Thursday 28 September 2023

Breaking Down the Wall

For he is our peace;
in his flesh he has made both groups into one 
and has broken down the dividing wall,
that is, the hostility between us.

—Ephesians 2:14

Throughout his letters, the apostle Paul is deeply concerned with unity. Jesus Messiah is our peace, he tells the church in Ephesus, and in Jesus Messiah we are—somehow—all one. But what does it mean for us to be one in Jesus Messiah?

One way to answer this question is to emphasize sameness. In Jesus Messiah, our differences no longer define us, for through his redemptive suffering and victory over death we are all made equal. While I think there is some truth in interpreting what Paul means by unity in this way, I remain convinced that the gospel’s deeper message is one that affirms rather than denies basic human difference.

1 Corinthians 12 offers a wonderful example of such an affirmation of difference. The chapter opens describing the variety of spiritual gifts with which God has blessed humankind. Next comes Paul’s insistence that the one body of Christ has “many members” (see vss. 12, 14). All these members contribute—through their difference—to the unity of the body of Christ. “If all were a single member,” Paul asks, “where would the body be?” (vs. 19). There would be no body at all, Paul insists, if all the parts were the same.

If, as we have just seen, Paul does not understand the basic fact of human difference to be problematic (to the contrary!), why does he remain so concerned with unity? Paul’s image of “the dividing wall” in Ephesians 2 tells us that his concern may not be to reduce difference to sameness, but rather to get us to see how in Jesus Messiah we might imagine and hope for an end to division and hostility—unity understood as solidarity rather than as uniformity. The unity of Jesus Messiah is peace, and that is the spirit through which we must approach our differences.

Scripture recognizes and affirms that we are given to each other in our uniqueness and difference, that our differences are the very gifts through which we might bless one another. From that basis, we are called to the unity that Jesus Messiah’s suffering love has revealed to us—to use our heads, hearts, and hands to imagine and realize all the different ways we belong to each other in and through our differences and, through that work and play of belonging, care for each other as well as the world we hold in common.

That we live in a broken world hardly needs emphasizing, and sometimes it is hard to see God’s redeeming hand at work healing, restoring, and transforming all the suffering we find in the world today. It takes no small faith to trust and participate in God’s work of renewal, but with the gift of such faith we can encounter difference without fear, confident that we will be able to find signs of God’s original blessing in everything we meet, in everything God made.

At ICS, we like to say that “the Gospel’s message of renewal shapes our pursuit of wisdom.” I can think of no better way to start a new school year than by reminding ourselves of everything these words might demand of us. It is not always easy or comfortable to approach difference and unfamiliarity in the Spirit of Jesus Messiah. It is a task that requires enormous patience and humility, calling for deep listening on our part before rushing to judgment—in a word: wisdom. Thank you for helping us be a school that strives to approach difference in this way—without fear, and confident that God’s healing path will present itself to us as we do so!

Shalom, my friends,

Ron Kuipers

Prayer Letter: September-October 2023

Monday, September 25 - Friday, September 29:

A new school year is off to a running start at ICS! During the week of September 4, Senior Members, new and returning Junior Members, and staff returned from the travels and activities of summer to gather as an academic community for Orientation Week. Classes started during the week of September 11, with a number of exciting courses on offer this term. Please keep these courses as well as their instructors and participants in your prayers throughout this fall term: 

  • A Cosmic Theopoetics of/for Love (Jim Olthuis)
  • Biblical Foundations (Nik Ansell)
  • Critical Theory and Religion (Ron Kuipers)
  • Cultivating Learning Communities of Belonging (Edith van der Boom)
  • Facing the Darkness (Nik Ansell)
  • Reconsidering Kant’s Aesthetics (Rebekah Smick)
  • Religion, Life, and Society (Neal DeRoo)
  • The Craft of Reflective Practice (Gideon Strauss)

Over the summer, we said goodbye to Librarian Peter Gorman and Registrar Elizabet Aras as they moved on to new job opportunities. We are extremely grateful for the contributions they made to the ICS community and we pray that things may go well for them in their future endeavours. In August, we also welcomed Anita Siraki as our new Librarian and Parker Cotton as our new Registrar. We are excited to welcome both of them to the ICS community and we pray they may experience encouragement and support as they settle into their new roles. 

