Friday 16 May 2014

An amazing opportunity to double your gifts to ICS!

Two of our generous supporters have offered to match any new gift (including any increase over last year’s giving) dollar-for dollar, if made before June 30, 2014. The impact of your new gift (or increased giving amount) will thus be doubled, going even farther to support our work of training scholars and leaders to bring renewal and hope to our world. And if your company matches your contribution, the multiplier can be even greater.

This offer is open to all Canadian donors.

Please consider giving a gift today! Donate online at
For further information please contact Vidya Williams by email or by phone 1-888-326-5347 ext 223. Thank you!

Perspective Now Available

The April 2014 issue of Perspective is now available for both reading online and printing.  Inside you will find answers to burning questions such as "Are We There Yet?", "Whose Reformed Tradition?", "Which Kuyper?" and "Who is Robert Sweetman?".

As always, Perspective is available at

ICS Convocation

The ICS community gathered this past Saturday afternoon in St. Joseph Chapel at Regis College to install the Chancellor, Dr. John Kok. An Honorary Doctorate was conferred upon Bob Goudzwaard who presented Convocation address “ICS--In Christ’s Service: In the Past and In the Future”.Video of Bob's address will be made available soon.

We also gathered to recognize and celebrate the academic achievements of seven of our Junior Members. Degrees were conferred upon Eric Hanna (MA), Bryan Richard (MA), Andrew Van’t Land (MA), Tina Covert (MWS), Sarah Hyland (MWS), George Deibert (MWS) and Michael Shipma (MWS).

It was a wonderful afternoon of celebration!

Joe Kirby Wins Award

Junior Member Joe Kirby won the Graduate Student Paper Award for his essay "The Ordeal of Solitude: Solitary Confinement in Prisons and Monasteries” at the Eastern International Region of the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting.

Richard Middleton Presenting Papers in St Catharines

Richard Middleton, Professor of Biblical Worldview and Exegesis at Northeastern Seminary in Rochester NY, will present two papers at the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences at Brock University in St. Catharines, ON. Richard is a 2005 graduate of the joint doctoral program of ICS and the Free University of Amsterdam.

On May 24 Richard will present a paper on Genesis 22, titled “Unbinding the Aqedah (Genesis 22) from the Straightjacket of Tradition: How Abraham Lost His Son,” at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies.

On the following day (May 25), Richard will give his Exaugural Address as President of the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association (CETA) at the Association’s annual meeting. Richard has been president of CETA from 2011-2014 and his paper is titled “The Canadian Evangelical Theological Association—A Vision for the Future.”

Robert Vander Plaats Art Show

Robert Vander Plaats (1949-2014) of Toronto was an accomplished painter who suffered from schizophrenia which informed most of a collection of over 1000 paintings. Most of the paintings have a common metaphor, a symmetrical container with four or eight gates that open to a centre of either tears or hearts. These beautifully symmetric and haunting images have never been shown to the public before.

Robert is an alumnus of Dordt College in Iowa, studied at the Institute of Christian Studies in Toronto, and completed his PhD at York University.

May 16 - June 12
Flagship Gallery 237 James St. N Hamilton
HOURS: Wed. - Sat. 12:00 to 5:00 pm

Friday 9 May 2014

Convocation on May 10

Annual Convocation
of the Institute for Christian Studies

for the Conferral of Degrees upon Junior Members

and for the Conferral of the Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) upon
Dr. Bob Goudzwaard,
Professor Emeritus of the Free University of Amsterdam

May 10, 2014, 2:00pm

St. Joseph Chapel
Regis College,
100 Wellesley Street West
Toronto, Ontario

Reception to follow in the Christie Mansion, Regis College

Please contact Shawn Stovell, Associate Academic Dean & Registrar
(416-979-2331 ext. 239;
by Thursday, May 1, 2014 to indicate whether you will be able to join us.

Thursday 1 May 2014

Wed. May 7: Double Book Launch with Cal Seerveld and Lambert Zuidervaart

If this event were a musical instrument, it would be one of those guitars that is, know...two guitars? On Wednesday, May 7 ICS’ Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics celebrates the publication of not one but, you guessed it, two publications.

Truth Matters is a collection of conference proceedings from a
conference of the same name, the first one the CPRSE ever planned and hosted, and is published by Queen’s-McGill University Press. Two of the book's editors, Lambert Zuidervaart and Allyson Carr, will be at the event!

