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.

07 March 2022

'Wars and rumors of wars'

The American Commons recently posted an interview with me conducted by Ryan Ellington: “Wars and Rumors of Wars”: A Conversation With David Koyzis About the Ukraine-Russia Conflict. An excerpt:

The American Commons: From your vantage point, how do you anticipate the sudden onset of war between Russia and Ukraine to affect life for North Americans?

Koyzis: Well, I think the most immediate consequence will be a spike in the rate of inflation, which was already higher than we’ve seen in recent years because of the pandemic. The price of oil has risen, and with the resulting increase in transportation costs, the prices of food will rise too, especially of imported goods.

To dampen inflation, our central banks will be raising interest rates, which will make it more difficult for people to buy such “big-ticket” items as houses and automobiles.

But I think there will be a psychological effect as well. Many of us have relatives in Europe, some of whom may be in Ukraine or nearby. During time of war there is a different feel to ordinary life. Suddenly life feels much more precarious. We go about our daily business but with a vague sense of anxiety constantly following us. Watching footage on television and hearing people’s stories bring tears to our eyes. I find myself praying constantly for those caught up in this conflict and that God would bring it to an end.

Read the entire interview here.

Putin's recklessness

Christian Courier has posted my article, Putin's recklessness, with this subtitle: "Historic parallels to Putin’s unjust aggression." An excerpt:

Putin has now moved into cliché territory: he has put all his cards on the table, shown his true colours, upended the apple cart. Making comparisons to Adolf Hitler generally elicits finger-wagging because it is done too often by people trying to score political points against opponents. Nevertheless, it is difficult to avoid the parallels with the Nazi dictator’s dismemberment of Czechoslovakia over German-speaking Sudetenland and his pretext for invading Poland the following year.

But we should note the differences too. This war is not popular with ordinary Russians, as massive demonstrations in Moscow, St. Petersburg and elsewhere are indicating. Younger Russians with dim or no memories of the Soviet era will not be wearing “Make Russia Great Again” hats any time soon. Nineteenth-century nationalist dreams of glory are the delusions of an ageing despot living in the past.

Read the entire article here.

04 March 2022

The courageous witness of evangelical pastors

Not only are ordinary Russian Orthodox priests protesting Putin's war, but so are many evangelical pastors across the country who have signed an open letter condemning the invasion: Hundreds of Russian Pastors Oppose War in Ukraine. An excerpt:

The open letter is available on the website of Mirt Publishing House, a small evangelical publisher in St. Petersburg, and is signed by mostly Russian Baptists and Pentecostals affiliated with churches or seminaries in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and more than 40 other cities.

03 March 2022

The tepid witness of an insular prelate

By far the largest of the autocephalous Orthodox churches is the Russian Church, headed by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. Estimates of membership differ widely, ranging from 90 million to 155 million, mostly within the Russian Federation itself, but also in Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova. In 2018 a split occurred within global Orthodoxy between the followers of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Kirill over the status of an autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This is possibly the most serious division within the communion since the 1054 schism that ended its ties with Rome.

On the day that hostilities began between Russia and Ukraine, the Patriarch issued a pastoral letter to the hierarchs, clergy, monastics, and all faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church. This would presumably include Russian President Vladimir Putin, of whom he is a close ally.

01 March 2022

Global Scholars Canada: special wartime edition posted

It's a little early for my regular March newsletter, but I've now posted an early update: 1 MARCH 2022 - SPECIAL WARTIME EDITION. The outbreak of war in Ukraine last week seemed to me to warrant a special newsletter. Please do pray for the people of Ukraine and an end to hostilities.

Merkel saw it coming

My wife alerted me to a striking passage in the new book by Kati Marton, The Chancellor: The Remarkable Odyssey of Angela Markel:

A poignant alarm had been recently raised for Merkel in a newly published, nearly thousand-page tome, The Thirty Years War: European Catastrophe, German Trauma, 1618-1648, by German historian Herfried Münkler. The work, which she devoured, reconstructs the savege seventeenth-century war that eventually engulfed most of Europe, from Spain to Sweden, and decimated the continent's population. Merkel invited its author to the chancellery, where, for two hours, she and the historian discussed how war again erupted seventy years after the Peace of Augsburg had ended Europe's bloody religious wars in 1555. After seventy years of peace, few people with personal memories of the atrocities of the earlier war survived. Thus, Europe stumbled blindly into another round of mindless and savage fighting.

Gathara begs to differ

Yesterday I posted the impressively argued address by Kenya's ambassador to the United Nations, Martin Kimani, on this blog. I believe it flows out of a wise understanding of the horrors unleashed when one nation seeks unilaterally to revise existing international borders. Not everyone agrees. Kimani's fellow countryman Patrick Gathara writes in Al Jazeera: The Kenyan UN ambassador’s Ukraine speech does not deserve praise, with the following subtitle elaborating: "While Martin Kimani was right to condemn Russia, he seemed to embrace the colonial legacy in Africa." An excerpt:


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