Friday 30 September 2022

ART in Orvieto Online Info Night - October 19

On October 19 at 6pm EST, we will host an online Info Night for ART in Orvieto 2023. This event will feature an overview of the art, religion, and theology seminar led by Rebekah Smick, the Artists’ Workshop led by David Holt, and the Writers’ Workshop led by John Terpstra. There will also be a Q&A period for any questions hopeful attendees may have. 

Email if you or someone you know would like to join us and find out more about this wonderful learning opportunity.

Monday 26 September 2022

October 27 - Zuidervaart Festschrift Celebration

Update: This is now a hybrid event, so you may attend either virtually or in person. Please send an email to receive the Zoom link if you'd like to join the event online. 

Almost two years after the publication of the second volume of ICS’s Currents in Reformational Thought book seriesSeeking Stillness or The Sound of Wings: Scholarly and Artistic Comment on Art, Truth, and Society in Honour of Lambert Zuidervaart, we are finally ready to celebrate this splendid collection of essays! 

Join us on Thursday, October 27th, 2022, as we gather in person to celebrate the contribution of ICS Senior Member Emeritus Dr. Lambert Zuidervaart to the tradition of Reformational Philosophy and reflect on the diverse contributions made to this festschrift in Dr. Zuidervaart’s honour. The event will feature a presentation on the book and a panel discussion, followed by a light reception. 

Thursday October 27th, 2022 at 3:00 - 5:30pm

Regis College, University of Toronto (100 Wellesley St. West)
Book presentation and panel discussion – St. Joseph Chapel 
Reception - Christie Mansion

Please RSVP to if you would like to attend this event in honour of Dr. Zuidervaart in person or if you would like to be sent the Zoom link to participate virtually.

Wednesday 14 September 2022

Dr. Pamela Beattie Appointed Senate Chair and Chancellor

The Institute for Christian Studies is delighted to announce the appointment of Dr. Pamela Beattie as the Chair of the ICS Senate and ICS Chancellor. Dr. Beattie is Chair of the Department of Comparative Humanities and Associate Professor of Medieval Studies at the University of Louisville (Kentucky, USA), and has served on the ICS Senate since 2018. She is a specialist in medieval religious culture with a particular focus on the thirteenth century Catalan philosopher and missionary Ramon Llull.

Dr. Beattie is originally from London, Ontario, and graduated from London District Christian Secondary School. She was in the pioneer class at Redeemer University, and graduated from Calvin University before attending the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies and the University of Toronto. Dr. Beattie succeeds Aron Reppmann as Chair of Senate and Chancellor. Her term started on Wednesday, September 7, 2022.

Thursday 1 September 2022

Surprised by the Spirit

And God, who knows the human heart,
testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit,
just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith
he has made no distinction between them and us.
—Acts 15:8-9 (NRSV)

Discerning the new ways that God’s redemptive Spirit is moving in our world today can be a messy, risky business. Our hearts and guts—the wellsprings of our desire for compassion, restoration, and justice—may pull us one way, and everything we have been taught to believe about what scripture says may pull us in another.

In Acts 15 we see our Messiah’s early followers in a similar quandary. The traditional interpretation of their scriptures convinces many of them that, to be counted among Jesus’s followers, it is necessary for everyone, including Gentiles, “to be circumcised and ordered to keep the laws of Moses” (vs. 5). Other leaders disagree, believing they have discerned a new way that the Spirit is moving outside of the people God originally chose to bear witness to the shalom way.

What to do? One way they could have gone was to apply, simply and directly, what centuries of religious tradition had told them their scriptures demanded. It is tempting to treat scripture this way, as a kind of algorithm through which one might run any controversial situation or disagreement, counting on it to produce a clear-cut answer that will not require us to engage in the difficult yet necessary task of discerning whether God’s Spirit might be doing something new in our midst. Thankfully, that is not the way the apostles eventually choose, opting instead for the latter, more challenging path.

When the apostles and elders gather to work through their disagreement, Peter stands up before them and testifies to his experience of bringing the good news to the Gentiles. Through this experience, Peter has become convinced that, outside of strictly keeping the law, the gift of God’s Spirit has still somehow cleansed these people’s hearts and enabled them to become a blessing to their communities. After Peter speaks, “the whole assembly kept silence, and listened” as Paul and Barnabas proceed to tell of “all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles” (vs. 12).

In his speech, Peter describes God with an intriguing adjective: “heart-knowing” (kardiognostes). Because we trust and follow such a “heart-knowing” God, we are called to become heart-knowers ourselves. What does that require? Perhaps the first step, to which the story itself alludes, is to keep silence and listen. Heart-knowing, it seems, requires sitting down and tarrying with people long enough to hear and feel the stories of their hearts. It takes intimacy, trust, and a vulnerability that must not be abused. Only when we sit and break bread with these ‘outsiders’ will we be able to perceive the fruit of the Spirit in their lives, and to trust it when we see it.

