Monday, 19 October 2020

New Janet Read Exhibition and Online Opening

Artist and ICS alum Janet Read will be opening her new exhibition, High Arctic Light: Paintings and Bookworks, through the Propeller Art Gallery on November 7th. The exhibition will start before the opening, and run in person at the gallery from October 28 through November 15.

Please read more below for details about the gallery and a statement from Janet about the inspiration for the exhibition, and consider joining the virtual opening on Nov. 7th for yourself.

Artist Statement by Janet Read

My current body of work presents “landscapes of consciousness” from a month’s immersion in high Arctic geography. I visited Pond Inlet, Grise Fjord and areas of Devon, Philpotts, and Ellesmere Islands.

Paintings reference the artist’s “being” in the natural world and encounters with those for whom the high north is both wild and home. My paintings are reflective of my personal experience, always aware that Inuit voices must be heard to tell their own stories and history. My work tells the story of a visitor, a sojourner to a remote and sublime region of Canada.

My purpose is to highlight this region and the themes of "wilding and cultivation." These themes invite the viewer to unpack moral, aesthetic, and legal relationships to the land and the people for whom it is sustenance and spirit: landscape and home. The wild is evident in the land and sea. Cultivation is the sea as resource and garden.

Wilding and cultivation go hand in hand in this delicately balanced environment. My work explores these dualities to raise awareness of this fragile and beautiful part of our country through explorations of light, earth, and sea.

Opening and Artwork

Due to the pandemic there will be a Zoom opening on Saturday, November 7th at 2 – 3:00pm EST, rather than a physical onsite opening. To attend, please register with Eventbrite through the gallery by Friday, November 6th:

Janet's drawing, High Arctic: dark horizon #1, was awarded the Juror's Prize at the 2020 Carmichael Landscape Exhibition: Tradition Transformed, at the Orillia Museum of Art and History. [Oct. 2 - Jan.17, 2021]

Janet's experience with Adventure Canada, the impetus for this body of work, is also highlighted as part of the Mindful Explorers section on their website:


Exhibition Details

Janet Read | High Arctic Light: Paintings and Bookworks
Propeller Art Gallery: Oct. 28 through Nov. 15, 2020
Wednesday through Sunday: 1:00 to 5:30 pm or by appointment
All Covid-19 protocols are in place at the gallery.

Propeller Art Gallery, 30 Abell Street, Toronto, ON
Phone: 416-504-7142 

A full e-catalogue of works will be available for viewing on the gallery website when the show opens, or you may email the artist at to receive a pdf.

- - -
First image: High Arctic: the vernacular of light, 60x42, oil on linen
Second image: deep ice, deep sky #1, 18x18, oil on panel, 2020 
Third image: Ice #3, 5x5 inches, oil on duralar, 2020

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

The Gift of Hendrik Hart

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them….
But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
—Matthew 6: 1-5

“No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light.”
—Luke 8: 16-17

If you take a brief walk through the University of Toronto St. George campus, you will notice many buildings named after wealthy Toronto philanthropists. With Matthew 6 in mind, I often ponder the role that such personal recognition plays in these philanthropic efforts. Without knowing these people personally, I like to think that their motivation for giving does not rely on receiving such recognition, but rather that they want their giving to become a kind of public witness to the worthiness of the causes they support. In a similar way, we Christians, through our giving, may also bear witness to the worthiness of those causes we believe make a powerful contribution to our Maker’s redemptive work, and inspire others “to join us.” For such witness to be possible, however, the private act of charity needs to come into public light.

In this spirit, I would like to introduce a major gift that ICS recently received from Hendrik Hart, ICS Senior Member Emeritus and also ICS’s first faculty member. The context is poignant: Henk has been waging a battle with cancer for over 20 years. This past summer, he made the difficult decision to stop further cancer treatment, and instead enter into palliative care. At this point in his life Henk has decided to make a gift of $100,000 while he is still with us and to share with others his motivation for making such a gift, and tell us why he thinks ICS is a cause worth supporting. We at ICS are enormously grateful to Henk for this generous gift, and beyond that we thank him for his lifetime of service to ICS, and praise God for the gift of that life.

In agreeing to a public announcement of his donation, Henk invites you to read in his own words what motivated him to make this donation.

Be well, friends!

Ronald A. Kuipers

* * *

Why did I make a substantial end-of-life donation to ICS?

By Hendrik Hart

My earliest connection to what eventually became ICS goes back more than 60 years. I was a student then at what is now Calvin University and philosophy professor H. Evan Runner set out a spiritual direction in his teaching that I felt called to follow. I am now a Senior Member Emeritus at the institution that was Runner’s dream when I first took a class with him in January of 1956. And I still follow the spiritual direction he taught me, the same direction that has animated ICS from its beginning and still inspires it today. My end-of-life donation says thank you for this.

ICS was never simply a place of employment for me. Instead, it was the setting for my life, filled with challenges and blessings. There were periods of hardship, sometimes related to making ends meet, sometimes having to do with conflicts. But these times of stress did not tempt me to abandon my commitment to this unique community of scholars. Students and colleagues became lifelong friends. Our common bond was our focus on the spiritual roots of understanding our world. My end-of-life donation says thank you for this.

ICS has always been small and likely always will be. A free standing academic institution is not cut out to grow into the size of a university. But though small, a place like ICS can be significant. Canadian universities recognize this in their admiration for ICS. When colleagues from these universities read ICS theses as outside examiners, they usually express their amazement that a small underfunded and understaffed school can deliver results at such a high level. My end-of-life donation says thank you for this.

ICS is unusual not only in the quality of its work but also, and perhaps even more, in the character of that work. A graduate school with a focus on the spirituality of the academic enterprise does not easily fit into the prevailing secular mood of our age. That’s another reason for ICS’s small size. But it’s also a reason for how well it is respected and for why its graduates are teaching all over the world. ICS not only strives to maintain its academic excellence, but also its spiritual integrity. My end-of-life donation says thank you for this.

