NEW PRESIDENTIAL TEAM DISCUSSES CHANGE, CHALLENGES, DISTINCTIVENESS AND TRADITION
Perspective: Are you settling into your new offices and home all right?
Tom: It’s definitely a different setting for us. We’re settling into the facilities here and working to help dress them up as well. It’s a wonderful location in terms of access and activity.
ICS is a unique academic environment. Do you see any particular strengths or challenges arising from its uniqueness?
Tom: Having a graduate school without an undergraduate school connected to it is different, because there aren’t many like that. And focusing on Reformational, interdisciplinary philosophy and theology as its key focuses is unique in many ways. That’s part of our distinctiveness, but that’s also part of the challenges: How does a unique institution like this function? What are our goals? What’s our support base?
I taught mostly at the undergrad level, where it’s much more focused on the classroom and the students. I had multiple classes to teach, which left little time for research, so I’m really glad our scholars have the time and opportunity to do research and then develop and refine their scholarship in the classroom.
Dawn: I’m very excited about working with the people here. It’s a vibrant group. I love it when people ask questions and don’t presuppose the answers, and you don’t have to go along with the exact answer that everybody has taught you since you were in pre-school.
What gifts do you see ICS having to offer the world, and does being rooted in the Reformational tradition make those gifts unique in some ways?
Dawn: I’m delighted that ICS is from my community and that we have a graduate education where people can delve into questions that are broader than what you might ask at an undergraduate level. We have people discussing scholarly things from a Christian perspective and talking with other scholars. And that mission – that ministry in the world – is important.
Tom: In many ways that’s our distinctive mission – to take the thoughts that have developed in the long history of the Reformational tradition and say: How do we engage the church and the culture with these ideas? How are we connected to that past? And how do we make it relevant to the issues of today? That’s in many ways what our scholarship is about.
I have roots in the Reformational tradition, but I’m excited about engaging with a diverse culture, whether that’s with other religious, Christian or secular traditions. We need to interact and engage in a way that we bring something to the table, but also learn in those interactions through addressing similar issues with different perspectives. We need to find ways to support and cooperate in that. It’s something I’m very much looking forward to.
ICS has enjoyed a long connection with the Christian Reformed community. Do you think there are any particular strengths or challenges arising from that connection?
Tom: There are definitely strengths and challenges because of the distinctiveness of our tradition, which has always seen itself as engaged in the affairs of this world. Our calling is not a “calling to get to heaven.” That’s a part of the story, but it’s not what we’re called to do. We’re called to address this world now. We’re called to be servants in this world now. That’s been a significant message of the Reformed tradition, and that’s why it has gotten engaged with political, social and cultural elements.
Now, the challenge has been that it’s done that only in some limited sectors at times, or it has looked too much as if it’s a colony unto itself. How do we take the strengths of that tradition and engage some of the wider audience, so that it’s not just an in-house tribal activity? And yet how do you take the strengths of that and work with others? That’s what excites me about why I’m here. I accepted the call because I see tremendous strengths and ways we can continue to develop them. The CRC has a distinctive tradition. One of my concerns is I hope ICS can help the CRC, and the Reformational movement overall, keep that distinctiveness.
Dawn: I come from the Christian Reformed denomination, and that community has always valued Christian education in seeing things as everything being under God’s domain. We have the “every square inch” thing going, right? That’s the lens through which I see Christian studies. The tradition from which I come and from which ICS originates values Christian education from preschool through graduate school.
Tom and Dawn Wolthuis began their position as ICS President on Jan. 1
March 2013 >