Saturday 6 April 2024

Prayer Letter: April 2024

Monday, April 1 - Friday, April 5:

April 1 was the application deadline for our MA-EL program and MWS-ART program. Please pray now for the students who applied to these programs as they patiently await word on their admission, and pray too for the admissions committee as they consider the applicants and whether ICS might offer them what they need in an academic home. 

Please join us in prayers of thanksgiving after a successful search as we welcome Anthony Holl to the ICS community as our new Project Manager helping develop our upcoming Capital Campaign. Anthony is a passionate Christian leader with over 20 years of experience in the fundraising sector. We are already encouraged and excited by Anthony’s ideas and energy, and we pray he may settle into his new role quickly and easily as he becomes familiar with our unique support community.

Senior Member Edith van der Boom is travelling to Malawi for 10 days with a colleague from EduDeo Ministries to mentor Christian educators there. Please pray for Edith as she travels and pray that the Lord may work through these conversations with fellow educators about their hopes, their challenges, and their vocations.

Monday, April 8 - Friday, April 12:

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.  In this issue, you’ll be able to read some reflections on collaboration, and its importance to ICS as a Christian educational institution. We give thanks for the issue’s contributors, and we 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! 

April 11, the Academic Office will host 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.

As Thursday, April 13th is the last day of classes, we ask for your prayers this week for the Senior Members and Junior Members as they finish up their class time and move onto finishing their course assignments. We offer thanks for another academic year successfully completed and for the rich discussions that took place in all our classes this year. We ask for prayers particularly for those Junior Members who wish to convocate on May 24th,  that they would have clarity and inspiration for finishing their assignments before the end of this month. We also ask for prayers for our Registrar, Parker, as he coordinates all the academic administrative details that are necessary at this time of year.

Monday, April 15 - Friday, April 19:

On April 18-20, the CPRSE team will be hosting the spring conference “Beyond Culture Wars: Fostering Solidarity in an Age of Polarization” in Waterloo, ON. Offered as a collaboration between ICS and Martin Luther University College, this conference will feature keynote speakers James K.A. Smith and Kristin Kobes Du Mez, as well as workshops and conversation sessions led by Shalem Mental Health Network, Citizens for Public Justice, and our Senior Members. More information (including a workshop schedule) will be shared via the event site in the coming days. We pray for all those travelling to, planning, contributing to, and attending this event, that these days may be filled with fruitful conversations with one another.

Please pray for the ICS administrative staff who are hard at work preparing for our various end-of-term events, including a Senate meeting, a Board meeting, and Convocation ceremony. We are excited to have these celebrations and events to look forward to, Lord willing, and pray for clarity of mind as we navigate the many details involved in planning. 

Monday, April 22 - Friday, April 26:

The last Academic Council meeting of the year is happening on April 22. Council members will be hearing staff reports and reviewing the rolling 3-year academic plan. We are thankful for the work that Academic Council members have done together over the course of this year in their careful consideration of academic programming at ICS. 

Please pray this week that students will find their way to our upcoming courses being offered over the spring and summer. In particular, keep in prayer the following courses that will begin the week of April 25: Lead From Where You Are, Finding Joy in Learning, and What’s Christian About Christian Education? Please also pray for Gideon Strauss, Edith van der Boom, and Neal DeRoo as they prepare for their courses, and for inspiration and creativity in their leadership of the sessions.

There’s still time to apply for our spring and summer courses. In addition to those listed above, the following courses are also on offer later in the summer: God of Solidarity: Liberation Theology as Social Movement (with Dean Dettloff) and State, Society, and Religion in Hegel’s Philosophy (with Andrew Tebbutt). You can email with any questions. Please also pray that interested participants will find their way to this summer’s courses, and please share news of these rich learning opportunities!

Monday, April 29 - Tuesday, April 30:

During the Board’s March meeting, Marci Frederick stepped down as Board Chair and Dan Beerens became the new Board Chair. Marci has stepped back from her role as Chair in order to focus on her ongoing cancer treatments and recovery. We are grateful for the years of time and energy Marci has devoted to the work of being ICS Board Chair, and for Dan’s willingness to take on these responsibilities as the new Chair. Please join us in praying for strength and healing for Marci, and for wisdom and insight for Dan and the rest of the Board, especially as they prepare for their end-of-year meeting in May.

On May 20-23, Senior Member Neal DeRoo, PhD candidate Mark Standish, and alumnus Theoren Tolsma will all be presenting at the joint Annual Conference of The Society of Phenomenology and the Human Sciences (SPHS) and The Interdisciplinary Coalition of North American Phenomenologists (ICNAP) at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. The theme of the conference is “Phenomenology at the Borders.” Please pray for their safe travels and that they may receive encouraging feedback on their research. 

Recognizing the Appearance

They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”  Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.

—John 20:13-14

Things are not as they appear. Or so we are told. Appearances can be deceiving. Appearances are fleeting and transitory, while reality is permanent and unchanging. Ask Plato.

I can only imagine what it was like when our risen Messiah, after his crucifixion and burial, appeared to disciples like Mary Magdalene. As John tells the story, Mary sees Jesus standing before her, but she does not recognize him. Why not, I wonder? Is it because she cannot credit precisely this possibility: that the beloved teacher she saw crucified and entombed could be standing before her, very much alive?

Even when Jesus asks Mary why she is weeping, she still fails to recognize him, mistaking him for the gardener. It is not until Jesus utters her name, “Mary,” that she recognizes the cherished pathbreaker whose untimely death she had been mourning. I wonder what it was like for Mary in that moment. Was it like viewing those ambiguous drawings that can be seen now one way, then another, but never both simultaneously? Did her moment of recognition snap into place immediately, suddenly, dramatically, like when one finally sees the duck instead of the rabbit?

