Wednesday, 1 March 2023

Sacred Reluctance

Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me,
yet not my will but yours be done.

—Luke 22:42

Like many people, I struggle with procrastination. This is true even though I grew up in a family that owned a small building supply company, and much of the summers and weekends of my youth were spent working at “the shop,” where it was all hands on deck and there was no time for idlers or dreamers. Being raised with such a strong Calvinist work ethic, later in life I would often berate myself for giving in to procrastination.

In time I would come to learn that procrastination can be more than just idle time wasting, and even a key to the creative process. I vividly remember one time over twenty years ago working on my PhD dissertation, and finding myself halfway through a chapter with no idea how to continue the argument I was making, let alone reach a conclusion. It was like I had wandered into a forest and couldn’t find my way out. I told myself to go for a good, long walk, and when I returned, suddenly a path out of the thicket emerged, and I could work productively again.

At still other times, however, I struggle with something deeper than procrastination: reluctance. You see, I am not the kind of philosopher who simply cannot wait to break open a difficult book and learn how to decode its jargon so that I can obtain its secrets. Back when I was writing my dissertation, I remember slogging my way through Jürgen Habermas’s three-volume Theory of Communicative Action and thinking it would be helpful if I had some kind of mechanical device that would force my eyes to stay open. In these moods, I would look around at my enthusiastic colleagues who appeared to simply love what they were doing and I would wonder what was wrong with me.

Then I came across a wonderful little book by Christian Wiman called He Held Radical Light: The Art of Faith, the Faith of Art, which gave me a new way to understand reluctance. “It’s almost the definition of a calling,” Wiman says, “that there is strong inner resistance to it.” This resistance, he explains, is not simply practical, but existential, cutting to the very core of one’s sense of self: “Can I navigate this strong current,” Wiman asks, “and can I remain my self while losing myself within it?” (10) These daunting questions put me in mind of our Redeemer on his way to the cross, reluctant to take the cup that his Father had given him. No one asked him if he wanted to be the Son of God, and I am struck that, although committed to following his Father’s will until the end, he still asked for that cup to be taken from him.

Wiman goes so far as to counsel us to trust something about reluctance: “Reluctant writers, reluctant ministers, reluctant teachers—these are the ones whose lives and works can be examples.” Why does Wiman think such lives are exemplary? He answers: “Nothing kills credibility like excessive enthusiasm. Nothing poisons truth so quickly as an assurance that one has found it.” (10) There is something deeply credible, Wiman suggests, about those who are reluctant to answer their calling, yet somehow find the willingness to do so anyway, without any assurance of how things will turn out.

It seems, then, that the first step to moving beyond reluctance is to move through it—to recognize it not as something simply negative, but rather as a healthy sign that we are taking seriously the difficulty of the path to which God may be calling us. For it is a path of letting go of our selves, after all, in the hope of rediscovering our true selves in the claim that God’s makes upon each and every one of our lives. The road God calls us to travel is a road that asks us to open our hearts radically to the love of God and neighbour, and it is a journey we are asked to undertake even though we cannot know beforehand where it will take us. There is a sacred reluctance we experience on the threshold of this journey, a reluctance that understands this truth, and so we should not fear it when we meet it in ourselves and others.

In this season of Lent, as together we journey with our Redeemer to the foot of the cross, let us honour our reluctance, so that we can hear God’s claim upon our lives buried deep within it.

Shalom, my friends,

Ron Kuipers

Prayer Letter: March 2023

Wednesday, March 1 - Friday, March 3

Today, the Academic Office is hosting its Winter Writing Workshop. This is a time for Junior Members to come together to ask questions about their current writing projects, to work through any writing challenges they may be facing, and to improve their writing craft. Please pray that all the participants may have a productive time together and feel supported in their academic work. 

After a long search process, we are very pleased to announce that we have hired Dr. Neal DeRoo as the new Senior Member in Philosophy at ICS. Dr. DeRoo will begin work in this position on July 1, 2023. Please join us in giving thanks for a successful and promising end to our search, and in welcoming Neal into his new role at ICS!

Ron Kuipers and Edith van der Boom will be travelling west on March 3-11. They will be hosting supporter gatherings on March 4 in Edmonton, March 8 in Surrey, and March 11 in Calgary. We are so grateful for this opportunity to travel once again and meet with longtime and new supporters face to face! Please pray for safety for Ron and Edith as they travel, and pray that everyone may spend an uplifting and informative time together. If you’d like more details about any of these events, feel free to email with any questions.

