9 May 2022

Biblical Foundations: Narrative, Wisdom, and the Art of Interpretation

How can we read and experience the Scriptures as the Word of Life in the midst of an Academy that believes the biblical witness will restrict human freedom and thwart our maturity? How may we pursue biblical wisdom as we “re-think the world” when our Christian traditions seem convinced that biblical truth may be disconnected from—or simply applied to—the most pressing and perplexing issues of our time?

This course will explore the Bible—from Genesis to Revelation—as the ongoing story of and for God and all God’s creatures, paying special attention to the way in which humanity’s attempt to find its way is interwoven with the story of the Divine presence and with the wisdom and promise of creation-new creation. In asking whether and how the biblical story may find its future in our ongoing narratives, we will attempt to identify which hermeneutical methods and sensitivities might help us discern its significance for present day life, including the academic enterprise.

If Jesus is the Living Word at the heart of Scripture, does that change our understanding of where biblical truth is coming from and where it is going? Does the Bible have an implicit, sapiential pedagogy that we have misconstrued? Can the familiar Reformed themes of creation and covenant, election and eschaton speak to us in new, reformational ways? These are some of the questions we shall explore together as we reintroduce ourselves to the biblical writings.


Dr. Nik Ansell
ICS 1108AC / 2108AC F22
ICB2010HF L0101*
Remote (Online Synchronous)
Tuesdays, 4:15pm - 7:15pm ET

(MWS, MA, MA-EL, PhD)

Syllabus

Enrolment Notes:
To register for this course, email academic-registrar@icscanada.edu. Last date to register September 16, 2022. Maximum enrolment of nine (9) students. ICS reserves the right to decline registrations.

*Attention TST students: you have to contact the ICS Registrar to complete your registration.

**NOTE: Approved for Area 1 of the CSTC

Grace as an Aesthetic Concept

Following Ephesians 2:8, grace is, for Christians, a free gift of salvation bestowed on humankind by God regardless of human merit. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” As the means by which humans participate in God’s plan for humanity, grace is a central theological concept in all forms of Christianity. 

In the history of Western aesthetics, the term "grace" is also of considerable importance. Generically it indicates beauty in movement and expresses the lightness, spontaneity, and naturalness of this movement together with the charm it exerts. By the 18th century, parallel to the birth of modern aesthetics, the achievement of grace in art was routinely considered art’s highest ideal, the “je ne sais quoi” - the inexplicable something extra - that guarantees artistic success. 

At first glance, these two meanings for this one term seem very far from one another. One attempts to account for the quality of God’s interaction with humanity, while the other seeks to describe the surface effects of expressly material goods. It is thus not surprising that these two understandings of grace are rarely thought to intersect, a state of affairs compounded by the fact that the academic study of grace has traditionally only taken place in discrete fields of research. Because of doctrinal differences in the theology of grace, the teaching of grace in Christian seminaries is often part of systematics. Among  historiographers of the arts, the historical concept of grace is often reduced to a matter of style. 

By contrast, this interdisciplinary seminar style course will exam the concept of grace within its theological, philosophical, literary, and art theoretical contexts in an effort to more fully understand its historical significance, the points of intersection between its contemporary uses,  and its potential usefulness for the philosophy and theology of art today. We will look at a variety of texts (e.g. from Plato, Cicero, Augustine, John Calvin, Alexander Pope, Friedrich Schiller, Martin Heidegger, Karl Rahner) as well as works of art and literature for which grace is an important and defining aesthetic concept.


Dr. Rebekah Smick
ICS 120103 / 220103 F22
ICH3758HS L0101 / ICH6758HS L0101*
Remote (Online Synchronous)
Thursdays, 10:00am - 1:00pm ET

(MWS, MA, PhD)

Syllabus

Enrolment Notes:
To register for this course, email academic-registrar@icscanada.edu. Last date to register September 16, 2022. Maximum enrolment of nine (9) students. ICS reserves the right to decline registrations.

*Attention TST students: you have to contact the ICS Registrar to complete your registration.

