Photo: Institute for Christian Studies
Ronald Kuipers
Photo by Institute for Christian Studies

The Christian  Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) will be participating in a two-year, $200,000 grant project to explore the role in which social justice plays in shaping the faith lives of believers.

The grant was awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to the Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social  Ethics at the Christian Institute for Christian Studies (ICS) in Toronto.

An independent graduate school for interdisciplinary studies in the Reformed tradition, ICS will partner on the project titled “Faith and Justice” with the CRCNA and the Centre for Community Based Research (CCBR).

Ronald Kuipers, director of the Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social  Ethics, secured the Partnership Development Grant for this project.

The majority of the funds, Kuipers says in a press release, will be used to enable the Centre for Community Based Research and CRCNA staff to carry out the proposed program of research. ICS will receive funding for two graduate student research assistant positions.

A unique feature of this research program is its adoption of a “community based” or “participatory action” approach, says Kuipers.

The research will address such questions as:

  • What role does a concern for social justice play in the lives of Christians today? What role, if any, do they think it ought to play?
  • Is a concern for social justice an integral part of Christian identity, or is it considered optional or extrinsic to their faith life? What might encourage and enable Christians today to take a more active role in working for social justice?

This research method strives to do research with, as opposed to research on, members of a particular community, says Kuipers.

Under the guiding mantra “nothing about us, without us,” field researchers will work to include participants in shaping and directing the project itself, fostering the development of conversations and projects that will outlast the research period covered by the award.

The partners also plan to use some of the funds to train CRC community members in the work of community mobilization.

The Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics promotes philosophically primed and religiously attuned interdisciplinary research on leading questions of life and society by bringing together scholars from diverse fields and supporting various programs.

The Centre for Community Based Research (CCBR) is an independent, non-profit organization with 30 years experience in rigorous community research. Founded in 1982, CCBR is located in downtown Kitchener, Ontario, and has successfully completed over 350 projects in collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations across Canada.


This study effort would do well to first decide upon an intelligible definition of "social justice." I have a professional doctorate in justice (juris doctor, a law degree) and have read more than a few articles and books on "social justice" but have yet to figure out how exactly its advocates define it.

The best that I can surmise is that "social justice" equals the word "shalom" (see, for example, the explanation on the OSJ web pages). I think that definition stretches "justice" so badly that most of the US population simply wouldn't know what one is talking about when using the phrase. And if "social justice" does equal "shalom," why not just study the word/concept of "shalom"? I suspect the answer to this question is that some advocates of "shalom" want to use government's unique God-given mandate, to wield the power of the sword, to create shalom, and so if "shalom" is expressed as "social justice," the words themselves imply that making shalom (social justice) happen is indeed predominantly the responsibility of government. As to that suggestion, there certainly is a great deal of dispute.

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