Thursday 17 October 2013

ICS Institutional Repository Launches

This week ICS officially launched its new "Institutional Repository" (IR). The outfit that hosts the repository, Open Repository (a service of BioMed Central), is doing a media blitz on our behalf consisting of press releases and web banner adds in places that will mostly be visible within the academic world.

The lead article in this issue of our newsletter Perspective is all about the repository. It describes the institutional obligations that led ICS to implement the repository as well as its potential for making the work of Christian scholars associated with ICS much more widely visible.

Perhaps the most immediately significant feature of the repository is the many theses that are now available online, but the repository is not only about theses. Articles, conference papers and many other kinds of things will be made available through it. Back issues of Perspective are there now, and more searchable than ever.

One question people might ask is "what relevance could Open Repository, part of BioMed Central, have for Christian academic publishing?" It's a fair question. Open Repository is not a Christian school organisation and it arises from a branch of the sciences not the humanities. To answer the question we need to look at how this technology has evolved.  It finds its roots in the sciences because the sciences had the first most pressing need for a standards-based means of making research information quickly, widely and freely available. The humanities, in contrast, are still more oriented towards the traditional print-based means of research information distribution. Quite simply, the people who have developed the technology and who subsequently make such services available, come from within the sciences.

This does not mean that the ICS repository will live more within the world of the sciences than in the world of the humanities (and faith), but it does mean that it will be tended by an organisation with economies of scale and expertise that ICS cannot achieve on its own. Funding organisations are increasingly making the publication of research information in standards-compliant ways a condition of their grants, and the ICS repository will mean that we don't have to scramble to be able to say "yes, we can meet those kinds of conditions".

Though primarily meant to be discovered by other means (eg. Google Scholar search) you can browse the assets in our repository directly at

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Tom Wolthuis: Preaching Schedule

On Sunday, October 20, ICS President Tom Wolthuis will be preaching at Covenant CRC, 278 Parnell Road in St Catharines.

On Sunday, October 27, Tom will be preaching at the evening Reformation service at Ebenezer CRC,18 Fourth Avenue in Trenton.

Drew Van’t Land in Rochester

On Saturday October 19, Junior Member Drew Van’t Land will be presenting a paper titled "Impassibility amid the Principalities: Christ's Sinlessness in a Culture of Sinful Systems" at the "New Creation" conference hosted by the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association (CETA) in Rochester, New York.

Christian Thought and Living in and as the Middle

Mythic conventions of one culture after another imagine human life as in the middle of things. The Edda stories of the ancient Germanic peoples spoke of Middle Earth (midgaard). Tolkein was an academic expert in the philology of ancient Germanic literatures. It shows in his fantasy fiction; Middle Earth, indeed. The traditional Chinese culture spoke of the Middle Kingdom. The symbolics of the Middle Kingdom were so embedded in Chinese understanding that Mao Tse Tung, that inveterate revolutionary, developed a symbolics of political legitimacy for his modern socialist People’s Republic that the old Emperors would have recognized without a moment’s hesitation. Even philosophical cosmologies carry echoes of this bone-deep intuition. In reformational philosophy, our lives are spoken of as lived and available to thought in time. Time, in turn, is spoken of as a kind of dynamic structural condition for the meaning redolent in and available to human living and thinking, the sense of our lives, we could say. Time and the life-sense it makes possible too can be thought of as “between”: between that high and exceeding mystery one can call “religion” in which we live already here and now in the dynamic ever-presence of the Creator, on the one hand, and the evacuation of mean and resulting fall into meaninglessness we fear in and around us and identify with the presence of sin, on the other. Time in this metaphor is not so much a “what” as a “when”, a middle-when or Middle Age in which “to wait” and “to work” for God’s reign are one and the same joy.

