Thursday 7 December 2023

Prayer Letter: December 2023

Monday, December 4 - Friday, December 8:

Dr. Samson Makhado was recently admitted to the hospital and is scheduled for spinal surgery in the coming days. Dr. Makhado received an MWS degree from ICS in 1994 and an honourary doctorate from ICS in 2012, and he is known to many around the world for his extensive work in Christian education and with the Association of Christian Schools International, particularly in South Africa. Please join us in praying for a successful surgery and speedy recovery for Dr. Makhado.

Irene Suk, the wife of former ICS President John Suk, was recently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. In the face of this extremely difficult news, the family asks for the supportive thoughts and prayers of the ICS community. Please join us in praying for peace and comfort for Irene and the Suk family as Irene undergoes an operation and first round of treatments in the near future.

On December 7, we will be hosting an online Open House for our MA and PhD programs. This will be a prime opportunity for potential students to “visit” ICS and hear firsthand from Junior and Senior Members about what an ICS education entails. This event will take place 6:00-7:30pm ET and is designed to introduce students to these programs and to answer questions about studying at ICS. Please pray that God will establish the work of our hands as we reach out to potential students that there will be interest in joining ICS in one of these programs. If you are interested, or know someone who is, please email Brenna at

Monday, December 11 - Friday, December 15:

ICS Board Chair Marci Frederick has been diagnosed with lymphoma. While the lymphoma is treatable, the treatment will likely be aggressive. Please join us in praying with Marci: that she might be able to complete all the precursor testing and procedures so that the chemotherapy can begin this Monday, that all involved will be carried by the Spirit of God and the love of Christ, that Marci and her family and colleagues will know calmness of spirit, and that Christ will be made known through all of this.

Our next ICS Philosophy on Tap event will take place on Wednesday, December 13 at 8pm ET. This event will take place online and will feature ICS Senior Member Nik Ansell discussing the topic: "Philosophical Realism and Ripley's 'Believe It or Not' Versus the Resurrection." Everyone is welcome, especially undergraduate students—no philosophy background required. Email to RSVP and get the Zoom info, and pray with us for a lively time of discussion among attendees!

This is the final week of fall classes before the Christmas break and courses in the winter 2024 term are scheduled to start the week of January 8. Please pray for our Senior Members and instructors as they teach their final sessions and as they prepare for their teaching next term. Pray also for our Junior Members and students as they work to finish up readings and other assignments and as they turn their attention toward their term papers and projects. Please also pray along with us that the holiday break will enable everyone to rest and recharge, and bring all of us back energized for the new year and all it may bring.

Monday, December 18 - Friday, December 22:

The ICS offices will be closed during the Christmas holidays from December 18 to January 1. Please pray for the ICS staff, Senior Members, Junior Members, and loved ones as we celebrate this joyous season. We pray for health and safety for all those planning to travel near and far over the holidays, and we pray that this may be a time of rest and reflection for the whole ICS community. 

Starting in October, the work of ICS’s CPRSE has been enriched with the contributions of Junior Members Julia Henderson and Todd Dias in their capacity of Research Assistants. Julia and Todd have focused their energy on the Centre’s blog and podcast, both of which will be relaunched in early 2024. Please join us as we pray in thanksgiving for Julia and Todd’s contributions to the public outreach of our institution.

Please pray with us in gratitude for the work of the Academic Council this past semester. The members of the council have spent the past few months reviewing academic policies and hearing reports on the work of the Library and Academic Office for presentation to the Senate at their winter meeting. The Academic Council in particular will continue to host Reflective Practice Reports from our Senior Members in the new year. Please pray for each of the members of the Academic Council as they continue their work into the new year, that they will have wisdom and clarity of thinking, and for Edith van der Boom as she chairs the council in their academic programming and policy deliberations.

This calendar year has been a time of fruitful partnerships for ICS’s CPRSE. Between January and May, our team collaborated with the Canadian Interfaith Conversation and Martin Luther University College in putting together the SSHRC-funded conference, “Our Whole Society: Finding Common Ground in a Time of Polarization.” Between June and October, we worked closely with the Society for Ricoeur Studies as ICS hosted SRS’s 17th Annual Conference,  “Ricoeur in Practice.” We pray in thanksgiving for these partnerships as well as for all the people who made them possible. 

