An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Interview with David Koyzis on Political Visions & Illusions

David, it's been over three years since the last interview (here) when We Answer to Another was published - what has happened in the intervening years?

Well, I'm no longer teaching, and I am effectively retired. This has given me time to work on a second edition of Political Visions and Illusions, which was published at the start of the century and was in need of an update.

That book went through several printings and now has been revised. Were you surprised at its success?

No and yes. No, because it filled a gap in the literature that I first noticed when I began teaching just over three decades ago. I found plenty of books that treated political ideologies, but I couldn't locate one that did what I thought needed to be done. So I wrote my own. Eventually, it went through 12 printings, the last two of which were in late 2017. I am, of course, pleased that it was picked up by so many politics instructors for use in the classroom.

But there were a couple of things that surprised me. First was the success of the Portuguese translation and Brazilian edition, titled Visões e Ilusões Políticas, published by Vida Nova in São Paulo in 2014. I've made a huge number of contacts in that country over the past few years, and well over half my so-called “friends” on Facebook are Brazilians. I am hoping that Vida Nova will translate the second edition as well. I've also received an offer to translate We Answer to Another, but I've heard nothing concrete on this as yet.

Second, I was not expecting that PV&I would be used profitably in theological seminaries. That prompted one important addition to the new revision, which I'll get to in a moment.

I have to ask then—what is new in this edition?

Quite a bit actually. The most significant change is a tweaking of the central thesis, in which I connect political ideologies with idolatry—the making of a god out of something the true God has created. Soon after the first edition was published, I began to think of the stories each of the ideologies tells—a redemptive narrative that parallels the biblical story of salvation in Jesus Christ. This angle I got from my friend and former colleague, Mike Goheen, and from the man on whom he wrote his dissertation, Bishop Lesslie Newbigin. The new edition provided me the opportunity to rework the book so as to adjust its focus.

The second chapter on liberalism may have seen the most changes, because liberalism itself has changed since the start of the century. The longstanding effort to recast as many communities as possible as mere voluntary associations has taken a malignant turn in recent years. What began as an effort to expand and enhance individual freedom has effectively produced a climate in which this freedom has become the mere satisfaction of desires, with the larger society expected to affirm these desires indiscriminately. Those who persist in believing that such institutions as state, church, marriage and family answer to norms irreducible to the subjective wills of contracting individuals are increasingly vilified as narrow-minded and bigoted. The five stages in the development of liberalism that I described in the first edition no longer follow a linear progression. If the choice-enhancement state, the fifth stage, is followed through to its logical end, I believe it will foment the sorts of society-wide conflict that will lead to the Leviathan state of Hobbes, that is, it will double back to the first stage.

In recent years I have also come to see more clearly the importance of the institutional church for political life. In the first edition, my understanding of the church was primarily as the larger body of Christ living out its members' diverse callings throughout the broad array of life's responsibilities. But in a “Concluding Ecclesiological Postscript,” I now undertake to explore the role that the institutional church—the gathered community of the faithful meeting for worship and catechesis—might play with respect to political life. This will make the book even more relevant for ministers in training at seminaries, or even for seasoned parish clergy grappling with their roles in equipping their members for living out the kingdom in their daily lives.

Finally, at the end of the book are discussion questions for each chapter.

What are the key arguments of the book?

Well, I believe that political ideologies, such as liberalism, conservatism, nationalism, democratism and socialism, have each got something right. Liberalism is right about individual liberty. Conservatism is right about tradition. Nationalism, democratism and socialism are right about communal solidarity. However, each goes astray at precisely the point where it has seen a genuine truth. Liberals make too much of individual freedom at the expense of the legitimate claims of community. Conservatives stick with tradition, but they are often unable to distinguish between the positives and the negatives in a particular tradition. As I indicated earlier, each of these ideologies follows an implicit redemptive narrative, a story that parallels the biblical story of creation, fall, redemption and consummation. This is most evident in Karl Marx and his heirs, but it can be found in the others as well. Conservatism is a bit different, but I won't go into that here. The religious roots of the ideologies have escaped most of the writers on the subject, which is why I wrote the book in the first place.

Who is it aimed at and why should they get hold of a copy?

The book can speak to virtually any educated person, although the primary audience is a Christian one. Many Christians understand that they are saved only through Jesus Christ and that they are called to live in gratitude for this salvation through the empowering of the Holy Spirit. Yet it's not always evident to them that this has implications for their life in the larger culture and society. Some Christians do get involved in politics, but such involvement may take the form of crusades on this or that particular issue. My book is an effort to get them to think more deeply about the spiritual foundations of political life.

