Political positions have become a reason for discussion around the world. On social networks, the debates are even more profound and often even tend to exchange insults in a more aggressive environment. A necessary reflection, in the Christian scope, is the relationship between the thought of political ideologies and the biblical worldview.
To address the issue, the South American Adventist News Agency (ASN) spoke with David Koyzis. He holds a PhD in government and international studies from the University of Notre Dame (South Bend, IN, USA). In addition, he is the author of Political Visions and Illusions (2019), We Answer to Another: Authority, Office, and the Image of God (2014), and several articles. He currently writes for First Things, Christian Courier, Kuyperian Commentary, and Cateclesia Forum. He taught political science at Redeemer University College for 30 years.
Koyzis maintains a growing relationship with the Christian community in Brazil, which he visited in 2016 and where the second Brazilian edition of Visões e Ilusões Políticas (2021) was published by Edições Vida Nova in São Paulo. He has given many remote lectures to audiences in Brazil in recent years on subjects related to his two books. A Spanish translation of Political Visions and Illusions is currently in progress.
Born near Chicago in the United States to Greek and American Cypriot parents, Koyzis now lives with his family in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Interviewer: In your book Political Visions & Illusions: A Survey and Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies, you talk about political ideologies and show weaknesses in these systems, especially compared to 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?
Koyzis: Well, the main flaw is that ideologies spoil by excess. This 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 makes the individual will the source of all other social phenomena, including the basic institutions necessary for a society to remain healthy and flourish. It tries to make each community a mere voluntary association, thus erasing the distinctions between these communities.
Various forms of collectivism, from socialism to nationalism to democratism, properly value community, but in so doing tend to neglect the legitimate interests of individuals and other communities. For example, socialism pretends that only one form of community can monopolize property, and that usually turns out to be the state. But a society dominated by a single community will be an artificially restricted society where everyone follows orders rather than initiating a variety of activities.
In effect, followers of ideologies create a god out of something created, failing to worship the true God and to express gratitude for the created goods He has given us. But more than that, ideologies tell a story of redemption—of how we humans are going to save ourselves from some perceived evil, be it foreign rule, class inequality, government, or oppression by an outside authority of some sort. Seldom do followers of ideologies examine their own hearts to see if they can take responsibility for the world's ills themselves. This is one of the main reasons why ideologies lead to conflict.
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.
Interviewer: How do you see the importance of the Christian acting as a responsible citizen, also in your community, which certainly involves issues related to public policies?
Koyzis: Attention to our responsibilities as citizens is of utmost importance to Christians. We cannot brush them aside as intrinsically secular concerns that keep us from worship, prayer, church attendance, and so on. Indeed, a biblical understanding of life in Christ implies that we belong to Him in all that we are and do. This includes the many positions of authority we occupy throughout our lives. We are at once fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, teachers, students, employers, employees, colleagues, pastors, elders, church members, and citizens. Our calling before God is to be faithful in the exercise of each of these offices, recognizing that we are not our own but belong to God in Jesus Christ.
Interviewer: Finally, what do you suggest should be the attitude of Christians in the face of the political reality that surrounds them? What would be a biblically acceptable way?
Koyzis: We need to exercise our citizenship responsibly out of love for God and neighbor. We should not approach political life with an attitude of “What do I and my family get out of this?” We must rather recognize and support the legitimate role that government plays in our society, pray for our rulers as the Bible instructs us, and be ready to participate in public affairs.