Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Remembering Henk Hart

Dear Friends,

On March 15, we lost ICS’s founding Senior Member, Henk Hart. Speaking personally, Henk was my mentor at ICS, serving as my graduate supervisor at both the Master and Doctoral levels. But he was much more than a fine, caring teacher to me; he was also my close friend and confidante, and I will miss him terribly. I was extremely fortunate to have been able to visit him at his home with my wife Cheryl the day before he died. We all thought he had several weeks if not months left to live. Apparently, Henk did too, because he had just purchased a new camera and was looking forward to taking pictures of the birds migrating north over Lake Ontario this spring. So, although we were expecting this news eventually, it still came as a sudden shock to us. In lieu of my usual President’s message, I would instead like to preface our monthly prayer letter with a moving memorial tribute penned by Jim Olthuis, Henk’s dear friend and colleague of 65 years (which can also be found on our website). Please join us in giving thanks to God for Henk’s life, a life lived fully and well, in generous service to God’s coming kingdom of shalom.


Ron Kuipers

Toronto, March 25, 2021


Monday, 22 March 2021

In Memoriam: Hendrik Hart

by Jim Olthuis

Hendrik "Henk" Hart, the pioneering first professor of the Institute for Christian Studies, beloved friend of ICS and all ICSers, passed on to glory on March 15, 2021. I write these words to celebrate his person, work, and legacy. It is not easy to find the right words. Henk was my friend for 65 years and I miss him already. 

Henk was a rare, unique, one-of-a-kind person; a penetrating thinker, a devoted teacher, husband, and father, an ardent birder, an avid gardener, a story-teller par excellence, and a faithful friend. Above all, he was a lover of Jesus, a diligent student of Scripture, of firm conviction and forgiving spirit, on whose word, like gold in the bank, one could always depend. He was interested in people and loved to hear their stories. He liked nothing better than sitting down together, preferably with a single malt scotch, and sharing stories or discussing the issues of the day. Injustice rankled his soul to no end: Something must be done. In times of trouble and distress, his support was unwavering.

Thinking back on our many years together at the Institute, the interweaving of three words does some justice in describing Henk's ICS legacy: courage-commitment-compassion all in the service of a God of Love. ICS was—and still is—a radical effort to promote the cause of integral Christian scholarship in a time of the assumed neutrality of scholarship and the pretended autonomy of theoretic thought. From day one, it took courage and commitment to challenge these assumptions, and Henk was the embodiment of commitment and compassion. Convinced that all of life, not only Sunday worship, is undertaken in service of God (distilled in the familiar phrase, “life is religion”), Henk entered the halls of academia. His mission: to show that the assumed neutrality of reason is actually faith in Reason as the way to Truth and the sole arbiter of reality. In other words, that it acts as a substitute for faith in our Creator-Redeemer God. It is worth mentioning that through these academic efforts, Henk earned the respect and friendship of well-respected Canadian atheist political philosopher Kai Neilsen.

At the Institute, Henk thought of himself not so much as a professor but as a Senior Member. From the start he resisted any kind of hierarchy, insisting on cooperative governance. His door was always open to Junior Members. His passion for understanding the world as God’s creation inspired students and touched them deeply. It led to the publication of his book Understanding Our World (1984).

In the process of Henk's disputing the autonomy of Reason, it became increasingly obvious that this doctrine had detrimental effects that reached far beyond theory. This autonomy undermined social justice, promoted inequality, exiled compassion, marginalized people of faith, women, the poor, the different. This was of crucial significance for ICS because the reason for its very existence was to set up a Christ-centered program of higher learning to help the people of God live lives of faith and compassion in their everyday existence. For Henk, it became crystal clear: being redemptively Christian in scholarship also requires outworking in our lived practice, especially by promoting and fostering justice toward the oppressed and marginalized.

Convicted, committed, and compassionate, Henk felt called to start AWARE, an organization promoting the full acceptance of gay and lesbian Christians into the church. About the same time, fighting against discrimination against women in the church, he suggested it might be possible to address God in prayer as Mother.

Henk’s acts of courage raised concerns for some people. In response, he wrote Setting Our Sights by the Morning Star (1989), in particular pointing to the promise that the Spirit of God will continue to lead us into truth even as things change. In all this, it is important to underline just how reformational it all is: semper reformanda (always reforming) to remain true to the Gospel.