If you think social conservatism is deficient, if you have doubts about the so-called social justice warriors, if you think populism may not be bringing the best leaders to the fore, then this book is for you!

What do you make of the current attraction for white evangelicals of Donald Trump?

I must admit, this came as a surprise to me. I didn't think Trump was a serious candidate at first; I thought he was merely trying to increase his brand recognition. Perhaps that's what he thought too. Some evangelicals appear to have sold their souls for Trump, but I don't think that's true of everyone. Many Americans voted less for him than against his opponent. Why?

Well, today's Democratic Party appears to have embraced all the logic—and illogic—of what I call the choice-enhancement state. You may have seen this statement from the US Supreme Court's decision in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey (1992): “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” The Court is claiming to make each of us into a god, but this is incompatible with life in community, where we are bound together by norms irreducible to our private predilections. The Democratic Party has run with this expansive understanding of liberty, but in so doing it is threatening the liberties of real communities with their own nonliberal traditions. What we are now seeing in the Trump presidency is the predictable backlash against this.

However, the Republicans have embraced a different side of the liberal agenda, and it revolves largely around economic choice and the market. Both Democrats and Republicans have embraced the expansive ego, and both are tending towards an unhealthy statism, as Patrick Deneen has so lucidly explained in Why Liberalism Failed (2018). Trump is by no means the answer to this. As I see it, he is only a symptom of what's wrong in American public life.

Any observations for those of us currently undergoing Brexit?

As with Trump, I understand the motivations behind those voting to leave the European Union. Having to answer to so-called “eurocrats” in Brussels has irritated many Britons, whose insular geography has protected them from so many European tyrannies over the centuries, the most recent of which was three-quarters of a century ago. 

However, I don't see why the EU needs to be a symmetrical federation along the lines of the United States, Germany and Australia. Here in Canada we have been compelled by our circumstances to experiment with an asymmetrical federalism in which Québec relates to Ottawa somewhat differently than the other nine provinces. Spain has done something similar with its regions. There is no reason why the EU could not consist of a more tightly integrated core, consisting perhaps of Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux countries, while other member states have a looser association with Brussels. The Maastricht Treaty of 1992 offers the principle of subsidiarity, often associated with Catholic social teachings, as a means of differentiating the powers of Brussels and the member states:
In areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence, the Community [or the EU] shall take action, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, only if and in so far as the objectives of  the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member states and can therefore, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved by the Community. Any action by the Community shall not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the objectives of this Treaty.
If this division of powers is taken seriously, it should be possible for the United Kingdom to remain in the Union while retaining its independence in domestic and much of foreign policy as well. Perhaps it's too late for that now, but the continual postponement of the departure date would seem to indicate that a lot of people are having second thoughts. Perhaps it's time for another shot at making EU membership work in a way that fits Britain's unique needs and aspirations.

Are there any other projects you are working on?

Well, a few years ago I wrote a series of reflections on the Heidelberg Catechism which I hope to publish at some point.

I have also worked out a quite detailed sketch of another major book on the relationship between political culture and political institutions. I've given this project the provisional title, “The Real Constitution.” For those of us in the tradition of Abraham Kuyper, I think we have not always been sufficiently aware of the cultural soil in which our political systems grow and develop. This cultural soil has religious foundations that cannot be called into existence by manipulating political institutions. Americans think their 18th-century founders were skilled constitutional engineers who produced something approaching a perfectly balanced system, but virtually every country that has tried to replicate these institutions for itself has ended up a presidential dictatorship. What is lacking in these countries is the culture of self-governance to which Americans had become practised during the colonial era. Culture matters much more than we are often aware.

What books have had the most influence on your life?

Well, this may seem like a terrible cliché, but the Bible has easily had the most influence. Over the decades I have maintained a regimen of daily morning and evening prayer, praying through the Psalms every 30 days (as prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer), and reading the Old and New Testaments in course. Every time I read through its books, I see something I hadn't seen before. I was raised in a Bible-reading household, I worshipped in a Bible-believing church, and I still love God's written word.

Al Wolters' Creation Regained remains an inspiration for me and for so many others. I was privileged to sit under Wolters' teaching at the Institute for Christian Studies, and I still have the handwritten notes I took—the nucleus of what would become Creation Regained a few years later!