Monday, March 6 - Friday, March 10:

March is a very busy time for the recruitment team as they work to get all the promotional materials for the summer and fall courses created and sent out to our various student populations. This is particularly urgent for our MA-EL courses because they need to be communicated before the March break when teachers and principals tend to make decisions about the courses they will take in the summer and fall semesters. Please pray for energy, inspiration and creativity for the whole team.

Please pray for our Perspective production team and the Advancement office as they work hard to finish compiling the content for the upcoming spring issue and organize the spring appeal. We give thanks for the contributors to this issue. We also give thanks for the generosity of our supporters so far this year. We rely on your gifts and we’re grateful for your continued support of the vital work of Christian education!

On March 8-10, MA-EL Program Director Edith van der Boom will be attending the Christian Deeper Learning Conference in Surrey, BC and presenting two workshops there. Please pray that Edith may benefit from the content of this conference, and that other participants may benefit from attending Edith’s workshops. Please pray also that this conference will provide Edith with inspiration and many opportunities for deep interactions with fellow colleagues in educational leadership. 

Monday, March 13 - Friday, March 17:

March 13-17 is the Winter Reading Break for our MA-EL Junior Members. K-12 teachers and administrators continue to face many challenges in their schools every day, and pursuing a master’s degree on top of that requires a lot of commitment. So please join us in prayer that our MA-EL JMs may find some rest and rejuvenation during this week, and may come back next week ready to take on the rest of the semester!

On March 14 at 6pm, Ron Kuipers and Gideon Strauss will open a session of this year’s interdisciplinary seminar Faith, Freedom, and the Meaning of Politics: Liberalism and Its Discontents to interested students. Please pray that this time spent in conversation will prove inviting to course participants and visitors to this class.

Monday, March 20 - Friday, March 24:

‘Tis the season for receiving applications from students wishing to begin various academic programs in the fall! As Elizabet, our Registrar, sends out admission letters to these students, please pray for them as they discern whether they will make ICS their academic home, and as they plan for their immediate and long term futures. Pray too for our Financial Aid Committee as they meet to discuss scholarships and awards for new and current students. Pray especially for those students wishing to apply for the MA-EL and MWS-ART programs so they can make their decisions in time for the application deadline of April 1.

Please pray also for Elizabet as she begins the planning process for Convocation 2023, which will happen in person at the end of May. This is always a special event for ICS and its graduates and families, especially this year as we celebrate Bob Sweetman’s career and his steadfast commitment to ICS and its mission. Pray that all the pieces of this celebration will come together in a timely manner as we prepare to celebrate Bob and our graduating Junior Members!

Monday, March 27 - Friday, March 31:

On March 30 at 4:15pm, Gideon Strauss will open a session of the seminar How to Coach a Strong Team: Leading People, Building Institutional Capacity, and Securing Accountability to interested students. Please pray that those who join this class might be inspired by their time spent in conversation with class participants to take the next step and apply to ICS themselves.

Please join us in giving prayers of thanks for the ART in Orvieto 2023 reaching capacity! We've been delighted by the number and quality of applications received for this year's program and we look forward to having all the participants together in Orvieto this July. Applicants have until March 31 to confirm their participation, so please pray for our hopeful students as they make their final decisions and as they plan and budget and research in anticipation of their travels. 

On Friday, March 31, the Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics is hosting its next Scripture, Faith and Scholarship symposium. Our speaker at this event will be Dr. Amber Bowen on the topic: “On Seeing Further than the Present: A Kierkegaardian Hermeneutic of Hope.” If you’d like to join this exciting talk, please email for the Zoom details.

Dr. Amber Bowen at Scripture, Faith, and Scholarship Symposium on March 31

Dr. Amber Bowen will be joining us for the next Scripture, Faith, and Scholarship symposium on Friday, March 31st at 2pm EST, hosted by the Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics. 

Dr. Bowen (Ph.D. University of Aberdeen) is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Core Studies at Redeemer University. She wrote her dissertation on Kierkegaard and Phenomenology under the supervision of J. Aaron Simmons and is presently writing a monograph on a Kierkegaardian Philosophical Hermeneutics of Faith in consultation with Merold Westphal as part of the Widening Horizons in Philosophical Theology project at the University of St. Andrews.

The title of Dr. Bowen's talk is: On Seeing Further than the Present: A Kierkegaardian Hermeneutic of Hope.