Indeed, what stands out to me now was Henk’s ability to open the Scriptures. He had the wonderful knack for reading the Bible with the eyes of faith in ways that resonated deep in my soul and, I am sure, in the souls of many.

Related to this, I cannot close without mentioning one other matter. Not calling attention to it would dishonor Henk and his memory. In the 1990’s Henk began to de-center the idea of order and give love the central focus. The embrace of love gives a new redemptive orientation to life away from a focus on rational knowing. This shifts the focal point away from obeying an immutable law-order, to love as God’s gift/call that invites us to be co-workers with God in the ministry of the reconciliation of all things. This is to return to what Augustine said many centuries ago: “Love and do what you will” (dilige, et quod vis fac). This, then, is what it means to obey Jesus: “Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:36).

The verse with which I will end this in memoriam is the first portion of a longer poem that Henk composed after the death of his wife, Anita, and daughter, Esther. What a legacy! Thanks be to God for the fruitfulness and integrity of the life, work, and witness of Henk Hart.

* * *

Love’s Embrace

Hendrik Hart

At heart,
a human life
gains without measure
in depth and scope
exposed to giving
or receiving
primeval energy
of all that is.
In the embrace of Love
vessels of love
become aware:
irresistible energy
compels us
be centered
in all we do
in Love’s embrace;
to seek for ourselves
and others
peace, justice, joy, life,
fulfillment, patience,
hope, life, and healing.

* * *

With love,
Jim Olthuis

- - -
You can read the rest of the poem above, as well as other reflective writings from Henk, in our From Henk's Archives Ground Motive series. 

You can also read the recent issue of Perspective published in honor of Henk's legacy on our Institutional Repository.

Sunday, 21 March 2021

Prayer Letter: April 2021

 Prayer Letter: April 2021

Thursday, April 1 - Friday, April 2:

On Thursday, April 1 (1:00-2:30pm EDT), CPRSE will host ICS’s Winter Term Scripture, Faith, and Scholarship Symposium. For this event, we will welcome Dr. Nadine Bowers Du Toit, Director of The Unit for Religion and Development Research at the University of Stellenbosch, who will share with us some of her most recent research on Christian youth and inequality in post-Apartheid South Africa. Please pray that this event will be an opportunity for reflection and growth for our community, as we continue to attend to our institutional focus on race relations and systemic racism. 

We are happy to announce that after years of hard editorial work, ICS/CPRSE has published the second volume of its Currents in Reformational Thought book series. Seeking Stillness or The Sound of Wings: Scholarly and Artistic Comment on Art, Truth, and Society in Honour of Lambert Zuidervaart pays tribute to Emeritus Senior Member Lambert Zuidervaart, one of the most productive Reformational philosophers of the present generation. We pray in thanksgiving for Lambert, for the volume’s editors Héctor Acero Ferrer, Michael DeMoor, Peter Enneson and Matthew Klaassen; and for the multiple scholars and artists who contributed essays, statements, and pieces of art to this festschrift. 

Easter Sunday:

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid;I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead and is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. (Matt. 28:5-8 NRSV)

Monday, April 5 - Friday, April 9:

Please pray for our Perspective production team this month as they work hard to finish the editing of the articles and compiling the content for the spring issue. Pray particularly for Danielle Yett and Héctor Acero Ferrer as they give leadership to the process, ensuring that all runs according to the timeline to meet our printing deadline; and for Vidya Williams as she prepares all the data for the mailing.

The second, and last, school visit for this semester as part of the new MA-EL course, How to Finance a Vision, will be on April 8th with Smithville Christian High in the Niagara region of Ontario. This part of the course will consist of an interview of the principal, Ted Harris, by the course instructor, a virtual guided tour of the school, and a moderated Q&A session with questions from the participants for the principal. Again, we would appreciate prayer for all of the participants and leaders of this learning experience, as well as for Ted and his team at Smithville Christian School as they host this visit.

As this semester’s classes wind down, please pray for our faculty as they continue to provide the teaching and mentoring to our Junior Members in this remote learning environment. We ask that God will give energy and inspiration to these mentoring relationships which will lead to the flourishing of ideas and furthering of projects for our Junior Members.