Imagining the World with Ricoeur: Narrative, Action, and the Sacred in Ricoeur's Hermeneutic Phenomenology

This course will focus primarily on two essay collections by Paul Ricoeur: From Text to Action: Essays in Hermeneutics, II, as well as Figuring the Sacred: Religion, Narrative, and Imagination. These collections cover (roughly) a period from the early 1970’s to the early 1990’s. Together, they form an excellent introduction to Ricoeur’s hermeneutical phenomenology, which he developed as an alternative to those theoretical options, such as psychoanalysis and semiotics, with which he struggled throughout the 1960’s.  

In addition to exploring Ricoeur’s evolving thoughts on such topics as textual interpretation, action, imagination, revelation, and a religious imaginary, these essays will also serve seminar participants as an effective springboard into Ricoeur’s larger thematic works, such as Rule of Metaphor, Time and Narrative (Vols. I-III), Oneself as Another, or Memory, History, Forgetting. Beginning with From Text to Action, the seminar will explore the general shape of Ricoeur’s hermeneutical phenomenology, including such themes as text, action, explanation, understanding, ideology, and utopia. 

With this basic grasp of Ricoeur’s hermeneutical phenomenology in hand, we will go on to explore his understanding of the disclosive force of religious texts and uses of language in the anthology Figuring the Sacred. Among other things, Ricoeur there ponders how Christian communities might best face the task of appropriating a textual heritage from which time has distanced them, and concerning which they have lost a certain original naivety. This seminar will explore Ricoeur’s recommendation that Christians risk assuming a “second naivety” as they take up the responsibility of receiving and interpreting their religious tradition for a new generation. Imagining the world with Ricoeur, we will discuss how his recommendations on this score might help or hinder our effort to find meaning and inspiration amidst the crises and fragmentations that run through contemporary life.


Dr. Ron Kuipers
ICS 120504 / 220504 F22
ICT3732HS / ICT6732HS L0101*
Remote (Online Synchronous)
Wednesdays, 10:00am - 1:00pm ET

(MWS, MA, PhD)

Syllabus

Enrolment Notes:
To register for this course, email academic-registrar@icscanada.edu. Last date to register September 16, 2022. Maximum enrolment of nine (9) students. ICS reserves the right to decline registrations.

*Attention TST students: you have to contact the ICS Registrar to complete your registration.

Meaning/Being/Knowing: The Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Implications of a Christian Ontology

“Meaning is the being of all that has been created and the nature even of our selfhood.” With these enigmatic words, which form part of the introduction to his magisterial New Critique of Theoretical Thought, the neo-Calvinist philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd signals his intention to de-centre the central concern of Ontology by relativizing (which is to say thoroughly relating) the philosophical notion of Being to Meaning, even to the point of (re-)defining creation’s being as meaning—all in the conviction that this will enable us to engage in (rather than circumvent or supersede) the work of Ontology (and thus Epistemology) in a truly systematic, integrally Christian, way. Although it might seem as though Dooyeweerd is merely substituting one metaphysical idea for another, his reference to the nature of our selfhood here indicates that, for all its theoretical import for Philosophical Anthropology, this highly suggestive proposal also has profound implications for how we might both appreciate and pull upon our deepest (religious) self-knowledge, which takes shape before the face of God as we face the world. To do the work of Ontology well—to gain genuine insight into the “nature of things” and to identify the contours and coherence of the world’s general structures without undermining investigation or denaturing experience—will require that we also draw upon a pre-theoretical form of Knowing, and a spiritual grounding and hope, that will always precede and exceed our understanding. 

Implicit in Dooyeweerd’s vision of and for Ontology, we might say, is the provocative claim that creation does not “have” meaning but “is” meaning (a paraphrase that, tellingly, uses the language of Being to relativize Being). But what does Dooyeweerd mean by “meaning”? And what difference might this systematically relational, spiritually open, with-reference-to-self-and-beyond re-centering make (a) to the detailed, nitty-gritty work that needs to be done in any given academic field, and (b) to the theoretical integration that requires both intra- and inter-disciplinary reflection? After an opening discussion about the phenomenon of “post-truth,” to which we shall return at the end of the course, we shall explore the inter-play between Meaning, Being, and Knowing via a close reading of Hendrik Hart’s Understanding Our World: An Integral Ontology, paying careful attention to the ways in which his interpretation of Dooyeweerd’s ideas—not least the discussion of “meaning” that occurs at the midpoint of his Appendix (see 8.1.4) and in a pivotal section within his central chapter (see 4.4 and 405–406n37)—might deepen our insight into how what is known in faith and articulated via our web of beliefs can help us identify and evaluate the core concepts and the conceptual-ontological connections that play such an integral, influential role in the scholarly disciplines with which we are engaged. In paying attention to developments in Hart’s Ontology and Epistemology since the publication of this work, we shall also ask whether the broadly Dooyeweerdian position he initially adopts is as post-metaphysical as it may first appear. 

In this iteration of the course, we shall pay special attention to the central concerns of political theory and aesthetics, including their respective interests in the way we posit societal principles and protect, reveal, expand, and find ourselves via the symbols that make up the fabric of our life, history, and society. In further probing the relationship between the aesthetic and political dimensions of created meaning, and between the mystery of our selfhood and the structural contours of reality, we shall also be asking what the development of an Ontology in the Reformational tradition might offer to the scholarly search for disciplinary integrity and interdisciplinary integration—this being a neo-Calvinism in which the unity and diversity we rightly seek are typically seen as covenantally, rather than ontotheologically, grounded. 

Given this relational emphasis, we may well wonder what might happen if “Being” were to make way for—or make a way for—“Loving.” Perhaps, following Dooyeweerd’s (post-metaphysical?) turn to “Meaning,” we may find that a Christian scholarly approach to knowing and understanding our world and ourselves “after Being” may have something new to say to the peril and promise of life “post-truth”!


Dr. Nik Ansell
ICS 2105AC F22
Remote (Online Synchronous)
Thursdays, 6:00pm - 9:00pm ET

(MA, PhD)

Syllabus


*NOTE: This course is only available to ICS Junior Members. Completion of 1107AC or 2107AC is a prerequisite for enrolling in this course.

The Craft of Reflective Practice

We humans make sense of things by telling stories. In this course we will learn how to do critical reflective practice, primarily by telling stories about our everyday professional lives. We will zoom in on the story of an ordinary day at work, and then zoom out to the story of our career to date, zoom out further to the story of our work community, and zoom out even further to the overarching story of God’s world. In the process we will learn qualitative research skills, receive an introduction to phenomenology (the philosophical study of lived experience), develop our own approach to praxis (that is, the craft of morally-oriented, theoretically-informed, and theory-generating critically reflective practice), and, most significantly, come to terms with who we are in what we do.


Dr. Gideon Strauss
ICSD 132501 / 232501 F22*
Blended (Online Asynchronous/Synchronous)

(MWS, MA-EL)

Syllabus

Enrolment Notes:
To register for this course, email academic-registrar@icscanada.edu. Last date to register September 16, 2022. Maximum enrolment of nine (9) students. ICS reserves the right to decline registrations.

*Approved for Area 2 of the CSTC

Transformative Teaching: The Role of a Christian Educator

Transformative Teaching is a course for instructional leaders as they consider their roles as Christian educators called to be transformers of society and culture by seeking justice for those who are marginalized and disenfranchised. In this course we will consider constructivism (a dominant educational theory in the twenty-first century that informs student-centred pedagogies such as Project Based Learning) through the lens of Scripture and investigate the assumptions that it makes. We will explore our calling as Christian educators to transform culture in our schools, local community, and the world. 

This course seeks to help Christian educators find clarity in answers to the following questions: 

  • Context: Who am I called to be as a Christian educator in my particular place and time?

  • Constructivism: How does constructivism inform my practice?

  • Culture: What role does education play in creating culture?



Dr. Edith van der Boom
ICSD 260006 F22*
Blended (Online Asynchronous/Synchronous)

(MA-EL)

Syllabus

Enrolment Notes:
To register for this course, email academic-registrar@icscanada.edu. Last date to register September 16, 2022. Maximum enrolment of nine (9) students. ICS reserves the right to decline registrations.

*Approved for Area 2 of the CSTC