The second publication is a 6-volume collection of Cal Seerveld’s Sundry Writings and Occasional Lectures, published by Dordt College Press. Both Cal and collection editor John Kok will be on hand to speak about the books, after ICS’ own Associate Professor of Arts and Culture, Rebekah Smick, breaks down the collection for us.

A string quartet will also be on hand to provide musical accompaniment!
The event will take place at Leonard Hall on the campus of Wycliffe College, beginning at 7:30 PM. A catered reception will follow. If you wish to attend, RSVP to Allyson Carr at 416-979-2331 x247. Space is limited.

Economic Justice Conference Very Near: evening musical performances added

Organizers of Are We There Yet? Economic Justice and the Common Good are very pleased to announce that a live music concert has been added to the roster of conference events. On the evening of Monday, May 12, King's University College student and local independent singer/songwriter Jey Witten will host a lineup that also includes local Edmonton artist Braden Gates. The concert will take place in the Nicholas B Knoppers Hall on the campus of The King's University College.

The concert is free for registered conferees. A limited number of tickets will be available to the general public at $5.00 each.


Plans for our partnered conference Are We There Yet? Economic Justice and the Common Good are taking final shape. The conference will take place in Edmonton on May 12-13, on the campus of our conference partner, The King’s University College. Go to to see the schedule of interesting panels and exciting speakers we have lined up, as well as to register to attend. From oil sands development to food security, we’ve got it covered!

Junior Members Presenting Papers

Junior Member Joe Kirby will be presenting at the Annual Meeting of the Eastern International Region of the American Academy of Religion in Syracuse, New York, on May 3-4. The paper is titled "The Ordeal of Solitude: Solitary Confinement in Prisons and Monasteries."

Junior Member Daniel Rudisill will be presenting a paper titled "Loving Wisdom: Philosophy as Philosophia" at the American Scientific Affiliation's annual meeting at McMaster University, which will be held July 25-28.

Junior Member Drew Van’t Land Welcomes His Twins!

Congratulations to Junior Member and FICS Support Community Liaison Drew Van’t Land and his wife Julianne on the birth of their twins, daughter Evelyn Benton and son Rowan Benton, on April 8.

Janet Read’s Art Exhibit

ICS alumna Janet Read is exhibiting some of her paintings at Double Door Studios and Gallery from until May 11. The gallery is located at 4004 Horseshoe Valley Road West in Anten Mills, Ontario. For more information visit

Interview With ICS Alumnus Harry Anastasiou

Harry Anastasiou graduated from the ICS Master of Philosophy program in 1979.  Since then he has gone on to become a peace pioneer and Professor in Portland State University's Conflict Resolution Graduate Program.

Harry contacted us while passing through Toronto, wanting to visit his old school.  On March 16, 2014 he kindly sat down for an impromptu interview with Doug Blomberg so that we could record his story, his thoughts about how ICS provided a foundation for his work in international peace and conflict resolution, and his insights on the nature of conflict.

View the interview below, or on Youtube at

Angels are Messengers of God

In the Bible, angels are messengers of God. Wherever they show up, it is as if the Bible is saying, Listen up! The Word is near/here/hear!. When angels show up in similar circumstances in one part of the Bible or another, that just adds significance. One does well to assume that the earlier and later episodes are connected; one does well to notice how.

So imagine the angel of Genesis 3 and the angels of John 20. They both appear in a Garden and in the context of Death. The angel of Genesis 3 is placed in the Garden of Eden to guard against Adam and Eve re-entering it to eat of the Tree of Life, for their behaviour in the Garden had led to their expulsion and subjection to Death. They move in the episode from “in” to “out” and by doing so move from “Life” to “Death”. An angel marks the boundary between “in” and “out”, between “life” and “death”. In John 20 angels appear again. Once again they appear in a Garden in the context of Death. But the directions and their association with Death (and Life) is reversed. The “in” of this episode is the “in” of the tomb; the “out” is in this instance the world bodying forth from Gesthemane, the Garden that sequesters and demarcates Death and so de-limits it. In this story angels turn a daughter of Eve from the tomb toward the surrounding Garden and the living world beyond, from Death toward Life. Here too there are “ins” and “outs” to explore, life and death stuff.