New Material on Ground Motive

We've recently kicked the Ground Motive blog back into gear with some fresh content!

Our new Uprooting Racism series presents a set of ongoing reflections in response to the protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd in May. We've begun by inviting internal reflection on how systemic racism plays out at ICS, and hope to use this series to foster deep and ongoing engagement on racism within our community.

Henk Hart has also added a heartfelt reflection on dying to his existing From Henk's Archives series. The Archives feature a series of previously unpublished writings from Henk, which are worth revisiting if you haven't already. This latest piece, however, is a new reflection on his current state. 

So if you haven't had a look at Ground Motive recently, you should go over now and keep up on the latest at

Prayer Letter: October 2020

Thursday, October 1 - Friday, October 2:

We want to give thanks that our Registrar, Elizabet Aras, arrived safely in Sweden and, after a two-week quarantine, is now settled back home with her parents. As the summer and the relocation took its toll on her energy levels, she is also grateful for her vacation last week which allowed her to get caught up on sleep and visiting loved ones. Please continue to pray that Elizabet’s work as ICS’s Registrar will continue to go smoothly.

Edith van der Boom gives thanks for her position here at ICS and asks for prayer for wisdom and insight as she works on developing courses for the winter semester. In addition, she would add a request that the recruitment and leadership teams would have clarity around what strategic changes are needed so that new students will sign up for the MA-EL program.

We are planning on hosting a Writing Workshop sometime this month (date TBD). Please pray for creative wisdom on how to work this event into the calendar and the academic program. Please pray also that this provides a fruitful opportunity to build academic community and equip our Junior Members for their various studies.

Monday, October 5 - Friday, October 9:

On Monday afternoon, Benjamin Shank will defend his PhD dissertation, Resounding Empathy: A Critical Exploration of Paul Ricoeur's Theory of Discourse, to Clarify the Self's Reliance on Relationships with Other Persons. In this fascinating and original piece of interdisciplinary scholarship, Benjamin uses Ricoeur's understanding of the generative semantic power of metaphor to explore Ricoeur's philosophical anthropology. Specifically, Benjamin asks why Ricoeur's recognition of our essential reliance on others for our ability to produce and share metaphors does not carry over more strongly into Ricoeur's understanding of what it means to be a capable human person. In making his case, Benjamin innovatively explores the relevance of recent discoveries in the field of early childhood development for philosophical understandings of what it means to be human. In general, he concludes that philosophers working in the area of philosophical anthropology pay insufficient attention to the crucial role that the first two years of life play in shaping the kind of adult selves we become. In addition to his mentor, Ron Kuipers, the members of Benjamin's examination committee are Stephanie Arel (external, Fordham University), Henry Venema (external, Brandon University), Jeffrey Dudiak (Internal, cross-appointed to ICS from King's University), and Bob Sweetman (internal, ICS). All examiners have praised the quality of Benjamin's dissertation, and deem it ready for defense and ultimately the awarding of ICS's PhD. Benjamin has worked very hard to get to this final stage, and we congratulate him on reaching this milestone. Pray for Benjamin to have a calm mind and steady nerves during the exam, that the defense will be a productive and fruitful learning experience for him, and that everyone involved in the exam has an uninterrupted internet connection (as this is the first ICS PhD defense to be held completely online)!

Please pray with us over these next few weeks as we work with the contributors to our fall issue of Perspective. This issue is a very special one as it will pay tribute to Hendrik Hart and his amazing contribution to ICS and its mission. Pray particularly for our editors, Danielle and Héctor, as they ensure that all goes smoothly and timelines are met.

Please pray this week for the Academic Council and Educational Policy Committee as they resume their meetings and their work on the policy handbooks. Pray for clarity of thinking as they revise and update these handbooks to better serve Senior and Junior Members in their work, and as they consider together the shape of academic life at ICS.

Please pray for the Recruitment Committee as they spend the afternoon on Wednesday thinking long-term about promotional strategies and course planning. We learned a lot this past summer in the offering of our Summer Online Learning Initiative and we want to bring the best of those ideas and learnings to bear in organizing an interesting and accessible course lineup for next summer’s program and the 2021/22 academic year.

Monday, October 12 (Thanksgiving) - Friday, October 16:

This being the week of Canadian Thanksgiving, we want to join together and give thanks for the many answers to prayer this year. We have been blessed by our ICS community again and again as they faithfully supported us in our times of need; we have seen God’s hand of protection over all of us during the first wave of the pandemic and all its challenges; and we have been encouraged by the grace and strength that God has given us during the difficult times.

On Friday, Aron Reppmann, Daniel Napier, and Bob Sweetman will be giving papers at the 45th Patristic, Medieval, and Renaissance Studies Conference entitled Thought and Prayer, to be held virtually under the auspices of Villanova University. The papers to be read in the session, organized by Aron, entitled Egyptian Imaginaries in Patristic and Medieval Thought and Prayer, will be:
  • “The Alexandrian Jewish Origins of Immaterial Spirit” by Daniel Austin Napier, Independent Scholar

  • “Philosophy as Egyptian Woman in Clement of Alexandria and Gregory of Nyssa” by Aron Reppmann, Trinity Christian College

  • “Aemulatio and the Egyptian Desert in Raymond of Capua's Vita of Catherine of Sienna” by Robert Sweetman, Institute for Christian Studies
Aron Reppmann is the Chair of the Senate and Chancellor of ICS, and Daniel Napier is an alum of ICS and the VU Amsterdam.

Monday, October 19 - Friday, October 23:

Remember back in the June prayer letter, we asked for prayer for Jueun Moon (PhD-Y2) and her new husband, Silvere Gangloff, who got married in Wisconsin and then had to be separated while Jueun returned to Korea. The happy news is that Jueun will be moving to France this month to reunite with her husband. Please pray for a safe and smooth journey toward this blessed reunion.