The month of April will be an exciting time at our institutional podcast, Critical Faith. As part of our new series “The Wake of 2020,” we will interview historian Kristin Kobes Du Mez and theologian Jonathan Hamilton-Diabo to talk about the ways in which their research can help us think of a world after 2020. We pray in thanksgiving for Kristin, Jonathan, and all other guests who have offered their time and talent to our community through our podcast.

Monday, April 12 - Friday, April 16:

Please continue to pray for the Recruitment Crew as they continue to promote the summer courses being held from April 20th to the end of August. There is a diverse lineup of learning opportunities available for students who want to take courses for credit or for personal interest. We’re grateful for the time and effort spent by the teachers preparing these courses. Please pray for their continuing preparations, and that students might find their way to these exciting learning opportunities. You can find out more about what’s on offer this summer here: http://www.icscanada.edu/summer-courses

Friday the 16th is the last day of classes and just like last year, ICS will be holding its annual spring retreat for staff, faculty, and students in the evening. Gideon Strauss and Elizabet Aras have been hard (and creatively!) at work to make this virtual spring retreat as uplifting and hope-filled as it has been in the past. We’re grateful for their efforts and ask for prayers for their continued strength and inspiration in their work. We pray that this important culminating event in the school year will continue to build us a community, and help us to reflect on the various lessons, insights, and blessings in the past academic year.

ICS is delighted to welcome Prof. Janel Kragt Bakker as our newest external Senator! Prof. Kragt Bakker is Associate Professor of Mission, Evangelism, and Culture at Memphis Theological Seminary. She received her BA from Dordt College and her MA and PhD from the Catholic University of America. Prof. Kragt Bakker is the author of Sister Churches: American Congregations and their Partners Abroad (Oxford  University Press, 2014). Recently, Prof. Kraft Bakker commented on “Josh Hawley, Betsy DeVos, and Abraham Kuyper” on the Patheos website. She is an organizer for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Due to the postponement of Ontario’s March Break to the week of April 12th, we’ve extended the application deadline for the MA-EL program so principals and teachers could have the time to reflect on what courses they would like to take in the summer and fall semesters. Please pray for these educators as they discern their priorities for professional development during this busy year.

Monday, April 19 - Friday, April 23:

On Tuesday, April 20th, our Summer Online Learning program starts off with the course “The Soul of the Soulless Conditions: Marxist on Christianity, Christians on Marxism,” led by our very own Dean Dettloff. This course will run in a semi-intensive format, meeting virtually twice per week between April 20 and May 27 (Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7-9pm EDT). “The Soul of the Soulless Conditions” will be a great opportunity to learn about the multiple ways in which Christianity and Marxism intersect, as we get a glimpse into the cutting-edge research that our sessional lecturer and PhD Candidate Dean Dettloff is currently doing in the topic.

Please pray this month for Gideon Strauss, Elizabeth Aras, and all the faculty as they review the applications for the MWS-ART and MA-EL programs. Pray that they might have discernment and wisdom as they review the student files, and that the Lord might bring us students who are a good fit for the programs, and for whom the programs are a good fit.

The Leadership Team, and especially Harley Dekker as he pulls all the materials together, will be working hard on the coming year’s budget. Please pray for them in their deliberations, that they might be granted insight, wisdom and hope as they make stewardship decisions for the 2021-2022 budget year in the midst of a financial environment that is still unpredictable and constantly changing.

We ask for prayer for the ICS Academic Council as it concludes its review of the ICS Senior Member Handbook in April in preparation for the Senate’s consideration at its May meeting. This is a long and detailed process, and we’re grateful for the hard work of all involved. Please pray for continued strength of spirit and fruitful discussion among the Council members in their deliberations over the updates and changes to be made. Pray also for Gideon Strauss and Elizabet Aras as they work to compile the many other documents for the dossier that goes to the Senate members for their review at their meeting in May. 

Monday, April 26 - Friday, April 30:

Once a month, the administrative staff of ICS gather together virtually over Zoom to update one another and to provide support where needed on the various projects that everyone is involved in. Monday the 26th is our April meeting day, and we ask for prayer as we gather together online, that we will continue to experience the same support and camaraderie with one another that has been present in our virtual meetings throughout this past year.