In our ordinary habits of thinking and imagining, extremes are where we look for opposites to meet, but in the middle-thinking of mythic and cosmological thought opposites meet in the middle. Nik Ansell, for example, in developing an intuition of Herman Dooyeweerd, speaks of time moving ever in two directions simultaneously. There is a transcendental direction in which thinking and imagining are borne as it were upwards toward that limit of time constituted by encounter with our transcendent Maker, encounter pointed to in time by our time-bound acts of believing and worshipping. At the same time there is a foundational direction that burrows ever deeper into the available recesses of creaturely meaning, that immerses us in the God-spoken richness of our living in time. Of course, this too is in the end to encounter God, not as the One who lies beyond time so much as the One who is ever to be found immanent to what he has made at its absolute heart.

In the middle of things—in the between spaces—on the slash (to cite Jim Olthuis’ inadvertently hilarious coinage)—with-ing away for all we’re worth—all these pictures are attempts to mark where we live our lives and have our being. It is something that human beings have ever known deep in their bones. And this too: middle existence is never separated from the divine. Even were we to travel to the deepest bottom of the ocean (the symbol of primordial chaotic world stuff in ancient near eastern mythic imagination) there be the Creator-God, says the Psalmist, as if she were a reformational philosopher avant le fait bringing out the God-encounter hiding in even the most secret places of and in time. The ancient Germanic warriors and alewives but also traditional Chinese mandarins and courtesans were not impervious to this bit of wisdom, each in their own way. One could pass from midgaard to Valhalla and back—or so the stories told. One could with due attention espy the Will of T’ien (Heaven) and so the rightful Emperor could ever be known.

It is an occasion of gratitude, a matter of joy, to live in a God-spoken middle place. It is the task of middle places like the Institute for Christian Studies to think the world in such gratitude and out of such joy. It will do so enabled by the waves of time in both their dynamic directions, pointing to God ever more than and beyond but also deep within the Middle Earth and Middle Age that we, quite as much as Frodo and Galadriel, Gawain and Guinevere inhabit and struggle to do right by. It’s worth a thought and a prayer this month. Won’t you join me?

Bob Sweetman

Tuesday 1 October 2013

ICS Research Centre Co-Hosts International Gathering of Continental Philosophers

ICS’s Centre for Philosophy, Religion and Social Ethics (CPRSE), together with the Department of Philosophy at the University of Toronto, will host the annual conference of the Canadian Society for Continental Philosophy (CSCP) this year! The conference takes place in the Jackman Humanities Building at U of T on October 10-12, 2013 and will have an engaging mix of papers from across the spectrum of continental philosophy. We are excited to co-host this important international gathering of different voices, on behalf of the leading Canadian society in continental philosophy.

ICS Senior Members Lambert Zuidervaart and Shannon Hoff, CPRSE Associate Director Allyson Carr, and U of T Professor Rebecca Comay are in charge of local arrangements. Shannon, Lambert, and Rebecca are also featured speakers at the conference. Registration will happen at the conference, with registration fees ranging from $15 for graduate students who are CSCP members to $60 for faculty who are not CSCP members. For details about the conference program, go to the society’s website at

Tom Wolthuis: October Preaching Schedule

On Sunday, October 13, ICS President Tom Wolthuis will be preaching at Fellowship CRC, 204 Main Street in Brighton.

On Sunday, October 20, Tom will be preaching at Covenant CRC, 278 Parnell Road in St Catharines.

On Sunday, October 27, Tom will be preaching at the evening Reformation service at Ebenezer CRC,18 Fourth Avenue in Trenton.

Christian Higher Education — Bob Sweetman in Montreal

Senior Member Bob Sweetman presented a paper titled “Christian Higher Education, the Community of Faith and the Academy at Large: Dilemmas and Opportunities” at the Christian Faith and the University: From the Reformation to the 21st Century Conference held in Montreal on September 26-28.

Shannon Hoff in Berlin, Jim Olthuis in Seoul

Senior Member Shannon Hoff will be travelling to Berlin this month. She will be a fellow at the Institute for Cultural Inquiry until December 15. To learn more, visit Shannon’s profile page.