“Rabbouni!” she exclaims. Teacher. The moment she recognizes Jesus, that is the appellation she uses. How fascinating, as though Jesus had chosen to make his first resurrected appearance to his favourite student, Mary called Magdalene, the one he then trusts with the task of sharing this good news with the rest of his followers.

This pattern of appearance without immediate recognition will repeat itself many times as the resurrected Jesus approaches his other followers. In John 21, the disciples do not recognize Jesus until, after the miraculous haul of fish that follows his instruction to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, the “disciple whom Jesus loved” exclaims to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Indeed, the disciples on the road to Emmaus recognize Jesus only after he is gone.

Is there a common denominator to these instances of sudden recognition? Mary hears Jesus say her name, the disciples catch a miraculous haul of fish, the travellers to Emmaus have burning hearts as Jesus opens the scriptures to them. Perhaps these very different moments of recognition occur because these disparate followers suddenly recognize and understand the possibility the resurrected Jesus reveals and had been teaching them to recognize all along: the transformative possibility of redemption, where nothing is fatalistically condemned to be what it merely is, but can become more than that: restored, bounteous, glorious, and full.

Things are not as they appear. They are more than they appear. Thank God for that.

May we all come to recognize and embody the possibility our living Messiah reveals. Shalom!

Ron Kuipers

ICS Presence at Phenomenology Conference

On May 20-23, Senior Member Neal DeRoo, PhD candidate Mark Standish, and alumnus Theoren Tolsma will all be presenting at the joint Annual Conference of The Society of Phenomenology and the Human Sciences (SPHS) and The Interdisciplinary Coalition of North American Phenomenologists (ICNAP) at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. 

The theme of the conference is “Phenomenology at the Borders,” and the title of Neal's paper is: Stiftungen and the Border Between Phenomenology and Politics. The title of Mark's presentation is: A Hollow Definition?: Investigating the Borders of Definition with Lugones, Merleau-Ponty, and Balibar. Theoren's paper is titled: ‘Natural’ Generativity in Merleau-Ponty’s Conception of Radical Reflection

Save the Date: ICS Convocation 2024

The Institute for Christian Studies' 2024 Convocation ceremony will be taking place on Friday, May 24th around 6:30pm ET. This year, we will be celebrating our Junior Member graduands with an in person and livestreamed event at Christ Church Deer Park in Toronto. 

More details will be made available in the coming weeks. You can email if you have any questions. 

New Hire at ICS

At the end of March, Anthony Holl (MSc Leadership, CFRE) joined the ICS Staff in the position of Project Manager, Capital Campaign.

Anthony is a passionate Christian leader with over 20 years of experience in the philanthropy/fundraising sector, working as both a consultant and a practitioner in leading major capital campaigns for such organizations as the Salvation Army and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Anthony also has extensive experience fundraising for smaller organizations like ICS, and loves working in that context. Anthony is excited about ICS's unique mission in Christian higher education, and is strongly motivated to help ICS fundraise for our upcoming capital campaign, intended to help ICS expand its program offerings in the lifelong learning space, helping seeking Christians grapple with key issues affecting our turbulent times.

We are so excited to be able to welcome Anthony to ICS and look forward to the contributions he will make to the community in this vital role!

Tuesday 5 March 2024

Prayer Letter: March 2024

Monday, March 4 - Friday, March 8:

We continue to accept program applications through the remainder of this term and into the summer. Please keep in your prayers potential students who may be juggling much as they wrap up current studies and consider what their next steps may be, those students who are considering going back to school for the first time in a while, and those students from whom we have already received program applications. We pray that these students may find their way to ICS and that we may provide a hospitable environment for them to ask deep questions about God, the world, and their callings. 

Senior Member Rebekah Smick recently gave a paper entitled "Augustine's hermeneutic of decorum in humanist art theory" at the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies at Victoria University in the University of Toronto as part of its Working Group 2023-24 on The Arts in the Post-Tridentine Era: Histories and Historiographies in Transition. Rebekah will also be a speaker and panelist at the concluding colloquium of the Working Group in mid-April. We pray in gratitude for this opportunity for Rebekah to be in close conversation with other colleagues in her field, and we pray that the preparation involved in the colloquium will continue apace. 

This academic year, the CPRSE has counted on the active engagement of two Research Assistants, Junior Members Julia Henderson and Todd Dias. While Julia has helped to lead our public outreach events, such as conferences and symposia, Todd has been hard at work editing a number of submissions to our Ground Motive blog. Please join us as we pray in thanksgiving for the contributions of Julia and Todd to the initiatives of the CPRSE as well as to the academic life of ICS.  

Monday, March 11 - Friday, March 15:

This week is March break for most of our MA-EL students. Please keep these students in your prayers, that these days may allow them time for rest, friendship, and family amid their busy semesters of work and study.

Rebekah Smick is also in the process of co-editing with Andrew Spicer volume five of the forthcoming eight-volume Bloomsbury T&T Clark series Sources and Documents in the History of Christian Art, edited by Diane Apostolos-Cappadona of Georgetown University. The volume is scheduled to come out by the end of 2024. Please keep Rebekah in your prayers as she collaborates to bring this project to completion.

Please keep the work of the Academic Council in your prayers this term. In addition to the regular work of considering courses and academic policies, some of our faculty will be offering Reflective Practice Reports on their research and teaching, as well as participating in status reviews. Pray with us that these meetings, which make up an integral part of our communal academic life, and all the work and conversations involved therein might prove fruitful and celebratory.

