Thursday 19 June 2014

Religion, Secularity and Education

Acting President Doug Blomberg has published a chapter entitled "Religion, Secularity, and Education: On not Taking Things for Granted" in Foundations of Education: A Christian Vision. The book is edited by Matthew Etherington of Trinity Western University, and includes chapters by the late Harro Van Brummelen, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and other friends of ICS. 

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Thank You Phone-A-Thon Participants!

We are wrapping up our annual Phone-a-thon. A BIG THANK YOU to our student volunteers who were making the calls and to all our supporters for taking the time to speak with them.

Many of you have shared your ICS stories with our callers—stories that encourage us as we look to a positive future. Our students also enjoyed sharing their ICS stories—stories that have given you a first-hand glimpse of how your gift is helping ICS through its programs to bring renewal and hope to our world.

If for some reason we missed connecting with you by phone, you still have time to send in your gift. Your gift is vital to our work. You can donate online at, call us at 416-979-2331 ext 223 (Vidya Williams) or ext 221 (Kathy Lynch) to make a credit card donation or mail your cheque to Institute for Christian Studies, 100-229 College St., Toronto ON M5T 1R4.

If you live in the United States, you can donate through Friends of ICS (FICS) at 1937 Lockmere Drive, Kentwood MI 49505 or online at

Thank you for your partnership!

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Bob Goudzwaard's Convocation Address Now Available

For those of you who couldn't attend convocation, or those who just want to see it again, Bob Goudzwaard's address to the 2014 ICS annual convocation, "ICS–In Christ’s Service: In the Past and In the Future", is now available on the ICS Youtube channel.

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Donation Doubling Opportunity Still Open

This is just a reminder that the opportunity to have your donation to ICS doubled remains open until June 30.

Donate Online Now

For further information please contact Vidya Williams by email at or by phone at 1-888-326-5347 ext 223. Thank you!

Monday 2 June 2014

Educating the Will — Doug Blomberg presents paper to Christian teacher educators at RUC

ICS Acting President Doug Blomberg attended the International Community of Christian Teacher Educators Conference which was held at Redeemer University College on May 28-31. He presented a paper titled "Educating the Will" on Thursday morning.

Shannon Hoff to Lecture in Grand Rapids

On June 12 Senior Member Shannon Hoff will be giving a lecture in a seminar hosted by Simon Critchley and Creston Davis at the Global Center for Advanced Studies in Grand Rapids, called "Tragedy's Philosophy." Shannon will be discussing how the tragic character of human life is illuminated in different ways by Hegel, Sophocles' Antigone, and Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Jim Olthuis Breaks Leg

Senior Member Emeritus Jim Olthuis broke his leg in a hockey fall last month. After some surgery, he is recuperating.

Joonyong Um Lecture

Junior Member Joonyong Um will be lecturing in the Christian Parenting Seminar at the Korean Mil Al Church, 405 Gordon Baker Rd, Toronto, on May 31. The lecture is titled "A biblical perspective on public school education: How can Christian parents guide their children to wisdom?" and is hosted by Korean Diaspora Christian Education Institute (KODIA).

Dianne Bergsma to Defend her Thesis in Amsterdam

Junior Member Dianne Bergsma will be travelling to Amsterdam with her family at the end of the month to defend her PhD thesis at the Vrije Universiteit. She will be accompanied by her husband and six of her children. She is a student of Jim Olthuis, and her thesis is titled “Revisiting Bathsheba and David: A Recuperative Reading with Julia Kristeva”.