In Eden Adam and Eve had been brought to life when all outside was still lifeless by comparison. Their subsequent behaviour thrust them out of the place of Life into the wide lands subject to Death. The angel ushers them out toward Death and guards against any return. In Jesus’ death and burial “in” directs one to Death”; “out” is the place of the living. The advent of the Magdelene into the Garden is a moving inward from the lands of the living to the place of Death. Here the directions are shifted but the movement from Life to Death is recapitulated. Arriving at the tomb she encounters angels who turn her outward from Death toward Life. Here the direction recapitulates the direction of the Genesis story from “in” to “out” but the significance or implications of the movement is reversed, here movement outward is a movement from Death to Life not as in Genesis from Life to Death.

I should add one more parallel. Death and cover-up go hand in hand in both stories. Adam and Eve, as they begin to take stock of their behaviour in the Garden, cover up, with loin clothes of hide. Jesus’ corpse, a dead thing, is also covered with a loin cloth, in this instance, of linen. There is a wild/civilized contrast here that I note but forego. Nevertheless, I do take up the theme of cover-up. In proximity to Death things are shrouded, one’s sight and awareness are dulled and untrustworthy. What is of Life and of Death appear confusing. One can easily mix them up. Take the story in John. The Magdelene is turned by the angels in the tomb marking the spot where Jesus’ corpse had lain and questioning her presence in the place of Death. She turns and sees a man, but her eyes are confused. She is in the Garden and in contrast to the Genesis story it mediates Death not Life. That means that the pall of Death hangs over it. The Magdelene is in its thrall. The shrouds of Death still dominate her vision. They cover up the identity of the man she meets. His grave visage is mistaken for grave clothes. She thinks him the gardiner, one who works to serve Death and the dead. Since her master is dead, surely, this one knows where she can go to serve him in her turn. It is only when he says her name that he is revealed her Teacher, alive beyond expectation.

The Garden then in this story is not only the context for the tomb and the Death it enfolds, it is the mediation between the Place of Death and the Living Lands beyond.

And this image is, I think a valuable image for the context of Christian life and living in these times between Christ’s Resurrection and his Coming Again. We live and strive in the garden between the tomb and the living lands. The light is tricky; it is difficult to see things as they are for the pall of Death lies heavy in this between-place. We and our works are easy to mistake as a sign pointing back to the tomb and the Death it plays host to. Others see us and our works and see nothing but grave clothes. Of our actions they can make nothing more than a mawkish pantomime of some macabre Death cult. They do not hear in our voice the echo of the Teacher, they do not see in our visage the pulsing glory of New Life. This is true, to our shame, of all of us and our works, Christ followers though we be, for we are yet in a between-place, not yet in the living lands. We find ourselves still with sweaty brows, labouring mightily in the agonizing birth pains of a New Creation.

When I was a graduate student a number of students of medieval theological writing would take their afternoon coffee time in the common room of the Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies. Their fellowship was loud and erudite as they argued about the interpretive problems they struggled with studying the manuscripts they were examining as part of their thesis research. Their discussions were clearly tinged with devotion and a source of great joy. Over time, I noticed that another friend, a hardworking historian of Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities in medieval Spain slowly stopped coming to the common room to take his late afternoon coffee. I asked him why and he said that he found the talk of the theologians off-putting. You see, he spent his days reading inquisition records by which the Jewish community of the Iberian peninsula was rounded up, hemmed in, pressured and eventually liquidated with enormous cynicism and a thief’s eye. The tragedy unfolding before his eyes as he worked his way through his research dossier was personal for he was himself a distant descendent of Spain’s thus oppressed and exiled shephardic community. He said that after a day of witnessing human cruelty and greed passed off as religious concern, he could not bear to listen to discussions of the compelling beauty of Christian notions of the Holy Spirit and of the self-giving Love that is to mark Christian existence, the glory of the saints and all the rest. In the metaphorics of John’s story, when he looked at the medieval Church or at least one of its corners, what he saw was not the Teacher, but a corpse whose rot was shrouded in pretty grave clothes.

When one lives life in proximity to the grave as we who inhabit Gesthemane even as we move toward the living lands, we do well to acknowledge the figure we cut. Even in the aftermath of Resurrection, it can be hard to tell the living from the dead. It is a shame and a mystery our continued resemblance to Death. But it also gives our marching orders their heft: “Go out into the Land of the Living! Never give up! Continue to speak from out of a humble perseverance in the hope that in and through the timbre of our voices those who listen may hear the living Voice of the Word and come to encounter subsequently the very Lord of Life.”

It is surely the case that many have counted ICS among the misplaced corpses over the years of its existence. Its fiscal and spiritual death has been predicted over and again. And yet it too is a work of women and men who have been addressed by the angels and directed out to the living places in which they might bear witness to their living Lord.