At first glance, Kierkegaard’s account of hope in Works of Love sounds conveniently other-worldly—the kind that abdicates the present for “the sweet by and by.” However, in this talk Dr. Bowen will show how Kierkegaard’s account of hope is hermeneutically structured in such a way that it avoids the perennial dangers of either taking us out of the world (religious escapism) or confining us to the world (pious secularism).  She will argue that his deliberation on hope and his continual reference to “Eternity” should not be read through the lens of a Two Kingdom’s eschatology, but that it best accords with an eschatology of New Creation. Kierkegaardian hope, Dr. Bowen contends, is a hermeneutical virtue that discloses this world as having a future because of the Eternal’s work already in the present.

If you would like to join this event via Zoom, please email to receive the link. 

Social Domains of Truth Publication and Book Launch

ICS is pleased to announce the publication of Social Domains of Truth: Science, Politics, Art, and Religion (Routledge, 2023) by Lambert Zuidervaart, ICS Senior Member Emeritus in Philosophy. Lambert considers this book a culmination of his life’s work; he has dedicated it to the memory of his friend and mentor Hendrik Hart.

Truth, Lambert argues, includes factual truth, but it is more than that. Truth as a whole involves our following societal principles such as solidarity and justice and fostering the interconnected flourishing of all creatures. This process comes to expression in distinct social domains, not only in science but also in politics, art, and religion. Anyone who cares about the future of truth in today’s society will want to read this pathbreaking book. More details can be found at the publisher’s website.

ICS supporters in West Michigan will have a chance to greet Lambert during a book launch on Friday, March 24, 3:00 pm EST, at the University Club, room DEV107C, in the DeVos Center on the downtown PEW Campus of Grand Valley State University (GVSU). This event is hosted by the GVSU Philosophy Department and co-sponsored by Friends of ICS and the Philosophy Department at Calvin University. To begin, Lambert will give a lecture titled “Truth and Politics: Arendt, Foucault, and the Truth of Politics.” A reception and book signing will follow. A summary of Lambert’s lecture is posted on the GVSU Philosophy Colloquium Series webpage

The event will be recorded, and anyone unable to attend can join the live stream at

Friday, 24 February 2023

ICS Hires Dr. Neal DeRoo as New Senior Member in Philosophy

The Institute for Christian Studies (ICS) is pleased to announce that Dr. Neal DeRoo, an internationally recognized philosopher and Christian thinker, will join the ICS faculty as Senior Member (Professor) in Philosophy, starting July 1, 2023.

Dr. DeRoo earned his BA in Philosophy from Calvin College (now Calvin University) in 2003, his MA in Philosophy from ICS in 2005, and his PhD in Philosophy from Boston College in 2009 (under the supervision of Professor Richard Kearney). He has previously taught philosophy at Dordt College (now Dordt University) and at The King’s University, where he just finished a term as the Canada Research Chair in Phenomenology and Philosophy of Religion. In addition to these roles, he has also served as the Director of the Andreas Centre for Reformed Scholarship and Service at Dordt, as the founding editor of in All things (an online hub that helps Christians think through the Gospel’s implications for all parts of our lives), and as a member of several boards including Christian Scholars Review and the Canadian Journal for Scholarship and the Christian Faith.

Academically, Dr. DeRoo specializes in contemporary Continental (European) Philosophy, in particular Phenomenology, as well as the Philosophy of Religion, with further expertise in Feminism, Critical Phenomenology, and Reformational Philosophy (the Amsterdam School). His work has been cited by scholars in more than 20 countries around the world, and his extensive publication record includes two critically acclaimed books: The Political Logic of Experience: Expression in Phenomenology (Fordham University Press, 2022); and Futurity in Phenomenology: Promise and Method in Husserl, Levinas, and Derrida (Fordham University Press, 2013). He comes to ICS holding a three-year Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) that will enable him to continue to develop his account of the deep-seated spiritual forces that shape our experience and how they help us think about religion as something that impacts our everyday life together. The grant includes funding to hire Research Assistants from ICS’s Junior Member (graduate student) ranks.

Outside of academia, Dr. DeRoo regularly speaks on topics such as existentialism, postmodernism, depression and mental health, Christian education, sex and sexuality, consumer culture, and more. He has spoken at various public venues (churches, schools, libraries, comic book stores, etc.) across Canada and the United States, and has preached at churches across Western Canada.

The ICS community eagerly anticipates the strong contribution Dr. DeRoo will make to ICS’s MA and PhD programs and to our supporting communities. He is an energetic and inspiring teacher and scholar, and a nuanced and sophisticated proponent of the Reformational philosophical tradition stewarded at ICS. 


ICS is an independent Christian graduate school based in Toronto with a charter to grant MA and PhD degrees in philosophy (including an Educational Leadership stream within the MA program), as well as an MWS-ART (Master of Worldview Studies in Art, Religion, and Theology). At ICS, the expertise of our experienced and widely-published faculty combines with the intimacy of a small school to create a hospitable academic community that welcomes the whole person. 

Wednesday, 1 February 2023

Prayer Letter: February 2023

Wednesday, February 1 - Friday, February 3

We ask for your prayers for the Chancellor of ICS and Chair of our Senate, Pamela Beattie, and her family. Pamela's mother, May Drost, passed away on January 20. May was the beloved wife of the late Wayne Drost. She was a loving mother to Pamela Beattie (Blake), Anne Drost (Peter), Christal Kapteyn (Lex), Amanda Drost (John) and Bronwyn Drost. Survived by siblings Deanne Kroon, Jack Vos (Debbie) and Pat Westerhof, as well as many grandchildren. According to her obituary, "May was the best mother, Oma, sister, aunt and friend. She was a devoted teacher. She was affirming and accepting, and recognized the value in every person. She was an avid reader and writer, and loved engaging in conversations with many types of people. She had a gift for seeing the best in everyone and making them feel loved.”

On Thursday, January 26, longtime ICS supporter Fred Reinders passed away. Fred was a stalwart leader and supporter of many Christian organizations throughout his life, ICS among them. He was a member of the ICS Board of Trustees in the 80s and 90s, also serving as Chair, and received an honourary doctorate from ICS in 2012. A public Visitation for Fred will be held on Wednesday, February 8th at 4-8pm at ClearView Church and a Celebration of Life Service will be held Friday, February 10th at 3pm at ClearView Church. Please join us in prayers of sympathy for Fred’s family and loved ones during this time of loss. 

February 1 is the Fall 2023 MA and PhD program application deadline. Please join us in gratitude for the applications we’ve received so far and pray for wisdom for the committee considering these applications, discernment for the applicants as they finalize decisions, and pray that applicants may still yet find their way to us in the coming weeks!

Monday, February 6 - Friday, February 10:

The ICS Senate met on January 21, and we want to thank our Senate members as well as our Board Chair for their active participation in the meeting and care for the academic life of ICS. We also want to pray for the Academic Council and the Educational Policy Committee for the work they will do this term considering courses and matters of academic policy. We thank God for the efforts of everyone involved in these groups and committees.

On February 8th at 6pm, Jim Olthuis will host the first Open Class session of the winter term in his seminar Nothing Can Separate Us…!: The Dialectical Materialism of Slavoj Žižek. Please pray for Jim, the students in the course, and visitors to the class that they might all spend a rich time together.

February is tax receipt month at ICS! Please pray particularly for the advancement office and the finance office as they prepare receipts for our donors and students. This is quite a time-consuming task and needs to be finished by the end of February. We ask for God’s sustaining grace for all involved.

Monday, February 13 - Friday, February 17:

Our MA-EL Open House is taking place online on February 15 at 4:15pm EST. This Open House will feature a presentation from Edith van der Boom, a conversation with current students in the program, and a question and answer time. Anyone interested in attending this event can RSVP to Elizabet Aras at Please pray that teachers and school administrators who would benefit from this program may find opportunities to apply. 

On February 16 at 6pm, Bob Sweetman will open his class Spiritual Exercise as Christian Philosophy from Augustine to Bonaventure to interested students. Please pray that this time spent in conversation will prove inviting to course participants and visitors to this class.

Final grades for fall 2022 courses are due from our Senior Members on February 17. Please pray for the Senior Members as they engage the work of students in their courses, that they may be able to provide rich and meaningful feedback on students’ research and projects as the students continue their learning journeys.

Monday, February 20 - Friday, February 24:

It’s Reading Week at ICS! There will be no classes this week, which will provide a welcome opportunity for Junior and Senior Members alike to focus their attention on various readings and to concentrate on their current research projects. May they find joy and inspiration in their studies this week!

The CPRSE recently submitted a SSHRC Connection Grant in support of the May 7-9 Conference "Our Whole Society: Finding Common Ground in a Time of Polarization," organized by the Canadian Interfaith Conversation and taking place at Martin Luther University College / Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, ON. Please join us in giving thanks for the work Héctor, Ron, and other committee members put into writing this grant and in praying that the application might be favourably received.

Save the Date - President Ron Kuipers and Edith van der Boom will be making a trip West in early March to visit Edmonton, the Vancouver area, and Calgary. Please pray that all the pieces of this trip may fall into place in the coming weeks, and if you’re in one of these areas and plan to attend, start thinking about someone new you might invite to come along with you!

Monday, February 27 - Tuesday, February 28:

On February 28 at 10am, Bob Sweetman again invites visiting students into one of his classes, this time for Religion, Life, and Society: Reformational Philosophy. Please pray that these students will be intrigued by the historical insights put forward in Bob’s seminar and that they might take steps to join our academic community.

February 28 is the application deadline for this year’s ART in Orvieto program and we've just 3 more spots available. We thank God for the palpable interest in this year's program! Please pray for the applicants we’ve accepted thus far, that they might be able to quickly and easily finalize their remaining arrangements in order to travel and attend this exciting course. Please also pray for the program leaders Rebekah Smick, David Holt, John Terpstra, and Thomas McIntire as they continue making the necessary preparations to host and teach students in the beautiful town of Orvieto.

Getting With It

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the human heart;
yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

 – Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV)

Ecclesiastes is what the kids today call “a whole mood.” In this book, Koheleth, our would-be teacher and assembler of sayings, presents us with an unrelenting skepticism toward the panoply of purposes to which we devote our lives. Possessions, fame, success, or riches? Forget about it. It’s all empty, whistling vanity. You would have better luck catching the wind.

While Koheleth may be right about the ultimate futility of our all-too-human purposes, the teacher offers us more than mere skepticism with respect to them. Beyond simply counselling the vanity of our various attempts to catch the wind, Koheleth also wants us to question why we should ever have desired to contain it in the first place. What makes us want to control something so fundamentally elusive? Is there another way to relate to the wildness that lies beyond human control than to seek to tame it?

In suggesting questions like these, Koheleth has a lesson to teach us that is particularly suited to our time. We live in an age where it goes almost completely without saying that the world has no meaning itself beyond the instrumental purposes to which we would submit it. We presume to have brought nature to heel and to have bent her to our will. And yet, for all the power we possess to manipulate and intervene in natural processes, things seem more out of control now than they ever have.

To all this vanity, Koheleth councils us to search our own hearts, and notice the eternity that God has set there. God has set eternity in our hearts so that we might awaken to wonder, so that we might become open and porous to the wildness around us and within us. We may not be able to catch the wind, but we can still feel it and be buffeted by it, still be warmed and cooled by it. We can even work in tandem with it by throwing up a sail or building a windmill. ICS emeritus professor Jim Olthuis has coined the verb “withing” to connote a way of relating to creation that contrasts with “controlling” or “dominating.” In this vein, we and the wind can set about “withing” together, without our needing to catch or tame it first. How much would or lives change if we considered our place in God’s cosmos in terms of such “withing”?

The teacher of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is something in our hearts that points us beyond ourselves. While no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end, yet God has made a time for everything in this eternity and given everything its good time. We can trust, then, that God’s good creation will be a home more than fit for human habitation—if only we can get with it. Koheleth helps us do so by showing us the vanity by means of which we hope to catch the wind. We must wake up from this dogmatic slumber and instead start to wonder at the fathomless depths of everything God has done for us, in gratitude for that grace.

Shalom, my friends! 
Ron Kuipers

Partnering with Calvin University to Offer Two New MA-EL Streams

Over the last few years, conversations have taken place about a partnership between the Institute for Christian Studies and Calvin University in regards to our respective Master of Arts in Philosophy in Educational Leadership (MA-EL) and Masters of Education (MEd) degrees. Recently, ICS and Calvin University have come to a formal understanding of how we might bolster each other's efforts to provide masters’ level training in the area of Education. 

To that end, interested Calvin MEd students may now take one or more MA-EL courses from ICS to fulfill one or more of their three elective options in their MEd degree. Likewise, Junior Members in ICS's MA-EL program will now be able to choose from two more specializations within the program: an Inclusion Stream and a Literacy Stream will be added alongside our Instructional Leadership Stream and School Administration Stream. Interested ICS students will be able to take courses from Calvin to pursue either the Inclusion or Literacy streams.

It's early days in this shared venture, but we're looking forward to exploring what opportunities this partnership might unfold for ICS, Calvin, and our Education students and Junior Members.

Webinar on Mining Justice from Development and Peace

ICS alums Dean Dettloff and Kiegan Irish are currently working with Development and Peace (Caritas Canada). On Thursday, February 16 from 7-8:30pm EST, Development and Peace will be co-hosting an online event with KAIROS and Student Christian Movement of Canada (SCM) featuring Indigenous and global partners who are advocating for mining justice.
These three groups have organized a learning and action series for students and young adults that includes an in-person study of Joan Kuyek’s book, Unearthing Justice: How to Protect Your Community from the Mining Industry

Everyone is invited to attend the February 16 webinar, during which Joan will moderate a panel of three global or Indigenous partners to deepen and expand this learning circle. Follow up to the webinar will include planning an action at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference in Toronto in March.

The event is free to attend, but please register beforehand the the following link (the Zoom link will be sent in confirmation email):

Studies in the Sacred Page: A New Volume Edited by Bob Sweetman

This past November, ICS Senior Member Bob Sweetman and Henrietta Leyser (Emeritus Fellow, St. Peter's College, Oxford University) co-edited a Festschrift in honour of Lesley Smith (Harris Manchester College, Oxford University) entitled Studies in the Sacred Page: Encounters with Medieval Manuscripts, Texts, and Exegesis.  

This beautiful collection of essays is published by the Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies Publications and looks at the emergence and development of the Scriptures as university textbook beginning in the late eleventh and early twelfth century. It examines that emergence and development from the point of view of what the surviving material witnesses to that transformation can tell us. According to the publisher's website:

This volume of twelve essays aims to honour the career and scholarship of Lesley Smith. The first section begins with two witnesses to Lesley’s excellence as teacher and culminates with an appreciation of her as a scholar. The second section explores the scholarly terrain in which Lesley has made her most signal contributions: the material and cultural sites and artefacts within and by which the Christian Scriptures emerged as a field of theoretical inquiry in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The third and final section explores Latin Christian use of scriptural inquiry and understanding so as to engage scholarly and religious traditions outside those of the Latin Church.

You can find more information about the volume--including a a fuller summary, table of contents, and how to order a copy for yourself--on the PIMS Publications website

Online Lecture with Lambert Zuidervaart on February 28

Lambert Zuidervaart, ICS Senior Member Emeritus of Philosophy, will present a talk and lead a discussion on “Truth Post-Truth: Reimagining Philosophy for a World in Crisis” as part of the online lecture series Philosophy in Times of Crisis

Everyone is invited to join Lambert’s talk at 2:00pm EST on Tuesday, February 28, 2023. More information can be found on the series website:

This lecture stems from Lambert’s work on his forthcoming book Social Domains of Truth: Science, Politics, Art, and Religion. Here is a summary of what he plans to say:

Truth is in trouble. Prominent contemporary philosophers have questioned whether the idea of truth is important: Does it deserve the emphasis scholars have given it in the past? Should it play a central role in intellectual endeavors today? Do we even need it? Their questions both reflect and reinforce broader trends in society, where many people wonder whether they either can or should pursue truth. Indeed, according to some pundits, we have become a “post-truth” society, one in which feelings trump facts in public affairs. 

This talk briefly introduces three positions that trouble truth in philosophy: deflationism, radical contextualism, and politicization. Then it proposes a new conception of truth called holistic alethic pluralism, and it shows why, despite academic skeptics and popular pundits, truth remains a substantive and socially significant idea. As explained in the book Social Domains of Truth (Routledge, 2023), this new conception of truth simultaneously reimagines the tasks of philosophy. Philosophy, I argue, should offer both social critique and social-ethical wisdom for a world in crisis.

Save the Date: ICS Goes West!

Attention ICS supporters in Western Canada: President Ron Kuipers and MA-EL Director Edith van der Boom will be travelling your way in early March! 

Edith and Ron will be attending the Christian Deeper Learning conference in Surrey and plan to make stops in Edmonton and Calgary along the way to spend time connecting in-person with members of the ICS community out West and giving some updates on the latest projects, plans, and events happening at ICS.

Formal invitations with more details about each gathering have been sent to those in the area. So please mark your calendars for the following dates and times, and we hope you'll be able to join us!

  • EDMONTON: Saturday, March 4, 7-9pm

  • SURREY: Wednesday, March 8, 7-9pm

  • CALGARY: Saturday, March 11, 7-9pm

Feel free to email Danielle at if you didn't receive an invitation or if you have any questions. 

Open Classes in February and March - Spread the Word!

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be an ICS student? Know someone who could flourish in the ICS community? 

During the months of February and March, we’re opening up certain class sessions of our winter courses to any interested visitors who'd like a chance to see what an ICS course is like. We'll also be hosting an Open House for anyone who wants to find out more about our MA-EL program. All of these events will take place online and can be joined from wherever you are.

Anyone interested in attending these events can RSVP to Elizabet Aras at And please help us out by sharing this information far and wide as it's a great opportunity for future Junior Members to see if ICS might be the place for them.

The dates and times for each session are listed below: 


MA-EL Program Open House
February 15 @ 4:15pm EST


Nothing Can Separate Us...!: The Dialectical Materialism of Slavoj Žižek
February 8, 6:00-9:00pm EST

Spiritual Exercise as Christian Philosophy from Augustine to Bonaventure
February 16, 6:00-9:00pm EST

Religion, Life, and Society: Reformational Philosophy
February 28, 10:00am-1:00pm EST

Finding Joy in Learning
March 2, 5:00-8:00pm EST

Faith, Freedom, and the Meaning of Politics: Liberalism and Its Discontents
March 14, 6:00-9:00pm EST

How to Coach a Strong Team: Leading People, Building Institutional Capacity, and Securing Accountability
March 30, 4:15-7:15pm EST

Thursday, 5 January 2023

Prayer Letter: January 2023

Tuesday, January 3 - Friday, January 6:

Please join us in thanksgiving for the start of a new year! The ICS office opens again today, so we pray for staff, faculty, and students as they return from their various travels and holiday festivities that they may all be refreshed from the time away and energized to jump into the work and projects the new semester brings! 

Today, we ask for your continued prayers for the ongoing search for a new Senior Member. After virtual ‘campus visits’ in December, candidates will continue with the next steps in the process during the month of January. First is an interview with the Search Committee on the 5th, then an interview with the Senate on the 21st. Please pray for wisdom all around during the course of this search process and committee deliberations.

We ask for your prayers this week for our Senior Members who are making their final teaching preparations for this term’s courses: Ron Kuipers, Jim Olthuis, Gideon Strauss, Bob Sweetman, and Edith van der Boom. Pray too for Rebekah Smick as she focuses on her various writing projects and continues preparing for ART in Orvieto this summer, and for Nik Ansell as he begins his sabbatical research and writing projects.  

Monday, January 9 - Friday, January 13:

Please pray for our Junior and Senior Members as classes resume this week. As in the fall, all our winter courses will be online, so we pray especially for Junior Members’ encouragement, connection, and insightful engagement in their studies. In addition to various guided readings and thesis writing and projects taking place this term, please take time this week to pray for each of the following courses:

  • On Tuesday, starting at 10:00am, Bob Sweetman will be teaching about the fundamentals and contemporary relevance of Reformational philosophy in his course: Religion, Life, and Society. Please pray for Bob as this is the last time he will teach this course before his retirement, and for the students that this will be a time of inspirational learning for everyone in this foundational course. 

  • Also on Tuesday, starting at 6:00pm, this year’s Interdisciplinary Seminar begins: Faith, Freedom, and the Meaning of Politics: Liberalism and Its Discontents. Please pray for the seminar leaders, Gideon Strauss and Ron Kuipers, and the students in the course as they discuss the political liberalism that has shaped the constitutional arrangements of many nations today, and as they explore some of the challenges and current debates among proponents of liberalism, nationalism, and integralism.

  • On Thursday, starting at 6:00pm, Bob Sweetman will begin his course: Spiritual Exercise as Christian Philosophy from Augustine to Bonaventure. Pray for Bob and the students as together they examine the Hellenic and Hellenistic notion of spiritual exercise in order to understand the emergence of ‘Christian philosophy’ as a cultural project within the Augustinian tradition.

Pray also for our MA-EL Winter Retreat taking place this Saturday, and for the two MA-EL courses which will begin this week:

Monday, January 16 - Friday, January 20:

The Academic Council will have its first meeting of the term this week. Among the other matters of academic oversight, the Academic Council will receive and discuss Gideon Strauss’ reflective practice report as a Senior Member. Please pray that this time spent together in deliberation and conversation will provide mutual encouragement to everyone involved. Please also keep the work of the Academic Council in your prayers for the remainder of the term. 

This Wednesday, starting at 6:00pm, Senior Member Emeritus Jim Olthuis will begin teaching his course: Nothing Can Separate Us…!: The Dialectical Materialism of Slavoj Žižek. Pray for Jim and the course’s students as they explore Žížek's incisive structural insights on topics like his faith in the Void as the eternal traumatic Real in contrast with faith in the steadfast Love of God. 

Please pray for MA-EL Junior Member Carla Buckingham who caught RSV in mid-December, was hospitalized a week before Christmas, and is still in the hospital recovering three weeks later. She expects to be released soon and is on the mend, but please pray with us for Carla’s speedy return to full health and for the space to rest and recover without further complications. 

Monday, January 23 - Friday, January 27:

ICS alum Dan Jesse (2008) recently graduated from the University of Aberdeen with a PhD in Divinity and a thesis titled “The Religious End of Sorrow: Resurrecting Sadness through Liturgical Vulnerability.” He also recently published a journal article titled “Over-Generalizing, Under-Promising, and Over-Promising: Singing Sadness and Joy in the Church.” Please join us in giving thanks for Dan’s achievement in reaching this milestone and for his being able to share his research with scholarly peers and the wider community. 

Please pray this week for our Junior Members who still have outstanding work to be submitted from their fall courses. The deadline for submission is on Friday the 27th, so we ask for clarity and creativity as they complete their various assignments, and for dexterity as they balance the work of this semester and last.

This month, Recruitment Coordinator Brenna Werhle takes on the additional part-time role of Assistant Registrar. Brenna will continue in her efforts to recruit new students to ICS courses and programs, and will join Gideon Strauss and Elizabet Aras in the Academic Office supporting our existing Junior Members and students in their studies. We give thanks for all the ways Brenna has served ICS since being hired and for her willingness to take on this new range of responsibilities. 

Monday, January 30 - Tuesday, January 31: 

Our MA and PhD program application deadline is February 1st. Please pray that potential Junior Members may find their way to ICS, that they might discern how ICS can support them in considering the big questions they want to explore, and that they will be able to compile their applications in time to start their programs in the fall. 

The ICS Senate and Educational Policy Committee also meet this month. Please pray for each of these groups as they come together to consider course proposals, academic plans and policies, and various aspects of the teaching and learning that goes on at ICS. We’re grateful for the time, vision, and expertise the members of each of these bodies brings to discussions of academic direction at ICS.

As our 2022 Advent campaign draws to a close, we want to take this opportunity to express our deepest gratitude to all our donors for your uplifting support over the past year. Your faithful and generous gifts of prayer and financial support, month by month and year by year, have been a blessing to us and continue to bolster us in our daily work of providing Christian education. We give thanks to God for each of you, and we start 2023 filled with hope and strength to face what the new year brings!

Thank you for giving generously so ICS can continue to provide an academic home to curious and creative Junior Members!

Dwelling in God’s Beloved Cosmos

“For God so loved the world….”

–John 3:16a

Do you like to gaze at the stars? I do. My only complaint is that all the artificial light pollution in Toronto makes it difficult to see more than just the brightest ones. If I am lucky, sometimes I will see the Big Dipper, the North Star, or Orion’s Belt. I am always astonished, however, whenever I leave the bright lights of the city and am able to make out the dusty white band of the Milky Way or witness the sheer infinity of heavenly bodies that become visible in darker conditions.

I’m not sure why I like looking at stars. They can make you feel frighteningly small and insignificant. As Blaise Pascal laments in his Pensées: “When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in an eternity before and after, the little space I fill engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces whereof I know nothing, and which know nothing of me, I am terrified. The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me….”

I sometimes wonder if the cold and meaningless universe that secular modernity insists upon, and which so terrified Pascal, can be reconciled with the world that scripture calls a cosmos (Greek kosmos, kosmon), the world bathed in God’s creating and healing love. Our reason alone will never tell us that the universe is such a cosmos, even as our hearts, if we listen to them, keep stubbornly insisting that it is so.

Pascal also said that “the heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of,” and with Pascal, I believe we must attend to these heart-reasons. They connect us to something real and vitally important, and their message is more than mere projection or wishful thinking. I have never been able to understand how people can consider the “cold and meaningless universe” picture to be nothing but a simple, neutral description of the facts, and not an interpretive spin emerging from the modern secular assumption that the only possible meaning anything can have is the meaning we impose ourselves. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the universe became cold and silent the very moment we closed ourselves to the possibility that it might speak with its own voice.

One of the main reasons I like to look up at the stars, then, is because doing so makes me spiritually porous. What I see is also seen by many different others, both far and near, and this helps me feel connected to everyone and everything around me. In those moments, I experience something of the God-loved cosmos, the good world where humans dwell below the dome of sky, populated with an infinity of lights, all made with love by the Creator of the stars of night.

As we move forward from Christmas into Epiphany, we finally recall the way a star marked Jesus’ very birthplace, the humble stable where he was wrapped in rags. As we enter the new year, I wish you all the peace announced in our Messiah’s coming: Emmanuel, God with us!

Shalom, my friends!

Ron Kuipers