Did Peter, Paul, and Barnabas, then, simply ignore scripture when they found it to be inconvenient for their purposes? Hardly. To the contrary, I would suggest that their ability to see the Spirit working in a new way is born out of their spiritual practice of allowing scripture to read them. This deep immersion in scripture, as opened to them through the life and teaching of Jesus Messiah, shapes in them an imagination capable of recognizing God’s new thing when they come across it. Their utmost concern during this assembly, then, is to discern how this new spiritual movement might best remain faithful to the heart-knowing God revealed in scripture, the God whose Spirit allows them to perceive new signs of God’s coming Kingdom in the lives of once strange, unfamiliar, and even despised or dreaded others.

Let us strive to be as faithful as these early leaders of our Messiah’s church, friends! May God give us the strength and wisdom to keep silence and listen when we don’t have all the answers, or perhaps especially when we think we do have all the answers. In this way, let us allow our heart-knowing Maker to cultivate in us an imagination sensitive enough to notice and celebrate all the new things and people that, perhaps to our surprise, serve God’s ancient way of shalom!

Ron Kuipers

Prayer Letter: September 2022

Thursday, September 1 - Friday, September 2:

Today, we share the sad news of former ICS student Hans Groen’s passing on the night of August 10-11. Hans Groen studied at ICS during the 1985-1986 academic year, taking courses in political theory and aesthetics, before returning to the Netherlands where he received his PhD in 1990 from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam with a thesis on John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice.  Hans is survived by his husband of 36 years, Scott, and by his brother and sister-in-law Maarten & Mariëtte. A service was held in Hans’ memory on August 25, and we would like to add our condolences and continued prayers of comfort for Hans’ family and friends.

ICS alumnus Drew Van’t Land (MA, 2014) was recently appointed to the position of Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) in Pittsburgh, PA. Drew will be teaching remotely this semester, having been hired late this summer, but he and his family are looking for a house in Pittsburgh and hope to move there in December. Please join us in prayers of gratitude for Drew’s hard work coming to fruition in the form of this exciting new career opportunity.

Monday, September 5 - Friday, September 9:

September marks the beginning of the 2022-23 academic year, and a continuation of online learning at ICS. This year, Senior Members will continue to offer online seminars, sessions, and guided readings to our Junior Members residing both in Toronto and elsewhere in the world. Our Junior Members are all at various stages of their programs, and as well as starting up classes once again, are also starting or continuing to work on their respective research and projects. Please pray for all our instructors and students, both new and returning, as they begin this new academic year at ICS.

We are looking forward to welcoming a number of new Junior Members this fall in our different programs! Please pray along with us that these JMs will have a successful start to their studies at ICS:

  • Three new MA students: Jimmy (a graduate from The King's University), Robert (a graduate from Queen's University), and Yutong (a University of Montreal graduate);

  • Four new MA-EL program students: Angie, David, and Kelsey (all in the School Administration stream); and Josh in the Instructional Leadership stream;

  • Tracey-Ann, who has transferred to ICS from Wycliffe to start the MWS-ART program with Rebekah Smick;

  • And Todd, a Brock University graduate who has already taken several courses at ICS as a special studies student and is now embarking on the PhD program.

Please pray this week for the staff, Senior Members, and Junior Members as they participate in ICS’s Orientation Week. This year, Orientation Week events will be a mix of online and in-person events. Pray that this week will be an inspiring time together to launch the new school year and (re)connect with one another. Please pray for our Registrar, Elizabet Aras, and our Academic Dean, Dr. Gideon Strauss, as they plan the details involved in each day. Please also take a moment to join us in prayer for each day’s tasks and activities during Orientation Week:

  • Tuesday, Sept 6: Orientation Week this year will begin with a presentation by Brenda Kronemeijer and Carol Scovil, with Christian Campus Ministries at the University of Toronto. In the evening, we will offer part one of a two-part workshop for Junior and Senior Members and ICS staff titled “Your Next 5 Years,” led by Dr. Gideon Strauss. 

  • Wednesday, Sept 7: This is the day that our Junior Members complete their course registrations for the semester. There will also be meetings with Elizabet Aras and Harley Dekker about financial matters. The second part of the “Your Next 5 Years” workshop will be held in the evening.

  • Thursday, Sept 8: We have invited Marg Smit-Vandezande from Shalem Mental Health Network to introduce the Counselling Assistance Program for ICS Students and Staff (CAPS) this morning. Following this, Danielle Yett (Health & Safety Officer) will present a training session for staff, faculty, and students on our Workplace Anti-Violence and Harassment Policy. A Library Workshop will then be offered by our Librarian, Peter Gorman, for all our Junior and Senior Members in the afternoon in order to introduce everyone to how they might make the most of library materials, online resources, and more during their studies at ICS. 

