04 July 2022

An era of good feelings

Christian Courier has published my latest column here: An era of good feelings, with the subtitle: "Happiness vs. joy: what's the difference?" Here is an excerpt:

The concern for human happiness is by no means new; Aristotle affirmed it as the proper end of human life. Aristotle, however, identified happiness with living a life of virtue, not with cheerful emotions.

What is new is the identification of happiness with feeling good about oneself. The slightest dip in one’s self-esteem is increasingly regarded as a crisis needing to be addressed and resolved, probably through some form of therapy combined with social approbation. Suffering, and even mere inconvenience, are rendered meaningless, regarded as the deprivation of a good life. Sadly, even Christians have imbibed this worldview. Many Christians effectively subordinate the authority of God’s word to their personal aspirations, diminishing the seriousness of our sinful proclivities and with them Christ’s sacrifice to atone for our sins.

Read the entire article here, and don't forget to subscribe to Christian Courier.

01 July 2022

Reflections on Dobbs, part 3: Planned Parenthood v Casey

In 1992 abortion again came before the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v Casey. The Encyclopaedia Britannica's entry describes the circumstances leading up to the case:

In 1988 and 1989 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, led by Governor Robert Casey, enacted new abortion statutes that required that a woman seeking an abortion give her informed consent, that a minor seeking an abortion obtain parental consent (the provision included a judicial waiver option), that a married woman notify her husband of her intended abortion, and, finally, that clinics provide certain information to a woman seeking an abortion and wait 24 hours before performing the abortion. Before any of these laws could take effect, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania brought suit against the governor, protesting the constitutionality of the statutes.

28 June 2022

Visões e Ilusões Políticas: uma resenha

 Willian Orlandi fala sobre o meu livro:


Reichow, Reform Your Mind

I recently received a copy of this book by Josué Reichow, Reform Your Mind: The Christian Philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd, published by the Cántaro Institute, for which I was privileged to write a foreword.

Of special interest to North Americans will be chapter 5, in which he discusses the reception of Dooyeweerd's philosophy in Brazil.

The book can be purchased from the publisher and from the usual online vendors.

27 June 2022

Reflections on Dobbs, part 2: 'rights talk' and partisan polarization

If the US Supreme Court had not made its Roe v Wade decision, abortion would have remained a matter for the individual states to decide. Whether a national pro-life movement would have arisen is difficult to say, but pro-lifers would have had to wage their political battles in each of the fifty state legislatures. In any event, a pro-life movement did indeed gain momentum, and the court's 1973 decision effectively exacerbated the deepening divisions in society over the issue. Because of the nature of the political process and because legislatures are able to put together carefully balanced compromises that at least minimally take into account the concerns of all sides, there is a good chance that everyone will come to own that decision for themselves, even if they are not completely satisfied with it.

24 June 2022

Reflections on Dobbs, part 1: creating and overturning precedents

I was in my final year of high school when the United States Supreme Court handed down its controversial Roe v Wade decision, declaring a constitutional right to abortion and unifying the abortion licence across the country. To understand the significance of that decision, we need to recall that, unlike Canada which has a single Criminal Code applicable to the entire country, the Constitution of the United States reserves most of the criminal law to the individual states under the 10th Amendment. This is why, for example, the death penalty is still practised in some states and not in others. Prior to 22 January 1973, the legal status of abortion varied amongst the several states, with some being more permissive than others. After that date, the states were obligated to recognize a woman's right to abortion according to a trimester framework. In the first trimester, a woman's right to abortion was absolute. In the second, the state might regulate but not prohibit abortion. In the third, after the foetus was assumed to be viable, the state could prohibit abortion except in cases where the mother's health is at risk.

22 June 2022

Gareth Jones and the crimes of Stalin

Three years ago I read a review of a recently released film, Mr. Jones, and I looked forward to seeing it in the cinema or at home. This past weekend we discovered that it is now being streamed over Amazon Prime and decided to watch it.

Mr. Jones was directed by Agnieszka Holland and tells the story of Welsh journalist Gareth Jones (1905-1935), who uncovered the truth about Josef Stalin's disastrous effort to collectivize agriculture in Ukraine and elsewhere, leading to mass starvation. Holland is a Polish film director and screenwriter whose family background in communist Poland and, before that, under nazi occupation has uniquely positioned her to tell the story of someone attempting to communicate truth in the midst of the ideological distortions of the day.

15 June 2022

June newsletter posted

Here is my latest Global Scholars newsletter: June 2022 newsletter.