Various CPRSE projects and events will be starting up again this month, one of which is the Critical Faith podcast. After a brief post-summer break, we’re hoping to kick this semester off with a series of episodes on reading the book of Genesis with Nik Ansell. Please pray for clarity and creativity in the planning of these episodes, and that these conversations might reach a wide audience.

Monday, October 26 - Friday, October 30:

Monday marks the start of Reading Week for ICS Junior and Senior Members. Please pray for our students that they might have the creative energy and space to complete their writing and study assignments. Pray too for the faculty that God would graciously encourage and refresh them in their vocation at ICS.

Pray for ICS, and especially Harley Dekker, this week and next as he works with the auditors to finalize the annual audit of our financial records for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2020. We continued to see some positive financial developments this past year and we give thanks to God for his care of us.

Please uphold the Board of Trustees in their oversight of the vision and mission of ICS, especially as they plan for the Board meeting via Zoom on November 27th, and the AGM, again via Zoom, on November 28th. Pray for strength and wisdom for each one as they continue to provide support and leadership in the working out of God’s call to ICS now and into the future.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

In Memoriam: John C. Vander Stelt

by Lambert Zuidervaart (Senior Member Emeritus)

Pastor, scholar, teacher, and friend, Rev. Dr. John C. Vander Stelt died on September 19 while giving thanks for the love and the work of his life. His family had gathered in person and online to celebrate his and Sandy’s sixty years of marriage; his daughter Renee, a highly accomplished artist, had just shared her design ideas for the cover of John’s magnum opus in theology. Amid laughter and the tears of joy, John suffered a massive heart attack and died. He was 86 years old.

A Dutch immigrant to Canada and a graduate of Calvin College and Seminary, John Vander Stelt received his doctorate in theology from the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam (VU). By then he had already served several key roles in the North American reformational movement: first as a Christian Reformed Church pastor at Bethel Community CRC in Newmarket, Ontario (1965-67); then as director of development and student affairs in Eastern Canada and the USA for the parent organization of the Institute for Christian Studies (ICS), during the year when Hendrik Hart began to offer courses there (1967-68); and finally as a professor of theology and philosophy at Dordt College (now Dordt University), from 1968 onward.

Although I began my studies in philosophy and music at Dordt in 1968, I did not take a course with Professor Vander Stelt until a year and a half later. From then on he challenged, inspired, and encouraged me to become a Christian philosopher in the reformational tradition. It is thanks to John that I met my future mentor, Calvin Seerveld. It is thanks to John that I pursued my graduate studies at ICS and the VU. It is also thanks to John that I remain as committed as he was to a transforming vision of life and society.

When John eventually received his doctorate in 1978, Joyce and I were the among the first to congratulate him in person: after the graduation ceremony, John and Sandy drove to West Berlin, where I was doing my doctoral research, to visit us. Then they drove us all the way back to the Netherlands to welcome us, during our first time there, to the country where both of my parents were born.

John was as passionate as he was compassionate, a rare combination of charisma, intellect, and empathy. He cared about the whole person, not just the student or parishioner whom he was hired to serve. It is no accident that so many of his students pursued graduate studies at ICS in the 1970s. In fact, five of the first six graduates from ICS’s master’s program—Brad Breems, Harry Fernhout, John Hull, Don Sinnema, and I—had studied with Professor Vander Stelt at Dordt. Then all of us went on to faculty and administrative positions at Calvin University, The King’s University, Trinity Christian College, and ICS. I like to think John’s passion and compassion have rippled outward through the students, schools, and communities we and others like us have served.

In his later years at Dordt, and during his retirement after 1999, John provided tireless and visionary leadership for the International Association for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education (IAPCHE), then headquartered in Sioux Center, Iowa, and now called the International Network for Christian Higher Education (INCHE) and hosted by Calvin University. Increasingly, however, he returned to his scholarly pursuits to write an expansive tome on Reformed theology and the reformational tradition. His doctoral dissertation, titled Philosophy and Scripture (Marlton, NJ: Mack Publishing, 1978), had already provided a thorough historical, theological, and philosophical study of traditional Presbyterian theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. The magnum opus of John’s retirement years brings the same sort of careful and wide-ranging scholarship to the history of Reformed thought, including the theologies of Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck, the philosophical contributions of Herman Dooyeweerd and Dirk Vollenhoven, and the work of four influential figures at Calvin College and Seminary: Henry Stob, H. Evan Runner, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and Alvin Plantinga. Through it all, John develops a vigorous reformational vision of theology and the life of faith.

The last time I saw John and Sandy together was at a concert by the Chamber Choir of Grand Rapids in the beautiful Basilica of St. Adalbert. Although tired and a little disoriented, John was obviously glad to soak in the glorious sounds and to support the group I sing with. I imagine him now at a different concert, where no coronavirus pandemic makes group gatherings dangerous, where no ailments hinder John’s passion and compassion, and where he, with a vast host of transformed singers, can embrace the beauty and grace of a completely renewed Earth.

Friday, 11 September 2020

New Seerveld and Neo-Calvinist Aesthetics Publications

A brand new collection of essays has recently been published on the topic of Neo-Calvinist approaches to art and aesthetics, featuring many of the most prominent voices in the tradition giving fresh insights on what this tradition has to offer arts and aesthetics discourses today. Cal Seerveld has written the following about the volume:

* * * * *

Kunst D.V. is a handsome, hefty volume (374 pages, untranslated) in the Dutch language. After a succinct introduction there are four sections. The editors and Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin explicate the roots of the Calvinian faith-thought tradition toward the arts found in Jean Calvin, Abraham Kuyper, and Dooyeweerd. Then Hans Rookmaaker, E. John Walford and James Romaine exemplify how art history can be done in a perspective sensitive to a Christian world-and-life vision. Calvin Seerveld, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lambert Zuidervaart, and Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin show how their communal focus on aesthetic theory can contribute to understanding imaginative and artistic realities. Finally the "theology of art" tack is introduced by Wessel Stoker, William Edgar, and Victoria Emily Jones. The many colour reproductions are of excellent quality, the notes are substantial, and various of the authors take issue with the characteristic ideas of the other writers for a lively, open-ended, up to date introduction to the important contribution made by thinkers regarding art and aesthetics in the line of Reformational Christian philosophical reflection.

