictions and reality.

The conclusion? Americans have a deeply distorted understanding of each other. We call this America’s “Perception Gap”. Overall, Democrats and Republicans imagine almost twice as many of their political opponents as reality hold views they consider “extreme”. Even on the most controversial issues in our national debates, Americans are less divided than most of us think. This is good news for those worried about the character of this country. The majority of Americans hold views that may not be so different from your own.

16 October 2020

Americans to the Polls

My latest column appears this week in the new issue of Christian Courier: Americans to the Polls, subtitled, "A party system that is broken and a constitutional tradition whose edges are beginning to unravel." An excerpt:

Next month Americans return to the polls to elect a president and vice-president, members of Congress, and host of state- and county-level officials. They do so at a time of unprecedented crisis for the country. What happens on 3 November will have an impact on its future as we enter the third decade of this century. The issues range from the government’s inept handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, an economy crippled by months of quarantine, the consequent spike in unemployment rates, racial division, unrest in the streets of several major cities, and a vacuum in effective leadership at the top. But above all, the United States will have to deal with a party system that is broken and a constitutional tradition whose edges are beginning to unravel.

Read the entire column here.

15 October 2020

Dooyeweerd introduction

I have just posted my Introductory Essay to Herman Dooyeweerd's Thought on my blogger pages. An earlier version of this appeared in an edited volume of Dooyeweerd's political writings in 2004, as indicated at the bottom of the text. Here is an excerpt:

The difficulty with engaging one of these [modal] reductionisms in dialogue is due, not to the supposed irrationality of the reductionist, but to the fact that her enterprise accounts for all the evidence in a way that seems to be complete but is nevertheless missing something rather crucial. The convinced materialist can easily explain such complex phenomena as anger or even romantic affection by pointing to the movement of electrical impulses through the brain . . . . In this respect, the materialist is similar to G.K. Chesterton’s “madman,” who reasons in a way that combines logical completeness with spiritual contraction. If the madman argues that there is a universal conspiracy against him, and if you point out that everyone denies it, he is likely to reply that denial is exactly what one can expect from conspirators. “His explanation covers the facts as much as yours.” As Chesterton memorably concludes, the madman is not the one who has lost his reason, but the one “who has lost everything except his reason.” Dooyeweerd would put the matter less colourfully perhaps, but he would agree that the materialist, who sees the entire cosmos through the narrow lenses of only one or two modal aspects, has missed the fulness of human life, if not experientially, at least theoretically.

Dooyeweerd is best known for his account of the modal aspects of reality. Read this essay to find out what they are.

(Re)integrate podcast

I was recently interviewed by Bob Robinson and Brendan Romigh on the (re)integrate podcast. Click here to listen: Political Ideologies That Become Idolatries – with David Koyzis.


14 October 2020

Who's oppressing whom?


The Cateclesia Institute has published my article, Who's Oppressing Whom? Sin, Oppression, and Forgiveness. An excerpt:

In the real world, as we relate to each other on a daily basis, we will quickly discover that the title oppressor cannot be easily assigned to a particular group of people, primarily because this status will not hold still. As soon as we think we have identified and labelled the oppressors, something happens to upend our conclusions. Those victimized in the past turn right around and victimize others. Once the party claiming to represent the working class has overturned its capitalist overlords, it begins to persecute dissidents and those it deems to be obstructing the new order’s arrival, irrespective of what they have actually done. In their efforts to build a better world, revolutionaries typically end up turning on their own followers, creating a society more oppressive than the one they overturned.
Read the entire article here.

Note: the map above is of the routes taken by the aboriginal Americans westwards to their new homes in what is now Oklahoma.

Conversation with University of Ottawa students

Last evening I was the guest of Chaplain Sid Ypma at his online student group at the University of Ottawa.

13 October 2020

Veritas Forum interview


This afternoon I took part in a conversation with Erin Dienst of Veritas Forum on my Political Visions and Illusions. Click on this link to view it.

09 October 2020

Video review of Political Visions and Illusions

It's always good to get a positive review of one's books. Here's one by a certain Joel Wentz on the second edition of Political Visions and Illusions


08 October 2020

David Brooks on America's current plight

New York Times columnist David Brooks has written a remarkable article for The Atlantic: America Is Having a Moral Convulsion. Here is what the author does in this article, which I strongly recommend:

This essay is an account of the convulsion that brought us to this fateful moment. Its central focus is social trust. Social trust is a measure of the moral quality of a society—of whether the people and institutions in it are trustworthy, whether they keep their promises and work for the common good. When people in a church lose faith or trust in God, the church collapses. When people in a society lose faith or trust in their institutions and in each other, the nation collapses.

This is an account of how, over the past few decades, America became a more untrustworthy society. It is an account of how, under the stresses of 2020, American institutions and the American social order crumbled and were revealed as more untrustworthy still. We had a chance, in crisis, to pull together as a nation and build trust. We did not. That has left us a broken, alienated society caught in a distrust doom loop.
The Atlantic gives visitors three free articles per month. This should definitely be one of the three.

07 October 2020

The American Political Parties: History, Problems, and Prospects

The Gospel Coalition recently published my article titled, The American Political Parties: History, Problems, and Prospects. Here is an excerpt:

With the demise of the Democratic South, the Democrats became home to a certain brand of progressives—to those wishing to expand the individual right to choose, full stop. Under the choice-enhancement state, the apparatus of government continually expands to enable individual choice, but at the expense of non-state communities with more traditional standards of life and behavior . . . . The Republicans have similarly taken the libertarian element to the nth degree, focusing especially on economic life and the market. Generally skeptical of government regulations, many people in the party seek to unleash what they see as the economic dynamism of the American people, liberated from the heavy hand of government bureaucracy. They’re not departing from the liberal tradition, but they’re attempting to turn back the clock in its development, embracing either the night-watchman state or a modest form of the regulatory state.

Read the entire article here.

05 October 2020

Ashford interview with yours truly

Bruce Ashford, my occasional host at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, has posted an interview with me on the subject of the forthcoming American election: Political Scientist David Koyzis on the 2020 Election Cycle. An excerpt:

What advice would you give Christians in America as they go to the polls?

To those Americans who believe that voting for one party over the other will solve the nation’s problems, I would advise them to lower their expectations. It simply won’t happen. Whichever party wins in November will bring its own considerable flaws to the policy process. However, I suspect that many more Americans recognize that the election presents them with weak options. Their expectations are now so low that they will vote for the party they believe will do less harm to the common welfare. Still others will cast their vote for a third party, such as the American Solidarity Party, which is trying to bring something of the wisdom of the European Christian Democratic experience into the American political landscape. This third option is one I personally find very attractive.

My advice? Cast your vote. Hold your nose if you must. And pray that, whichever candidate makes it to the White House, God will magnify his strengths and diminish the effects of his failings.

Read the rest of the interview here.

03 October 2020

The impact of ideologies on Europe


This week I received a package from Germany containing two copies of this book, Europa, wie hältst du's mit der Religion? (Europe, how do you feel about religion?) My own chapter in this collection is titled, "The religious roots of political ideologies and their impact on Europe." I presented this at a conference in 2018 at the Internationale Hochschule Libenzell, Bad Libenzell, Germany. My contribution is the only one in English in this volume.

29 September 2020

Providence interview

Providence magazine carries a transcript of Mark Tooley's interview with me in July: David Koyzis' Political Visions & Illusions. An excerpt:

TOOLEY: And when you look at Christian, especially evangelical, political engagement today in North America, especially in the United States, from your perspective, what are the positives, and what are the negatives, and where are we heading?

KOYZIS: Well I think the positives are that people have a lot of enthusiasm. I think this is certainly more now than was the case when I was growing up. I think when I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, a lot of evangelicals had more or less withdrawn from social and political life, and they had for about the previous 50 years. I don’t think that could be said today. I think a lot of people are more involved in political affairs than was the case in the past.

But I think the negatives are that this involvement sometimes comes with an unhealthy activism. We want to do something, and we haven’t thought adequately about the foundations that support whatever activity we wish to be involved in. And that can be dangerous, because we can get on the bandwagons, we can follow movements that sound right, but may actually be problematic when you start to dig a little bit deeper into them.

23 September 2020

The Descent of the Post-Modernists

Most of us are too young to remember this famous illustration by E. J. Pace in the 1924 book, Seven Questions in Dispute, by William Jennings Bryan.

Although the confessional liberalism plaguing evangelical protestantism a century ago is still with us in some fashion, it declined precipitously after around 1960, as the denominations most affected by it lost members to more confessional denominations and congregations or to sleeping late on sunday mornings.

However, the current form of "progressive Christianity" is based on similar assumptions about the nature of the Christian faith and the authority of Scripture, but it has led, not to an exaggerated faith in reason and the scientific method as it did in the early 20th century, but to an affirmation of the self and its subjective aspirations. Here is an updated illustration.

17 September 2020

Government's Call to Do Justice

Canadian periodical Faith Today has just published an adapted excerpt from my book Political Visions and Illusions, titled,"Government's Call to Do Justice: How a society can seek justice when there are so many ways to define it." A couple of paragraphs follow:

People seek justice as they understand it, but each nevertheless comes to a different conclusion on what it requires. The consistent liberal will argue that, based on the rights of individuals, no person should be required to join a labour union against her wishes. The socialist, on the other hand, will likely argue that class solidarity must take priority over individual preferences and that compulsory union membership is necessary to protect employees in the workplace. Of course, both cannot be right.

This difference of opinion is complicated by the fact that governing authorities are required to adjudicate, not only the dispute between worker and union, but the clash between liberal and socialist, which is no simple matter, particularly if the government is dominated by a party representing only one of these viewpoints. If government must be evenhanded in its treatment of worker and union, liberal and socialist, it cannot be neutral with respect to which vision of justice will underpin its decision. Yet whatever decision it finally makes, the government will inevitably be exercising its jural task.

16 September 2020

Tribute to my father

My monthly column in the Canadian periodical Christian Courier is devoted to my late father, a "man who survived more than his share of near-death experiences and turned tragedy into poetry." 

Throughout his 92 years he experienced vivid signs of God’s work. Ten years ago, he survived a lightning strike on the car he was driving, and five years ago he and my mother miraculously walked away unscathed from a serious automobile accident. So many times did such events happen to him that we sometimes thought him immortal. He was not, of course. But when God saw fit to draw his years to a close last month, we were thankful for a life well lived, confident that we will meet him again at the resurrection of the righteous.

10 September 2020

Visões e Ilusões Política: A série está completa

O Pastor Vitor Grando, da Igreja Presbiteriana do Bairro Imperial, Rio de Janeiro, completou o seu ciclo de conferências sobre o meu livro Visões e Ilusões Políticas. Essas palestras são postadas no canal da igreja no YouTube. A playlist começa aqui.

 Pastor Vitor Grando, of the Igreja Presbiteriana do Bairro Imperial, Rio de Janeiro, has completed his series of lectures on my book, Political Visions and Illusions. These lectures are posted on the church's YouTube channel. The playlist begins here.

08 September 2020

Intellectuals and the totalitarian temptation

Hannah Arendt
Last week I posted one of Hannah Arendt's examinations from 1955, and one question in particular intrigued me: "Explain why intellectuals can be attracted by a totalitarian ideology."

This is something that has perplexed many observers over the past century. From Martin Heidegger's positive estimation of national socialism to Jean-Paul Sartre's early flirtation with communism, many of the most influential philosophers and writers have flirted with an ideology that promises redemption and uses any means to achieve it, however costly in human terms. Sartre himself became disillusioned by Moscow's crushing of Hungary in 1956 but continued to advocate some form of socialist revolution in his later years.


Jean Francesco reviews my first book: "This book, in my opinion, is the best book for Christians . . . on politics." Muito obrigado, irmão! 


04 September 2020

The Common Good interview: WYLL Chicago

 This week I was interviewed by Ian Simkins and Brian From on "the Common Good" over Chicago radio station WYLL, AM 1160. It has now been posted here: Guest: David Koyzis, Author - Political Visions & Illusions: A Survey & Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies - September 2, 2020.

03 September 2020

Dooyeweerd and Political life (Dooyeweerd e a vida política)

Several weeks ago I was privileged to give an address to an online gathering of Direito Reformacional in Brazil. Arthur Loureiro was my host, and Vinícius Pimentel was translator. The lecture runs from the beginning of this video to around 40 minutes.


01 September 2020

Hannah Arendt's exam questions

Someone recently posted this on Facebook, purporting it to be a final examination from one of Hannah Arendt's (1906-1975) courses at the University of California at Berkeley. I cannot imagine she would have been an easy marker.

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:


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.


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Contact at: dtkoyzis at gmail dot com