We are thankful for the learning we have experienced in our MA-EL winter courses Deeper Learning, Transforming the World, and How to Finance a Vision. This past term we have made some wonderful connections with expert practitioners from both elementary and secondary Christian schools. Please pray for students in these programs as they now turn to completing their final projects and sharing their learning with authentic audiences.

We are thankful that our new Christian Educators Certification Program has been approved 

by the Senate and is ready to be launched this summer. Please pray for K-12 teachers, who are very tired due to a challenging year of teaching during the pandemic, as they consider registering for our upcoming summer courses, Finding Joy in Learning, Lead from Where You Are, and Transforming the World.

Saturday, 27 February 2021

Actively Waiting

 I waited patiently for the Lord, he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.

—Psalm 40:1-2

Lent is a season of waiting. This forty-day period before Easter reminds us of the forty years that God’s liberated people spent wandering in the desert, waiting to arrive in the land Yahweh promised them. It also reminds us of the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness, including the temptation he faced, before returning to the people to announce the good news of God’s coming kingdom of shalom.

We often think of waiting as a rather passive thing, like when we are sitting in a doctor’s office mindlessly scrolling through our phones or leafing through a three-year-old magazine, passively biding time until the real moment we are waiting for arrives. We think of waiting as a time when we are powerless to do anything. What do we do now? We wait.

Scripture opens us to a different understanding of waiting. Scripture encourages us to understand waiting as a time of active spiritual preparation. We wait patiently for the Lord, and in that waiting we tend a space in which God may incline toward us and hear our cry. This waiting activity embodies a form of spiritual receptivity that makes way for the arrival of God’s new thing. How long, O Lord? Do not delay, O my God!

Because Jesus fasted in the wilderness for forty days, many Christians often choose to draw close to God during Lent by fasting as well, or by giving up something we feel is spiritually distracting or otherwise taking up too much space in our lives. Yet the point of this spiritual practice is not the fasting itself, but rather the spiritual preparation, the creation of a space in which we can notice God’s inclination, his response to us.

In the Bible God often disparages our fasting, especially when it operates more as a self-righteous display than as a spiritual practice of preparing ourselves to draw nearer to God. Isaiah 58 is perhaps the most famous example of this, where God spurns the spiritual motions of a rebellious people, reminding them that the fast he would have them undertake is “to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke” (vs. 6). “You want to draw near to me?” God asks, “This is how you should go about it.”

So, what do we do during Lent and at all other times? We wait, patiently, for the Lord. But we wait actively. Our spiritual fast involves us in more than giving up chocolate or social media for a season, but also calls us to the joyful task of removing all the yokes of oppression that bind God’s good creation, so that each one of us may be called “repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in” (vs. 12). In this way, we join in God’s redemptive play, living into the promise that one day God will be all in all.

So thank you for joining us in God’s waiting room, friends! There are more things here than just chairs and magazines. If it looks familiar, that is because we’ve been here the whole time!

I wish you all God’s nearness this Lenten season!

Ron Kuipers

Prayer Letter: March 2021

Monday, March 1 - Friday, March 5:

Please pray for our Perspective production team as they work hard to finish compiling the content for the spring issue. Pray particularly for Danielle Yett and Héctor Acero Ferrer as they give leadership to the process, ensuring that all runs according to the timeline. We ask God to give the authors creative minds as they write and encouragement as they participate in this project together.

March is a very busy time for the recruitment team as they work to get all the promotional materials for the summer and fall courses created and sent out to our various student populations. This is particularly urgent for our MA-EL courses because they need to be communicated before the March break when teachers and principals tend to make decisions about the courses they will take in the summer and fall semesters. Pray for energy, inspiration and creativity for the whole team.

Our new Critical Faith series on political life in a “post-2020” world begins this week! CPRSE Postdoctoral Research Associate Andrew Tebbutt and the Critical Faith team have been diligently planning and recording episodes with ICS Senior and Junior Members, and special guests. Episodes are set to be released over the next couple of months, so please pray that everyone involved will have fruitful conversations to share over the course of this series. 

Monday, March 8 - Friday, March 12:

The Finance Committee will begin the preparations this month for developing the 2020-2021 budget proposal for consideration by the Board at its May meeting. Please pray for each member of the committee, our Director of Finance, Harley Dekker and the rest of the Leadership Team as they plan and forecast for the next year.