Other books include H. Richard Niebuhr's Christ and Culture, Abraham Kuyper's Lectures on Calvinism, Jim Skillen's The Scattered Voice and Bob Goudzwaard's Idols of Our Time. 

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Groen van Prinsterer

Bruce Ashford reviews Van Prinsterer's Unbelief and Revolution:  How an Obscure Dutch Historian Helped Me Understand 2019

A new PhD on Van Prinsterer:

Schlebusch, J. (2018). Strategic narratives: Groen van Prinsterer as Nineteenth-Century Statesman Historian. [Groningen]: University of Groningen.

Through the application of Carr’s narrative approach to the study of Groen as simultaneously statesman and historian, for the first time a holistic picture of Groen as Anti-Revolutionary public figure emerges, casting new light on the political strategies behind his public engagement. This enables a fresh appreciation of Groen’s historical significance for constitutional democracy in the Netherlands

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

James Skillen's new book: God's Sabbath with Creation

James Skillen has a new book published by Wipf &Stock:

God’s Sabbath with Creation: Vocations Fulfilled, the Glory Unveiled
Wipf & Stock, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers
ISBN 978-1-5326-5949-2 / paperback / $35

Full details are here

Jim was interviewed as part of the book launch - with Jim's permission I've reposted it here.

1. What do you offer in this book?
First, I am showing, on a biblical basis, that human responsibilities in this age matter for the age to come. Second, I’m presenting a distinct interpretation of Genesis 1-2 as the story of God’s days, which encompass all of creation from beginning to fulfillment. The text is not first about the “beginning of time.” Third, the book is a biblical, covenantal interpretation of the unfolding of God’s disclosure of creation’s meaning, all the way to God’s sabbath with creation. That climactic sabbath will include the full disclosure of the Alpha and Omega, Jesus Christ, whose work will be finished only when he comes again in final judgment and redemptive reconciliation. That will be the the time of God’s sabbath rest (the seventh day of creation) when humans will rest from their labors in God’s rest (see Heb. 4).

2. What is the audience for your book?
Any educated person with an interest in the Bible, in the meaning of creation, and the meaning of human life should find this book rewarding. Among such “educated persons,” those who will have special interest are seminary and university professors, pastors, and students who work in areas of biblical studies, theology, ethics, and pastoral care. The book deals with serious matters in a serious way, but it is not written for experts alone. One need not have a seminary or graduate school education to read it with profit.

3. How is the book structured and how does it progress?
First of all, the book shows my dependence on, and interaction with, a large number of authors in diverse areas of life. I have chosen three authors in particular as interlocutors with whom I converse throughout the book: N.T. Wright, Jurgen Moltmann, and Abraham Kuyper. They are introduced in the Preface.

The book has seven main sections, each containing 4 or 5 relatively short chapters. Part 1 develops the primary interpretive argument of the seven days of God’s creation. Part 2 looks closely at four of creation’s “revelatory patterns”: honor and hospitality, commission towards commendation, revelation in anticipation, and covenant for community. Part 3 presents an overview of the developing and cumulative disclosure of God’s covenantal bond with the human genertaions. Part 4 deals with the relation of the first Adam to the Last Adam. Part 5 takes up the peculiar biblical duality of the “already” and the “not yet” of the revelation of Christ and the coming of God’s kingdom. Part 6 shines new light on the relation of God’s covenant with Israel to the new covenant in Christ. And in the light of all that has been presented up to this point, Part 7 addresses questions about how we should live as followers of the Way, the Truth, and Life.

4. What led you to write this book?
Early in my college years I began to ask what it means to be human. I was not satisfied that traditional Christian liturgies, confessions, and theologies in which I had been raised offered enough to provide an answer. Serious and prolonged study of the Bible (including a seminary degree) and pursuit of my vocations in marriage, family, citizenship, teaching, and more led me to realize that Jesus is not first of all the savior of sinners, and humans are not first of all sinners. The incarnate savior is first of all the one through whom all things are created and hang together, and humans are first of all the creature made in the image of God to be the chief stewards, priests, and governors of creation. Therefore the sin-and-salvation story of the Bible needs to be located more firmly and comprehensively in what the Bible tells us about creation, human vocations, and God’s purposes and goal for creation. Fifty years of studying, teaching, and service in the political arena, have driven me to the completion of this volume.

