As chair of the Board of Trustees of the Institute for Christian Studies (ICS), I would identify as an “ICSer.” “What’s that?” you might ask, especially if you’re younger.
To me, being an ICSer means taking part in a sub-culture, sometimes referred to as the “Reformational movement,” developed by post-WWII Dutch immigrants to North America. Many of those immigrants brought with them a “vision” of Christianity that followed the ideas of Dutch Calvinist leaders like Groen Van Prinsterer, Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, D.H.T. Vollenhoven and Herman Dooyeweerd. This vision is clear in catch phrases like “all of life is religion” (H. Evan Runner), and “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’” (Kuyper).
This particular Christian worldview sees Jesus not only as Saviour of our souls but of all aspects of what it means to be a human in God’s world; it believes that Jesus came to redeem and restore all of creation. Hence, the Reformational movement established not only churches but also schools (at all levels, including ICS), labour unions (like the Christian Labour Association of Canada), and political institutions (like Citizens for Public Justice).
Growing up in Canada in the 50s, 60s and 70s, I witnessed a real buzz around this movement in the Christian Reformed community. ICS used to host summer student conferences for Christian students attending “secular” universities (which my dad would take me to as a teen). These later developed into well-attended summer “family” conferences in Alberta, British Columbia, Michigan and Ontario (see Henry de Jong’s companion article).
While the era for hosting these family conferences has passed, ICS continues to search for new vocabulary to convey the Reformational spirit that energized these conferences to a new generation and a broader audience. Through its academic programs, ICS continues to form integrally Christian scholars who assume leadership positions throughout the world; and through creative forms of public outreach it continues to provide intellectual nourishment for faithful seekers beyond the academy.
As a lifelong member of this community, I realize that this worldview has allowed me to orient my entire life around the gospel’s message of healing and redemption. I, for one, believe the world still needs – now more than ever – a place like ICS whose stock in trade is to develop and teach the very holistic Christian insights that bring our Christian faith to bear upon “all aspects” of life and creation.
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