13 June 2022

Fe Pública Chile interview

Following the publication of the Brazilian edition of Political Visions and Illusions, I received many invitations to speak to Brazilian groups, the vast majority of which have taken place online. With the release of the Spanish-language edition by Teología para Vivir, my first interview relevant to a Spanish-speaking country took place on the first of the month. Under the auspices of Fe Pública Chile, I was interviewed by Luis Pino, of Santiago's Iglesia Presbiteriana Puente de Vida, with Jonathan Muñoz serving as translator. The interview can be seen below:

Healing comes with the sabbath

The Scriptures record that Jesus healed on the sabbath on seven occasions. Why did he do so? Was it simply to counter the legalism of the Jewish religious leaders? Perhaps, but I believe something more significant is at work in these episodes, as explained in an article just published in Cateclesia Forum: Healing Comes with the Sabbath. An excerpt:

God has built into his creation an eschatological destiny to be accomplished at Christ’s return when he establishes his kingdom in a new heaven and new earth. This is when the biblical sixth day, referred to in Genesis 1:24–31, yields to the seventh day when God rests from his work and his elect enter with him into that rest. The entire redemptive story laid out in Scripture points to this as our ultimate hope. At that hour, in the fulness of God’s time, our work in his creation will find its fulfilment and commendation, much as the law itself will be fulfilled.

If we look at Jesus’ miracles in light of this sabbatarian reading of Scripture, they come to appear less like protests against legalism and more like an affirmation of the centrality of sabbath to the biblical story.

Read the entire article here.

06 June 2022

Excellent sheep

During my three decades of teaching, I witnessed generational changes in the students I taught. For example, I noticed an improvement in legibility of handwriting as printing and typing replaced cursive script, but this also meant that students wrote more slowly on examinations and thus produced less. Other things have changed as well, as William Deresiewicz points out in this intriguing article: We Aren't Raising Adults. We Are Breeding Very Excellent Sheep. At one time universities in North America operated in loco parentis with respect to their students, who were considered minors until age 21. This relationship was mostly abolished by the end of the 1960s when the age of majority was typically reduced to 18. However, have our universities subtly re-embraced their in loco parentis status in recent years? And have the students themselves been behind this? That's what Deresiewicz argues. Here is an excerpt:

03 June 2022

Visiones e Ilusiones Políticas: copy received

Yesterday I found a package in our mail box containing a copy of Visiones e Ilusiones Políticas, the Spanish translation of Political Visions and Illusions. It is a hefty hard-bound volume numbering 420 pages with the index. The translator is Juan M. Londoño. Published by Teología para Vivir in Lima, Peru, the volume was manufactured in Monee, Illinois, in the fifth-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world.

Ayer encontré un paquete en nuestro buzón que contenía una copia de Visiones e Ilusiones Políticas, la traducción al español de Political Visions and Illusions. Es un voluminoso volumen encuadernado de 420 páginas con el índice. El traductor es Juan M. Londoño. Publicado por Teología para Vivir en Lima, Perú, el volumen fue elaborado en Monee, Illinois, en el quinto país de habla hispana más grande del mundo.

Ontem encontrei um pacote em nossa caixa de correio contendo uma cópia de Visiones e Ilusiones Políticas, a tradução em espanhol de Political Visions and Illusions. É um volume robusto encadernado numerando 420 páginas com o índice. O tradutor é Juan M. Londoño. Publicado pela Teología para Vivir em Lima, Peru, o volume foi fabricado em Monee, Illinois, no quinto maior país de língua espanhola do mundo.

26 May 2022

Cyprus 1974 and Ukraine 2022

Here is my latest in Christian Courier: Cyprus 1974 and Ukraine 2022. An excerpt:

Throughout the past months, I have sat through the grisly footage on television, often breaking into tears at the sight of what Russian troops are doing to innocent civilians. I cannot fathom why they would think they are in the right, but they have the tacit blessing of the odious Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, who refuses to discipline his most powerful parishioner for his crimes. As in Cyprus, many Ukrainians are refugees in their own country, and many may never return to their homes, if they are still standing.

Read the entire article here.

Disciplining political leaders

A new post of mine appears in Kuyperian Commentary: Disciplining political leaders. This is in response to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone barring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from receiving the Lord's Supper. An excerpt:

Although I am not a member of Cordileone’s communion, I do not believe that he exceeds his legitimate authority over one of his flock. Of course, no church should pretend to instruct public officials who are members which policies they should be pursuing. This is one of the points I make in a “Concluding Ecclesiological Postscript,” which I appended to the second edition of Political Visions and Illusions. The institutional church does not possess the normative competence to pronounce on the specifics of concrete policies, although many denominational bodies routinely take positions on controversial matters over which there is legitimate disagreement, even among Christians. But the church, as a particular differentiated institution with its own divinely-appointed task, does indeed bear responsibility for disciplining its members, whether or not they hold public office. In fact, the Belgic Confession states that one of the marks of the true church is that “it practices church discipline for correcting faults.”

Read the entire post here.