5. What is your education and experience that grounds the book?
My early questions about “the meaning of life” led me to major in philosophy at Wheaton College, from which I graduated in 1966. Next was a three-year seminary degree at Westminster Theological Seminary where I studied Hebrew and Greek as part of the basic curriculum. My wife and I then traveled to The Netherlands where I studied philosophy for a year and where I became interested in Dutch politics and government. In 1970, we returned to the States where I completed my PhD at Duke University (1974), majoring in political philosophy, comparative politics, international relations, and Christian ethics.

My education after the Duke Years was in the trenches of college teaching, the birth and growth of our two children, and becoming involved in the founding of a civic education and research organization, the Center for Public Justice, which I directed full time from 1981 to 2009. Through the work of that center, I traveled throughout the country and to many parts of the world—east, west, and south—participating in conferences, learning about the multiple vocations of countless people in many different countries.

6. What impact do you hope your book will have?
My primary hope is that people of Christian faith will be inspired to join with others in reflecting on the importance of their earthly vocations and to change their view of life and their daily habits to pursue their calling to follow Jesus in faith, hope, and love. Of course, I hope that many university and seminary professors will engage the book in their classrooms and that graduate students in biblical studies, theology, ethics, politics, and many other fields will take on one or more of the theses in the book when writing their theses. And most important of all, I hope that pastors will look at and preach from the Bible in new ways, having read this book, and that many adult Bible-study groups will read and discuss it.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Neo-Calvinism Research Institute

The neo-Calvinism Research Institute has a newly launched webpage. It is well worth checking out and bookmarking

George Harinck's 2018 Bavinck Lecture: Neo-Calvinism in International Perspective

Herman Bavinck Lecture 2018 • Theologische Universiteit Kampen from TUKampen on Vimeo.

Harinck looks at the Neo-Calvinism in international perspective.

He begins with three important methodological observations:

1. In the past Christianity has largely been an 'export' from Europe. In the last century this has changed; Europe is no longer the centre. However, it has not been replaced by other centres; it has become poly-centric.

2. Neo-Calvinism has been previously studied under the history of ideas. However, ideas do not stand on their own, there is an economy of knowledge. Knowledge is not independent of context. Too long it has been thought of as a box of ideas, but now the stress is on interactivity.

3. Andrew Walls saw the spread of Christianity as a series of shifts marked by migration. Migration helps us to understand the transfer of neo-Calvinism to North America. There is a bilateral interaction - cross-pollination, where knowledge is less important than personal relationships. ideas are often the contexts.

Harinck poses the question why was neo-Calvinism more attractive to North America than say, Scotland or Switzerland?

He looks at three important heralds of neo-Calvinism in the US.
Nicholaus M. Steffens (1839-1912)
Henry E. Dosker (1855-1926) and
Gerhardus Vos (1860-1949)

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

A Reformational philosophy guide

Peter Turkstra Library of Redeemer University College has details of books on Reformational philosophy. Check it out here.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Reformational Digital Library

There is an new Reformational website on the block: Reformational Digital library

The about section has this rationale:

The Reformational Digital Library (RDL) is a resource-base rooted in the tradition of the reformational Christian philosophy developed by the Dutch polymath Herman Dooyeweerd. Specific attention is given towards literary works in which the systematic articulation and coherent advancement of this tradition is demonstrably evident.
It is the central mission of the RDL to publish the best works of Dooyeweerd’s colleagues, students, and followers in order to elaborate and advance these revolutionary insights through books, articles, special lectures and speeches. Our emphasis is placed on those works within this new Christian philosophy in which there is demonstrable evidence of a self-conscious employment of the systematic analysis articulated in the Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea. We have adopted the general rubric “The Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea” which, in the contemporary Anglo-American arena, specifically identifies the form of analysis taken by this new Christian philosophy, rather than the older expression “The Philosophy of the Law Idea,”that was a translation of the title of Dooyeweerd’s three volume publication of 1935-36, De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee. By limiting the scope of our initial endeavors (at least in principle) to the more important systematic works, we hope to considerably narrow the parameters of the nevertheless daunting task before us.
We believe that the Philosophy of The Cosmonomic Idea represents the first attempt in the history of the church to develop a systematically coherent, biblically-driven philosophy that is in fact self-consciously non-synthetic in nature. We are convinced that this Christian philosophy can provide a significant foundation for a coherent analysis of the entire diversity of the creation order. 
For more see here 

Monday, 25 February 2019

Interview with WordBridge's Ruben Alvarado

Ruben Alvarado is the person behind WordBridge Publications, the publishers of the recently translated book by P.J. Hoedemaker on the dispute over Article 36 of the Belgic Confession (details here). Below is my interview with Ruben.

Could start by saying something about yourself? Who you are, what you do and where you have come from?

I am an American citizen living in the Netherlands. My parents hail from Puerto Rico, a US possession in the Caribbean. That’s where my name comes from! My father being a career naval officer, I was born in Annapolis MD and raised in Virginia Beach VA. Following in his footsteps, I attended the US Naval Academy for two years, but being an undisciplined lout, I resigned and went to Virginia Tech, where I pursued a degree in forestry. During that period I converted to Christianity, which turned my life upside down. From that point I have been gripped with the conviction that the kingdom of God involves every area of life, and that my calling is to explore that and do my best to work it out theoretically.

How did WordBridge Publishing come about?

I moved to the Netherlands in 1990 in quest of a Dutch woman, with whom I have been married for 29 years now. One of the things that attracted me to her and her country was the theological inheritance they have. I had been reading Dutch theologians in translation, but wanted to master the language. Mission accomplished, I became a professional translator of business and financial news. Later I branched out to undertake my own projects, involving economics, law, and theology. WordBridge is the result of that. I was dissatisfied with the limited (i.e., zero) opportunities provided by existing publishers, and having already learned the ropes of book publishing, I started my own publishing firm, precisely to bring those translations onto the market.

What sort of books are you interested in publishing?

The three areas of inquiry that I think are most important are precisely the three that get short shrift in formal education: economics, law, and theology. For me, these are the core disciplines. I wish to publish in these three areas, and furthermore, to generate a synergistic interaction between the three, because they are interrelated. They all three have to do with balancing accounts. Economics revolves around accounting for credit and debt; law, around accounting for crime/tort and redress thereof; and theology, accounting for guilt and atonement. All of these have the same root.

Do you think the emergence of electronic books will dent the market for paperback books? Will we still have paper books in twenty years time?

Actually I don’t think so, except perhaps in the realm of mass-market paperbacks. In my own publishing experience, hardcopy outsells ebook format at a ratio of perhaps 10-to-1, if not more. I think in future people will use them both in tandem, especially for any kind of rigorous scientific work, as each has its advantages and disadvantages.

One of the most recent of your publications is Article 36 by P.J. Hoedemaker. What was your aim and purpose in translating and publishing this book?

As I said, I became engrossed in Dutch theological writing that was available in translation. Once I learned the language, however, I discovered other material that had not been translated. My wife was the one who first introduced me to this other stream. In America we know of Abraham Kuyper, he represents Dutch Reformed theology. But in the Netherlands Kuyper represents but one variation in the Dutch Reformed theme. The other major variant was provided by the national church, and the names were Hoedemaker, Noordmans, Van Ruler. Article 36 perhaps best represents this other school of thought. It takes on Kuyper’s church/state model head on, and vouches for another approach, more in line with historical Reformed thought, that of the Christian state and the publicly-recognized church, both of which Kuyper cast aside.

Could you give some of the background to the book, for those who know little of Dutch Reformed history? For example, what is article 36? and who was HHoedemaker?

Article 36 of the Belgic Confession argues that the civil magistrate should promote the true religion and “remove and prevent” idolatry and false religion. Kuyper argued that this meant that the Belgic Confession, and Calvin and the Reformed fathers generally, carried on the Roman Catholic inquisition. Hoedemaker debunks this criticism and shows that the Reformers argued in favor of freedom of conscience, but also required that the true religion be recognized by the state, as guideline for and restriction on state power.

Hoedemaker himself has an interesting history, being born into a separatist family and having spent his teenage years in America. But he finally found his calling, not as a separatist or an advocate for a “free church in a free state,” as one might expect from his background, but as an advocate for the national church – “all the church for all the people,” as he put it. In his view, a national church organized along Presbyterian/conciliar lines provides a bulwark and foundation for the nation as a whole, beyond party politics, which drives people apart. Much of contemporary political conflict and culture war could be avoided if there were a national church which was grounded on Scripture and a solid confession of faith, such as the Netherlands had had and could have again. The people were certainly not opposed to it; it was the elites that time and time again worked against this ideal.

What were the key disagreements between Kuyper and Hoedemaker?