Meditation on Psalm 46

ICS lives the kind of fragile life that just calls out for shelter and refuge. So when thinking of that life and of ICS’s immediate past and future Psalm 46 seems as good a way as any to anchor our thinking. In a year in which there has been a great deal of turmoil in the Board as it struggled to oversee ICS wisely, among the staff as they struggled to do ever more with ever less “man hours”, among the Senior Members struggling to put on a viable curriculum in the face of sabbaticals and faculty reductions, among the Junior Members working to come into their own as scholars and as persons, among ICS’s loyal constituency trying to understand what is happening in a place they continue to hope and pray for, it is not inappropriate albeit rather dramatic to think metaphorically about earth that heaves, about mountains hurled into the sea, waters seething in tumult. For the tiny peak that is ICS is quaking before the majesty of challenges it faces, struggling to see them as providential not fated, as it has quaked so many times over its forty plus years.

But of course, like so many of the Psalms, just when you nod your head and say yes this hoary old poetry can work to name our world, even across the ages, it makes us uncomfortable for the God it looks to seems . . .well . . . a little overwhelming. This is not a God that calms the seas, at least not here in Ps. 46. Rather, this God surges like the sea. He thunders. He puts life in tumult and hurls down whole kingdoms. Indeed, the Psalmist invites us to come and see what the Lord has done and then names the divine deed as “the devastation he has brought upon earth.” Yes this is a picture often painted in the text of the Old Testament, JHWH the apparently puny patron of hardscrabble hill warriors, before whom the mighty tremble, JHWH the subversive One who overturns the powerful Order of Marduk (Assyria) and Amon-Ra (Egypt).

I admit that there is a kind of bracing comfort to be had in all this mixing-it-up and duking-it-out. Conventional expectations we are told can be counted on to be overturned. And we at ICS certainly feel the need for such overturnings for the conventional expectations are still what they have always been—that we will fail of our promise; that the widow’s jar will empty at last. So I guess there is an obvious comfort to be had in the scene of the conventionally conceived hill god of a no account bunch of semi-nomads turning out to be an indomitable defender of their ramshackle little hill town, a hill god who turns up decisively to help that town at the break of day, that is, the time tested moment of a besieger’s attack.

There have been times in ICS’s history when we have been vulnerable in that way; when we have felt ourselves under attack by those more powerful than us. So there have been times when the scene painted by the poet of Psalm 46 seemed perfectly apt. In the Scriptures, empires we have with us always, and empires exist to be resisted. But our present vulnerabilities as a community seem not to be the result of external threat. Rather they seem interior in origin. Is the warrior god more powerful than Marduk or Ares or Mars, the warrior god “who shakes the earth with the weight of his bucklered passing,” really whom we need at this moment; don’t we really need to meditate other faces of the God of Scripture?

I don’t have a knockdown answer to my rhetorical question (sorry, couldn’t resist). But this text did surprise me and with surprise comes a sense of newness and the promise of newness is something this internally vulnerable institution needs in a big way, wouldn’t you agree?

You see, the thundering war god of the Psalm brought me up short when we are actually presented with the devastation he has brought upon the earth. “From end to end of the earth,” the Psalmist says, “he stamps out war.” And so that you can imagine the scene more vividly the Psalmist provides you sounds and sights to enable you to imagine the resultant oxymoron—a violent Peace. We are invited to hear the break of the bow and the snapping of spears. We are invited to witness the burning of wooden shields in a conflagration. In the topsy-turvydom of divine logic, violence, its overheated vistas, its sudden sharp reports do not just bring about their opposite, they are their opposites. Weakness is Strength; servanthood is sovereignty the list is long and varied. Divine clattering about on earth a full participant in the tawdry drama of human sorrow is divine transcendence. The Psalmist imagines God speaking, getting in the last word: “Learn that I am God high over the nations, high above the earth.” Of course the converse is also true; divine transcendence is God’s down-to-earth involvement. For it is this transcendent Lord, in his being “high over the nations and above the earth,” “who is with us” and “who is our high stronghold.” A Vollenhovianly inflected thinker with a pedantic sense of humour might even speculate that the Psalmist was playing with a contradictory monist’s way of putting things.

What I take from this is simple and can be expressed via the wisdom of Winnie-the-Pooh. Early on in A House on Pooh Corner, A.A. Milne has Pooh-Bear exclaim, “You never can tell about bees.” The Psalmist here adds that “You never can tell about God,” either. It sounds more profound in Latin, says the medievalist. In Winnie-ille-Pooh our ursine hero says: De apibus semper dubitandum est. Kierkegaard winks from the grave, for he had himself played with the notion that de omnibus dubitandum est (One ought to doubt everything). In the word picture of the psalmist something similar can be said of God: De deo semper dubitandum est. You see, the other word for this being unsure, of knowing you never can tell, is faith. Yes, you never can tell about God. And to me that means when one’s circumstances seem dire, or the way forward seems hazy and unclear, when there seems to be no helping us through this one anymore—why then we should try to remember—“The Lord of Hosts is with us, the God of Jacob our high stronghold.” The thing is, neither I nor anyone here knows how the future is going to go, just that there will be challenges—academic for some, financial for most, administrative for others, interrelational for all. Oh there are a world of vulnerabilities, one for each precious goodness to be found in God’s world. The way forward is unclear but in the spirit of this Psalm we can say that this mystification is life’s clarity; it seems crystalline does it not—you never can tell what God will do. Let’s be still and see, shall we? Which is just to say: Let’s act in faith and watch in wonder what our Lord will do.

Bob Sweetman

Prayer Letter: June 2014

Monday, June 2: Senior Member Bob Sweetman’s mother passed away last week. Please keep Bob and his family in your prayers.

Tuesday, June 3: Michael Carr, father of CPRSE Associate Director Allyson Carr, has had a massive stroke and is hospitalized. Please keep Michael, Allyson, and their family in your prayers.

Wednesday, June 4: The annual Senate and Board meetings were held last month. We are grateful for all the work these people do for ICS, and for the talents and experience they bring us.

Thursday, June 5: Senior Member Emeritus Jim Olthuis broke his leg last month in a hockey accident. We pray for a full recovery.

Friday, June 6: We offer prayers of celebration for the successful completion of the academic programs of seven Junior Members, each of whom were recognized and honoured last month at ICS's Convocation ceremony.

Monday, June 9: The grades for spring semester courses are due this week. We give thanks for completed work and offer prayers for energy for our Senior Members as they enter what is often a busy time of grading.

Tuesday, June 10: 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.

Wednesday, June 11: Today we pray for blessings for the Friends of ICS Board and all those who are doing advancement work in the US.

Thursday, June 12: Today Senior Member Shannon Hoff will be giving a lecture at the Global Center for Advanced Studies in Grand Rapids. We ask for safe travel and for blessings on everyone attending this event.

Friday, June 13: We celebrate Father's Day on Sunday! We ask for God's blessing on all fathers, that they may spend a wonderful day with their loved ones.

Monday, June 16: 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.

Tuesday, June 17: As we wind up 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. We are truly blessed!

Wednesday, June 18: We pray for blessings for Senior Member Doug Blomberg as he continues in his roles as Acting President and Academic Dean.

Thursday, June 19: 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.

Friday, June 20: Summer is arriving and many people are planning vacations. Many members of the ICS community will be traveling in the summer months to spend time with family and friends. We pray for safe and pleasant journeys.

Monday, June 23: 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.

Tuesday, June 24: 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.

Wednesday, June 25: 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.

Thursday, June 26: The summer months are often a time when Junior Members give sustained attention to their Masters and Ph.D. thesis projects. We pray for our Junior Members and ask for God's blessing on their research and writing.

Friday, June 27: We offer prayers of gratitude for the wonderful work done by Senior Member Ron Kuipers as Director of our Centre for Philosophy, Religion and Social Ethics.

Monday, June 30: Junior Member Diane Bergsma will be defending her PhD thesis today at the VU in Amsterdam. Please pray for safe travel for Diane, who will be accompanied by her husband and six of their children, and for a successful defense.