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 http://www.groundmotive.net/.

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 H├ęctor, 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, 2020 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. Square-Inch.net 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 Square-Inch.net website too for a load of photos, videos, articles, and archival materials related to the Family Conferences from 1970-1990.