On Friday, September 29th, the Sanctuary community in Toronto is hosting the book launch of the 15th anniversary edition of Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement by Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian Walsh. Please pray for a joyful event and for the renewed impact of this book among faith communities and those trying to address the social and economic challenges of homelessness.

Monday, October 2 - Friday, October 6:

October 2 is the first Academic Council meeting of the year. At this meeting, our Senior Members, Junior Members, and academic staff will meet to set the agenda for their regular meetings through the year. Please pray for everyone involved in this important deliberative body at ICS as they discern ways we can best pursue our educational goals and mission together as an academic community.

As we look ahead and start our next cycle of recruitment for the winter term and next academic year, please pray for all of the faculty and staff involved in our recruitment efforts, as well as the students who are considering taking our courses or becoming a part of the ICS community—and consider recommending ICS to any potential students in your life! Pray especially for Recruitment Coordinator Brenna Wehrle as she leads us in these efforts to connect with students who might thrive at ICS. 

On October 12-14, the meeting of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy will convene in Toronto. This is a large conference of philosophers from all over the world and is an exciting opportunity for our Junior and Senior Members to connect with peers in their field. Our newest Senior Member Neal DeRoo will be presenting at this conference, discussing themes from his 2022 book: The Political Logic of Experience: Expression in Phenomenology (Fordham University Press). Please pray with us that Neal and the other conference participants may experience productive and encouraging conversation during this time.

Monday, October 9 - Friday, October 13:

During this week of Canadian Thanksgiving, we want to join together and give thanks for the many answers to prayer this year. We continue to be blessed by our ICS community through your faithful support, active involvement, and expressions of encouragement. We are beyond grateful for the presence of each of our Junior and Senior Members and the unique contributions they make to the ICS community, and we give thanks for all of the ICS staff and the ways in which they faithfully serve the educational mission of ICS.

On October 12-14, ICS’s Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics will host the Society for Ricoeur Studies, for its 17th annual conference on the theme "Ricoeur in Practice." Over the past few months the teams of the Centre and the Society have been working collaboratively in putting together what promises to be a wonderful event. Please pray that these days of conference become a fruitful space for intellectual reflection, exchange of ideas, and collaborative scholarship for all those involved.

During October 2-15, EduDeo's Global Education Summit is taking place in Hamilton, ON. The goal of this conference is to provide “a place for EduDeo’s international partners to fellowship together, learn from one another, train together, and gain a more steadfast understanding of what it means to be an educator in God's world.” On October 12, MA-EL Director Edith van der Boom and Academic Dean Gideon Strauss will be participating in the events by contributing to a panel discussion on institutional leadership in Christian education in the majority world. Please keep Edith and Gideon, as well as the other summit participants and presenters, in your prayers as they engage with one another during this event.

Monday, October 16 - Friday, October 20:

On Monday, October 16 at 2:00pm, the Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics will host ICS’s Fall Term Scripture, Faith, and Scholarship Symposium. This edition of the symposium will feature ICS Senior Member Neal DeRoo, who will lead our community in a conversation about “The Heart of Philosophy/Philosophy of the Heart.” Please consider joining this event in person or online and pray in thanksgiving for Neal, as he offers his time and talents to our community through this program.

October 16 is also the first Educational Policy Committee meeting of the year at ICS. This is a key committee in connecting our on-the-ground academic policies with our overall educational vision. Please keep the Senior and Junior Members involved in your prayers as they dedicate their time to these important efforts. 

On October 19, the ICS Academic Integrity & Citation Management Workshop will take place. This event provides an opportunity for our new and returning Junior Members in particular to discuss best practices in conducting research and in appropriately crediting the work of others. Please pray for those ICS staff planning this workshop and for those who will attend that everyone might benefit from this work done together.

Monday, October 23 - Friday, October 27:

It’s Reading Week at ICS! Please pray for our Junior and Senior Members during this week that they might make the most of this opportunity to give more focused attention to the various projects on which they’re working. Please pray for our Junior Members and students that they might have the creative energy and space to complete their writing and class assignments. Pray, too, for the faculty, that God would graciously encourage and refresh them in their educational vocations at ICS.