Monday, December 25 - Friday, December 29:

May the blessings of love, joy, and peace be yours as you celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour this Christmas week.

Our Advent Appeal is under way! ICS supporters should have received the appeal package in the mail (if not, it should arrive soon), and we hope you enjoy reading the latest issue of Perspective that accompanies the appeal! You can also find a digital copy of the Advent Letter from President Ron Kuipers, including a link to donate to ICS, on our website. We are especially grateful during this time of year for the ways God continues to provide for us and for your faithful support of ICS and our educational mission—thank you!

Please pray for members of the ICS Senate as they prepare for their meeting in January 2024. Our Senate consists of two Junior Member representatives (June Moon and Julia Henderson), two Senior Member representatives (Nik Ansell and Neal DeRoo), President Ron Kuipers, the Academic Dean Gideon Strauss, and eight external Senators (Janel Kragt Bakker, Memphis Theological Seminary; Pamela Beattie, University of Louisville; Beth Green, Tyndale University & Seminary; Joshua Harris, The King’s University; Henry Luttikhuizen; Margie Patrick,The King’s University; Janet Wesselius, Augustana Faculty, University of Alberta). There is a vacancy for an external Senator, for which your prayers would also be appreciated. Please also pray for the Chair of Senate and Chancellor of ICS, Pamela Beattie, and the Vice Chair, Beth Green, in their leadership of the Senate.

As 2023 draws to a close, we give thanks for another fruitful year of work at ICS and for all our supporters, friends, and colleagues who made this work possible through their prayers, financial gifts, and service. We also pray for God's blessings upon our staff, Senior Members, and Junior Members as we pursue wisdom together, in the classroom and beyond, throughout this next year. We look forward to another year of work and study together!

Embodying Love

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

—Colossians 3:12

During Advent, as we contemplate the profound mystery of God coming to dwell among us in human form, my thoughts turn in gratitude to all those people in my life who have embodied Christ’s compassion for me, and whose living example has profoundly shaped my own stumbling efforts to walk our Messiah’s path of grace and love.

Hendrik Hart, who left us to return to the God of love in March 2021, was one such person. Henk not only nurtured my intellectual gifts, but also showed me true friendship by dressing my spiritual wounds, sensing my struggle to stay connected to God’s love in Christ while I was at the same time harbouring profound doubts about my conservative Calvinist upbringing.

Sometimes Henk would address this situation with humour. In those early days, he once jokingly introduced me to people at an ICS event with the words, “This is Ron Kuipers. ICS is the last stop on his way out of the tradition.” In the early 1990s, when he said those words, he might even have been right. Yet thanks to the loving and faithful witness of my ICS professors and the larger ICS community, I never in fact boarded that final train.

Yet no one more than Henk illustrated for me through both his actions and his words the profound and mysterious truth that God is love. Importantly, he did so without skirting the dark realities of pain, suffering, and death. During his life, Henk had to say farewell to his wife, Anita, as well as his daughter, Esther. While grieving their loss, he was nevertheless able to remain grateful for the love they brought into his life. This experience inspired him to write the poem “Love/Love II,” in which he writes, “I experienced Love / dawning forcefully / at the dark edge of the abyss / in their last journey.”

Henk’s expression of surprise at feeling the profound Presence of Love while he was bidding farewell to those whom he loved most eventually builds to a crescendo in a verse that, to my ear, evokes a deep Advent truth:

The birth of Love in our life, 
foretaste of eternity:
this inexpressible joy will be ours

Henk’s life embodied the truth that because God dearly loves us, we may clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience—even in our darkest hour.

So, in the spirit of the Advent season, I wish you all the profound Presence of Love, of Immanuel, and hope that you experience this Love every time the candles we light for one another, both literally and figuratively, pierce the surrounding darkness.

Shalom, friends!
Ron Kuipers

Monday 4 December 2023

New Essay on Foucault and Adorno

Senior Member Emeritus Lambert Zuidervaart has published a chapter titled “Adorno, Foucault, and Feminist Theory: The Politics of Truth” in the volume Feminism and the Early Frankfurt School edited by Christine Payne and Jeremiah Morelock (Brill 2024), pp. 133-161. 

Zuidervaart first summarizes Michel Foucault’s genealogical account of disciplinary power and state biopower. Then he contrasts Foucault’s account with Theodor Adorno’s negative dialectical critique of domination and compares their understandings of how truth and power interrelate. From this comparison two challenges of relevance to feminist critical theory emerge. One is to articulate the normative implications of how truth and power interrelate. The other is to envision genuine prospects for the transformation of society as a whole. 

Lambert’s full chapter is available online. The publisher Brill will publish a hardcover version of the book in 2024.

New Book on Neo-Calvinism and the Arts

InterVarsity Press has just published a new book on Neo-Calvinism and the arts entitled: The Artistic Sphere: The Arts in Neo-Calvinist Perspective, edited by Roger D. Henderson and Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker. 

The volume features many contributors from the ICS community and beyond, reflecting on the thought of John Calvin, Abraham Kuyper, Herman Dooyeweerd, Hans Rookmaaker, and others in the tradition as they pertain to artistic practice. In particular how the Reformed tradition, in the publisher's words, "has consistently demonstrated not just a willingness but a desire to engage with all manner of cultural and artistic expressions."

The book contains chapters from Calvin Seerveld on "The Meaning of the Crucifixion: Grünewald and Perugino," from Nicholas Wolterstorff on "The Social Protest Meaning of the Graphic Art of Käthe Kollwitz," from Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin on Calvin and the arts and "Chris Ofili: Contemporary Art and the Return of Religion," from Lambert Zuidervaart on "Redemptive Art Criticism," and many more. Check out the book for yourself today.

Saturday 11 November 2023

Prayer Letter: November 2023

Monday, November 6 - Friday, November 10:

On November 7, longtime ICS supporter Arie Van Eek passed away after complications from a fall. Please join us in prayers of gratitude for the gift of Arie’s life, and in prayers of compassion for Arie’s family as they mourn his loss and await reunion in resurrection hope. A family visitation is taking place on Sunday, November 12, 2023 from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. A memorial service will take place the following day Monday, November 13, at 11 a.m. Find out more here.

November 11 is Remembrance Day. On this day we lift up all those who have suffered and sacrificed in the Great War, and in the many wars that have happened since and that rage today. Please join us in prayers for peace in the hopeful words of the prophet Isaiah: “[The nations] shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!” (Isaiah 2:4-5).

We would value your prayers this week as we work with our printer on the final steps to get the latest issue of Perspective mailed out to our ICS community. We’re grateful for the expertise of our designer and printer, and pray that the many pieces of this process will come together in a smooth and timely manner.

Monday, November 13 - Friday, November 17:

Junior Member Julia Henderson is defending her MA thesis this week. Julia has been working closely with Senior Member Emeritus Bob Sweetman and will be defending a thesis titled DeCreation: The Unity of Action and Contemplation in Simone Weil. We pray for Julia as she prepares for her defense over the next few days, that she will have peace of mind in her final preparations and throughout her defense. We also pray for the thesis committee that they might have a fruitful discussion with Julia on her chosen topic. 

Over the next couple of weeks, we will invite new and potential students to join us for a host of Open Classes in each of our courses taking place this semester. This is a wonderful opportunity for potential future students to get a firsthand taste of what ICS classes are like and to imagine themselves as an ICS Junior Member. You can see Open Class dates here. If you’d like to find out more, email Please share the news of these Open Classes with any students in your life and keep these classes in your prayers, that they might be well-attended.

On Friday, November 17, the Board of Trustees will meet online. Please pray for grace and wisdom for our Chair, Marci Frederick, and all our Board members as they deliberate together on various matters pertaining to the stewardship of ICS’s calling and resources. Please also give thanks with us for those outgoing Board Members who have given generously of their time and talents during their terms of service: Lynnette Postuma and Hans Speelman.

Monday, November 20- Friday, November 24:

As we quickly move into the end of the fall term, we would ask you to please pray for our Senior Members and faculty as they teach in the final few weeks of classes, and as they prepare for their teaching in the quickly-approaching winter term. We also want to express our deep gratitude for the new students who have come to ICS this academic year, as well as all the returning ones. Our students keep us alive in all kinds of ways. So we pray that they may stay in touch with their infectious enthusiasm amid the demands that can be felt as we move towards the end of the semester and as they work to finish up readings and other assignments and as they start to prepare their term papers and projects.

We would also ask you to pray for our recruitment crew as they work with the faculty to promote the upcoming winter term courses. We ask for wisdom and creativity as we try to get the word out to potential students about our many exciting courses.

On Thanksgiving Day in the US, we want to share our prayers of gratitude for each and every one of our supporters in Canada, the US, and across the world. Your continued financial, prayerful, professional, and personal support of the day-to-day educational mission of ICS has carried us through the pandemic and keeps us going—so thank you!

Monday, November 27 - Thursday, November 30:

November 28 is Giving Tuesday! As we approach the Christmas season and the end of another year peeks around the corner, we grow more and more grateful for the faithful giving of ICS supporters this year and throughout the years. Every gift to ICS makes a huge impact in enabling the education we can offer our students. This Giving Tuesday, please consider 1) sending an additional gift to ICS to further your vital support of our programming, 2) sharing with someone new about what ICS does and why they might want to support that work too, and 3) continuing to pray for our Junior Members, Senior Members, and staff in our day-to-day efforts to allow the gospel's message of renewal to shape our pursuit of wisdom.

On Thursday, November 30, we will be hosting an online Info Night for anyone interested in joining ART in Orvieto 2024 this coming July. If you’d like to join this Info Night, you can email for details. Please also share news of this Info Night widely with anyone you know who may be interested in this kind of expeditionary learning opportunity! And join us in praying that we gather as wonderful a group of students for this year’s ART in Orvieto as we have in years past.

Saturday, December 2 at 2pm ET, our Annual General Meeting is taking place online. Please pray for Marci Frederick as she gives leadership to the meeting, for all those who will present reports, and for the time participants will be able to spend together talking about our hopes for ICS. We’re grateful for this yearly rhythm which affords the opportunity to attend to what we’ve accomplished, and the goals to which we aspire institutionally. We also give thanks for this chance to gather with the broader ICS community to reflect together on our educational calling and hopes.

Yearning for the Messiah

And again, Isaiah says,
“The Root of Jesse will spring up,
one who will arise to rule over the nations;
in him the Gentiles will hope.” 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

—Romans 15:12-13 (New International Version)

I have been thinking a lot about hope lately, not just for myself, but especially for the millions of people across the world who suffer under the iron heel of a world at war. How are they supposed to hold onto hope? Where do the survivors of such violence find the resilience to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and rebuild? For they so often do precisely that, and that is a mysterious and wondrous thing.

When I first read Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America, I was struck by a particular section in which he describes a supportive relationship between the very different emotions of joy and grief. He contrasts these related emotions to the equally reinforcing pair of pride and despair (pp.103-8). Pride involves the arrogance of assuming we can destroy what we did not create, a destruction we tolerate in the name of progress. Such pride includes a naïve optimism that underestimates the brokenness, danger, and difficulty in which we are mired, not to mention our human finitude in the face of all we do not control, and simply expects things to get better without thinking too much about how or why. When such expectations are dashed, as they all too often are, pride quickly transforms into its converse, an utter despair completely devoid of any hope.

Joy and grief work differently. Together, these mark the boundaries of what Berry calls “the human estate.” When we accept the gift of our lives within these bounds, then in those all-too-frequent moments of darkness that dash our joy and conspire against our hope, we will respond with grief rather than despair. Unlike despair, grief carves a difficult path that enables us to work through our loss so that we can live to hope another day. That is what it means to hope against hope.

Of course, what I have said about holding on to hope through the work of grief is easier said than done. Indeed, against so much evidence to the contrary, scripture asks us nevertheless to trust that God is at work healing, restoring, and renewing the world. But is that really so hard a thing to believe, after all? For we see God’s redemptive work wherever we witness the possibility of redemption being made real, whenever a cup of cold water is offered to someone who thirsts. However rare and fleeting such moments may be, their very existence bears witness to the fact that any and every moment is one in which the healing love that suffuses creation might break through.

And so, we yearn for “that day” when such possibility becomes fully actual, when our redeeming God will be all, in all. Until then, we live and act in hope, gaining the joy and peace that fills us when we let go and trust in our Maker and Redeemer’s shalom way.

Shalom, friends!

Ron Kuipers