Monday, March 18 - Friday, March 22:

In one month, the CPRSE team will be travelling to Waterloo, ON for the spring conference “Beyond Culture Wars: Fostering Solidarity in an Age of Polarization.” Offered as a collaboration between ICS and Martin Luther University College, this conference will feature keynote speakers James K.A. Smith and Kristin Kobes Du Mez, as well as workshops and conversation sessions led by Shalem Mental Health Network, Citizens for Public Justice, and several of our Senior Members. Please save the date, keep an eye out for more information, and pray for all those involved in planning and execution of this event.

Our summer courses have now been publicly posted! Visit our website to find out more about how you can join an online class with Senior Members Edith van der Boom, Neal DeRoo, or Gideon Strauss; or with ICS alums Andrew Tebbutt or Dean Dettloff (course TBA). There’s also still time to join our ART in Orvieto program in Italy with Rebekah Smick this July. Please keep our Recruitment Team in your prayers as they seek to connect with potential students looking for the opportunity to pursue graduate degrees, further education, and professional development in the vocations to which God has called them.

Please keep the Academic Office and the Academic Program Review Committee in your prayers as they work on the annual academic policy compliance report and the rolling three-year academic plan for presentation to the Academic Council, and as they prepare for comprehensive program reviews that are to take place during the 2024-2025 academic year. These efforts require close attention to detail as well as big-picture collaborative thinking in line with our ongoing educational mission, so we pray for energy and inspiration for all involved.

Monday, March 25 - Friday, March 29:

The Academic Council next meets on March 25. Please pray for the work of the Academic Council as they consider together matters of academic policy, and in particular for those Senior Members who will be enjoying their annual Reflective Practice Conversations with the council over the course of this term. Please also keep its Education Policy Committee in your prayers as it considers new course proposals for the expansion of ICS's curriculum.

There’s still time to apply for ART in Orvieto 2024! The application deadline is March 31 for this three-week summer studies program in art, religion, and theology. Financial aid is available for graduate students, working artists, and K-12 teachers - and there are even a few early bird scholarships left for the next 5 applicants! To get more information or apply, visit, or email Please also pray that interested participants will find their way to this year’s program, and please share news of this wonderfully rich learning opportunity with everyone you know!

The application deadline for our MA-EL program is coming up on April 1. Visit to learn more, or email with your questions. This program is a key way in which our educational mission at ICS directly serves other Christian educators in Ontario and around the world. Please keep the program instructors, current students, and potential students in your prayers particularly as they discern whether to join the MA-EL.

The Power of "With"

And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

—Matthew 28:20

The word “with” can be used to imply many different things. It can suggest potential proximity—“Put this book with the others”—or accompaniment—“Let me go there with you.” It can connote hipness, as when Grampa Abe Simpson vociferously complains, “I used to be with it, but then they changed what ‘it’ was!” It can imply agreement and comprehension—“I’m with you so far”—or even a deep solidarity—“I will stand with you in your struggle for justice.”

With all these different uses and connotations of the word “with,” how might we understand the way that the resurrected Jesus uses the word when he says to his disciples, “I am with you always,” words he utters moments after he has charged them with the task of spreading his shalom way to the ends of the earth?

In the song “Can’t Hardly Wait” by The Replacements (one of my favourite rock bands from the 1980s) there is a cheeky line that always makes me chuckle, where singer Paul Westerberg intones: “Jesus rides beside me, but he never buys any smokes.” While I resonate with this image of Jesus as a steadfast travel companion on the road trip of life, I hope and trust that he is more than someone who is simply ‘along for the ride,’ mooching my last cigarette to boot! (In my case, as a non-smoker, the cigarette would have to be metaphorical.)

Perhaps it might help if we connect Jesus’ promise at the end of the gospel of Matthew to a claim made near the beginning of that same gospel, where the angel, echoing Isaiah 7:14, tells Joseph that the child Mary carries is the promised Messiah, the one who will be called “Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us” (Matt. 1:23)? Once we make this connection, we begin to discern the mysterious contours of this very powerful “with,” and the way Jesus’ promise includes but also moves beyond simple companionship.

The very word “with,” I think, says something about the nature of divine power itself, this messianic possibility that Jesus promises to make available to us. As ICS Emeritus Professor Jim Olthuis suggests in his book Dancing in the Wild Spaces of Love, the power of this “with” is not a dominating or oppressive power, not an “over,” but rather a power that comes alongside us and empowers us—much like Jesus did, incognito, when he joined his erstwhile unwitting disciples on the road to Emmaus. 

Jim calls this power “withing,” and describes it as the way humans are uniquely called to image a Creator who desires to be with and love creation:

As God is with-us (Emmanuel), so we are to be-with others, cum amore (with love). “Withing” (power-with rather than power-over) is our gift and calling, be(com)ing the unique selves we are through relationship with other persons (intersubjectivity), with creation and all its creatures (solidarity), and with God (spirituality). In and with the impetus of love’s promise, we live-with, work-with, wrestle-with, suffer-with, celebrate-with the whole family of earth’s creatures, all of creation, and God. (xvi-ii)

Jim later describes “withing” as “a celebrating-with and suffering-with without submission or domination, a being-with in which we are true to ourselves even as we exist in connection with each other” (87).

How wonderful is this “with,” this divine connection that empowers us to connect—with the earth and all its creatures, with each other, and with God? How different it is from the kind of power we all too often seek, the power to dominate and control others, the earth, and even God? I ponder how deeply different is the way toward which our Messiah’s promise points us.

Shalom, friends!

Ron Kuipers

Join an Upcoming ICS Open Class!

Curious about whether our online seminars might be a good fit for your learning style? Know someone who wants to learn more about ICS courses? Join us for one of our "Open Classes" on the following dates:

To RSVP to any of these sessions, please email

Open Positions at The King's University

Our colleagues at The King’s University in Edmonton are hiring for two teaching positions: a Visiting Assistant Professor for Justice Research & Public Education and a Faculty Position in Sociology.  

Please visit their Careers page to find out more information about either of these positions. 

New Article by Edith van der Boom

Senior Member Edith van der Boom has published an article in the March 2024 issue of the International Journal of Christianity and Education (28.1) titled "Participating in God’s redemptive work: A cyclical model for learning and assessment." You can read the abstract below and access the article online via Sage Journals.


With the goal of working towards decolonizing educational practices, this article considers the Indigenous medicine wheel as inspiration for a cyclical model for learning and assessment. Many current assessment practices highlight individual achievement rather than ongoing and relational learning. This article suggests using a Learning Wheel as a tool to engage students in conversation about learning and assessment. The purpose of assessment would be to inform students’ learning. The goal of learning would in turn equip students to be mindful of learning that engages in real-world issues to partner in God’s redemptive work.

Monday 4 March 2024

Conference Registration Now Open

Registration is now open for our April 18–20 conference in collaboration with Martin Luther University College on the topic: “Beyond Culture Wars: Fostering Solidarity in an Age of Polarization.” Some of our community partners include Citizens for Public Justice, Shalem Mental Health Network, and Vision Ministries Canada.

This event will be hosted in person at the campus of Martin Luther University College (Wilfrid Laurier University), and our plenary sessions will be made available online. This event will be an education and discussion forum for faith communities, and for the larger public, to counter the ‘culture wars’ mentality and explore together more positive and mutually beneficial ways of relating religion to the broader society. 

Keynote speakers are Kristin Kobes Du Mez, (April 18 at 7:00pm) and James K.A. Smith (April 19 at 7:00pm). There will also be several workshops and conversation sessions from our community partners, as well as ICS and Luther faculty (we are in the process of scheduling these sessions now). 

Please visit to register and find more information. 

Wednesday 7 February 2024

Prayer Letter: February 2024

Monday, February 5 - Friday, February 9:

On February 5, Senior Member Neal DeRoo gave an online lecture titled "The Case for a Phenomenological Politics" as part of a lecture series on "Critical and Political Phenomenology in Debate" put on by FernUniversit├Ąt in Hagen, the Husserl Archives Cologne, and the philosophy department of TU Darmstadt. Neal's lecture was based on the work in his last book, The Political Logic of Experience. Please join us in giving thanks for this wonderful opportunity for Neal to connect with international colleagues in conversation and debate.

ICS is hiring! We are currently on the lookout for a Project Manager for an upcoming Capital Campaign. If you or anyone you know would be suited to this position, please visit our website for details on how to apply. Also please share this news widely and keep our search in your prayers as we look for the right candidate to fill this role.

February is tax receipt month at ICS. Please pray particularly for the Finance and Advancement offices as they lead the process of preparing the 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 12 - Friday, February 16:

Please keep the work of the Academic Council and its various committees in your prayers this term. In addition to the regular work of considering courses and academic policies, some of our faculty will be offering Reflective Practice Reports on their research and teaching, as well as participating in status reviews. Pray with us that these meetings, which make up an integral part of our communal academic life, and all the work and conversations involved therein might prove fruitful and celebratory.

Our MA-EL Open House is taking place online on February 15 at 4:15pm ET. 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 Brenna Wehrle at Please pray that teachers and school administrators who would benefit from this program may find opportunities to apply. 

Final grades for fall 2023 courses are due from our Senior Members on February 16. 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 19 - Friday, February 23:

It’s Family Day and 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!

Please keep our Recruitment Team, led by Recruitment Coordinator Brenna Wehrle, in your prayers as they work on promoting the various ICS programs of study and courses for the upcoming summer and fall semesters. We pray for creativity and vision as we pursue a promotional strategy that will seek out and connect with potential students looking for the opportunity to pursue graduate degrees, further education, and professional development in the vocations to which God has called them.

We give thanks this week for all the hard work of the Library and Scholarship Committee, our Librarian Anita Siraki, and the volunteers for the ongoing project with our Hamilton library collection. We’ve had to temporarily stow away the collection in order to enable renovations in response to flooding that happened late last year. This is a large-scale undertaking, but the first stages of the project are complete, the renovations nearly finished, and we look forward to getting the books back on the shelves soon! Please pray with us that the remaining tasks involved in this process will go quickly and smoothly when the time comes. 

Monday, February 26 - Thursday, February 29:

On February 26, the ICS community will welcome Dr. Sylvia Keesmaat for the Winter Term installment of the Scripture, Faith, and Scholarship Symposium. In her presentation, “Seeds of Resistance and Healing: Grounding the Bible,” Dr. Keesmaat will lead participants as they reflect on the link between the Bible and creation. Please pray for Dr. Keesmaat, the planning team, and all participants that this event be a space for fruitful dialogue and fellowship. 

There are still a few remaining $500 early bird scholarships available for ART in Orvieto 2024, and we continue to accept applications to the program until March 31. Please pray that interested artists, teachers, and students of the arts will find their way to this year’s program, and please share news of this wonderfully rich learning opportunity with everyone you know!

This month, the CPRSE team together with Senior Member Neal DeRoo will be hard at work organizing the spring conference:Beyond Culture Wars: Fostering Solidarity in an Age of Polarization” taking place April 18th-20th. Continuing ICS’s partnership with Martin Luther University College, and marking the start of a new collaboration with Vision Ministries Canada, this conference will be an opportunity to reflect on the role Christianity can have in addressing the polarization in North America. The conference will feature keynote speakers James K.A. Smith and Kristin Kobes Du Mez, as well as several workshops and conversation sessions. Please save the date, keep an eye out for more information, and pray for all those involved in planning and execution of this event.

What Might These Words Still Take from Us?

But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

—Luke 1:29 (NRSV)

In my ICS seminar on Ludwig Wittgenstein, I use an essay by Stanley Cavell that attempts to explain the intimate link that Wittgenstein posits between the meaning of words and the way we learn to use them. To illustrate this relationship between meaning and use, Cavell describes his infant daughter’s efforts to learn the word ‘kitty’: Witnessing her petting the family cat and saying the word ‘kitty’, he assumes she has learned the word, yet his conclusion is thrown into doubt when later he sees her stroking a furry pillow saying the same thing.

Cavell finds himself forced to conclude that, although she is well on her way, his daughter has yet to learn the word ‘kitty’; she has yet to master the various ways the linguistic community into which he is welcoming her do and do not use that word. He makes the point rather provocatively:

Kittens—what we call ‘kittens’—do not exist in her world yet, she has not acquired the forms of life which contain them. They do not exist in something like the way cities and mayors will not exist in her world until long after pumpkins and kittens do; or like the way God or love or responsibility or beauty do not exist in our world; we have not mastered, or we have forgotten, or we have distorted, or learned through fragmented models, the forms of life which could make utterances like ‘God exists’ or ‘God is dead’ or ‘I love you’ or ‘I cannot do otherwise’ or ‘Beauty is but the beginning of terror’ bear all the weight they could carry, express all they could take from us.

(Cavell, The Claim of Reason, p. 172-73)

Cavell’s gloss (the part I italicized) leapt from the page the moment I read it roughly twenty years ago. His words caught me completely off guard, and so I pondered them. Was he right to draw the tragic conclusion that most of us today merely go through the motions, simply mouthing empty platitudes when we use words like ‘God’ and ‘love’ and ‘beauty’, and that we do not let these words demand anything too deep or personal from us? A troubling thought, indeed.

In My Bright Abyss, which I have just finished reading, the poet Christian Wiman wonders whether the decay of religious belief among educated people in the West has caused this decay of language, or whether it is the other way around: “[D]o we find the fire of belief fading in us only because the words are sodden with overuse and imprecision, and will not burn?” (p.124)

How different is Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel’s greeting and announcement in Luke 1:28? Mary gives herself permission to be troubled and perplexed by the angel’s words—to let them hit—leading her to ponder “what sort of greeting this might be.” In her book Into the Mess and Other Jesus Stories, Debie Thomas describes Mary’s response to Gabriel as “holy bewilderment.” She suggests that Mary’s holy bewilderment models for us a way to take distance from the all-too-settled dogmatic certainties and platitudes we have come to accept, the dead words that no longer burn, and search for ones that do. She thus finds Mary’s bewilderment to resonate with her own faith journey as she deals with the suffering, vicissitudes, and ambiguity that daily life visits upon us all:

What an interesting shock reality has been. Who knew that my life with God would actually be one long goodbye? That to know God is to unknow God? To shed my neat conceptions of the divine like so many old snakeskins and emerge into the world bare, vulnerable, and new, again and again? (p. 5–6)

I believe Thomas has hit on something important here, something of what Jesus meant when he told us to become like little children, filled with a child’s “sense of wonder, this excess of spirit brimming out of the body” (to quote Wiman once more) (My Bright Abyss, p. 160). Yet I do not think our Messiah’s admonition means that we must completely shed our first religious language. The demand we face, rather, is to prevent this first language, the basis for everything that follows, from becoming a dead letter. We must strive to maintain its original spiritual charge and vitality, so that it remains a trustworthy language that helps us love reality with the faith and hope that the restoration and renewal of all that is and has been broken is possible.

While the task of maintaining such spiritual vitality is a task we share as a community of faith, graced by God, I remain convinced that no human words, from the most inspired spiritual poetry to the most capacious and systematic theology, will ever be able to contain the profound divine mystery and charge that suffuses and transcends creation. So, the job of preventing these words from becoming settled certainties, the job of maintaining their ability to demand something from us by connecting us to the divine mystery they always fail to express, remains perpetually before us. Yet use these words we must, for as Wiman (again!) reminds us: “At some point you have to believe that the inadequacies of the words you use will be transcended by the faith with which you use them.” (p.141)

And in this way, perhaps, we may welcome God (not to mention love and beauty, or kittens) into our world again.


Ron Kuipers

Save the Date: Conference with James K.A. Smith and Kristin Kobes Du Mez in April 2024

On April 18–20, 2024 the Institute for Christian Studies will collaborate with Martin Luther University College, Vision Ministries CanadaShalem Mental Health Network, and Citizens for Public Justice to present a conference on the topic: “Beyond Culture Wars: Fostering Solidarity in an Age of Polarization.”

Hosted at the campus of Martin Luther University College (Wilfrid Laurier University), this event will be an education and discussion forum for faith communities, and for the larger public, to counter the ‘culture wars’ mentality and explore together more positive and mutually beneficial ways of relating religion to the broader society. To accomplish this goal, “Beyond Culture Wars” will engage a wide variety of academic and community voices in seeking to raise awareness and understanding across sectors through facilitated dialogue, knowledge mobilization, and community cooperation.

The conference will feature keynote speakers James K.A. Smith and Kristin Kobes Du Mez, as well as several workshops and conversation sessions.

Please save the date and keep an eye out for more information in the coming weeks.

New Book by Cal Seerveld, and a Recent Interview

ICS Senior Member Emeritus Calvin Seerveld has just published the first volume in a new series called Tough Stuff from the Bible, Tendered Gently with Paideia Press. The first volume's title is: Encouraging Faith Manifestoes for People with Open Ears: Biblical Narrative History. This volume is a collection of 18 Biblical meditations interpreting both Old and New Testaments. They are a compilation of what was spoken to mostly local congregations in the Toronto, Ontario area of Canada, between 1977 and 2011, by Cal. You can read more about the volume and get a copy for yourself here.

Also, earlier in November 2023, Cal gave a live-translated interview on a Brazilian show entitled Entre Amigos Internacional, hosted by Rodolfo Amorim, Bruno Maroni, and Guilherme Iamarino. 

You can watch the video below or find it on Youtube here:

Monday 5 February 2024

New Book by Lambert Zuidervaart: Adorno, Heidegger, and the Politics of Truth

Senior Member Emeritus Lambert Zuidervaart has published a new book on the German social philosopher Theodor Adorno, titled Adorno, Heidegger, and the Politics of Truth (SUNY Press, 2024). The front cover features the image of a recent sculpture by Lambert’s wife, artist Joyce Recker, titled "Longing for the Wholly Other" (2021). 

Lambert says this book completes a project begun more than forty years ago, when he wrote, and Joyce typed, a dissertation on Adorno’s aesthetics under the supervision of Calvin Seerveld (ICS) and Johan van der Hoeven (VU Amsterdam). He talks about the background and contents to his new book in the blog post "Hope for Truth in a Post-Truth World," which is on the SUNY Press website.

Adorno, Heidegger, and the Politics of Truth provides a critical and creative reconstruction of Adorno's conception of truth and shows its relevance for contemporary philosophy, art, and politics. It also rounds out the trilogy of books Lambert has published on the topic of truth since he retired in 2016. The other two books are Truth in Husserl, Heidegger, and the Frankfurt School (MIT Press, 2017) and Social Domains of Truth (Routledge, 2023). 

Saturday 3 February 2024

Sylvia Keesmaat Presenting at Scripture Faith & Scholarship Symposium on Feb 26

Seeds of Resistance and Healing:
Grounding the Bible

Date and Time:
Monday, February 26, 2024 at 2:00pm

Location (Hybrid):
1. Knox College, Classroom 3 (59 St. George St., Toronto)

From creation to new creation, the lament of the land to the grief of God, the Bible narrates the desire of the Creator to inhabit and rejoice in the wondrous and diverse creation that surrounds us. How does such a desire shape our response to the crisis of our age? And how does creation help us to understand the story of the Creator?

Join us online or in person for this semester's Scripture, Faith, and Scholarship Symposium with Dr. Sylvia Keesmaat. Details about the location and the link to join via Zoom are included above. Please email to if you have any additional questions. Hope to see you there!

Presenter Bio:

Dr. Sylvia C. Keesmaat is a biblical scholar, activist, and farmer. She obtained her doctorate at Oxford University, studying with N.T. Wright, and was a Senior Member in Biblical Studies and Hermeneutics at ICS from 1994-2004. She has most recently taught as an Adjunct Professor of Biblical Studies at Trinity College, Toronto School of Theology, as well as for the Creation Care Studies Program in Belize.

Sylvia is the co-author, with Brian Walsh, of Romans Disarmed: Resisting Empire, Demanding Justice  (Brazos Press, 2019) and Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire (IVP, 2004). She is also the author of Paul and His Story: (Re)Interpreting the Exodus Tradition (Bloomsbury, 1999). 

Sylvia is the past co-chair of the Bishop's Committee on Creation Care for the Anglican Diocese of Toronto. She speaks frequently on topics related to the Bible and economic justice, climate catastrophe, gender justice, and Indigenous justice.

Sylvia founded her online teaching platform Bible Remixed in 2021 to help nurture a community of Jesus followers who are deeply rooted in the biblical story, and who are becoming a community of welcome, healing and nurture for those people and creatures who suffer most from the violence of our world. She offers online courses throughout the year that are open to all on a pay-what-you-can basis.

From 2016 to 2023 Sylvia held an heirloom tomato seedling sale every spring on her farm. She also speaks to horticultural societies and other groups about permaculture, forest gardening and pollinator insects.

Sylvia lives at Russet House Farm, an off-grid permaculture farm in the Kawartha Lakes on the traditional territory of the Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg, with her husband, Brian Walsh, and a fluctuating number of people and animals.

Wednesday 17 January 2024

Prayer Letter: January 2024

Monday, January 8 - Friday, January 12:

Please pray for our Junior and Senior Members as online classes resumed this week. 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 pray for each of the following courses:

  • On Tuesdays at 10:00am, Nik Ansell will be teaching about the implications of the human embodiment of Christ in his course: God in Flesh and Blood: Revolutions in Christology. Please pray for Nik and the students as they draw on contemporary New Testament scholarship in order to engage the exegetical and theological issues at the edge, and at the heart, of contemporary Christology.

  • Also on Tuesdays, starting at 2:00pm, this year’s Interdisciplinary Seminar will address the topic: Philosophical Inquiry and the Practices of Everyday Life: An Interdisciplinary Seminar on Philosophizing in a Time of Crisis. Please pray for the seminar leaders, Gideon Strauss and Neal DeRoo and the students in the course as they explore the implications of philosophical inquiry for the everyday practices of philosophers as well as the implications of our everyday concerns for philosophical practices, with particular attention to the relevance of our political circumstances for this exploration.

  • On Wednesdays, starting at 10:00am, Bob Sweetman will teach his course: Aristotle, Aquinas, and the Scholastic Approach to the History of Philosophy. Pray for Bob and the students as together they examine the role philosophy or theology's history plays in the conceptual constructions of scholastic thinkers.

  • On Thursdays at 10:00am, sessional instructor Michael Buttrey teaches his course: What Were the Women Up To? Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Mary Midgley, and Iris Murdoch. Please pray for Michael and his students as they attend to the important work of these four philosophers and the ways they revolutionized the fields of ethics and analytic philosophy.

  • Also on Thursdays, starting at 2:00pm, Neal DeRoo will teach his course: Issues in Phenomenology: Spirituality. Pray for Neal and the students as together they look at the notion of spirituality introduced by Hegel, and developed by Husserl, Derrida, and others; examining the implications of this account of spirituality for understandings of religion and oppression.

  • On Thursdays, starting at 6:00pm, Nik Ansell will teach his course: Meaning/Being/Knowing: The Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Implications of a Christian Ontology. Pray for Nik and the students as together they examine the roots and developments of an integral ontology throughout the Reformational philosophical tradition.

Pray also for the instructors and students partaking in our two MA-EL courses which will begin this week and meet regularly throughout this semester:
  • Transformative Teaching: The Role of a Christian Educator with Edith van der Boom, and

  • How to Finance a Vision: Setting Direction and Managing Change within Financial Limitations with Gideon Strauss.

Monday, January 15 - Friday, January 19:

We want to extend a deep and heartfelt thank you to everyone who donated during our Advent campaign and throughout 2023! We were blown away by your generosity during this Advent season in particular. 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 2024 filled with hope and strength to face what the new year brings.

Irene Suk, the wife of former ICS President John Suk, was recently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. On January 20, at 11 am, at Lawrence Park Community Church, there will be a "Farewell" gathering for Irene. A few friends and family members will speak, and hopefully Irene will speak too. There will be fine music, a solo or two, a prayer and a scripture reading. This will be followed by an open house in the Fellowship Hall. You can find information on how to join in person or online at Please pray with us for Irene, John, and their friends and family during this time.

Please pray this week for the Chair and ICS Chancellor, Dr. Pamela Beattie, as she leads the discussions at the ICS Senate meeting (via Zoom) on Saturday. Please also pray for Gideon Strauss, our Academic Dean, and all the external and internal Senators as they consider the issues on the agenda. Pray too that all will go smoothly technologically and the meeting will be as fruitful as possible.

Monday, January 22 - Friday, January 26:

Dr. Samson Makhado, ICS alum and honourary doctorate recipient, will be having back surgery on January 22 to replace some missing cartilage. Doctors believe there is a good chance of success, but a fairly long period of physical therapy will follow. Please join us in keeping Dr. Makhado and his family in prayer during this operation and throughout his time of recovery.

New book alert! Gestures of Grace: Essays in Honour of Robert Sweetman is now available for purchase through Wipf & Stock! Please join us in prayers of thanksgiving for Joshua Harris and H├ęctor Acero Ferrer’s editorial work, the writing efforts of the numerous contributors, and the many academic gifts of Bob himself. This is the latest volume in the CPRSE’s Currents in Reformational Thought book series, and you can get a copy for yourself via the publisher’s website.

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 of this week, 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.

Monday, January 29 - Wednesday, 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. For more details, you can email Brenna at

The ART in Orvieto 2024 early bird deadline is January 31. This deadline is for applicants to the program to receive a $500 scholarship to attend the program, funded by the Ruth and Ines Memorial Fund for Artistic Education. We continue to accept ART in Orvieto applications until March 31. Please pray that interested artists, teachers, and students of the arts will find their way to this year’s program, and please share news of this wonderfully rich learning opportunity with everyone you know!

Silence Divine

“…and after the earthquake a fire,
but the Lord was not in the fire;
and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.”

—I Kings 19:12 (NRSV)

Do you recall the wonder you experienced as a child, that time when your eyes would not pass over so many things, but instead would alight upon and tarry over them? When you would search forever for a four-leaf clover, or sharpen your focus during that brief instant before the crystalline formation of a snowflake melted in your hand?

One of the tragedies of adulthood is our propensity to lose touch with this childlike sense of wonder, for there is a salutary reverence in this kind of attention, this silent posture of listening that opens us to the deep mysteries of God’s cosmos. As adults, the plans we make and the routines we follow dig deep mental ruts from which we find it hard to break free, even momentarily. Yet the health of our hearts and souls, not to mention our bodies and minds, demands we take regular sabbaticals from these everyday routines.

There are many places in scripture that seem to recognize this spiritual need to escape the noise of grownup life. Perhaps this is why, during Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness, Moses would set up “the tent of meeting” for “everyone who sought the Lord” far away from the main camp (Exodus 33:7). Perhaps this also explains why Mary, instead of helping her sister Martha with the domestic chores, “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying” (Luke 10:39). Or why the gospels report that, when the crowds pressed in on him, Jesus himself “would withdraw to deserted places and pray” (Luke 5:16).