The next issue of Perspective is in the works! In this issue, you’ll be able to read some reflections from Senior Members Ron Kuipers and Neal DeRoo, as well as some introductions to our newest Junior Members as they consider how ICS might equip people on their lifelong journeys of learning. Please join us in thanksgiving for each of these contributors, and please pray for the editors, designers, and printers as they finalize this issue over the coming weeks.

The 2023 Edvance Annual Gathering is taking place on October 26-27 at Redeemer University in Hamilton, ON on the theme of “Flourishing Students, Beautiful Work.” This event features numerous keynotes, workshops, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities for Ontario Christian educators. ICS is a sponsor of this year’s gathering, and will be represented on-site by MA-EL Director Edith van der Boom, Academic Dean Gideon Strauss, and Senior Member Neal DeRoo who will all also be leading workshops at the conference. Edith is presenting on “Decolonizing Assessment: Using the Story of Residential Schooling to Rethink Learning and Assessment,” Gideon is presenting on “Call and Path: Next Steps in Vocational Wayfinding,” and Neal is presenting on “From Worldview to Love: Re-thinking the Task of Christian Education.” Please pray for Edith, Gideon, and Neal as they prepare to attend this gathering, and for all the participants to be encouraged in their callings as educators. 

Monday, October 30 - Tuesday, October 31:

Please hold the Board of Trustees in your prayers as they oversee the vision and mission of ICS, especially as they plan for their next major Board meeting coming up in mid-November and attend to the details of the upcoming Annual General Meeting on December 2. If you haven’t already renewed your ICS Membership for 2024, now would be a great time to do so, in order to be able to join us at the AGM! Please also pray for strength and wisdom for each Trustee as they continue to provide support and leadership in the working out of God’s call to ICS now and into the future.

Please also pray for the Advancement and Finance teams as they work to organize financial reports and send out the necessary materials for this year’s Advent Appeal. Pray especially for Harley Dekker as he works with the auditors in the coming weeks to finalize the annual audit of our financial records for the fiscal year which ended on June 30, 2023. We continue to be extremely grateful for the sustaining generosity of our support community and we give thanks for God’s enduring care for us and the work we do.

Two New Volumes from Senior Member Neal DeRoo

Senior Member Neal DeRoo recently co-edited two new volumes on the philosophy of gratitude and of liturgy. Click on the titles below to read more about each volume and find out how to get a copy of your own. 

Philosophies of Liturgy: Explorations of Embodied Religious Practice

Edited by J. Aaron Simmons, Bruce Ellis Benson, Neal DeRoo. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2023. 

Neal also authored chapter 9, titled: “Material Spirituality and the Expressive Nature of Liturgy.”

Edited by Joshua Lee Harris, Kirk Lougheed, Neal DeRoo. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2023.

This volume also features chapters by ICS alums Joshua Lee Harris and Ethan Vanderleek.

ICS Hosting Society for Ricouer Studies Annual Conference: October 12-14

The Institute for Christian Studies is hosting the 2023 Society for Ricoeur Studies Conference taking place online and in person at Regis College (100 Wellesley Street West) at the Toronto School of Theology. 

The theme of this year's conference is: Ricoeur in Practice, and the keynote speakers are Stephanie Arel (Fordham University) and Scott Davidson (West Virginia University). Dr. Arel will speak on "Ricoeur and Hope: Living after Rupture," and Dr. Davidson will speak on "What Makes ChatGPT Think? Ricoeur and Generative AI." 

You can view the full conference program here or by visiting

ICS President Ronald A. Kuipers will open the conference and moderate a session, Associate Director of the CPRSE Héctor Acero Ferrer will be moderating one of the panels and will present a paper titled "'Our-self as Another?' Understanding the Development of Narrative Identity in Ecclesial Base Communities through the Lens of Paul Ricoeur," and ICS alumnus Andrew Tebbutt will be presenting a paper titled "Who is the Subject of Recognition? Ricoeur’s Institutional Hermeneutics." 

Register to Attend Online or In Person

  • USD$80 for faculty
  • USD$50 for students
  • USD$25 for non-grad student ONLINE 

ICS Staff Changes

Over the summer, we said goodbye to Librarian Peter Gorman and Academic Registrar Elizabet Aras. Peter took a job at the Canadian Music Centre, and Elizabet has moved on to a job in Manitoba. We want to give our heartfelt thanks to both Peter and Elizabet for their faithful service to the educational mission of ICS during their tenures, and we wish them all the best in their new endeavours. 

We would also like to welcome two new hires to the ICS team: Parker Cotton as the Academic Registrar and Anita Siraki as the Librarian.

Parker started in this position on August 28. He is a PhD student at Wycliffe College, Toronto, working on the French philosopher and advocate of religious toleration, Pierre Bayle (1647-1706). Parker is also a contributing editor of the blog of the Journal of the History of Ideas. He volunteers in his home town of Bradford West Gwillimbury as a member of the town's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee.

Anita started with ICS on August 21. She comes to ICS with a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto and work experience that includes York University (Toronto), the Library of Parliament (Ottawa), and the Faculty of Information library at the University of Toronto. Anita is multilingual, fluent in both English and French. Anita completed a practicum project at the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies at Victoria University in the University of Toronto called “Print Culture in France During the Ancien Régime” (2017), which looked at how the French monarchy and government exercised control over the print culture of France in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Additionally, Anita has published academic papers related to media properties including “Lovecraft Country” (2020), discussing issues of race, and has also presented at conferences including the Ann Radcliffe Conference, Fear 2000 (Sheffield Hallam University), as well as others. 

We are so excited to welcome Anita and Parker to ICS and look forward to the contributions they will make to the community in these vital roles!

Oct 16: Scripture, Faith, and Scholarship Symposium with Neal DeRoo

Our newest Senior Member Dr. Neal DeRoo will be leading our next Scripture, Faith, and Scholarship symposium on Monday, October 16 at 2pm ET at Knox College, hosted by the Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics. Dr. DeRoo will present on the topic: The Heart of Philosophy/Philosophy of the Heart. This event will take place both in person and online.

Monday, October 16, 2pm ET

Classroom 3, Knox College, 59 St. George Street, Toronto
Online via Zoom

How can the biblical notion of the heart inform our understanding of philosophy, and how can philosophy help us think through all the implications of the biblical notion of the heart? That is the two-fold question to be pursued in this talk. It will lay out a vision of humanity as heart-ed beings, image bearers who cannot help but express something else in everything they do. It will then pick up the theme of spirituality to talk about what is expressed through human actions, exploring what spirits are being expressed in our common life together and how philosophy can be a tool to help creation better express the spirit of God. 

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

Tuesday 26 September 2023

Jim Olthuis Book Reviewed by Brian Walsh

On September 25, Brian Walsh published a book review of ICS Senior Member Emeritus Jim Olthuis' book Dancing in the Wild Spaces of Love in the Christian Courier. Here is a brief excerpt from Brian's review: 

What does it mean if we rethink our theology, our Christian practice, and indeed, the very cosmos, from the perspective of love? What happens to doctrines like God’s omnipotence (all powerful), immutability (never changing), omniscience (all knowing), and sovereignty (in total control), if we begin with love? What happens to Christian ethics if the touchstone isn’t absolute law, but a dynamic relationship forged in love? How does such an understanding that all things are generated, sustained and directed to love change our view of the very nature of things?

Read the rest of the review for yourself in the Christian Courier or on their website at

Saturday 23 September 2023

Sep. 29 Book Launch: 15th Anniversary Edition of Beyond Homelessness

On Friday, September 29th, the Sanctuary community in Toronto will be hosting the book launch of the 15th anniversary edition of Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement by Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian Walsh.

There will be live music, refreshments provided, and a book-signing and short presentation by co-author Brian Walsh. 
Books will be available on site for purchase! 

Friday, September 29

25 Charles Street E.
Toronto, ON

Want to hear more about the book? 
Brian was a recent guest on an episode of Alan Graham's podcast Gospel Con Carne. Have a listen to the conversation here or wherever you get your podcasts: