Andrew ("Drew") Van’t Land
Drew came to ICS with an interest in thinking through political life from a Christian perspective. In the course of his MA studies, a second interest came to the fore: ancient philosophical ways of writing and speaking, and a desire that Christian thought in the twenty-first century discern what is valuable and helpful in those ways and habits, so as to deploy them in its address of today's world. This interest involved classical Greek and the prodigious thought of the Radical Orthodoxy political theologian John Milbank. Drew added two pieces to the puzzle: an emphasis upon ancient rhetorical theory in which ancient theorists engaged the phenomena of thinking most directly, and an understanding of all ancient philosophical traditions as aimed at the personal-spiritual transformation of the student/reader in accord with a normative vision of human flourishing. The result was a thesis entitled The Rhetorical Roots of Radical Orthodoxy: Augustinian Oratory and Ontology in Milbank’s Theopo(e/li)tics.
Drew used ancient rhetorical theory as an organizing device for his own writing and as a tool to understanding the intellectual project of John Milbank. In the process he brought out Milbank’s use of rhetorical refutatio
in his interaction with contemporary social theory, a trope that ties his discourse to that of Augustine, and beyond to Cicero, on whom Augustine was playing. In addition, he brought to light Milbank’s use of a theological via media
in placing his own project, a use which, despite his predilection for radicality and hyperbole, marks his project with surprisingly subtle, Anglican undertones.
On May 6, 2013, Andrew successfully defended his master’s thesis entitled Action, Love, and the World: An Inquiry into the Political Relevance of Christian Charity
Through his engagement with Hannah Arendt’s work, Andrew develops an intellectual vehicle to address what he perceives as a certain degree of political apathy among many of his cohorts in the evangelical Christian world. In Arendt’s
characterization of Christianity as “worldless” and “antipolitical,” he recognizes the very way his own community’s overwhelming concern with the issue of personal salvation often leads its members to neglect the concrete political affairs
of the surrounding world. At the same time, however, Andrew remains dissatisfied with Arendt’s characterization of Christianity as worldless, even if his experience might confirm that characterization, especially because his intellectual
instincts tell him that the Christian virtue of love possesses a political relevance that Arendt’s work fails to take into account. Contesting her interpretation of love as a worldless, antipolitical force, Andrew
appeals to the French phenomenologist Jean-Luc Marion’s contention that love is not mere passion, but rather a kind of knowing and willing that allows us to see the invisible other as a person rather than a mere object. Understanding
love in Marion’s terms, as the charitable will to see others as fully enfleshed persons, is not worldless, according to Andrew. Instead, love thus construed is a force that enables us to see the other in his or her singularity and plurality,
and therein lies its relevance to political concerns, even on Arendt’s own terms. As his thesis examiners all attest, Andrew’s work displays highly developed skills in textual interpretation, and its delicate
prose is a pleasure to read.
Since successfully completing the ICS MA, Andrew has embarked upon doctoral studies in the Ph.D. program in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Toronto.
We are excited to announce the graduation of Elita in May. Elita has been a part-time student at ICS since 2008, completing two courses a year while carrying on her full-time job as a social worker in Toronto. The very exciting news about Elita is that she is the first ICS student to complete our new Aesthetics, Religion and Theology (ART) Master of Worldview Studies by fulfilling the requirements for the program with an arts concentration. In addition to holding a degree in sociology and carrying on her work at the Toronto City Mission, Elita is an irrepressible writer of deeply compelling short stories and novellas. Her initial aim in coming to ICS was to take some time out of her everyday life in a structured academic setting to think deeply about the ways in which her worldview as a person of faith informed and shaped her life and work. Once she arrived at ICS, however, she was delighted to find that her work as a writer was also able to flourish through her work with her mentor, Rebekah Smick, Senior Member in Philosophy of Arts and Culture. Under the direction of Prof. Smick, Fung concluded her program by writing a novella entitled “Sydney Frankfurt and his Wonderful Cabinet of Curiosities.” According to Canadian author John Terpstra, Elita’s external examiner for the project, the novella was a “wonderful accomplishment, just two or three drafts away from publishing readiness.” Congratulations to Elita, in more ways than one!
Rebecca successfully completed her Master of Arts degree in May. Rebecca, whose supervisor was also Smick, wrote her thesis, The Importance of Contextualization in Visual Biblical Reception History: Contrasting Images of the “Songs of Songs” from the Saint Vaast Bible, the Bible moralisée and Marc Chagall
. Rebecca came to ICS in the fall of 2010 from Briercrest College in Saskatchewan She was interested in grounding her undergraduate academic studies in biblical literature in a Reformational perspective before deciding whether to continue with an academic career. Working with Prof. Smick, Rebecca was able to combine her love for biblical studies with a longstanding interest in aesthetics and art history. In her thesis, she took one of her discoveries at ICS – that worldview can even affect how we conceive the role and function of art – and applied it to the way in which images are currently used in biblical reception history, an increasingly popular methodology in contemporary biblical scholarship. What her thesis adds to that discourse – through her investigation of several, historically diverse, visual interpretations of the Song of Songs – is the importance of recognizing what different historical modes of symbolization can contribute to the greater hermeneutical project of biblical studies. Congratulations to Rebecca, whose wonderfully enthusiastic, team-spirited presence is already missed at ICS.