We may not have gotten far from the tomb; we may at times deserve to be mistaken for a corpse or at least for a servant of Death and the dead, but that is simply an occupational hazard of those of us called to inhabit the between-space between “in” and “out” and between “Life” and “Death” so as to bear witness as best we may to the Lord of Life. May we by our academic work and by our scholarly care for God’s people present ourselves as available to the Grace by which we are enabled to sustain such witness even to the end of the age.

Bob Sweetman

Prayer Letter: May 2014

Thursday, May 1: We ask for God's guidance for everyone who is involved in planning for next year, including those doing work on our budget.

Friday, May 2: Junior Member Joe Kirby will be presenting a paper in Syracuse this weekend. We pray for safe travel and blessings on everyone attending.

Monday, May 5: We pray for stamina and wisdom for everyone who is involved in the final preparations for the upcoming Senate and Board meetings later this week.

Tuesday, May 6: We ask God to bless Senior Member Ron Kuipers, Director, and Allyson Carr, Associate Director of our Centre for Philosophy, Religion and Social Ethics. We pray for energy and creativity for Ron and Allyson and all those who are involved in the planning for the upcoming conference on economic justice in Edmonton next week.

Wednesday, May 7: This evening there will be a double book launch with Cal Seerveld and Lambert Zuidervaart. We ask God to bless everyone attending.

Thursday, May 8: The Senate meets today. We are grateful for our Senators and ask for safe travel and for God's wisdom as they reflect upon and assess the initiatives of the Academic Council and the Professional Status Committee of the past academic year.

Friday, May 9: There is a plenary session this morning. May God bless all who participate.

The ICS Board of Trustees meets this afternoon. We are thankful for our Board members and ask for God's guidance as they deliberate, together with other stakeholders, about the strategic direction for ICS. We pray for wisdom as they make decisions concerning our future, addressing the financial challenges and opportunities facing ICS as we move into our next fiscal year.

Saturday, May 10: We offer prayers of celebration for the successful completion of the academic programs of seven Junior Members, each of whom will be recognized and honoured this afternoon at ICS's Convocation ceremony.

Allyson Carr, Associate Director of ICS' Research Centre (CPRSE) will be presenting a paper in Kalamazoo this weekend. We pray for safe travel and blessings on everyone attending.

Sunday, May 11: Today we celebrate Mother's Day. We ask for God's blessing on all of our mothers, that they may spend a peaceful, joyful and restful day with their loved ones.

Monday, May 12: The Economic Justice Conference begins today. We give thanks for all the work that went into preparing for this event and pray that the sessions are an enriching experience for all the participants.

Tuesday, May 13: The Economic Justice Conference continues. We ask God's blessing upon all the conference participants.

Wednesday, May 14: 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, May 15: We ask God to grant our Junior Members the energy and enthusiasm they need to complete their coursework for this semester.

Friday, May 16: We offer prayers of gratitude for the generous spirit that is always shown by you, our many supporters, who have encouraged ICS with gifts of prayer, money, and expressions of appreciation. We are constantly blessed with your interest and support.

Monday, May 19: We offer prayers of joy for Junior Member Drew Van’t Land and his wife Julianne on the birth of their twins on April 8. We thank God for these wonderful new lives!

Tuesday, May 20: Today we pray for blessings for the Friends of ICS Board and all those who are doing advancement work in the US.

Wednesday, May 21: We pray for blessings for Senior Member Doug Blomberg as he continues in his roles as Acting President and Academic Dean.

Thursday, May 22: Today we pray for the general well-being of the ICS. We ask for blessings and energy for ICS faculty and staff as they work together to manage their many responsibilities.

Friday, May 23: We offer prayers of praise for the talents of ICS alumna Janet Read, who exhibited her paintings Double Door Gallery earlier this month.

Monday, May 26: We thank God for all the applicants to our programs. We pray that the successful applicants will be able to join us in our mission.

Tuesday, May 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.

Wednesday, May 28: As we continue our annual Phone-a-thon, we offer prayers of thanks for the diligent work of the volunteers, and the wonderful support of the ICS community.

Thursday, May 29: We offer prayers for wisdom and energy for the ICS faculty as they continue to mark the papers from the spring semester.

Friday, May 30: Senior Members often spend much of the summer developing course curriculum and giving attention to research projects. We are extremely grateful for the work of our Senior Members and ask for God's blessing on them.