The poet Christian Wiman expresses this spiritual need eloquently and insightfully in his memoir, My Bright Abyss, while reflecting on Patrick Kavanagh’s poem “Having Confessed.” In that poem, Kavanagh counsels us to remain within our souls, to stay in “the unconscious room of our hearts,” where God might find us, and for this reason also worries about our efforts to view our souls consciously and abstractly, “from the outside.” The real issue at stake in Kavanagh’s poem, Wiman tells us, is “that the link not be broken, that every intellectual growth remain rooted in that early experience of ultimate insight, ultimate unknowingness, every word about God both responsive and responsible to the silence that is its source.” (pp. 78-79)

Perhaps, then, “the sound of sheer silence” by which Elijah finally sensed God’s passing presence is the same sound the melting snowflake makes as it kindles childlike wonder? Yet how might we ensure that the words of our faith remain rooted in this divine silence? Thankfully, the first step, if the poet Mary Oliver is to be believed (she is), is deceptively easy to take:

pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak

—From “Praying”

I wish you all God’s rich blessings for the New Year, friends. May it be filled with moments of silent wonder, allowing your life to radiate outward from this deep connection to our Maker and Healer!


Ron Kuipers

Wednesday 10 January 2024

In Memoriam: Wietse Posthumus

by Robert Sweetman

Wietse Posthumus (1938-2023) meant a great deal to a great many people and to the organizations they built and tended, not least the Institute for Christian Studies. The spiritual antennae he inherited and made his own shine forth in one respect: they picked up and transmitted deep into the bones the conviction that change for the good demanded organization so as to achieve effective corporate action. In a complex society, that meant the formation of institutions that could collect and store the gathered wisdom of those called to and involved in our world’s different occupations and sectors, institutions that could harness and deploy the human energy and know-how such wisdom let loose in the world. 

    But institutions needed to be built right, he had been taught, and in response to the right Spirit and its promptings. What was needed was discernment and that demanded knowledge as well as spiritual feelers. For him that meant law school, which gave him a deep understanding of the internal structures of institutions and the processes whereby they exist and act publicly. It was in and through this acquired expertise that he would serve the Reformed churches of his allegiance as well as ICS.

    When Wietse began adult life, that Kingdom seemed very close. It was the 1960s: a wonderfully optimistic age in which anything seemed possible. The just society and world peace were surely just around the corner. Something of that optimism drove people like Wietse. The Kingdom in our generation could easily have been their motto. This optimism was helped by the certainty that the norms which enabled human flourishing were simple and unchangingly available. Churches were to look like “x,” lovers like “y,” marriages like “z,” And this had been so, it was said, since the very dawn of Creation.

    The parents of the post-WWII immigrant generation of Dutch Calvinists had set up churches and schools across Canada. Wietse and his generational cohort, the children of that immigrant generation, busied themselves with the next level of Christian institution-building: a labour union, businessmen’s associations, political action groups, a farmer’s federation, an art gallery, a publishing venture, Christian day schools, as well as a university-level institution like ICS. 

    There was something Marian to Wietse’s service. He stored up experiences in his heart and contemplated their implications in life-transforming ways. When ICS Senior Members started discussing sexual orientation and biblical faithfulness in the 1980s, Wietse was a board member at ICS and he was worried about the damage this would do. It seemed a bridge too far, to muddy clear water, potentially fatal, and he was not going to let that pass unopposed. Nevertheless, he continued to follow the discussion and when Hendrik Hart published his Morning Star book explaining how he worked with Scripture and came to the readings he did, Wietse read it with great care, and it changed his mind. He became friends with Henk and learned to cherish what Henk had to give. 

    Ever generous with his thought and his emotional engagement, he was also generous with his time and wealth. For example, he and Kathryn hosted celebrations of ICS volunteers that became legendary at ICS both at his home and at the Madison just down the street, in which it rained food and drink as a partying hobbit would have it and the decibel level of the merrymaking was nothing short of prodigious. When ICS contracted with Morris Greidanus to serve as interim president while ICS searched for a new candidate, Wietse and Kathryn opened their home to Morris and Alice who stayed in a semi-independent space on the third floor.

    Wietse’s presence at First Christian Reformed Church in Toronto, where I too am a member, was also felt strongly. He wrote the church bylaws and would often offer words both thoughtful and pyrotechnic whenever it was needed by the congregation. Over the last two decades he became an occasional commentator after services when a message or prayer had touched him in some way, and a sage voice when the congregation was faced with difficulties.

    So I conclude with one last vignette of Wietse the churchgoer. I will never forget the Easter he spent in the hospital as part of his difficult recovery from surgery. I was the elder of service, so I brought the elements to Wietse and the liturgy for the Lord’s Supper we had used to celebrate the sacrament at the congregational Easter Service. We were out of the bread we had used but someone had brought hot crossed buns for the coffee and there was still one left, so we took it along with wine. His wife Kathryn, at least one of the children, my wife Rosanne, and I gathered around his bed and we went through the liturgy. He couldn’t eat the bread but he took a piece anyway to dip in the wine and sucked the liquid out with relish. Then he looked up with a glint in his eye and confessed, “I think I deserve another.” He proceeded to dip the bread again. That iconoclastic act had it all: his both-feet-in dynamism, his stubborn faith even in extremis, and a moment of pure mischief—it felt like holy ground. I find it easy to imagine Our Lord saying to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and ushering him into his blessed reward.

* * *

    Wietse developed deep relationships with ICS faculty members and staff throughout his life. He served on the AACS Board of Trustees from 1972-73, again from 1984-87, and also served on the ICS Board of Trustees from 1993-99. At the request of the family, donations may be made in Wietse's memory to the Institute for Christian Studies at or by phone at 416-979-2331 ext. 223.