Kuyper advocated disestablishment, a neutral state, and Christians acting in the political sphere to realize Christian values (an extension of his doctrine of church-as-organism). Hoedemaker saw this as folly. It would lead to a secular state, rampant unbelief in public institutions; it would isolate Christians and push them into a ghetto.

Who do you think was right Kuyper or Hoedemaker?

I thought Hoedemaker was right even before I’d ever heard of him. It bothered me about Kuyper that he advocated the disestablishment of Christianity in public life, as is evident from his Lectures on Calvinism. Hoedemaker’s arguments, along with others like Van Ruler’s, are to me unanswerable. And after having translated Article 36, I think Hoedemaker ably dismantles Kuyper’s argument.

Why is this book important for today?

This can all seem like a hopeless tilting at windmills, but in fact the perspective Hoedemaker brings offers the only way out of the current impasse. We got on this track by embracing the neutral state. This has led to the silencing of the church – of the truth – and the triumph of opinion riding on power, exactly as Hoedemaker predicted. If Christians can recover a vision of the church as a unified body taking a public stand for the truth, then the state and the culture and the social order can be restored. But it will take Christians turning away from structural individualism and toward structural corporate life and action as the visible body of Christ to make this a reality.

Where can potential readers get hold of the book?

The book itself is available at all online bookstores. In North America, the WordBridge webstore is available as well. Check the website for more information:

What other projects are in the pipeline for WordBridge?

As a companion volume to Article 36, the other of Hoedemaker’s major books is being published as we speak. This would be Reformed Ecclesiology in an Age of Denominationalism. This book basically picks up where Article 36 leaves off, exploring the possibility of restoring the church to its role in public life. Furthermore, another book on ecclesiology is slated to be published, in which Adolph Harnack and Josef Bohatec take on Rudolph Sohm’s influential concept of the church. The former line up with the Reformed, while the latter is Lutheran. I also hope to publish a 20th-anniversary edition of my first book, A Common Law: The Law of Nations and Western Civilization. This book is especially timely now, in view of the controversy surrounding Brexit. It outlines the conflict within Western civilization between the common-law and civil-law orientations, the Anglo-American orbit reflecting common law, Continental Europe reflecting civil law. It is this conflict which with Brexit is surfacing again.

What do you like to do for fun?

I translate books. However, even that can get boring. So then, I also play guitar, sing in a choir, play tennis, and enjoy watching American sports over the internet thanks to web services that archive these events so you can watch them whenever you want. Having grown up in the 60s and 70s, I love pop and rock music from back then, but I also love classical music and can have some jazz, blues, country, bluegrass, here and there as well. And I really do love studying the Bible along the lines of the great themes: covenant, kingdom of God, baptism.

What are you reading at the moment?

Actually I’m reading the best book on Galatians I’ve yet to run across: The Blessing of Abraham, the Spirit, and Justification in Galatians by Chee-Chiew Lee, absolutely brilliant. Also, Herschepping (Recreation) by Oepke Noordmans. I’ve already translated his book on liturgy, and this is another I’d love to translate. Amazing insights you find nowhere else. And for diversion I’m reading Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend, which is plodding on forever, but is still captivating.

If you were on a desert island what two luxuries would you take with you?

Probably my e-reader full of select PDFs, and… assuming electricity, my laptop. I’d have to have something to write with, right?

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Hallowed be Thy name in ...

 Around the ruins of Coventry Cathedral there are a number if prayer panels.
They provide a broad view of the gospel

 Hallowed be Thy name in industry.
God be in my hands and in my making.

Hallowed be Thy name in arts.
God be in my senses and in my creating.

Hallowed be Thy name at home.
God be in my heart and in my loving.
Hallowed be Thy name in commerce.
God be in my desk and in my trading.

Hallowed be Thy name in suffering.
God be in my pain and in my enduring.

Hallowed be Thy name in Government.
God be in my plans and in my deciding.

Hallowed be Thy name in education.
God be in my mind and in my growing.

 Hallowed by Thy name in recreation.
God be in my limbs and in my leisure. 

(Refrain prayed after each section)
Holy, Holy, Holy; Lord God of Hosts;
Heaven and earth are full of Thy Glory

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Forthcoming Kuyperania

2019 is looking like a great year for Kuyperania! 
Two more offerings from the Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology, 
an introduction to Kuyper Engaging the World from Mike Wageman (Lexham)
and P.J. Hoedemaker's response to Kuyper regarding Article 36 of the Belgic Confession (Pantocrator Press).

