Tuesday 18 September 2012

New Journal: Critical Research on Religion

Lambert Zuidervaart, ICS professor of philosophy and previous director of the CPRSE,  is on the advisory board of Critical Research on Religion, a new peer-reviewed, international journal from Sage Publications focusing on the development of a critical theoretical framework and its application to research on religion.  The first issue is scheduled for April 2013.  Articles are being invited now.  Learn more at crr.sagepub.com

Monday 17 September 2012

Jelle Huisman in Madrid

Junior Member Jelle Huisman is presenting a paper about "translation as/of philosophy" at the International Conference of the Philosophy and Translation Research Project in Madrid on September 26.

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Wolterstorff Public Lecture Video Now Online

The video of the public lecture "Must Love and Justice be Forever at Odds?" presented by Dr. Nicholas Wolterstorff on April 27, 2012 at the Social Justice and Human Rights Conference sponsored by ICS and Emmanuel College is now available for viewing at youtu.be/MkxToRMjt1A

The text of this lecture remains available at

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Prayer Letter: September 2012

Monday, September 3:  We pray for guidance and energy for all those participating in the Registration and Orientation Week and the annual ICS community fall retreat later this week.
Tuesday, September 4:  This is Registration Day for our returning Junior Members. We pray for safe travel for all new and returning Junior Members who are coming to study at ICS this fall.  As the students arrive, we ask God to help with energy and flexibility for their back-to-school transition.
Wednesday, September 5:  Today is ICS's Community Fall Retreat. This event has traditionally served as a wonderful start to another year of our life together at ICS and we pray that this year will be no exception.
Thursday, September 6:  Today is Registration Day for our eight new Junior Members. We offer prayers of thanks for the addition of eight new Junior Members to the ICS community this fall. Please continue to remember them in your prayers as they make the final preparations and transitions this summer in order to begin their program studies here next week.
Friday, September 7:  We thank God for all of our Junior Members and ask God to bless them as they begin another year of studies at ICS.
Monday, September 10:  The first week of classes begins today! The first course of the new academic year starts today: "Biblical Foundations" with Senior Member Nik Ansell. We ask for God's blessing on all the course participants.
Tuesday, September 11:  Two new courses begin today: "Nietzsche, Foucault and the Genealogical Approach to the History of Philosophy" and "Religion, Life & Society: Reformational Philosophy", both with Dr. Bob Sweetman. We offer prayers for God's blessing on all the course participants.
Wednesday, September 12:  Today is the first class of two new courses: "Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit" and "Person, Family, and Society", both with with Senior Member Shannon Hoff.
Today the new Junior Members will be visiting the Toronto School of Theology and the University of Toronto Library. We pray for an informative experience for all the participants.
Also, we remember in prayer Jennifer Constantine-Jackson, a ThD candidate at Regis College under the direction of ICS's Bob Sweetman, who will defend her thesis titled "Redeemed Conversation: Selected Medieval Contributions to a Theology of Discourse" today.
Thursday, September 13:  Today is the first day of three new courses: "The Aesthetics of Compassion" and "Art, Religion, & Theology", both with Senior Member Rebekah Smick, and "Community, Faith & Judgement: Hannah Arendt & Religious Critique" with Senior Member Ron Kuipers. We pray for God's blessing on all the course participants.
Friday, September 14:  Today is the first class of Senior Member Nik Ansell’s course "The Ground of Be(com)ing/The Horizon of Hope: Creation, Time, Eschatology". We ask for God's blessing on all the course participants.
Monday, September 17:  Three distance education courses begin this week: "Ways of Learning" with Senior Member Doug Blomberg, "Art, Religion, and Theology" with Senior Member Rebekah Smick, and "Person, Family and Society" with Senior Member Shannon Hoff. We pray to God to bless all the course participants,
Tuesday, September 18:  We offer prayers of gratitude and give thanks to you, the many supporters who have presented ICS with gifts of prayer, money, and expressions of appreciation, especially during the quieter summer months. We truly value our relationship with you, as we are constantly blessed with your interest and support.
Wednesday, September 19:  Today is the first Academic Council meeting of the 2012-2013 academic year. We pray for God's wisdom to guide the discussions and decisions at this meeting.
Thursday, September 20:  We remember with gratitude the life of Margaret O'Gara, ecumenical theologian extraordinaire, and holder since 2007 of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto Chair in Systematic Theology at the Faculty of Theology of the University of St. Michael's College. She was long a dear friend of our own George Vandervelde and a tireless worker for mutual understanding between the various communions of the Christian Church. She died on 16 August 2012. May we remember her husband Michael Vertin, family and friends as they adjust to life without her gracious presence.
Friday, September 21:  Please pray for the ICS Board recruitment process, that committed and able candidates for Board vacancies will be offered to the ICS membership for approval this fall.
We offer prayers of praise for the talent of Junior Member Diane Bergsma who will be presenting a paper at Brock University this weekend.
Monday, September 24:  Today we pray for God's help for those who are struggling with illnesses. We ask God for strength, patience and for good results from treatment.
Tuesday, September 25:  We pray for energy and enthusiasm for those who are involved in planning the upcoming issue of Perspective.
Wednesday, September 26:  Today is the first Faculty meeting of the 2012-2013 academic year. We pray for God's wisdom to guide this meeting.
Junior Member Jelle Huisman is presenting a paper about "translation as/of philosophy" in Madrid today. We pray for energy and wisdom for the preparation and the presentation itself.
Thursday, September 27:  We ask God's help and guidance for all those who are doing advancement work for ICS. Please pray that support for the vision and mission of ICS continues to grow.
Friday, September 28:  We ask God to bless the Rev. Dr. Thomas Wolthuis and Ms. Dawn Wolthuis who have been appointed to the position of President of the Institute for Christian Studies. We pray for energy and a smooth transition.

Message from the President

The story of the conversion of the Anglo-Saxon areas of the British Isles is recorded in the work of an eighth-century monk, Bede, in his Ecclesiastical Histories. I admit the title does not scream out “Best Seller” and yet the story it tells is a fascinating one. Implicit within its narrative are two ways of addressing the world with the story of Jesus and the triune God he incarnates. The first way is to address oneself to the powerful and to point to Jesus and the God of the Scriptures as the All-powerful One able to grant to his followers the force they need to maintain themselves in the war-soaked world they inhabit. That is: Christ is presented as a war-god powerful enough to conquer death itself.

Bede admits that the stratagem worked more or less. Many of the Anglo-Saxon kinglets converted to the war-god Christ in hopes of gaining an advantage in battle. Of course, military defeat would create a problem. Where was the power of the Christ-followers’ God? I have pledged my troth and yet I am defeated. The story of the Christianization of the Anglo-Saxons when viewed from this vantage point is a dizzying story of conversions and apostasies in which the pattern of conversion and apostasy maps rather well onto the military fortunes of the many kinglets struggling against each other for dominance. In Bede’s view, every missionary success of this kind remained achingly fragile. The discovery of a gravesite in the 1920s bears eloquent witness to the state of affairs Bede captures in his Histories. It is a noble burial site, Sutton Hoo. The spaces nearest the “front” of the site and its entranceway are filled not only with symbols of the wealth of the deceased in gold and weapons and conveyances, but also symbols of the Christian religion. Here was a follower of the Christ acknowledging his fealty and his expectation that his fealty would lead him into that rich reward that Christ’s power held in promise. But as one moves into the back recesses of the gravesite one sees other religious symbols recognizably attached to the gods Odin and Woden, the age-old gods of Angle and Saxon warriors. Clearly our Christian noble was hedging his bets, playing both sides of the fence in order to see who emerged the strongest and hence able to bring him into his reward.

This story of presenting Jesus as war-god is a story that Bede wants his readers to learn to look past. There is a second story he wants us to learn to look for. This story focuses on the peoples of the land in their interaction with Christian monastic communities that established themselves on the land. These communities functioned as houses of constant prayer on behalf of the surrounding peoples. They also became sources of emergency labour, medical skill, safe storage for the wealth of the peoples (their grain), centres of poor relief, places of refuge against the blood lust of warriors. Bede insisted that all of these social goods were accompanied with prayer; they marked out the intercessory love of the Christian community in these far flung landscapes. And the peoples of those lands took note. They began to associate with such communities, such oases of peace, to patronize them, to look to them and their God in their need, for their prayer and their care became inextricable in popular imagination. Slowly, the popular sense of the world was reoriented Christ-ward and for good.

Of course, Bede was a monk. He was a member of one of the most successful of all of these early monastic communities. His narrative is self-serving, to be sure. The witness of the monks was itself imperfect. Still, Bede’s second story is also perceptive and says something about societal change that should give small communities like that of ICS and its supporters cause for hope as it moves into its forty-fifth year of operation.

Cultural transformation is an incremental thing. It is not about juxtaposing truth and the lie in one gigantic antithesis such that the lie is exposed and done away with for good and all. There is no kingdom-in-our-generation; the world just isn’t built like that. There is no place where you can say this is an area of the truth pure and simple, or this is a phenomenon of the lie and nothing but the lie. Truth and lie are all mixed up together, like the wheat and the tares of the biblical parable. Just as the lie perverts truth, so the truth transforms a lie. This is what we bear witness to when we search for and seek to express the truth of the world in our living, thinking and speaking. The truth transforms the lie. Of course the situation that emerges is still ambiguous, a mixture of both. But the world can be changed in important ways from these humble beginnings. And when that happens, the bit of the world so affected moves a little closer to its Maker. That is how a world of faith is built, one small and quiet step at a time.

Bede saw that well. The inconstancy of faith in the courts of the kings went on and on, while the quiet work of the monks was invisible from castle walls. But in the end the monks’ witness led to a transformation so powerful that it changed the courts of the kings. A large good from small beginnings. May ICS too contribute to our world’s large goods. May our contribution too be reckoned a part of the long tradition of Christ-following that stretches back to Bede’s monks and beyond, building something wonderful from what might be termed modesty itself. Perhaps this is a prayer we could all endorse and enact at the beginning of a new academic year.

For the President,

Bob Sweetman

The New Fall Semester Begins at ICS!

This month marks the beginning of the new fall semester at ICS. There are nine courses starting next week:  

Biblical Foundations with Dr. Nik Ansell  

Nietzsche, Foucault and the Genealogical Approach to the History of Philosophy with Dr. Bob Sweetman  

Religion, Life & Society: Reformational Philosophy with Dr. Bob Sweetman  

Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit with Dr. Shannon Hoff

 Person, Family, and Society with Dr. Shannon Hoff  

The Aesthetics of Compassion with Dr. Rebekah Smick  

Community, Faith & Judgement: Hannah Arendt & Religious Critique with Dr. Ron Kuipers  

Art, Religion, & Theology with Dr. Rebekah Smick  

The Ground of Be(com)ing/The Horizon of Hope: Creation, Time, Eschatology with Dr. Nik Ansell

Three distance courses are offered this semester:  

Ways of Learning with Dr. Doug Blomberg  

Art, Religion, and Theology with Dr. Rebekah Smick  

Person, Family and Society with Dr. Shannon Hoff

For course descriptions and timetables, please visit www.icscanada.edu/academics.

Diane Bergsma at Brock University

Junior Member Diane Bergsma will be presenting a paper titled “Bataille and Kristeva: a Sacred Sovereignty” at the Brock University Philosophical Society conference on Georges Bataille. This conference will take place on September 20-22 in St. Catharines, Ontario.