We ask for prayers for those involved in this semester's Interdisciplinary Seminar: “Meaning/Being/Knowing.” This is an integral part of the academic work shared by the ICS community. We are thankful for the opportunity for Senior and Junior Members to work together in considering this topic, and we ask for prayer for Senior Members Nik Ansell, Bob Sweetman, and Ron Kuipers as they lead this seminar.

The second school visit as part of the new MA-EL course, How to Finance a Vision, will be on March 11th with Knox Christian School in Bowmanville, ON. This part of the course will consist of an interview of the principal, Paul Marcus, by the course instructor, a virtual guided tour of the school, and a moderated Q&A session with questions from the participants for the principal. Again, we would appreciate prayer for all of the participants and leaders of this learning experience, as well as for Paul and his team at Knox Christian School as they host this visit.

Monday, March 15 - Friday, March 19:

Please pray this week for our Board of Trustees as they meet on Wednesday, March 17. We ask for guidance as they discuss the various matters before them, and wisdom in their decision-making. As this is the time of year when they begin to look forward to the next fiscal year and its budget, we ask God to give them clarity and understanding of the operational needs of ICS as it continues to work out its mission.

We have been receiving applications from students wishing to begin various academic programs in the fall. As Elizabet, our Registrar, sends out admission letters to these students, please pray for them as they discern whether they will make ICS their academic home, and as they plan for their immediate and long term futures. Pray too for our Financial Aid Committee as they meet to discuss scholarships and awards for new and current students.

Please pray this month for Elizabet Aras as she begins the planning process for Convocation 2021, which will likely happen in June if we are able to have an in-person event. This is always a special event for ICS and its graduates and families, so please pray that the pandemic restrictions will be lifted enough to make this possible. This year we will be celebrating two graduates from last year, and two, possibly three, for this year.

Monday, March 22 - Friday, March 26:

The last day of classes for the Winter 2020 semester is fast approaching! Please pray for the students as they work hard to complete their assignments and study for their final papers. We especially want to pray for those students who intend to graduate this year, as well as those who are finalizing their theses or preparing for their defenses.

The third and final expert practitioner panels, part of the new course in the MA-EL program, How to Finance a Vision, will take place on March 25th. This three-part panel includes 1) a discussion led by the course instructor around the question: “How do we tell the story of our school with our budget”; 2) an opportunity for course participants to relate their own experience to the introductory discussion; and 3) a Q & A session dealing with the questions that came up in the second part. In addition to individual MA-EL students attending, the opportunity is also being provided to school teams, and the ICS Leadership Team and several ICS Board members will be one of those teams who will be participating in this unique opportunity. Please pray for Gideon Strauss as he leads this learning event

Monday, March 29 - Wednesday, March 31:

After much planning, writing, and editorial work, the festschrift in honour of emeritus Lambert Zuidervaart is set to be released around the end of this month. Seeking Stillness or The Sound of Wings: Works of Art, Truth, and Society in Honour of Lambert Zuidervaart picks up the central concerns of Lambert’s philosophical work and legacy to see what more can be understood about our world in light of that legacy. We thank God for the gift of Lambert’s career and his years spent at ICS, the studious work of the book’s contributors and editors, and for the culmination of this exciting and long-awaited project.

During the month of March, ICS/CPRSE continues its engagement in multiple partnership efforts aiming to offer academic and public outreach events throughout 2021. Currently, our team is collaborating with Emmanuel College, the Canadian Interfaith Conversation, and the Society of Ricoeur Studies in the planning and execution of a number of conferences. Please pray for the success and fruitfulness of these partnerships.

Saturday, 6 February 2021

Phil Travis Virtual Memorial

In the most recent Prayer Letter we mentioned the passing of Phil Travis, a former student at ICS. We have since received details for his virtual memorial service. The service will be held online via Zoom on Saturday, February 13th, at 2pm (EST). You can join the meeting with the following information: Meeting ID (848 9782 6742) and Password (105 746). If you'd prefer to join by phone, you can call this phone number (312-626-6799) and join using the same Meeting ID and password. 

You can also find Phil's obituary here: https://www.gatheringus.com/memorial/philip-william-travis/6560. You are welcome to offer your support and condolences at this site. And please continue to pray with us for Phil's friends and family in this difficult time, especially for Phil's wife Shauna and their daughters Montana, Georgia, and Virginia.