24 May 2022

Let the People Praise: The Enduring Legacy of the Genevan Psalter

Last wednesday afternoon, 18 May, I delivered this lecture at Calvin University, Grand Rapids, Michigan, titled: "Let the People Praise: The Enduring Legacy of the Genevan Psalter." This was to mark the 40th anniversary of the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies. I was pleased to see so many familiar and unfamiliar faces there. For those unable to attend, here is a recording of the lecture.

 This is cross posted to my Genevan Psalter blog, where I have added links to the videos which could not be easily heard in the recording of the lecture.

17 May 2022

Federal Liberals to discriminate against pro-lifers

Adrian Wyld/CP
Sad to say, Canada's federal Liberal Party under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is asking the Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland to "[i]ntroduce amendments to the Income Tax Act to make anti-abortion organizations that provide dishonest counselling to pregnant women about their rights and options ineligible for charitable status." Why does he consider such counselling "dishonest"? Because their staff discourage such women from aborting their unborn babies. Writing for Policy Options, Andreae Sennyah explains the injustice of such a policy: The Liberal politicization of charitable status. An excerpt:

16 May 2022

Lord Acton on religious freedom

For all his accomplishments, John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, or Lord Acton, is popularly known for a single aphorism: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely"--which is usually pulled from its context. Let me draw your attention to something else that Acton wrote in "The Protestant Theory of Persecution" (The Rambler, March 1862), in which he penned the following paragraph:

Civil and religious liberty are so commonly associated in people’s mouths, and are so rare in fact, that their definition is evidently as little understood as the principle of their connection. The point at which they unite, the common root from which they derive their sustenance, is the right of self-government. The modern theory, which has swept away every authority except that of the State, and has made the sovereign power irresistible by multiplying those who share it, is the enemy of that common freedom in which religious freedom is included. It condemns, as a State within the State, every inner group and community, class or corporation, administering its own affairs; and, by proclaiming the abolition of privileges, it emancipates the subjects of every such authority in order to transfer them exclusively to its own. It recognises liberty only in the individual, because it is only in the individual that liberty can be separated from authority, and the right of conditional obedience deprived of the security of a limited command. Under its sway, therefore, every man may profess his own religion more or less freely; but his religion is not free to administer its own laws. In other words, religious profession is free, but Church government is controlled. And where ecclesiastical authority is restricted, religious liberty is virtually denied.

Given the powerful influence of liberalism in the western world, we increasingly face a version of religious freedom that isolates the person of faith from her faith community, ostensibly making her sovereign over her own spirituality, but effectively empowering the state at the expense of both individual and the community of which she is part. Acton clearly recognized the perils of a religious liberty interpreted through individualist lenses more than a century and a half ago. The peril is with us still.

13 May 2022

Hazony on family

Yoram Hazony is one of the more intriguing political philosophers writing today. Three years ago I reviewed the Israeli scholar's book, The Virtue of Nationalism, here: Is Nationalism Worth Defending? Now he has come out with a book titled, Conservatism: A Rediscovery. Among the topics he treats therein is the family, and Unherd has just published an excerpt here: The nuclear family has failed. Hazony argues that the contemporary nuclear family, consisting of husband, wife, and children, is not identical to a traditional family that once existed before the two global wars of the 20th century. According to Hazony,

the nuclear family is a weakened and much diminished version of the traditional family, one that is lacking most of the resources needed effectively to pursue the purposes of the traditional family. When this conception of the family became normative in America and elsewhere after the Second World War, it gave birth to a world of detached suburban homes connected to distant places of employment and schools by trains, automobiles, and buses. In other words, the physical design of large portions of the country reflected a newly rationalised conception of what a family is.

11 May 2022

May newsletter posted

My most recent Global Scholars newsletter is now posted here: May 2022 newsletter.

10 May 2022

Visiones e Ilusiones Políticas

Political Visions and Illusions is now out in a Spanish-language edition published by Teología para Vivir in Lima, Peru: Visiones e Ilusiones Políticas. The release of this edition makes it available to huge numbers of people who speak Spanish as their mother tongue, including the land of my birth, which is the fifth largest hispanophone country in the world. I pray that God will use it to advance his kingdom according to his own good purposes. ¡Que Dios bendiga a los países de habla hispana!

04 May 2022

Pará, Paraná e Bruno: Conversations with Brazil

Over the past several days I have participated in three events relevant to the Christian community in Brazil. The first occurred last saturday, 30 April, and was hosted by two young friends, Leonardo Balena Queiroz and Samuel Aguiar, who had just led a multi-session study of my book, Visões e Ilusões Políticas, with their church congregation, Primeira Igreja Batista do Pará, Belém, Pará, in the tropical Amazon region. At the end of the series, I was beamed in to their gathering to answer questions and to make a pitch for a new book I plan to write on citizenship.


The following day, sunday, 1 May, I addressed a gathering of members of the Segunda Igreja Presbiteriana Renovada de Maringá, in the southern state of Paraná, at the opposite and more temperate end of Brazil. As most of the audience had not read my book, I briefly discussed the idolatrous religious character of ideology and why we have reason for hope in the midst of the ideologies' distorted understandings of God's world. This was followed by questions from listeners.

Finally, on tuesday, 3 May, I was interviewed online by my good friend, José Bruno Pereira dos Santos, known to one and all as Zé Bruno. I met him five years ago at the Ideolatria conference in Goiânia at which I spoke, and I was delighted to renew our friendship in this way last evening. Also interviewing me were Ruan Bessa (my translator), Gustavo Arnoni, and Lucas Pavanato. You can see the entire two hours of our conversation below:

Did I mention that I really love the people of Brazil? Que Deus abençoe o povo brasileiro!

02 May 2022

Strengthening Russia: Austin's misguided policy goal

Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defence General Lloyd Austin visited Kyiv and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. After the meeting Austin made a statement that Moscow will almost certainly take as a provocation and that the US may come to regret. The BBC reports:

At a news conference in Poland after the visit, Mr Austin told reporters the US wants to see "Russia weakened to the degree that it can't do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine". . . . BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale observed that Mr Austin's comments calling for a weakened Russia were unusually strong for a US defence secretary. It is one thing to help Ukraine resist Russian aggression, it is quite another to speak of weakening Russia's capabilities, he said.

During a dangerous time such as the present, government officials must weigh their words carefully to avoid unnecessarily aggravating existing tensions. I would suggest that Austin's remarks do not conform to this principle. Given that Vladimir Putin has expressed concern at Russia being surrounded by NATO and would prefer to see a cordon sanitaire between his country and the west, one might question Austin's wisdom in expressing what may or may not represent a change in US policy. I would furthermore suggest that US policy should support a strengthening and not a weakening of Russia.

28 April 2022

Lind's case for democratic pluralism

Over the past two or more decades, Americans in particular have become increasingly polarized between a new highly-educated urban managerial class and a working class that has lost much of the political and economic clout it once wielded in the post-war era. From 1945 to around 1973, the economies of most western countries revolved around a tripartite power-sharing arrangement among business, labour, and government. The rule of an educated elite was kept in check by the power of labour unions and other nonpolitical associations which channeled the aspirations of ordinary workers. These were the "little platoons" celebrated by Edmund Burke, and together they constituted what has come to be called civil society.

However, during the dislocations of the 1970s, including the unprecedented coincidence of inflation and recession, this power-sharing arrangement broke down, with leaders like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan ushering in a neoliberal era of domestic deregulation, open borders, and labour arbitrage. Globalization was the net result, with a rising managerial class dominating policy-making at the expense of especially the unskilled workers who once manned the factories of America's northeast and Great Lakes industrial belt. The central problem with globalization, however, is that it is undemocratic. Because globalization cannot police itself, it tends to empower a transnational class with shallow roots in any particular country. This is what Michael Lind, in The New Class War, calls the managerial elite. In the United States, the Democratic Party represents this elite class of educated urbanites.

25 April 2022

The world responds to Russia

Christian Courier has published online my article, The world responds to Russia, which appears in the 11 April 2022 print issue. An excerpt:

I have been amazed at the international response to what virtually everyone agrees is an unprovoked and unjust attack. Putin’s public pretexts for sending Russian troops into a neighbouring country are scarcely credible, and there is widespread recognition of this. With Russia now locked out of the international banking system and economic sanctions depressing the value of the rouble, Putin risks the welfare of his own country to satisfy his imperial ambitions. That he has nuclear weapons at his disposal brings an additional element of danger to his isolation. Nevertheless, few want to see Putin go unpunished for raining missiles on defenceless Ukrainian civilians, many of whom speak Russian as their first language.

Read the entire article here.

24 April 2022

Jesus Is Risen Flash Mob, Beirut Lebanon

Today the world's Orthodox Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Here is a wonderful video of a flash mob singing the traditional paschal hymn in Arabic and Greek. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

22 April 2022

Keller on pandemic books

Once more the Rev. Tim Keller has seen fit to endorse my Political Visions and Illusions in a video just posted two days ago. I am amazed that someone suffering from pancreatic cancer continues to retain such energy and purpose. Thanks be to God!

21 April 2022

Reversing secularization: Africans in Britain

When we look at the trajectory of the contemporary west, it is easy to give way to despair. The process of secularization, which has been slowly emptying the churches of Europe and North America for the past two centuries or so, seems relentless. Even those churches that retain an element of vitality too easily fall prey to the allure of the latest manifestation of secularism. In our case this takes the form of what some call expressive individualism, which alters the message of the gospel from one of repentance and conversion to an affirmation of one's subjective proclivities. Small wonder, then, that parishioners would abandon churches that do little more than parrot the latest faux-redemptive stories of the larger society. What would be the point of getting up in the morning to attend such a church when one could just as easily sleep late and imbibe the same message elsewhere?