  • Thursday/Friday, Sept 8/9: We will offer a virtual Fall Retreat on Thursday evening, where we will interview our new Junior Members as well as our Senior Members as a way of getting to know one another. We will then offer an in-person Fall Retreat on Friday, at the Toronto Island. At our in-person retreat we will celebrate the new academic year with a welcoming liturgy, and get to know one another better over lunch and with a variety of organized and less organized activities. Pray these words from our welcoming liturgy in solidarity with us: As we search for glimpses of truth, we journey together. As we search for signs of possibility, we journey together. As we search for reasons to hope, we journey together.

Monday, September 12 - Friday, September 16:

This is the first week of classes at ICS! Please especially pray for each Senior Member as they continue to find creative ways to teach course material online, dive deep into important and complex topics, and provide experiences that enhance a sense of community in their classrooms. Pray also for the students participating in each class that, despite the differences in time and place, it will be an inspiring and interactive learning experience for all! These are the courses to keep in your prayers this week and throughout the semester:

On Tuesday from 4:15 to 7:15pm (EST), Biblical Foundations: Narrative, Wisdom, and the Art of Interpretation led by Dr. Nik Ansell will begin. This course will explore the Bible as the ongoing story of and for God and all God’s creatures, and attempt to identify the hermeneutical methods which best help us discern its significance in present-day life—all the while paying special attention to how Christians might study Scripture and pursue wisdom in an Academy that believes biblical witness restricts human freedom, and a tradition that sees Scripture as disconnected from the issues of our time.

On Wednesday from 10am to 1pm (EST), Dr. Ronald A. Kuipers will be teaching Imagining the World with Ricoeur: Narrative, Action, and the Sacred in Ricoeur's Hermeneutic Phenomenology. This course will consider Paul Ricoeur’s evolving thoughts on topics such as textual interpretation, action, imagination, revelation, and a religious imaginary in two of his essay collections: From Text to Action: Essays in Hermeneutics, II, as well as Figuring the Sacred: Religion, Narrative, and Imagination.

On Thursday from 10am to 1pm (EST), Grace as an Aesthetic Concept with Dr. Rebekah Smick begins. This course will examine the concept of grace within its theological, philosophical, literary, and art theoretical contexts in an effort to more fully understand its historical significance, the points of intersection between its contemporary uses, and its potential usefulness for the philosophy and theology of art today. 

Also on Thursday from 4:15 to 7:15pm (EST) the first session of The Craft of Reflective Practice with Dr. Gideon Strauss will take place. Course participants will learn how to do critical reflective practice by telling stories about their everyday professional life—and in the process, learn qualitative research skills, receive an introduction to phenomenology, and develop their own approach to praxis, and, most significantly, come to terms with who they are in what they do. 

From 4:30 to 7:30pm (EST) this same day, Dr. Edith van der Boom will host the first session of Transformative Teaching: The Role of a Christian Educator. Students in this course will consider their role as a Christian educator called to be a transformer of society and culture by seeking justice for those who are marginalized and disenfranchised, as well as to transform culture in their school, their local community, and the world. 

Finally on Thursday evening from 6 to 9pm (EST), Dr. Nik Ansell will begin teaching Meaning/Being/Knowing: The Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Implications of a Christian Ontology. Junior Members in this course will explore the nuances of Dooyeweerd’s idea that, “Meaning is the being of all that has been created and the nature even of our selfhood” (New Critique of Theoretical Thought), and consider how to do the work of Ontology well, by drawing upon a pre-theoretical form of Knowing, and a spiritual grounding and hope, that will always precede and exceed understanding.

Please continue to pray for our Senior Members, Junior Members, and students in these courses during this term. Pray that they might experience a close, communal learning environment as much as possible via Zoom and across various time zones.

Monday, September 19 - Friday, September 23:

A number of ICS alums and PhD candidates also start teaching courses at different schools this month. Andrew Tebbutt was recently appointed Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Trinity Christian College in Chicago and will teach philosophy courses there this year. Mark Standish and Abbi Hofstede will both also be teaching courses at The King’s University in Edmonton this year—Mark in philosophy and Abbi in politics and economics. Héctor Acero Ferrer, as an Adjunct Faculty member at Martin Luther University College in Waterloo, will likewise be teaching courses on intersectionality, interfaith/intercultural dialogue, and overseeing senior projects. Please pray for these and our many other ICS alums in the wide variety of careers they are called to pursue, as the month of September often brings with it new beginnings across all spheres of life. 

We would appreciate prayers for the Leadership Team as it continues to work out the ICS strategic plan, which is geared to enhancing our academic programming and increasing our tuition revenue and institutional longevity. We pray also for the ICS Academic Council as it resumes the work of academic governance during this month. The council will focus on ICS's academic policies with regard to the assessment of student work during this term. Pray for clarity and wisdom in our thinking as we develop, and continue to implement, ways that will enable us to keep pursuing our goal of offering truly distinct educational opportunities to the students who come our way.

Please pray for those involved in preparing and contributing to our upcoming fall issue of Perspective as authors, editors, organizers, designers, and printers. This issue will highlight some of the voices and stories of our incoming Junior Members (among others) and should offer an exciting glimpse into their work. We ask our Lord to grant all contributors creativity and insight as we aim to send this issue to our supporters in the coming months.

The fourth and latest volume in ICS’s Currents in Reformational Thought book series with Wipf & Stock Publishers was published this past June: Dancing in the Wild Spaces of Love: A Theopoetics of Gift and Call, Risk and Promise by Senior Member Emeritus Jim Olthuis. Please pray with us in particular gratitude for Jim’s latest publication, and for all those involved in the authoring, preparation, and publication of this manuscript. Pray also for those involved in the ongoing planning and preparation of future volumes in this series, that those who read them might continue to find deep wisdom and insights in their pages.

Monday, September 26 - Friday, September 30:

We ask for your prayers for Director of Finance Harley Dekker as he prepares for the auditors and the preparation of the year-end statements this month. This is always a very detailed and lengthy process, so please pray for strength and clarity of mind 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.

The 2022-23 academic year will be a time of celebration at the CPRSE, including book launches for three recently published volumes of ICS’s Currents in Reformational Thought book series. The second of these volumes honours the scholarly work of Senior Member Emeritus Lambert Zuidervaart, through a festschrift entitled, Seeking Stillness or The Sound of Wings: Scholarly and Artistic Comment on Art, Truth, and Society in Honour of Lambert Zuidervaart. This festschrift will be celebrated at the facilities of Regis College on Thursday, October 27th at 3:00pm. Please pray for the organizing team as they plan this event in honour of Dr. Zuidervaart. 

During the month of September, the CPRSE team will be planning its annual cycle of research projects, publications, and public outreach events. This year, many of our events and publications will focus on questions surrounding the notion of tradition, particularly as our institution seeks to carry forward the rich tradition of inquiry and scholarship that animates the work and lives of our Senior and Junior Members. Please pray that the CPRSE’s work will be fruitful and responsible, and that the programming offered can serve as a space for transformative reflection for our community and beyond.

On September 27-29, MA-EL Director Edith van der Boom and Recruitment Coordinator Brenna Wehrle are attending the 2022 Christian Schools Canada Conference in Winnipeg. ICS is a sponsor of this year’s event, and it will be a great opportunity for Edith and Brenna to connect with some of our Christian school colleagues. Please pray for safe travels for Edith and Brenna, and for many learning and networking opportunities for them both as they attend this conference.

We pray for the search for a new ICS Senior Member in Philosophy. The Senior Member in Philosophy contributes to the MA and PhD programs of ICS by mentoring students, teaching courses, and supervising MA theses and PhD dissertations in modern and contemporary European continental philosophy as well as in either ancient or medieval European philosophy. The October 3 application deadline for this position is quickly approaching. We are grateful for the applications we have received so far, and we pray for a final push of inspiration for anyone still fine-tuning their application. Please also pray with us for the search committee, that they may be granted wisdom and discernment as they begin to evaluate applications and start the interview process.

We pray for the families and households, friends and faith communities of the members of our ICS scholarly community. We are grateful for their company and encouragement, aware of their sacrifices, and prayerful for their flourishing. As summer shifts into fall, we pray for the adjustments in our schedules and in our priorities to go well, and for our hearts to beat along with the seasonal rhythms of our lives. For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3, NRSV).

ART in Orvieto 2023 is Coming!

The dates for the 2023 iteration of our ART in Orvieto program have now been set! 

From July 9 to 29, 2023, ICS will host an advanced summer studies program in art, religion, and theology located in Orvieto, Italy, a magnificent hill town 90 minutes north of Rome. The program offers an ecumenical exploration of Christian understandings of the arts. It provides a three-week residency designed for artists, art teachers, graduate students in relevant fields, and other adult learners interested in engaging the intersection of art, religion, and theology. 

The main components of the program are a seminar on the topic of art, religion, and theology with Rebekah Smick, and/or the option to join either an artists' workshop with David Holt or writers' workshop with John Terpstra.

Early Bird applicants will be eligible to receive a $500CAD Ruth and Inès Memorial Scholarship for Artistic Education. These scholarships will be available on a first come first serve basis to applicants who submit a complete ART in Orvieto application by the December 31 early bird deadline. 

Visit to find out more about the program -- and please share this wonderful learning opportunity with anyone who may be interested!