* * * * *

In addition to his contribution to Kunst D.V., Cal has also published two further volumes in the area of Biblical studies. Bewondering God's Dumbfounding Doings collects a series of meditations from Cal on the book of Revelation, which he delivered to a Toronto congregation over the course of two years. How to Read the Biblical Book of Proverbs--In Paragraphs offers a fresh translation of the book of Proverbs (as the title suggests) in paragraph form rather than as a series of disconnected aphorisms. Links to all of these books can be found below.


Publication Details and Links for Purchase

From Niagara to Now: Christian Courier Articles on ICS

Henry De Jong recently wrote an article in the Christian Courier in honour of the 50th anniversary of the first AACS/ICS Niagara Family Conference. In this article, he paints a vibrant picture of the impact those conferences had--and continue to have--on its attendees over the years. The article also serves to announce the website Henry has been studiously developing. intends to serve as an archive of materials related to these conferences throughout the years, and contains a wealth of content and reflections on these historic ICS events. 

In response to Henry's commemorative efforts, current ICS Board Chair John Joosse also contributed an article to the Christian Courier. In his piece, John reflects on how his own experiences at those AACS/ICS conferences, and the spirit he and others experienced then, is alive and well in ICS's current academic and societal callings.

You can read Henry's article, "A Legacy of Learning: Institute for Christian Studies Marks Milestone," for yourself on the Christian Courier website. And you can read John's article "What is an ‘ICSer’?" on the site as well. 

Go on over to Henry's website too for a load of photos, videos, articles, and archival materials related to the Family Conferences from 1970-1990.

Monday, 31 August 2020

An ICS Update from Ron Kuipers

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

—Isaiah 43: 17-18

Recently I had the privilege of attending the “celebration of learning” at the Christian Teacher Academy, a one week summer session for educators and school leaders who desire to further their understanding and development of project based learning. I got to hear teachers describe the exciting projects they are planning for their students in the coming school year: a music teacher spoke of her attempt to overcome the challenges that remote learning poses to music teaching by having her students compose and record an original song online; a geometry teacher spoke about connecting students with local businesses to help design containers for commercial products; a geography teacher spoke about her plans to have her students upcycle a discarded item.

The aforementioned geography teacher went on to describe how her project not only helps students understand geography, but also helps them better understand themselves as God’s image bearers. Just as God is busy redeeming creation by making all things new, so can we, with biblical imagination, confront and address the ecological problems we have created. Scripture can help us see our unwanted items with new eyes, to see new possibility precisely in those places where we are tempted to see only trash. This is indeed beautiful work.

We hear daily on the news about the safety concerns of teachers, students, and parents getting ready to return to school. While we should not minimize these concerns, I admit it was refreshing and energizing for me to hear these teachers talk about their plans to do more than simply cope during the upcoming school year. As we at ICS also move into a new school year in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to hear these teachers talk about the coming year with hope and expectation.

This year, as ICS continues to deliver its courses remotely, we can take inspiration from these brave and faithful teachers. There is much to be hopeful and excited about. This year, we have students joining our digital classroom from all over the globe: Australia, South Africa, Korea, Indonesia, Seattle, and Edmonton, to name just a few places. While this reality presents logistical challenges, given the different time zones involved, it has also confirmed our intuition that remote access learning removes a major barrier to ICS’s educational programs: the need to physically relocate to Toronto. Now our challenge is to recreate a learning environment that allows these students to thrive and grow in their faith and their understanding of God’s world.

As we move into the unknown of a very new school year, pray for the success of our efforts to create spiritual and intellectual community in our digital classrooms. We remain grateful for your continued support as we, following our maker and redeemer, make a way in the wilderness and a river in the desert.

Be well, friends! 

Ronald A. Kuipers

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Special Announcement: Join Our Biblical Foundations Class!

 We’re inviting you, the ICS support community, to take advantage of this opportunity to join an ICS class remotely too. This fall, Biblical Foundations with Nik Ansell will be happening via Zoom on Monday evenings 8-11pm EST starting Sept. 14. This course is open to first-time auditors, ICS alums, and ICS supporters at a significantly discounted price of just $425 CAD (registration included). So if you’d like to dive into an in-depth exploration of the whole Bible with Nik and see firsthand what’s going on in an ICS classroom today, now is your chance! Please email Elizabet Aras at by September 10 to register.

Saturday, 29 August 2020

Prayer Letter: September 2020

Tuesday, September 1 - Friday, September 4:

Please pray this week for Elizabet Aras, our Academic Registrar as she returns to Sweden to be with her parents. Her flight has been bumped several times in the past weeks but is now set for September 3. Please pray for safe travels with no unexpected delays, and for her peace of mind and protection while she stays with her family. Her main concern with going back is being exposed to diseases since, with the churches reopening, she is afraid that the elderly will go back to their regular habits and put themselves at risk.

September marks the beginning of the 2020-21 Academic Year. For the first time, all our Fall courses will be offered remotely with participation of students from across the globe. Senior Members have been working tirelessly in adapting their seminars to the requirements of remote learning and are ready to engage with students via online platforms. Please pray for instructors and students as they begin this unprecedented venture for ICS.  

We would also appreciate prayer for a few of our new students: our new MWS-ART student who won't be able to start her coursework this semester due to the fact that she's a teacher in Atlanta this year; a student transferring from the MWS to MA-EL; one new MA student in the process of completing all the steps for admission; and a new student from Indonesia who finally gets to start his MA studies with ICS because the courses are all online. Pray that all the details to be finalized and situational challenges can be dealt with smoothly.

Normally at this time we would ask for prayer for our Junior Members, both returning and new, as they prepare to come to Toronto to begin a new academic year. However, all our classes will be wholly online for at least the fall semester so we will only be able to see our students virtually. Please pray for our faculty and administrators as we prepare to provide the optimum learning experience online. And pray for both our new and returning students that they will have a fruitful online learning experience and that we will all find creative ways to build community at a distance. 

Monday, September 7 - Friday, September 11:

Please pray this week for the staff, Senior Members, and Junior Members as they participate in ICS’s first-ever remote Registration Week. Pray that it will be an inspiring time together to launch the new school year despite the fact that we cannot meet together in person. Please especially pray for our Registrar, Elizabet as she will be working remotely from Sweden. Pray for strength and peace of mind as she takes care of the many details that are involved in making sure that each day fulfills its potential. Please take a moment to pray for each day’s tasks and activities during Registration Week.

Tuesday, Sept 8: This is Orientation Day for all of our new students which will consist of faculty presentations, and a library workshop led by our Librarian Hilary Barlow to show the students how to search the ICS digital resources, how to use the U of T catalogue, and other learning resources to make their research possible. 

Wednesday, Sept 9: This is the day that our Junior Members complete their course registrations for the semester. There will also be meetings with Elizabet, our Registrar, and Harley Dekker about financial matters.


Thursday, Sept 10: A Research Workshop will be offered by our Librarian, Hilary Barlow for all our Junior and Senior Members this evening in order to acclimate everyone to making the most of online resources for their studies together.


Friday/Saturday, Sept 12/13: This is Retreat Day, which will be held virtually this year. The agenda consists of devotions, sharing of our hopes for ICS community life, and our reflections on what it has meant to us to be part of the ICS community during the pandemic. Please pray for the ongoing planning for this event, and for an encouraging time spent together looking to the year ahead.

Monday, September 14 - Friday, September 18:

This is the first week of classes at ICS -- wow, what a different scene from last year! This year, each Senior Member has had to adapt their course material and teaching for this online learning format. Please especially pray for each Senior Member as we all adapt to this unfamiliar territory, that they will be able to easily find a new rhythm for their digital classrooms. Pray also for the technical staff who are assisting them that everything will go smoothly on the technology side, and for the students participating in each class that, despite the differences in time zones of the students, it will be an inspiring and interactive learning experience for all. 

On Monday this week will be the first class of the semester, and fittingly, one of our Foundational courses: Biblical Foundations: Narrative, Wisdom, and the Art of Interpretation led by Dr. Nik Ansell. This course will explore the Bible—from Genesis to Revelation—as the ongoing story of and for God and all God’s creatures, paying special attention to the way in which humanity’s attempt to find its way is interwoven with the story of the Divine presence and with the wisdom and promise of creation-new creation. Participants will be invited to ask (among other things): How may we pursue biblical wisdom as we “re-think the world” when our Christian traditions seem convinced that biblical truth may be disconnected from—or simply applied to—the most pressing and perplexing issues of our time?

On Tuesday, the hybrid course, The Observant Participant: Applying Research Craft to Professional Practice led by Dr. Gideon Strauss will begin. This is a key course in the MA-EL program, led by the question: How do I make sense of my own experience as a practitioner and how do I learn from my experience? This course will draw on the critical reflective practices of other practitioners, will equip participants with the methodological tools of qualitative researchers, and will cultivate an attitude of attentiveness informed by the approach to practice taken by phenomenologists—becoming philosophically skilful students of our own lived human experience. The hope is, together, to become more observant participants and strengthen our capacity as reflective practitioners.

Also on Tuesday, the course Nietzsche, Foucault and the Genealogical Approach to the History of Philosophy will be led by Dr. Bob Sweetman. This seminar examines that philosophical approach to the history of philosophy that travels under the name of “genealogy.”  It does so in terms of selected texts of the tradition’s two major figures: its founder, Friedrich Nietzsche and the presently ubiquitous Michel Foucault.  It examines the role that genealogical study of the history of philosophy has in the philosophical construction of its practitioners and what they think is truly first and deepest in the history they so study.

On Wednesday, the course Hermeneutics and Deconstruction will be led by Dr. Jim Olthuis. Against the background of Heidegger's Being and Time, this seminar will contrast Gadamerian "Hermeneutics" and   Derridean "Deconstruction." Attention will then focus on Derridean John D. Caputo's 2019 Cross and Cosmos as an exercise in reading-with as rabbi/poet.

On Thursday morning, Dr. Rebekah Smick will be teaching her course: The Aesthetics of Compassion. In this course, participants will examine the interface between philosophy and works of tragic drama as that interface pertains to the psychology and aesthetics of compassion. Looking to such writers as Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Augustine, Dante, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche and Simone Weil, we will investigate the place of compassion in Western philosophy and theology and the roles that art and imagination have played in the stimulation of compassionate response. 

On Thursday afternoon, Dr. Nik Ansell will be teaching his course Facing the Darkness: The (Human) Nature of Evil. In this interdisciplinary theology seminar, we shall probe the (arguably anthropocentric) origin and nature of evil by engaging key biblical, philosophical, psychological, and anthropological resources. Central to course discussions will be a sapiential (wisdom-oriented) re-reading of the Fall narrative (Genesis 3–4), set against the backdrop of the good, yet largely wild, creation of Genesis 1–2. Topics will include "protest atheism" and lament literature (e.g. Job), original sin and fear, and the correlation between victim and agent.

Please continue to pray for our Junior Members during this time of remote learning -- they really miss each other and the spontaneous conversations and coffee runs with Senior Members. Pray that ICS will be able to recreate that "vibe" as much as possible via Zoom, over various time zones. 

Monday, September 21 - Friday, September 25:

We would appreciate prayers for the Leadership Team as they continue to work out the ICS strategic plan, formulated last year at this time, which is geared to enhance our academic programming and increase our institutional revenue. Pray for clarity and wisdom in our thinking as we develop, and then implement, strategies that will take us to that goal.

Please pray for those involved in preparing our Fall issue of Perspective, as authors, editors, organisers, designers, and printers. It is always a challenge to get such a publication ready in a timely manner, and we ask our Lord to guide and uphold all contributors to the process as they aim to mail this issue to supporters in the coming months.

Over the past few weeks, the ICS/CPRSE team has been preparing the third volume of the Currents in Reformational Thought series for publication. The volume will feature the work of The King’s University Professor and ICS Cross-Appointed Faculty Jeffrey Dudiak and is due to be published later this Fall. Please pray for Dr. Dudiak and the editorial team as they bring this project to completion. 

Monday, September 28 - Wednesday, September 30:

We ask for your prayers for Harley Dekker as he prepares for the auditors and the preparation of the year-end statements this month. This is a very detailed and lengthy process so please pray for strength and clarity for Harley as he seeks to complete this task as quickly as possible in the midst of the many other aspects of administration in which he is involved.

In one month, ICS/CPRSE will begin ICS’s Fourth Undergraduate Workshop, “Evil, Resistance, and Judgment: Creating a World Fit for Human Habitation,” in a remote learning format. For the next month, participants and respondents will engage in preparatory discussions for the online sessions. Please pray for the success of this event and for all those involved in making it a reality. 

At this time, all of us at ICS would like to express our gratitude to our amazing community for your wonderful support throughout the summer. Your many notes of encouragement and your generous financial gifts have made it possible for us ‘make ends meet’ and allowed us to keep pursuing our vision of providing innovative and inspiring learning experiences for our students. As we head into a new academic year, which looks very different than it did last year, we are excited about what God is going to do in us and through us. This is possible because you were and continue to be there for us -- thank you!

Friday, 31 July 2020

“A child named ‘Charity’”

As both a faculty member and President of ICS, I have to move between the academic world and the very different world of philanthropy. From listening to and learning from my students and academic colleagues, I must move to listening to and learning from the wider ICS support community. Hearing people’s stories about why they support ICS—including what they hope and wish for from it—always ends up encouraging me in my sense of why ICS is important, and how it must continue to honour your support by making a meaningful and transformative contribution to the growth of wisdom in our chaotic and dangerous times.

In moving between these conversations, I am also struck by the overlapping concerns of the two groups: together we all act from the conviction that God in Jesus the Messiah calls us to be a healing and transformative witness to a good yet suffering world. Recently, ICS received a generous gift from the children of a supporter who has been with us since our earliest days, and who shares this conviction. The family let me know that the gift was made to honour the wishes of their recently widowed father, who had impressed upon them his love for ICS and its mission in Christian higher education.

When I called the father to thank him, I could not have guessed what he wished to say. “I have five biological children,” he told me, “but long ago my wife and I adopted a sixth child, whom we have named ‘Charity’.” It took me a moment to realize that he wasn’t talking about an actual adopted sixth child, but was rather providing me with a metaphor to explain his philosophy of giving. Simply put, he had decided to bestow upon his five, no six, children a pre-inheritance. Of that money, he instructed his children to divide the sixth portion between five charities that he and his wife had faithfully supported, one of those being ICS.

I’m still pondering with wonder this donor’s philosophy of giving. He could have simply held back the sixth portion from his children, and donated that amount to the charities himself. Instead, he involved his children, like executors of a living will, and directed them to reach out to the charities on their own. Doing so allowed me to have meaningful exchanges with these good folks, which graciously provided me an opportunity to form new relationships with them. I guess what strikes me most is the wisdom behind this gesture, to have the donation become a form of witness on many different levels—to ICS, to his children, and, through my telling, to you, ICS’s wider community of support.

This donor’s wisdom, finally, led me to ponder charity as a form of love. The English word ‘charity’, as is well known, derives from the Latin caritas, which was used in the Vulgate to translate the Greek word agape. In a world that relies too heavily on charity as a band-aid to cover the wounds of injustice, we must also not forget that, even so, charity remains an act through which we may become conduits of God’s never-ending love for the world. And whenever we receive these cheerful gifts, we feel that love, as well as the responsibility to extend it to everyone we serve. Thank you for your generous faithfulness, friends! Be well!

-President Ronald A. Kuipers

Prayer Letter: August 2020

Monday, August 3 - Friday, August 7:

On Thursday this week, ICS will be hosting its third virtual Open House for the Masters in Educational Leadership (MA-EL) program. This time we have invited potential students and other "champions" of the MA-EL program (e.g. principals and influencers) to attend. Edith van der Boom, our new Assistant Professor of Philosophy of Education and Practice of Pedagogy, and Director of the MA-EL program, will introduce herself and her vision for the program. EIizabet Aras, our Academic Registrar, will explain the application process and present the program design. Please pray for Edith and Elizabet, and all the participants, that the Open House will be an effective vehicle for promoting the program.

Please pray these next two weeks for those students wishing to begin the Masters in Educational Leadership program this fall. ICS is accepting applications until August 15 so please pray that the recruitment efforts that have been going on all summer will bear fruit with a strong third cohort.

The Critical Faith podcasting crew and our Senior Members are hard at work recording snapshot interviews about this fall’s courses—all of which will be offered online for the duration of the semester. With discounts available for first-time auditors and ICS alumni/ae, an array of course topics on offer, and the ease of a once-a-week online seminar format, this is an unprecedented opportunity for students to participate in an ICS classroom from anywhere in the world. Please pray for the crew and for our Senior Members as they continue to spread the word and prepare for these courses ahead of the coming semester. If you’re interested in knowing exactly what we’re offering this fall or if you want to encourage someone to try an ICS course for themselves, you can find details on our website at

In light of the growing unrest about systemic racism and violence, and as a first step toward deep and long term institutional reflection on the ways we at ICS are complicit in and benefit from systemic racism, the CPRSE will introduce a series of reflections on our Ground Motive blog beginning this week. The series will feature some voices from within the ICS learning community in a conversation that will expand through the inclusion of BIPOC communities and organizations, and diverse philosophers and theologians. Keep an eye on Ground Motive for the start of this series and pray for those contributing to it, that they might speak graciously and insightfully. Please also pray that these efforts will indeed be a first key step in examining and wrestling with the various forms of privilege and complicity at play within the ICS community, and in asking how we might continually learn to better love our neighbours in our day.

Monday, August 10 - Friday, August 14:

Please pray this week for our Registrar, Elizabet Aras, as she prepares for student registration and the virtual fall retreat to be held in the second week of September. As well, Elizabet and Gideon will be hosting a pre-registration meeting for program students who need to take courses in the fall term on August 11. There are myriad details to take care of, so we ask God for clarity and discernment in the planning and implementation of these important events at the start of our school year.

On Thursday of this week, ICS will host its fourth and last virtual Open House. The Open House will follow the same format as the August 6th one (see above). So once again, we ask you to pray for Edith and Elizabet as they make their presentations and for all the participants that it would prove to be an informative and inspiring event.

The month of August marks the official beginning of our Fourth Annual Undergraduate Workshop. This time, we will work remotely with undergraduate students from across North America as they reflect on the concepts of evil, resistance, and judgment through an interdisciplinary lens. Please pray for the ICS/CPRSE team as we engage this keen group of students in dialogue and help them hone their scholarship skills in these unprecedented times.

Monday, August 17 - Friday, August 21:

Please pray this week for Gideon Strauss as he leads the last course in our Summer Online Learning Initiative: Lead From Where You Are: Making a Difference in the Face of Tough Problems, Big Questions, and Organizational Politics. This is a one-week intensive designed to help students develop a leadership language and use a set of tools and frameworks to assist them with diagnosing and addressing the toughest problems experienced by organizations, communities, institutions, and societies. Pray for Gideon and the students as they work out fresh insights and new skills together in a workshop format.

The Master of Educational Leadership program starts up this week. Cohort 1, which started the program in September 2018 will be doing two guided readings. Cohort 2, which began in August 2019, will be enrolled in Lead From Where You Are, which is also running this week. Cohort 3, which comprises the new students in the program, will be taking the first course in the program, Finding Joy in Learning. Please pray for Elizabet as she administers the registration and online classrooms for these courses, for the students who will be participating, and for Gideon Strauss and Edith van der Boom as they lead the learning process.

We also want to pray for the various projects which our Junior Members are working on: theses, proposals, reading lists, dissertations, independent research, presentations and coursework. We pray that the summer season has been an opportunity for them to follow through on these projects and that it brings renewed inspiration and vigour for the upcoming school year.

Monday, August 24 - Friday, August 28:

We ask for your prayers this week for our administrative staff as they seek to ensure that all the pieces are in place for the beginning of the school year. Pray too for our faculty as they prepare their courses for online delivery this semester. We ask for God’s grace and wisdom as they work together, and for keen discernment in meeting the opportunities and challenges facing ICS at this time. We give thanks to God for sending each of them to serve the Institute’s mission with commitment and dedication.

Normally at this time we would ask for prayer for our Junior Members, both returning and new, as they prepare to come to Toronto to begin a new academic year. However, all our classes will be wholly online for at least the fall semester so we will only be able to see our students virtually. Please pray for our faculty and administrators as we prepare to provide the optimum learning experience online. And pray for both our new and returning students that they will have a fruitful online learning experience and that we will all find creative ways to build community at a distance. 

Monday, August 31:

Please pray today for Elizabet Aras as she flies to Sweden on September 2nd to be with her parents who have just recently been reunited after being separated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pray that the travel arrangements will go smoothly and that Elizabet will be at peace during the flight and when she arrives in Stockholm. We ask God to watch over her as she re-integrates into life with her family again and that the family will remain healthy.

As we take a moment to look back over the summer, please also join us in a prayer of thanksgiving for all the Summer Online Learning Initiative courses that were delivered over the last few months. We thank God for each of the many students that took part in the five courses that were offered, and for each of the course leaders for the gifts of their time and efforts spent crafting these individual courses and guiding students’ learning experiences. 

Friday, 10 July 2020

In Memoriam: M. Elaine Botha

by Gideon Strauss

Belovéd of God, Elaine Botha (1938-2020) rests in peace and will rise in glory. She was a pioneering scholar, a wise mentor and a dear friend to many, and a brave voice for justice and love.

As a scholar Elaine worked primarily on metaphor and the philosophy of the social sciences, and made innovative contributions to her own Reformational tradition. She completed two doctorates at the beginning of the 1970s, one at the then Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education in her native South Africa, advised by C. N. Venter, and the other at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, advised by Hendrik Van Riessen and André Troost. She taught philosophy at the Potchefstroom University (1969 to 1995) and served as academic vice president (1995 to 2000) and director of the Dooyeweerd Centre (2000 to 2004) at Redeemer University in Canada. In 2005 she was a visiting scholar of the Center for Semiotics at Aarhus University in Denmark. She also taught as an adjunct faculty member at the Institute for Christian Studies.

Many people can attest to Elaine’s kindness and hospitality as a mentor and a friend. My own experience of her as a mentor and friend began in the early 1990s, when Elaine and Craig Bartholomew co-founded the Christian Worldview Network. The CWN brought together academics in the Reformational tradition, artists seeking a Christian imagination, and activists working with a Christian democratic vision for the political and societal transformation of apartheid South Africa. The CWN invited South Africans towards an integral vision of Christian life in its gatherings and with its magazine, The Big Picture, and continues to influence Christians making art in South Africa through its 1993 manifesto, Christians and the Arts in South Africa. But perhaps to the most enduring effect, the CWN served as a context in which many of us then in our twenties could enjoy the wise mentorship offered by Elaine.

Much of Elaine’s courage was practiced quietly and privately. In public life, she worked against the racism, misogyny, and patriarchy of Afrikaner Christian-nationalism for decades, not least so at the Potchefstroom University where she studied and taught. She was a signatory of the 1977 Koinonia Declaration, denying a biblical foundation to the racism of apartheid political theology, at a time and in a place where making such a public statement came with a considerable cost, both professionally and socially.

Late in life Elaine married Bob Goudzwaard, the Dutch Reformational economist and politician, with whom she retired in South Africa.

Along with Elaine’s friends, students, and colleagues I pray for her rest in the embrace of God and look forward to continuing our conversations in the world to come.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

In Memoriam: John H. Kok

by Bob Sweetman (with gratitude to Calvin Seerveld)

On 15 June 2020, ICS’s Senate met via Zoom to engage in that precious act of “sober second thought” around ICS’s academic life. No one knew at the time that John Kok, second-term external Senator, was in trouble. He complained of foot pain that made it difficult for him to walk, but there he was looking little worse for the wear. So, we were shocked to hear of his sudden passing at 1am on 5 July 2020. Nothing prepared us for this “bolt from the blue”: a staph infection that resisted all treatment until his body was too weak to try more aggressive interventions.

ICS and the Reformational tradition of Christian scholarship has lost a lot in John’s passing. He came into adulthood in the late 60s and early 70s as an undergraduate at Trinity Christian College, during the years when it was an epicentre of the Reformational movement in North America. Calvin Seerveld, Peter Steen, Martin Vrieze, Thomas McIntire, Robert Vandervennen made up a significant portion of the then young college’s faculty, and provided a liberal arts education with explicitly Christian verve and excitement (dubbed the ‘high church party’ within Kuyperian Christianity by long-time Calvin University History Professor Ronald Wells). John was one of many students who came under the influence of Cal Seerveld (as well as Martin Vrieze) in those days, inspired by Cal’s charismatic and imaginative teaching which gave rise to a desire to go out and do likewise.

In 1971 John moved with his wife Sanneke to The Netherlands to pursue graduate work in philosophy at the Vrije Universiteit (Free University) in Amsterdam. There he was taken under the wing of Hendrik van Riessen and later Jacob Klapwijk. John began work on his PhD thesis in 1978 and finished it in 1992 under the dual direction of Henk Hart of ICS and Abraham Bos of the Free University. In the meantime, John took a position with Dordt University (then Dordt College) in Sioux Center, IA in 1983. He worked for Dordt from then until his retirement in 2014, and in several capacities. He taught in the Philosophy Department until 1997. From then until his retirement he would serve at the decanal level, first as Dean of the Humanities and later as Dean of Research and Scholarship. In addition, he was for a time the Director of the Andreas Center for Christian Scholarship, and settled into a role as Managing Editor of Dordt College Press, a position he continued to hold after he retired. For decades he represented the Society for Reformational Philosophy (based in The Netherlands) to its members in North America. Just before retirement he was recruited by then ICS President Doug Blomberg to serve on ICS’s Senate and he became its Chair and ICS Chancellor for a term (2014-2019).

Such was the institutional context for his service of the Reformational tradition, but it does not yet communicate the tenor and texture of that service.

John Kok was a man who embodied the most characteristic (and characteristically modest) ideal of Dutch Calvinism—to be useful in the Lord’s work. John was ever useful and never flashy. If he was once inspired to go and do like charismatic Reformational speakers and teachers like H. Evan Runner, Peter Steen, or Cal Seerveld, that did not turn out to be his calling. He was called to be useful in less flamboyant ways, and in this he succeeded quietly and steadily. His work for the Society for Reformational Philosophy is a good example, but there are so many others.

In his thesis, John took on the formative background of D.H.Th. Vollenhoven as a philosopher of mathematics and logic. This was archeological work in rock hard soil. This was not yet the Vollenhoven who along with Herman Dooyeweerd would found the Reformational tradition. And yet this was the core formation in philosophy that Vollenhoven would receive, and the habits of thought he would acquire in those early years would remain important to his later work. If one was to understand how Vollenhoven went about philosophizing as a Reformational philosopher one needed to have a sense of whence he came to the idea of Reformational philosophy, for that remained operative in so many subliminal ways. So John's book Vollenhoven: His Early Development (Dordt College Press, 1992) was an instrumental support for Anthony Tol’s far more ambitious analyses of the thought of Vollenhoven over the next two decades.

One should also not forget John's long efforts to support the work of Kor Bril, Vollenhoven’s most explicit successor at the Free University. John worked for years as a translator of Reformational thought, and his dual language edition of Vollenhoven’s Introduction to Philosophy (Dordt College Press, 2005) has been instrumental in introducing Anglophones to Vollenhoven’s thought. More useful service.

Under his management, Dordt College Press has become a central provider of Reformational publications in English. One thinks especially of the volumes of Cal Seeveld’s publications, including a six-volume set of his most important articles and book chapters and his just-released study of the book of Proverbs.

What equipped John to these many humble but crucial services was his capacity to knit a close attention to detail to the sprawling vision of God’s Kingdom that is so central to the Kuyperian and Reformational scholarly imagination and intention. It was this attention to detail that allowed him to patiently work through the mathematical and logical work of the early Vollenhoven, that supported his patient work as translator and as editor, that facilitated his administrative being as dean and director and managing editor. He was careful, even fastidious, conceptually, but that care was always in service of the Creation-wide Kingdom and always suffused with a deep love of the scriptures. Indeed, the latter love took form in his heart as a delight at the opportunity to exhort from CRC pulpits in his last years.

Here was a man who served his Lord well and truly, who was a true friend of ICS. And we remember him with gratitude to God for the gift that he was to us in life.

The memorial service for John is to be held on Wednesday, July 8, at 10 am CST. The service will be live-streamed on Facebook at the Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Sioux Center, IA. If you wish to attend this service virtually, you will need to like their page to have access to the live-stream: