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 J├╝rgen 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 dyett@icscanada.edu 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 cprse@icscanada.edu 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 cprse@icscanada.edu 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 https://gvsu-edu.zoom.us/j/99263991812?pwd=ZS9jb0hSVWFOK0w0RWw4cHpNVWZIdz09