On October 19 Senior Member Emeritus Jim Olthuis will present a paper to the 4th International Conference of the Korean Evangelical Theological Society in Seoul, Korea. The paper is titled “Faith,Hope and Love  A Biblical Postmodern Vision of/for Education.”

Scripture, Faith and Scholarship Seminar

On October 28, Ian Barns, currently visiting professor at Queen's at the invitation of David Lyon, will conduct the first Scripture, Faith and Scholarship seminar this year. Barns is one of Australia's leading "lay theologians", working in the area of social ethics with specific attention to science and technology. He will discuss how we might think about “creation care” in the context of the overall Biblical narrative.

These seminars are mandatory for PhD Junior Members, but all Junior Members and of course faculty are welcome and strongly encouraged to participate as well.

Citizens for Public Justice Celebrates 50 Years!

Citizens for Public Justice is excited in 2013 to be celebrating its 50th anniversary: a time to share and honour all the ways in which CPJ has inspired and transformed public policy in Canada, to learn more about people whose courage and insight have led to lasting change, and to lift up visions for the future. They invite you all to join them!

They’ll be celebrating on Thursday, October 3 at the Church of the Holy Trinity, 10 Trinity Square in Toronto, with dinner, speaker Armine Yalnizyan, and live music from the Wine before Breakfast Band.

Doors open at 6:00, and dinner begins at 6:30. Tickets are available online for $50, or $25 for students/underwaged, and will also be available at the door.

Janet Read’s Art Show in Peterborough

ICS alumna Janet Read is presenting her new paintings in a show titled “The Ways of Cloud and Water” at Christensen Fine Art, 432 George Street, Peterborough. This show opens on October 4 and continues until October 24. For more information visit

Mall Culture

This article was originally published in Christian Courier, Issue 2965, July 22, 2013.

Bourbon Street, Chinatown and Europa Boulevard are all here in the West Edmonton Mall. I am walking one of the High Temples of North American culture. This is how James K.A. Smith writes about the North American mall in his book Desiring the Kingdom.

Looking around, I see some people declare their fundamental allegiances—what they worship, in other words—on their clothing. Is it Hollister, Abercrombie, Guess, or Aeropostale? Almost everyone carries packages to remind them of their religious pilgrimage.

There is an indoor waterpark for those who worship there, an amusement park with incredible roller coasters for those who crave that excitement. I noticed a simulation of creation in the undersea adventure, although it was not functioning. Young children can use the indoor hockey rink to prepare themselves for ritual entry into the high priesthood of Canadian hockey.

Some worship in the variety of food expressing cultures from throughout the world, either on the high-end in restaurants or the low end in the food court. I experienced Bourbon Street and had blackened bourbon chicken in the food court. The Ferguson Brothers, in their humour book How to be a Canadian, reference Canadian culture as a mall culture with the food court as the primary food heritage of Canada

Consumer Culture
The stores all look alike. How many shoe stores does a mall need? This mall has thirty-five, plus sports stores. How many clothes do we really need to squeeze into our closets? Does anyone need Restoration Hardware or the Pottery Barn? What? No Restoration Hardware or Pier 1 Imports? I count 33 cellular services, 34 financial services and ATM’s, 62 health and beauty stores, 49 places for jewelry and accessories, and at least 68 clothes stores, not to mention the 12 shops for lingerie only and 8 bridal boutiques.

Is the combination of shopping, entertainment and adventure simply a way to gather all the things we worship? Stuff, food, entertainment, sports, appearance…North American culture.

I am perhaps too harsh and judgmental. Maybe the mall is a place of community. Maybe it is the place where cultures enjoy each other's differences, learn from each other, share with each other.

I did not fully participate in the worship in the mall. I ate because it was dinner time. I did not buy anything—maybe because I worship money. I did want to ride roller coasters. If I had more time and were more prepared I would have enjoyed the waterpark as I did 25 years ago when I brought 450 young people here from Grand Rapids, Michigan for the Young Calvinist convention in Edmonton. What did this excursion to the mall tell them when they were attending a religious gathering for young people?

Churches and Malls
When people go to church, it is often in isolated cultural ways. Malls seem to bring people together. Church seems to split people into separate ethnic groups. Malls are culture. Churches are sometimes a culture of the past. The mall has something for all ages, all cultures, if you have the money. The church is free, a place of grace, but declining in numbers in North America. Is the church too separated from culture?

Christ and Culture
The church’s relationship with culture is a difficult question. In 1951 H. Richard Niebuhr laid out approaches to culture from various Christian traditions in his book Christ and Culture. He delineated the positions of Christ Against Culture (often the approach of Fundamentalism and Anabaptists), Christ of Culture (often associated with “liberal” Protestantism), Christ Above Culture (associated with Roman Catholicism), Christ and Culture in Paradox (in Lutheranism and being revived in Reformed “two kingdoms” discussions), and clearly Niebuhr’s position of Christ the Transformer of Culture (the traditional Reformed view). Although Niebuhr’s analysis and categories have been challenged, it is still a helpful heuristic. More recently, Andy Crouch has advocated for Christians to be Culture Making.

Should we be separate and make our own culture, or engaged in shaping our culture’s culture? What does that look like? What does it mean for a businesswoman, a stock trader, a salesperson, a consumer? These are the questions with which our Christian institutions, especially churches and schools, need to wrestle.

What are the needs that both the mall and the church are addressing? Are we only consuming culture? Is the alternative now to retreat into subcommunities or just live in both worlds? How do we bridge between God’s new world in Christ and the mall?

Tom Wolthuis, President

Hello World, A Presidential Musing by Dawn

I had the Partridge Family theme song playing in my head frequently in the 70's after one of the kids I babysat said I looked like Laurie Partridge. Don't look too hard. It was my hair.
Hello world, here's a song that we're singin'
Come on, get happy
Software development professionals use this "Hello World" phrase when getting a new toolset to do something. There is a celebration, sometimes small and silent, when the computer says "Hello World" back to you using the new tools.

Most people demand more of their tools, with a focus on real content, go figure. Some of you might want to take a sneak peek at our Institutional Repository (IR) (at, officially launching this month, with more content to be added over time. You can see there is a bit more than a simple "Hello World" already out here.

We are delighted to see the IR coming to fruition. I don't want to preempt the real announcements any more than this, but many people have been part of this adventure, and we are happy to have our Channel 229 readers as fellow travelers.
Travelin' along, there's a song that we're singin'
Come on, get happy
A whole lotta lovin' is what we'll be bringin'
We'll make you happy

Prayer Letter: October 2013

Tuesday, October 1: As the second month of the fall semester begins, we ask God's guidance and wisdom for all our Junior Members who are working hard in their courses and for a sense of balance as they deal with families and jobs as well. We pray too that student jobs will be found where they are needed.

Wednesday, October 2: The Leadership Team meets today. We pray for God’s guidance for this meeting.

Thursday, October 3: We offer prayers of praise for the talents of Senior Member Bob Sweetman, who presented a paper in Montreal last week.
Citizens for Public Justice celebrates 50 years in Toronto this evening! We offer prayers for blessings for this event.

Friday, October 4: ICS Presidents Tom and Dawn Wolthuis will be in Edmonton at The King’s University College for the inauguration of Dr. Melanie Humphreys. We pray for safe travel and blessings for all who attend this event.

Monday, October 7: We offer prayers of praise for the talent of ICS alumna Janet Read, who is showing her latest paintings in Peterborough this month.

Tuesday, October 8: Today Junior Member Bryan Richard will defend his MA thesis. We pray for energy and insight as he prepares for his defense.

Wednesday, October 9: Today we ask for God's help for those who are struggling with cancer and other illnesses. We pray for strength, patience and for good results from treatment.

Thursday, October 10: ICS’s Centre for Philosophy, Religion and Social Ethics (CPRSE), together with the Department of Philosophy at the University of Toronto, is hosting the annual conference of the Canadian Society for Continental Philosophy (CSCP) this year. We pray for blessings on everyone who is attending.

Friday, October 11: Senior Member Shannon Hoff will be going to the Institute for Cultural Inquiry in Berlin. We pray for safe travel and blessings on Shannon while she is there.

Sunday, October 13: Tom Wolthuis will be preaching at Fellowship CRC, 204 Main Street in Brighton.

Monday, October 14: Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. As we celebrate and give thanks for the bounty of the harvest, may we reflect on the grace of God and the rewards of our labour. We are grateful that ICS is sustained by both God's grace and the dedicated work of its support community, administrative staff, and Senior and Junior Members.

Tuesday, October 15: As the Thanksgiving weekend ends, we offer prayers of gratitude for the many people who have given ICS gifts of prayers, money, concern and appreciation. It is truly a blessing to have the interest and support of so many people.
The Finance and Fundraising Committee meets today. We pray for God's wisdom to guide their discussions and decisions.

Wednesday, October 16: The Leadership Team and Academic Council meet today. We pray for God’s wisdom to guide these meetings.

Thursday, October 17: We are now fully into our new academic year! Give thanks for the insightful, talented, and hard working ICS faculty and staff, and pray for energy and enthusiasm to sustain with their workloads.

Friday, October 18: We ask for God's blessing on those who are planning the Annual General Meeting to be held next month. We pray for energy and enthusiasm for all who are involved. Also please pray today for the ICS Board recruitment process, that committed and able candidates for Board vacancies will be offered to the ICS membership for approval.

Saturday, October 19: Jim Olthuis is presenting a paper in Seoul, Korea. We pray for safe travel and blessings on everyone attending.

Sunday, October 20: Tom Wolthuis will be preaching at Covenant CRC, 278 Parnell Road in St Catharines.

Monday, October 21: Reading Week begins today! Please pray that our Senior and Junior Members will be able to use this break from classes to catch up, get ahead, or use the week for whatever they may need to help them in their studies.
We offer prayers for the launch of the Institutional Repository on October 21 (during the International Open Access Week).
The Executive will be meeting this evening. We pray for God’s wisdom to guide their discussions.

Tuesday, October 22: Many of our Junior Members are working on their their Masters and PhD thesis projects. We pray for our Junior Members and ask that they will have time, focus and wisdom.

Wednesday, October 23: As Reading Week continues, please pray that it will be a fruitful week for the academic body at ICS as many Senior and Junior Members have projects they are working on beyond normal class work. Whether these are publications, papers for conferences, or other scholarly activities, pray that this week will afford extra time to make progress in these areas.

Thursday, October 24: Please pray for the Institute and the continued mission of ICS. To be even more specific, we ask that you pray with us that we have good responses to our donor appeals in the remaining months of 2013.

Friday, October 25: Reading Week is over! We ask God for insight, energy and enthusiasm for everyone who is returning to classes next week.

Sunday, October 27: Tom Wolthuis will be preaching at the evening Reformation service at Ebenezer CRC,18 Fourth Avenue in Trenton.

Monday, October 28: The first Scripture Faith and Scholarship Seminar will be held this afternoon. Please pray for a stimulating exchange that will help everyone think further about their calling as Christian scholars.

Tuesday, October 29: The Leadership Team meets today. We pray for God's wisdom to guide their discussions and decisions.

Wednesday, October 30: Today we offer prayers of celebration. Forty-five years ago today Senior Member Emeritus Jim Olthuis began his work at ICS!.

Thursday, October 31: 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.