18 April 2022

Putin's successes

Russian President Vladimir Putin has scored some notable successes for his imperialist policies, including the following:

  1. Putin has succeeded in putting on display for all the world the incompetence as well as the brutality of Russia's military.
  2. In focussing his military might on Ukraine, he has successfully made his vast country vulnerable on other fronts, especially in the far east along the border with China, at the moment an ally of convenience.
  3. Putin has brought unity to the Ukrainian people across the historic linguistic and religious divisions that once separated them.
  4. Putin has succeeded in ensuring the enmity of virtually all Ukrainians, including native Russian speakers, for decades to come.
  5. Putin has succeeded in convincing Russia's neighbours that they cannot trust him and are in need of protection from his aggressive policies.
  6. Putin has successfully strengthened the unity and resolve of NATO members and has made membership more attractive even to long-time neutral states.
  7. Putin has succeeded in reorienting NATO from a broad-based collective security zone to an alliance against his aggressive policies.
  8. Putin has succeeded in sinking the Russian economy in his efforts to restore his country's great power status.
  9. Putin has successfully earned the epithet of war criminal and has made his country a pariah state throughout much of the world.
  10. With the aid of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, Putin has successfully demonstrated the negative consequences of following a nationalist faith.

Few rulers have achieved such notable successes in so short a time. They have certainly secured his reputation and legacy in the history books, where he will take his place in the company of a small collection of similarly notorious rulers.

17 April 2022

13 April 2022

April newsletter posted

My new Global Scholars newsletter is now posted here: APRIL 2022 newsletter.

11 April 2022

Warren interviews Keller

Two people I have come to admire conversed with each other recently, and the interview now appears in The New York Times: How a cancer diagnosis makes Jesus’ death and resurrection mean so much more. Tish Harrison Warren regularly writes for the Times and is a priest in the Anglican Church in North America. Author of Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life, Warren manifests considerable Christian wisdom in her writings, which are definitely worth reading. Here she interviews Timothy Keller, former pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, who recently authored a new book, Hope in Times of Fear: the Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter. Keller has been suffering from stage 4 pancreatic cancer for the past two years. An excerpt from Keller in this interview:

Statement of Solidarity

On 13 March, the Sunday of Orthodoxy, Orthodox clergy and laity published A Declaration on the “Russian World” (Russkii mir) Teaching, modelled on the 1934 Barmen Declaration. With my paternal Orthodox roots, I was greatly heartened to see such a statement emerge out of a tradition better known for the cosy relations between church hierarchs and political rulers. If I were an Orthodox Christian, I definitely would have signed the statement. Now Religion in Praxis has published A statement of solidarity with the Orthodox declaration on the “Russian World” (russkii mir) teaching, and against Christian Nationalism and New Totalitarianism. From the introduction:

06 April 2022

Corporate responsibility for a criminal war

As we are into the second month of the Russo-Ukrainian War, many of us have been thoroughly shaken and outraged by what we have seen on our screens day after day. Unable to bring myself to watch the grisly footage of the aftermath of the Bucha massacre, I nevertheless pray constantly for an end to the carnage, for relief to come to the Ukrainian people, and for the perpetrators of what amount to war crimes to be brought to justice. Among those at the top of the list are Vladimir Putin himself, Patriarch Kirill, and Aleksandr Lukashenko, the venal ruler of collaborationist Belarus.

04 April 2022

Christian Courier picks up post

Christian Courier has picked up my post from last week: The Liberal-New Democrat Pact, with this description: "It’s a rare move, but one that has precedents in Canadian politics and other Western democracies." An excerpt:

In reality, there is nothing undemocratic about the new agreement. Moreover, one might argue that the Trudeau government is more democratic than it has been up to now. After all, the federal Liberals garnered just under one-third of the popular vote last year, yet they formed a single-party government over the objections of more than two-thirds of voters. The Conservatives actually outpolled the Liberals, gaining 35.2 percent of the vote. Yet our current single-member-plurality electoral system – often labelled first-past-the-post (FPTP) – gave the Liberals a plurality of seats in the Commons. By bringing the NDP onside, the Liberals have actually increased the popular support for their government, which would in principle now be supported by 50.4 percent of Canadians. If so, this can scarcely be called undemocratic.

Read the entire article here.

01 April 2022

Faith in Democracy: Chaplin's contribution

God calls us to do justice in all settings and circumstances. In so far as we are faithful to our spouses, treat our colleagues with respect, raise our children with love and attention, we do justice to them. But there is a specific type of justice applicable to the political community and its associated institutions of government. It is sometimes called public justice, because it relates to the public space within which individuals and communities live their lives and fulfil their respective callings. In the United States an organization called the Center for Public Justice has attempted to flesh out its implications for a mature differentiated society for more than four decades. Public justice plays a role in my own writings and in those of many others, especially those in the neo-Calvinist tradition associated with Abraham Kuyper and his heirs. Jonathan Chaplin, Associate Fellow of Theos and member of the Divinity Faculty at Cambridge University, offers readers a new book that admirably brings substance to what might otherwise seem an abstract principle.

Nationalism's deadly allure

In my book, Political Visions and Illusions, I treat nationalism as an ideology that makes too much of nation, according it the reverence rightly belonging to God alone. When I was still teaching, I openly admitted to my students that I had a certain blind spot with respect to nationalism. I could easily see the moments of truth in liberalism, conservatism, socialism, and democratism, but I found it more difficult to do so with respect to nationalism. I understand in principle that solidarity among people sharing similar characteristics is a genuine good. In our society, which claims to value diversity and encourages a navel-gazing focus on individual identity, we need a countervailing emphasis on the things that bring us together. This applies to nations as well as to the other communities of which we are part. But national solidarity can also breed unhealthy conformism and a tendency to vilify those deemed outside the nation. Moreover, it tends to suppress those other communities by demanding an ultimate allegiance we owe only to God.

31 March 2022

The Moscow Times reports truth

I don't know how long this will remain posted, but The Moscow Times carries a report worth reading: Orthodox Christian Unity Broken by 'Russian World' Heresy, with this subtitle: "Orthodox clergy, lay people and scholars condemn Moscow Patriarch Kirill." Thus far, the Putin administration has not shut the newspaper, despite it using words such as invasion now prohibited by law. The Times here reports on the important statement on which I wrote earlier, A Declaration on the “Russian World” (Русский мир) Teaching. An excerpt:

On Sunday scholars and clergy at the orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University and the Volos Academy for Theological Studies published a scathing “Declaration on the ‘Russian World’ Teaching.” This ideology is, they write, “a false teaching which is attracting many in the Orthodox Church and has even been taken up by the Far Right and Catholic and Protestant fundamentalists.”

The “Russian World” ideology has been cited by both Vladimir Putin and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill over the past two decades. It asserts, the theologians write, that “there is a transnational Russian sphere or civilization, called Holy Russia or Holy Rus’, which includes Russia, Ukraine and Belarus (and sometimes Moldova and Kazakhstan), as well as ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking people throughout the world.”

Bate-papo with Brazilian youth

On monday, 28 March, I was privileged to speak with a group of young people at the Evangelical Church Assembly of God in Cuiabá, in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. This was an informal bate-papo about my book, Political Visions and Illusions. My principal host was Jonas Mendes, professor of theology at Faculdades Evangélicas Integradas Cantares de Salomão. My translator was James Alves, who had translated for me at a previous event. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with these young people and pray that God will bless them as they seek ways to serve him with the gifts he has given them.

28 March 2022

The Liberal-New Democrat pact

Canadian Press
Last week Justin Trudeau's minority Liberal government in Ottawa entered into a supply and confidence agreement with Jagmeet Singh's New Democratic Party in an effort to prolong the life of the current parliament until September 2024. Although such pacts are unusual in Canada, they are not entirely unprecedented. In 1985 Ontario's Liberal leader David Peterson made a pact with provincial NDP leader Bob Rae that ended more than four decades of Conservative rule. However, neither of these agreements led to a genuine coalition government.

24 March 2022

Russia: political culture and the weakness of institutions

Arms of the Russian Federation

For many Americans, their 18th-century founding era is surrounded by a reverential glow similar to the halos around the heads of the holy men and women in Byzantine iconography. Americans revere their Founding Fathers, the constitutional document they produced in 1787, and the political system it established. Here in Canada we are perhaps less in awe of our own Fathers of Confederation, one of whom, Sir John A. Macdonald, had an alcohol problem and pursued a less than fully just policy towards our aboriginal peoples. Nevertheless, both countries have inherited a tradition of respect for the rule of law from the mother country, and this is why they have been so successful in maintaining their respective political institutions for so long. Indeed, such a tradition ought not to be taken for granted, because it is absent in many places around the world.

23 March 2022

How to Deal with Political Ideologies in the Face of the Biblical Worldview

ANN (Adventist News Network) English has posted my interview conducted by Felipe Lemos in English translation: How to Deal with Political Ideologies in the Face of the Biblical Worldview. An excerpt:

Interviewer: What do you think motivated a more recent phenomenon of strong polarized discussions, especially in the environment of digital social networks, about partisan and political aspects?

Koyzis: I think the polarization arises in part because we make different prudential judgments about which political group or party comes closest to seeking public justice. But I think there's more. Even when we claim to belong to Christ, we inevitably become captivated by the stories these ideologies tell us. Our hearts are divided when they should be united in loyalty to the kingdom of God. The only effective way to break through this polarization is to look into our own hearts and determine whether our loyalty to God's kingdom is genuinely sincere or whether we place our faith in something in His creation.

A entrevista original em português pode ser encontrada aqui.

22 March 2022

Interview with George Demacopoulos

A friend alerted me to this conversation on The Greek Current podcast: The “Russian World” ideology, the invasion of Ukraine, and the Orthodox Church. Thanos Davelis interviews George Demacopoulos. Here are the episode notes:

Instead of strongly condemning Russian President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian Patriarch Kirill has given his full-throated support to the Kremlin. This support stems from an ideology supported by both Putin and Kirill known as "Russian World", which links faith with Russia’s nationalist aims. This support has resulted in a splintering within the Orthodox world, and is in clear contrast to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s condemnation of Putin and the invasion of Ukraine. In the meantime, leading Orthodox theologians around the world issued a joint statement denouncing the “Russian world” ideology and the invasion of Ukraine. George Demacopoulos, the co-director of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University, joins our host Thanos Davelis to discuss the “Russian World” ideology pushed by the Kremlin and Patriarch Kirill, and look at how the war in Ukraine is impacting the Orthodox world.

Demacopoulos is co-director of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University, New York City.

21 March 2022

Gerrymandering injustice

Christian Courier has posted my March column: Gerrymandering injustice, with an accompanying question: "How can states like Alabama pursue fairer representation?" An excerpt:

The states [of the United States] are responsible for redrawing the new districts within their own borders. Each district is supposed to have roughly equal population so that no group of people is over- or underrepresented. Sad to say, corruption and conflict-of-interest are at the very heart of the process. Because they are dominated by one of the two parties, a Republican state house, for example, will draw the boundaries to ensure that Republicans dominate the state’s congressional delegation, thereby badly skewing election results. Democrats quite happily do the same in the states they dominate.

This is known as gerrymandering, after Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry, who signed a bill in 1812 creating a bizarrely-shaped district wrapping around Boston which, on the map, resembled a salamander. More recently, the Illinois General Assembly created a district encompassing two distant neighbourhoods in Chicago connected only by a thin line running down Interstate 294.

Read the entire article here.

Every Square Inch lecture: Ukraine

Yesterday afternoon, I spoke to a group of young people on the political dimension of the Russo-Ukrainian War. The group is known as Every Square Inch and spans the Atlantic from Canada to Belgium. It includes my last students, others whom I have mentored informally since my retirement, and current undergraduate students. The link to my PowerPoint slides can be accessed here: Russia and Ukraine: The 2022 Crisis

Here is a screen shot of our group:

18 March 2022

March newsletter posted

I have now posted my latest Global Scholars newsletter: MARCH 2022 newsletter.

Debunking russophilia and russophobia

Miguel A Lopes/EPA
In North America there exists a certain type of conservative (a mostly empty category easily filled with whatever opposes the current progressive narrative) who lionizes the Russian President as a bulwark of Christian morality and the Orthodox Church. Writing for Public Discourse, Casey Chalk argues that American Christians’ Russophilia Must End. The abstract of the article:

Russia is no “Christian powerhouse.” That narrative is little more than an easily falsifiable propaganda campaign by its kleptocratic governing class. Russia struggles not only to preserve its ancient faith tradition—in spite of significant government expenditures to the Orthodox Church—but also to protect and preserve its families in the face of substance abuse, domestic violence, and unmitigated cronyism.

16 March 2022

Adventist interview

I was recently interviewed by Filipe Lemos on the subject of political ideologies, and it has now been posted here: Como lidar com ideologias políticas diante da cosmovisão bíblica (How to deal with political ideology from a biblical worldview). The website belongs to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Here is an English translation:

In your book Political Visions & Illusions: A Survey & Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies, you talk about political ideologies and show weaknesses in these systems, especially in comparison with the biblical worldview. What do you highlight, for those who have not read your book, as the main shortcomings of ideologies that are very much defended today, even by Christians?

Well, the principal shortcoming is that the ideologies make too much of a good thing. That fits with a general human tendency to esteem the creature more than the Creator. Liberalism properly values the rights and freedoms of the individual, but it makes the individual will the origin of all other social phenomena, including the basic institutions needed for a society to remain healthy and to flourish. It tries to make of every community a mere voluntary association, thereby erasing the distinctions among these communities. Various forms of collectivism from socialism to nationalism to democratism properly value community, but in so doing they tend to neglect the legitimate interests of individuals and of other communities. For example, socialism pretends that only one form of community can monopolize ownership, and this usually turns out to be the state. But a society dominated by a single community will be an artificially constrained society, where everyone follows orders rather than initiating a variety of activities.

14 March 2022

A Declaration on the “Russian World” (Russkii mir) Teaching

In the second edition of Political Visions and Illusions, I appended a "Concluding Ecclesiological Postscript," addressing the role that the institutional church--as distinct from the larger body of Christ--should play with respect to politics. There I held up as a salutary example the 1934 Barmen Declaration, drafted initially by theologian Karl Barth and adopted by the dissident Confessing Church. It affirmed the church's confession of faith in Jesus Christ against the Deutsche Christen allied with the ruling National Socialist German Workers Party, or Nazis.

Yesterday, on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, a group of Orthodox clergy and laity published A Declaration on the “Russian World” (Русский мир) Teaching, which is obviously modelled on Barmen. This is a powerful statement which all Christians of every tradition should read and ponder. An excerpt:

The COVID blues

Christian Courier has posted my monthly column, titled, The covid blues: The pros and cons of a Zoom world. An excerpt:

I am hesitant to make predictions in uncertain times, but I can foresee some permanent shifts in the way we live. For example, I expect that the Zoom meeting will become a permanent fixture in the work landscape. Had the pandemic come at the turn of the millennium, we would have had more difficulty coping, as the internet was still in its infancy. But with so many means of online communication now available to us, shifting to at-home work – for many of us at least – has been far less difficult than it would have been then.

Josué Reichow: Reform Your Mind: The Philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd

This book will be released at the end of the month. Here is the foreword that I wrote for it:

I first discovered the writings of Dutch Christian philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd in the mid 1970s when I was an undergraduate student. I quickly discovered that he was not easy to read, as his ideas seemed buried in a turgid prose style. Nevertheless, the hard work I put into understanding his philosophy more than paid off with respect to the use to which I discovered I could put it. My chosen academic field was political science, and I found that his nonreductionist approach to public life simply made sense. It better accounted for the realities of political life than, for example, so-called realists or behaviourists who could make sense of only a particular facet of reality. A decade later I would go on to write a dissertation on Dooyeweerd at the University of Notre Dame, a process that thoroughly grounded me in his magnum opus, A New Critique of Theoretical Thought. Because his Philosophy of the Law-Idea so well accounts for the fulness of God’s world, it became a primary influence on my own writings, including Political Visions and Illusions (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2019).

11 March 2022

Ukraine: Eastern Europe's 'Bible Belt'

St. George's Cathedral, Lviv
Earlier this week I wrote about the rift in the communion of Orthodox Churches over Ukraine and how it exacerbated tensions in that country. Today I will add more to the picture of Ukrainian religious life by surveying the so-called Greek Catholic and evangelical churches.

From an outsider's vantage point, the Greek Catholic Church looks like a hybrid of two traditions. It is one of 23 eastern-rite or Byzantine-rite churches in communion with Rome. These churches appear eastern in most respects, celebrating the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom or something similar, and reciting the Creed without the contested filioque clause. Its priests wear distinctive Byzantine garb. Like their Orthodox brethren--or perhaps rivals--the clergy are married and have families. Their buildings conform more to eastern architectural patterns than to western gothic or romanesque patterns. Nevertheless, these churches pray for the Pope and recognize him to be the head of the universal church. They are largely self-governing, unlike the churches of the Roman rite, which are directly under the Pope. Each represents a distinctive ecclesiastical and liturgical tradition.

09 March 2022

Jurisdictional jealousies: the ecclesiastical factor in the Russo-Ukrainian war

Unlike Roman Catholicism, which constitutes a single global organization under a spiritual CEO known as the Pope, Orthodox Christianity has always had something of a fractious character. In the old world, the Orthodox are organized into self-governing autocephalous churches covering limited territories, often but not always corresponding to the boundaries of a particular state. All of these churches are united in a single faith, reading a Bible somewhat larger than those of Protestants and Catholics (although Russians and Greeks differ here), and recognizing the Patriarch of Constantinople as Ecumenical Patriarch, the first among equals of the church's hierarchs. Each church is in communion with the others, accepting as normative the decisions of the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the first millennium.

As a result of the missionary activities of the apostles and their successors, the church grew phenomenally in the first centuries, expanding to the borders of the Roman Empire and beyond. Five patriarchs were set over the church, as shown in this map:

08 March 2022

A Prayer for Russia and Ukraine

Almighty God and Father, you have created us in your image to live in peace with our fellow human beings. But we confess that we have so often failed to live in obedience to your will, to the detriment of our neighbours, both near and far. And now the world is seeing a brutal war of aggression launched by one state against another, with attacks made on civilians who are suffering greatly as a result. Thousands of refugees are fleeing their cities and pouring over the borders of neighbouring countries. We feel helpless to relieve their plight, but we are angry and thirst for justice.

We acknowledge, O Lord, that the people of Russia and Ukraine do not want this war, which has been foisted on them by a corrupt and tyrannical leader in Moscow. Many of your servants are making their voices heard at great risk to their lives and livelihoods. We pray, Lord, that you would encircle them with your protection: that you would cover them with your pinions, that under your wings they would find refuge.

Assessing the Ukraine Crisis

Last week my fellow Greek-Cypriot Canadian, Angelos Kyriakides, interviewed me on the subject of the current crisis in Russia and Ukraine for his podcast The Bullseye.


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