que graduate school and how it changed the way I viewed the world and my commitment to the Lord of life. ICS and its faculty are unique, in that not only do they represent the Reformed tradition well, but they do so with confident openness and an eagerness to engage in dialogue with the variety of voices yearning for attention in our postmodern, global era.
I did not come to this lightly. I grew up in a Baptist background, but quickly found myself drawn to the nuances of Reformed Theology. I graduated from college way back when, with a major in sociology and a minor in philosophy (and equivalent minors in history and religion). I was also immersed at the time in the writings of Francis Schaeffer, which introduced me to joy of investigating philosophy, history and urban culture. My first job was to be a teacher in a grade school, and I took with me a copy of Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology which I read devotionally while teaching sixth grade students following the devastation of a hurricane. Happily, we all survived. Thereafter I went to the Baptist Seminary in New Orleans, and ended up doing doctoral work on another Reformed Theologian, this time H. Emil Brunner. Brunner insisted that the church should be involved in mission, as it is natural to do so, for as he famously said “the church exists by mission as a fire exists by burning.” This combination of academic theology, a Biblical grounding and a commitment to the mission of the local church has remained important for me unto this day.
Upon moving to Chicago in the early 1980s, I participated in the one year urban studies program for Seminarians in Chicago called SCUPE (Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education). I had worked previously in a church in the inner city of New Orleans, but Chicago was so different because of its scale and diversity. Ultimately, I would write a PhD dissertation at the University of Illinois at Chicago on the subject of protestant urban social movements in the city. I followed this up a few years later with a Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Public Policy. Thanks to numerous mentors, among them Dr. Raymond Bakke, I began to note the importance of cities in the Bible, and also the troubling effects of deindustrialization and globalization that were impacting our cities today.
These themes became subjects of my academic focus in teaching and writing thereafter. In the early 1990s, I became part of the Chicago Metropolitan Center, now known as Chicago Semester, and it was in this context that my interest in Reformed theology became rekindled. I reread Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism; and also his little book, translated as “The Problem of Poverty.” Here alas was a “window” that allowed me combine a Reformed theological and philosophical perspective on the world, what many call a ‘worldview,’ with my concern for issues facing the poor and marginal in our cities. Dordt Colleges’s Pro Rege published a paper that I wrote at this time, called “Abraham Kuyper and Welfare Reform,” where I argued that ‘welfare reform’ needed to look at public policy and urban systems, not just at the character of those who find themselves poor. In the words of sociologist C. Wright Mills, it afforded me a chance to connect the personal troubles of individuals with public issues that faced many, many people in our cities.
In 2005, I had the opportunity to travel to Europe and met with Govert Buijs at the Free University of Amsterdam. He would later graciously agree to come to Chicago to participate in a conference. I had hoped to go to the VU to pursue “grounding” in Reformed theology and philosophy in their Masters in Social Science and Politics program, but that was not practical. Then I heard through some friends connected to ICS of an online MWS program at the Institute for Christian Studies. I began this program around the year 2010, and completed it in May 2013.
I now regard the Master of Worldview Studies program at the Institute of Christian Studies as the “crowning” achievement of my academic career as a student. The MWS program attracts other “adult learners” like me who are already engaged somewhere, but are also seeking to ground their careers and lives in a Reformed worldview. The MWS program lends the best of its academic faculty to teach in this program. What I discovered that the style of dialogue and openness that was attractive to me personally was also the culture of ICS. To a person, ICS faculty persons were enthusiastic about their subjects and their teaching, and each invited us as “junior members” to participate openly in a dialogue and quest for truth and understanding. Given my career and interests, let’s just say that not only was this exciting to me, but I believe that I thrived in this environment.
ICS is an affordable academic Institute that focuses on the implications of a Reformed/Reformational worldview for how we live and work in the world as God’s world. The program is flexible, culturally engaged, academically rigorous, and welcoming to a diversity of perspectives. Thanks to the welcoming and “withing-spirit” of the faculty, I have to say that of all the places that I have been as a student, ICS and its approach to learning and teaching is the place that I now feel most at home. The ICS curriculum is not a curriculum that one can engage dispassionately. It is a curriculum that engages us to think about ourselves, and our redemptive and restorative presence in the world.
The mission of ICS has never been more critical. As we enter a world that is increasingly more urban, global and multicultural, the ICS and its faculty are uniquely positioned to equip students with the academic and interpersonal “grounding” necessary to be both agents of change and stability at a time of significant personal and environmental challenges. The tuition and costs for the program are delivered at affordable rates, and scholarships are provided so that as many as want to participate are able to do so. However, like most schools, especially graduate schools of philosophy, theology and ethics, these programs cannot exist by tuition alone, or without our whole hearted support.
Your gift allows more students who need and deserve the education and preparation to participate in a quality academic program that only ICS can provide. Thank you for supporting Christian higher education in the reformational tradition.
Clinton Stockwell, MWS Grad 2013
& Executive Director Emeritus, Chicago Semester