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Restless Faith by Richard Mouw

Restless Faith
Holding Evangelical Beliefs in a World of Contested Labels
Richard J. Mouw
Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press
ISBN: 9781587433924
192 pages, paperback, £12.99

Mouw is no stranger to writing great little books. These include:

Kuyper: A Short and Personal Introduction
Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport
When the Kings Come Marching In
Political Evangelism

Restless Faith is a very welcome addition to these other great little books. Mouw is a philosopher, an academic, a former president of a prestigious evangelical seminary - it is this that has kept him grounded and in touch with the younger more radical evangelicalism.

Here Mouw examines a series of fascinating topics all exploring evangelical identity. He begins by reexamining the label evangelical. Unlike others, he reluctantly affirms the use of the label - despite the recent politicisation of the term.

What does it mean to be an evangelical in a world of drones and clones? This is the issue that Mouw examines. Unlike Russ Douat he doesn't see a split between the elite (the evangelical academics) and the pew.

He sees a restlessness in many younger people's evangelicalism - this he sees as a good thing. Particularly, as Mouw's background was one where thinking was not encouraged and there was a climate of anti-intellectualism, where the refrain you don't need exegesis you need Jesus was heard.

Mouw draws upon his own experiences to provide wisdom and insight into new issues and problems that face contemporary evangelicals. He shares insights he received from Carl Henry, Edward Carnell, Billy Graham.

Through it all Mouw still holds to the age-old fundamentalist adage: if the Bible says it,  I believe it. But he does so in a post-critical rather than a naive form. Mouw may have a child-like faith but it is certainly not childish.

Mouw is never pompous, pontificating or patronising. He listens, affirms, critiques and then enriches others' views. This is seen particularly in his examination and discussion of Robert Schuller, the Mormons, Rob Bell and several others in the fringes of evangelicalism. His use of xxx's notion of bounded and unbounded sets is helpful.

The book bleeds insight. Mouw helps us see the grey in the black and whiteness of evangelicalism. It provides a good justification for the continued use of the evangelical label.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Christian Responses to the Far Right 22 February Thinking Faith Network with Dr William Allchorn

For full details and booking see:

Friday 22nd February 2019 7:00pm
2018 was a tumultuous year for global politics. With the electoral success of the Lega Nord in Italy in March and the breakthrough election of Spain's Vox party in December, populist radical right parties have emerged in both likely and unlikely national contexts.
In this talk, based on five years of research into the UK far right, Dr William Allchorn will look at the drivers of this populist revolt and what Christians can do about it.
The talk will draw on examples from UK anti-Islam movements in order to illuminate where Christians are getting involved and how Christianity features in the ideology, practice and support bases of the far right.
It will conclude by suggesting what Christian responses should look like and what can be done to combat the rise of the populist radical right more broadly.
Dr William Allchorn is a specialist in anti-Islamic protest movements in the UK and Western Europe. His PhD thesis mapped local authority responses to the English Defence League in five UK locations.
William has just finished his first research monograph, Anti-Islamic Protest in the UK: Policy Responses to the Far Right, and is now Associate Director at the Centre for the Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR).

Booking details

7.30pm, with a glass of wine from 7pm.
This is a free event, but please book your place on Eventbrite. There will be an opportunity to contribute to costs on the night

Sunday, 20 January 2019

The case for secularism

The Case for Secularism: A neutral state in an open societyThe Case for Secularism: A neutral state in an open society by Julian Baggini et al.
London: British Humanist Association

This is a brief and well-written argument for secularism. By secularism is meant: 'a neutral state in an open society'. They make clear that they do not mean by this an atheist state.

They use three key arguments to defend their position the argument from autonomy, the argument from fairness and the argument from pragmatism.

In essence, they want a naked public square, but they are willing to allow religion in the private sphere. However, their naked public square is anything but naked, it is populated by the liberal values of individuality, freedom, autonomy, and the separation of religion and politics (church and state).

A much better model for pluralism without denigrating religious views (including liberalism) is that advocated by Abraham Kuyper: sphere sovereignty. A position that has all the advantages that these authors seek, but without dismissing religion to a private sphere.

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Saturday, 19 January 2019

Engaging the World with Abraham Kuyper by Mike Wagenman

Mike Wagenman has a new book on Kuyper to be published in the summer. It promises to be the book of 2019: